How many more majors for Phil until he is an all time great?
— Alois, via Twitter (@Emittens)
One, maybe two, and it depends which major it is. There's no doubt Phil is already a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but he has a little work to do secure his legacy. One more major will give him five for his career, tying him the career total of the great Byron Nelson as well as Seve Ballesteros, two indisputably all-time greats. Six majors gets him to the rarified air of Lee Trevino and Nick Faldo, the latter being the greatest player of the post-Watson, pre-Tiger era. Seven is a magic number: Arnie, Snead, Sarazen, Harry Vardon. So Phil is clearly knocking on the door. But the key for him is to win a U.S. Open; if he doesn't, there will always be a stain on his resume. (I go deep on this subject in the next SI.) For what it's worth, I think Phil will win an Open, maybe even next week at Pebble Beach. I think he'll win at least one more Masters. And there's no reason he shouldn't contend annually at the PGA. So his all-time status should be assured.
Is having a blond wife or girlfriend a requirement on tour?
— Joe, Massachusetts
I remember at the Ryder Cup a few years ago I was standing with a Euro reporter during the opening ceremonies, when the flaxen-haired American WAGs sashayed in. Gimlet-eyed, my colleague whispered, "My god, they all married the same cocktail waitress!" There are actually some very saucy brunettes, on Tour, Sonya Toms being my favorite in the emeritus division. Why do pro golfers fetishize blondes? That's for a sociologist to answer, not a sportswriter. My advice is to not overthink it and merely enjoy the scenery.
Besides "Swinging From My Heels," any new golf books you'd recommend? Father's Day is coming up fast.
— Kevin Price, Monterey County, Cal., via Twitter (@kevinp613)
It easy to forget that, before the crackup, Tiger's 2009 season was very interesting from a pure golf standpoint. Robert Lusetich's "Unplayable: An Inside Account of Tiger's Most Tumultuous Season" is a very interesting account of the season with some strong reporting and interesting takes from a very knowledgeable long-time Tiger watcher. Only the last chapter deals with all the scandal stuff so, on the whole, the book reads like a historical document of who Tiger used to be.
For a look at an even more innocent time, check out "The Last Putt: Two Teams, One Dream and a Freshman Named Tiger" by Neil Hayes and Brian Murphy. It's a very engaging tale of the 1995 NCAA golf season and the collision between the very different programs at Stanford and Oklahoma State. Each team had an intriguing cast of characters and the authors give you a rooting interest in both squads. And even though you probably know the outcome the play-by-play of the NCAA championship is gripping stuff.
I really enjoyed the rich historical detail in "Chasing Greatness: Johnny Miller, Arnold Palmer and the Miracle at Oakmont" by Adam Lazarus and Steve Schlossman. They use that unforgettable U.S. Open as a jumping off point to riff on all the top players and storylines of the era.
For something a little different check out "Scott Medlock: Capturing the Moment." Medlock has long been one chronicling the game by way of his evocative brushstrokes. This coffee table book has gorgeous reproductions of the paintings and some interesting essay material about his craft. You can see more at Scottmedlock.com.
Can we officially declare Lee Westwood the Best Player to Never have Won a Major?
Yes, we can. And we have. With Sergio's demise the only other guy in the coversation is Steve Stricker and he has not consistently contended at the majors like Westwood. So it's the jolly Englishman's cross to bear.
When are you changing your title from Senior Writer to Senior Name Dropper? My lord, you're worse than Rosaforte. We are accustomed to your entries in the Confidential or replies to inquiries starting with something like this: "After I hugged Amy on the 18th green at Augusta..." But you really took it to a new level with that Swallows piece. Nauseating. Dorothy had lions and tigers and bears, oh my. Shipnuck has Yang and Schwab and O'Donnell. Oh no.
P.S. You should tell us how you feel about Pebble Beach. Because you really haven't made that clear.
— Casey Haverstick
"Worse than Rosaforte"? Strong stuff. First of all, I can't help it if comely Tour wives want to hug me. I put up with it because the readers have a right to know.
Per Pebble, I spent three summers working there and pretty much learned to play golf on the sacred links, which is like losing your virginity to Megan Fox — it's all downhill from there. So I can't help it if I love the place, and, if I'm not mistaken, everyone else does, too.
As for the Swallows story, I can see how reading it might have induced nausea. Frankly, there were a few times I was throwing up in my mouth as I was typing. But of the hundreds of stories I've written for SI over the last 17 years this one, for whatever reason, has generated more positive comments than any other. I don't want to name-drop, so I'll obscure his identity, but a lanky caddie to a left-handed, three-time Masters champion texted me to say that the Swallows story was, in his opinion, the best thing I've ever written. So, Haverstick, I can only come to the following conclusion: Step off!
What do you think of the PGA making the top players pick from a 'B' list of tournaments to play? To me this seems counter intuitive. Why spread out your talent? If anything less is more and the PGA suffers from too many 'B' tournaments and too many 'B' & 'C' players. Wouldn't it be better to cultivate the upper level tour with less than 100 players that play every event (barring injury)?
— David Crowe, Maple Ridge, British Columbia
You're absolutely correct, David, that the Tour has badly diluted its product. It would be much better off with fewer tournaments and fewer exempt players, its schedule built around 30 or so strong tournaments that also attracted top international talent. But filthy-rich Tour journeymen are a vast constituency with a huge influence on the Tour's decision-making so I think we're stuck with the current schedule. Ergo, I like the idea of making every player play every tournament once in a while. As has often been pointed out, Michael Jordan had to play the Bucks, so why shouldn't Tiger have to play the GMO? Oh, wait, bad example. That tournament died precisely because Tiger (or Phil) never showed up.
I have always thought that Spyglass would also make a great venue for the Open after the USGA did there thing to it. Do you think they would ever consider holding an Open at Spyglass, or will it always be held at Pebble if they're going to play in that area?
No doubt Spy would offer a tremendous test but it doesn't have the infrastructure to host an Open — there's no locker room for the players, space for corporate tents or a media center, very little on-site parking, etc. And the proximity to Pebble is a problem. The Beach has such a rich history, why go anywhere else? It's the best Open venue there is. Just ask Haverstick.