March 29th Mailbag: Rahm, Masters scenarios and bagged milk

Overflowing with mailbag questions this week on Augusta, DJ, Jon Rahm and so much more. Keep the questions coming on Twitter or send them to my e-mail:

He’s so back and he doesn’t even know it.

I’m just hoping that we can avoid the “what’s wrong with Dustin Johnson?” tweets and thinkpieces when the inevitable happens and he falls off of this pace. We’ve seen it with Spieth and Rory in the recent past, and I really just don’t have the energy to deal with it again this time around.

I think we end up hearing one way or the other on Friday this week, and as much as I’d like to see him tee it up, I don’t think he’s going to play. I have zero inside information on it, but the “God, I hope so” reply he gave last week on Good Morning, America when asked if he was going to play has me convinced that he’s not ready to go. More than happy to be wrong on this, but I just don’t see how he can play.

Love this question, and I’ll give you three options. If we’re taking out the guys you’ve mentioned, I think the best CBS could hope for goes something like this:

  • Young guys looking for their first major

Think about Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas all battling on the back nine as they seek their first major championship. Obviously we’d all love to see any of the five names you mentioned near the top, but there isn’t a single golf fan out there who would have a problem with those four coming down the stretch with a chance to win the tournament. If Fowler could get involved, that would be the best scenario here for CBS.

  • Old guys looking for their first major

There’s really only two names that I’m thinking about here and that’s Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia. Westwood has always played well at Augusta, and even though his record isn’t the best at the Masters, Sergio has enough game to win anywhere if he’s rolling it well on the greens that week. Think about a scenario in which these two guys are way ahead of the rest of the field on the back nine on Sunday and it’s only them that really has a chance to win. Even if you’re not really a fan of either guy, the drama there is immense and it would be great TV. Not sure it gets any better than that.

  • Fred Couples turns back the clock…again

Couples seemingly does this every year when he tees it up, but he also usually ejects at some point during the front nine on Sunday and doesn’t really give himself a chance to win. We got a little bit of this last year with Bernhard Langer, but it’s different with Freddie and always will be. The best part about this scenario? Even at 57 years old, I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility.

After watching him at the Ryder Cup last year, it’s hard to believe that this question is even being asked, but Patrick Reed has struggled over the past few months. Since going T6 and T12 in his first two starts of 2017, he hasn’t really done much and when you look at the stats, one thing really stands out. Reed is 190th in Strokes Gained: Approach, which is downright awful and even though his putting has been pretty good, unless you’re Crenshaw at Augusta, you’re not saving 190th in approach play.

By the way, also way down there in SG:A? Reed’s Ryder Cup teammate Brooks Koepka is 200th.

There is zero logical reason to believe that he’s a flash in the pan, and we should absolutely expect to see him on the leaderboard and at the Ryder Cup over the next 10+ years. If you want to nitpick things about his game, I suppose you could point to the putter or the fact that he’s exceedingly emotional, but I don’t think those are actual things to worry about. He’s already one of the best players in the world, and you’d have to think that he can still get better, which is the scary part. This also leads into the next question…

To be honest, I don’t think one said more than the other, but they did say two completely different things of equal importance. Rahm ran through his first six matches without much trouble, including a super impressive 6 and 4 victory over Sergio, which I think also made him the unofficial King of Spain. That kind of play, especially against stiff competition is obviously headline grabbing because you just don’t see that very often in this event, but then his match against DJ went in a completely different direction.

DJ was killing Rahm on the front nine, and as Brent pointed out, was 5 up at one point and looking to give him the ‘Ames’ before Rahm stormed back to make it a match. You’d figure that most players, particularly a 22-year old playing in his first WGC against the best player in the world, would fold and look ahead to their next start but Rahm didn’t do that. He gave himself a chance to halve the match on 18, and even though he didn’t come through, it was still impressive to watch.

Neither of these things said more than the other, but they both spoke volumes about the kind of player we’re looking at here in Jon Rahm.

Nicknames are tough, and they absolutely can’t be forced. You have to let them flow naturally, and I think part of the problem with Rahm is that everyone (myself included, as I called him the Battering Rahm literally yesterday) has tried to force ‘Rahm’ into the nickname, which isn’t always the best approach. The two best that I’ve seen are #RahmThreat, which I use frequently and I believe came from Tron Carter, and Justin Ray’s suggestion of Big Spain.

A hot dog is not a sandwich, you’re a monster if you pronounce GIF with a hard G, and there isn’t a single food item in the world that survives when you put a little too much mayo on it. It always gets ruined.

I’m a big believer that any course that’s great for stroke play can also be great for match play, but you’re right that Austin Country Club is an excellent venue, and one of my favourites on the PGA Tour. The Fried Egg talked about why Austin CC is great for match play in a post on Sunday, and I completely agree. If I was going to talk about courses other than Austin on the PGA Tour that would be great match play hosts, Augusta, Pebble and Riviera immediately spring to mind because of the risk/reward elements and the fact that they can play really tough if you make mistakes. You’ll also notice that those are great stroke play courses too, though.

I’m not as bullish on DJ for the Masters as everyone else seems to be, but it has nothing to do with him hitting a fade. Granted, he has played better at Augusta in recent years and his putting this year is better than its ever been, but I’m still not sure about his putting on those greens.

With that said, if he keeps playing like he has in the last month or so, there’s no course he can’t win on. I just won’t be picking him to win it next week.

Question via e-mail from Chad Felts: Is Rory a lock to complete the career grand slam this year if it rains all week in Augusta?

He’s my pick to win next week regardless of what the weather is, but if it rains all week like it’s supposed to, that theoretically plays right into Rory’s hands. He already has a distance advantage on the majority of the field, and if it plays soft, he’s just able to do things that other guys can’t do because of his length both off the tee and with his irons.

