Assessing Viktor’s wins, Ryder Cup prognosticating, Tiger and Phil as starters at the Masters and more

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in Fire Pit Collective, a Golf Digest content partner.

December 12, 2022

When is Viktor Hovland going to win a tournament that 1) matters and 2) is not on the water? #AskAlan @the_agrippa

It’s interesting that Viktor’s three PGA Tour victories have come in Puerto Rico/the Riviera Maya to go along with two World Challenge wins in Bermuda. Clearly Hovland plays his best in low-leverage events. I love the guy like everyone else, but it’s hard for me to shake the memories of his defensive and untidy play in the final group on Sunday at St. Andrews. It was the biggest moment of his career, and he retreated. Hopefully that was a hard lesson about winning on the biggest stages: It’s a lot more stressful than a B-list Tour event in paradise, and if you want to be a player who matters you have to embrace the grind.

#askalan Could LIV have done any worse assembling its 2023 schedule? For a tour with deep pockets I was expecting substantially better venues. Also, why market your tour as international when 60% of the events are in classic U.S. golf markets? Mailed in? @zombo2zombo

Nah, it’s more like many/most desirable courses don’t want to get into bed with LIV. There has already been some private grumbling from the players about the mediocre venues, but no one seems to care enough to go public. To quote one of our great philosophers: It is what it is. As for the balance of domestic and international events, I think you’re looking at it the wrong way: Most of LIV’s biggest names are American, and they’re agreeing to go overseas 40 percent of the time. That’s a pretty high percentage for a group of parochial golfers.

As it’s impossible to care about “The Match” or what happened at the Hero hit and giggle, I’m more interested in having your absolutely definitive list of next year’s major champions? @DebitStan

Masters: Cam Smith

PGA Championship: Dustin Johnson

U.S. Open: Jon Rahm

Open Championship: Max Homa

The Ryder Cup is now less than a year away. What is your prediction for Rome? I recall you making an infamous prediction for the 2018 Ryder Cup. #askalan @that_is_a_stat

Well, the prediction in question was for long-term U.S. dominance and the Americans have, in fact, won two of the last three Cups after two decades of futility. But the U.S. needs a victory on European soil before we can proclaim this a new era of Yankee hegemony. It’s going to happen in Rome. U.S. wins, 15-13.


How many times will Tiger and Phil play golf in the same group before they become ceremonial starters at Augusta? Zero? Maybe one random weekend pairing at a major? @afree8383

Well, Tiger clearly has no interest in being paired with Phil, and the Tour and all of the governing bodies are certainly going to honor that when arranging Thursday-Friday pairings. And both of them making the cut at the same major championship looks increasingly unlikely. So I’m going to go with zero.

But I’m not sure the premise of your question even works because Mickelson may have forfeited his chance to be an honorary starter at the Masters. A friend of mine recently stayed at Augusta National for a few nights, and he reported that many of the green jackets were highly dismissive of Mickelson.

I think Jack Nicklaus is on the verge of ending his era as an honorary starter, which means Gary Player is going to be retired, too. Ben Crenshaw-Tom Watson is an easy choice to hold things down for the ensuing decade, but then what? Nick Faldo has the credentials but not the accrued goodwill. Bernhard Langer and Jose Maria Olazabal are both proud champions but not big enough names. I think Fred Couples is the answer. He would be a hugely popular choice, and Tiger loves him. If Mickelson gets back in the good graces of the green jackets, he can be the third wheel.

In your opinion how many more guys will go to LIV after Jan. 1? @KeithMcConnach1

Well, they need at least a couple more splashy signings, right? Otherwise it will feel like a letdown. But I think the number of attractive candidates is dwindling. Battle lines have pretty clearly been drawn, so if dudes with market value wanted to go they would be gone by now, for the most part.

Why is the Hero World Challenge getting OWGR points such a hot button issue now? HWC has been receiving points for years. GMAC’s win in the 2010 U.S. Open is directly tied to HWC getting points. Tiger played the 2018 Bridgestone only because of points earned at the HWC. @GeoPBurdell

It has always felt a little wrong, but because the tournament was Tiger’s baby, nobody could get too worked up about the points. Helping him attract a strong field was just another way of rewarding Tiger for all he has done for the game. It’s only an issue now because it feels hypocritical: Woods and other Tour loyalists have been so disparaging of LIV trying to get OWGR points, mocking the small fields and the lack of a cut, but the World Challenge is a 20-man exhibition in which at least half the field is on a working vacation. It’s about appearances, not the points.

Hey #AskAlan: December golf in NorCal….What’s the critical layering piece you lean on the most? @laz_versalles

I like the idea of vests but can’t really pull them off, so I’ll say the LinkSoul Polartec quarter-zip. Warm but lightweight, and I love the colors.


Who is going to spill the beans on what Mickelson did or said to Perez’s wife? @teefoat

I hate to be a tease—actually, I love it—but I go deep on this topic in the new afterword I just typed for the paperback edition of “Phil,” which comes out next spring. Buckle up.