There’s nothing in his game that suggests he can’t win at Augusta, and despite me picking Jordan Spieth at the beginning of the year, I think Rory gets it done next week.

What’s interesting about this question is that if you had asked me the same thing three years ago, I never would have predicted where we’re at right now. In the last three years, we’ve seen Nick Taylor, Mackenzie Hughes and Adam Hadwin all win on the PGA Tour, and at 19 years old, Brooke Henderson has won three times (one being a major) on the LPGA Tour and proven herself as one of the best female players in the world. It wasn’t that long ago that a lot of people saw Graham DeLaet as one of the best ball strikers on the PGA Tour and someone who was bound to win multiple events, but that just hasn’t come together yet.

The truth is that Canada will likely never be a world power in golf, but it feels like this is the best that its ever been and the good news is that there are more young players coming who I think you’re going to hear a lot about in the next few years. Even though I still believe in DeLaet, Hadwin is the meal ticket on the men’s side. He’s such a good putter that you feel like he’s always going to be in the mix in some fashion, but there’s no one I enjoy watching more than Henderson, who is such a good ball striker that it’s easy to see her being number one in the world, and you shouldn’t be surprised if she gets there at some point in the near future.

I’m far from the first person to mention this scenario, but I’ve always envisioned Phil (and Tiger) charging down the back nine on Sunday at Augusta in their mid to late 50’s with a chance to win the tournament. This course has a long history of allowing for that sort of thing, with Jack obviously being the most famous example thanks to his win at 46 and his T6 in 1998 at age 58.

To me, the thing that’s stopping Phil isn’t necessarily anything to do with him. It’s been well documented that he hasn’t won in almost four years despite playing some pretty incredible golf, and the big reason for that is the competition that he has to face now as he enters his late 40’s. In any other normal scenario, he would have won the Open Championship last year, but Henrik Stenson went full on ‘2000 Tiger’ on him, and that’s not the only example of that in the last few years, either.

I don’t think it’s out of the question that he gets to four or five green jackets before it’s all over, but with how good the rest of the field is going to be every year going forward, he’s fighting an uphill battle.

I don’t have a problem with a lot of what they’ve done at Augusta over the years, mostly because they’ve been forced into it with how far the ball goes, but I hate what they’ve done to the 11th hole. Years ago, players had a strategic choice to make off the tee. They could either go to the right side of the fairway and leave themselves a good angle into the green, but a longer second shot or they could go to the left side, which gave them a shorter approach but brought the greenside pond more into play.

Now though, the hole has been stretched out to over 500 yards, and a bunch of trees were planted on the right side of the fairway, essentially forcing everyone to go left from the tee. From a strategic standpoint, everything has been eliminated, and I hate that. I get that they had to move the tee back, but if it were up to me, I’d cut all of those trees down and give the players the option of going right or left from the tee.

Without question, I’d love to park myself on the 12th tee. You get to see the action on the 11th green, and everything that happens on 12, and even though I’ve never been to Augusta, I just don’t see how any of the other vantage points are better.

Several email questions from Tim Hayos, so I’ll hit them quickly, point-by-point:

What’s your favourite hole at Augusta and why? (as a fan watching or which one you’d be most excited to play)

  • If I was forced to pick just one, I’d go with the 15th. Most players try to go for it in two shots now, but I love the strategic options, plus everything around the green.

Why do you think he (DJ) hasn’t had as much success there as other places? Do you think it’s because of his lack of high draw ball flight & all the nuances? You can’t bomb & gouge it and have to be so strategic approaching the greens (Bubba overpowered it but in a creative/thoughtful way)

  • The putter has been a big problem over the years, plus as you mentioned, he hasn’t always been the best at being strategic at any layout, let alone this one. As I’ve said already though, he has all the talent to do it and you shouldn’t be surprised if he does. Hell, Phil won the Open!

When is it too cold for you to golf?  My buddy and I played two Sundays ago in the -13 weather..,made the course completely different, had to play huge role coming in to the greens.

  • If it’s -13 outside, I don’t even want to open my front door, let alone play golf. If you can get it to 7 or 8 degrees (celsius), I’d consider teeing it up, but double digits would be preferred.

Have you ever thought about starting your own podcast?

  • A wise man once said that there are no good golf podcasts, but the good news is that Shane Bacon, and the No Laying Up crew have filled that void quite nicely. Quality stuff comes from them every week, and while the thought has crossed my mind, I’d want to make sure that I’m doing something unique and different, either in format or substance before taking that on.

No, and it’s not even close.

When you think about a super aggressive, borderline angry marketing angle, James Hahn and Chris Kirk aren’t exactly two names that come to mind. I’ll give them credit though: they’ve assembled a quality stable of players.

I know it trends towards the high end of your price range, but head to the NLU Pro Shop. My brother held a golf tournament last year here in Toronto, and several of the prizes came from there, and they were a big hit. Some of the players didn’t even have an idea what NLU was, but once they found out, they loved it. There’s something there for everyone.

I’m skeptical of any changes simply because there really doesn’t need to be any changes to the rules. If the rules that are already in the book were actually enforced, players would speed up. Want to go one step further? Post average round times in the stat section of and watch the players get moving.

The first thing you’re going to need to do is accessorize. You’ll need two items for this, and they are readily available at stores all over the place: a pitcher and a bag opener. Here’s what you’re looking for:

Just make sure that when you use the opener, it’s best to keep the opening small to avoid too much milk flying out of the bag. You could also use scissors or knives to open, but if you’re going to do something, do it right.

The more important thing though is coming to grips with the change. Don’t listen to all of the people who say that it’s gross and unsanitary. It’s perfectly fine, and once you get used to it, you’ll never go back.

Embrace it!

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