Each week for the remainder of the golf season we will be rolling out a mailbag, with any and all questions invited from readers and fans around the world. Have a good question you want answered? Hit me up on Twitter at @shanebacon or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will try to get to it in the coming weeks. Here we go ...
Bacon: As a person that writes about golf, and wants people to think it's awesome all the time, the practical thing for me to do right here is to tell you that the final round of the U.S. Open was exciting for a number of reasons! I should be telling you how watching dominance is great, and seeing someone find a completely different gear at the toughest golf tournament of the year is as beautiful as a Spurs blowout.
But ... it wasn't. This U.S. Open was interesting in a historical context, but to call it anything but a snoozer is ignoring what really went down last week at Pinehurst.
But why was it boring? Was it because Tiger Woods wasn't there? Was it the lack of Phil, Rory, Adam and others late on Sunday? Was it because sports fans had so many other options, with the World Cup kicking off on Thursday, the Stanley Cup finals wrapping up on Friday, and the NBA Finals finishing on Sunday evening?
No to all of the above. The reason this one wasn't exciting on Sunday, much like the back nine at the Masters this year, was because there was absolutely no drama from anyone. Honestly, we should be thanking Martin Kaymer for making those back nine birdies to get to 10-under and at least give historians something to root for (and of course, he made a bogey on 16 to finish at 9-under, just outside that coveted double-digit spot at a U.S. Open).
Kaymer did absolutely everything right last week at Pinehurst, playing great golf, giving incredible interviews and winning fans over with his clutch golf shots and the way he handled the players chasing him (I loved the little fist-bump Kaymer gave Rickie Fowler after he holed a lengthy putt for a double-bogey on the 4th on Sunday, almost saying, "Great save, way to stay in it").
Blowouts are the quickest way to a channel change in any sport (ratings for the NBA finals were also down, with the most famous athlete in the world involved, so maybe pointing directly to the absence of Tiger isn't the smartest of moves).
If the British Open is an exciting tournament with a great finish, fans will tune in with or without Woods, Phil, Rory or whoever, but when these things are over by Friday afternoon, don't expect a lot of casual fans to take hours out of their weekends to sit on the couch and watch a guy either win by eight shots or nine.
Bacon: I love this generation of sports fans and critics, who spend weeks building up big sporting events only to praise the person or team that won for exactly 15 seconds before turning to "okay, but what happens NEXT?!"
Can you imagine if Tiger came back and won the PGA Championship to get his 15th major? We'd spend about eight seconds talking about it before turning to "CAN HE CATCH JACK?!" questions for the next seven months (myself included).
But it's a good question on Kaymer, considering how he played at Sawgrass and Pinehurst this year.
Immediately after his final round, Kaymer was asked about the potential for a Grand Slam and mentioned a swing change to be able to compete at Augusta.
"To win the Masters, it's a huge thing," Kaymer said. "Obviously that's why I need adjust a few things in my swing in order to play better golf there."
Ahhh, no!!! Martin, slowly step away from the tennis ball necklace!
Change your swing? This guy just won the U.S. Open by EIGHT SHOTS, and he's talking swing changes. Professional golfers are an interesting breed, that's for sure.
But, while I think it's insane for Kaymer to be talking swing changes, the Masters is the one major he will have the most trouble with, only because he lives and dies with that fade and it's just a tough shot to play at Augusta National.
Do I think Kaymer wins the career Grand Slam when this is all said and done? No, just because history tells me it won't happen. When you're talking about a list that only includes the names Sarazen, Hogan, Player, Jack and Tiger, it's not exactly a club I'm pushing a lot of people in, especially when they need two more majors to get there.
If I had to rank active players that I think have the best chance at a career Grand Slam, I'd put them in this order:
812.) Todd Hamilton
I think Kaymer will be haunted by Augusta National for most of his career, missing the cut in four of his seven starts with his best ever finish at the Masters being a T-31 this year. That will be his Tom Watson-PGA when this is all said and done.
Bacon: It was really a bummer for NBC to get such a blowout in their last ever U.S. Open, but I thought they way they handled it during the week and the way they signed off was great stuff.
My favorite U.S. Open that I watched from start to finish on NBC? It has to be the 2008 U.S. Open. If you can remember, think back to that whole scenario with Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate. The 18th hole fireworks were amazing, with Woods hitting that "this thing is never going to go in" putt that rolled over about 24 spike marks before catching the hole and dropping with Dan Hicks giving us one of the greatest calls in golf history when he said, "Expect anything different?!"
That is the golf tournament I'll remember when I'm 60 and telling my grand-kids about the legend that is and was Tiger Woods, and it will be the tournament that I remember for the most "holy $*%* that did not just happen" moments, from the two back-nine eagles to that clutch putt to the playoff going extra holes to Tiger finally winning.
It's crazy to think that the best battles that Tiger Woods was ever a part of in a major championship were never the Phil Mickelsons or the Ernie Els' of the PGA Tour, but Rocco, Bob May, Y.E. Yang, Rich Beem, and Chris DiMarco (twice!).
It sure would be nice before both their careers end if Tiger and Phil could battle on the back nine at a major, and for good measure, make a playoff. Do you think ratings would be a bit up for that tournament?
Bacon: I'm picking Jason Day at every major until he wins one (which will happen sooner than later). He's 26 and has finished in the top-10 in 46.7 percent of his starts in majors. That is insane!
I actually mentioned this on Twitter after the U.S. Open wrapped on Sunday, and had a few followers call him "un-clutch," pointing out that he gets close but never wins. My counterpoint to that is this; that's EVERY golfer that has never won a major! Justin Rose couldn't close until last year at Merion. Phil Mickelson was a choke artist until the left lip caught that putt on the 18th at Augusta like a catcher snagging a pitch just wide and trying to frame it, so I think the "he hasn't closed yet" argument isn't that valid.
Day is going to be a major championship winner, and soon. I think Hoylake could definitely be the spot it happens.
@shanebacon who in your opinion has been the biggest let down so far this year?— Chris Harder (@chrishardergolf) June 16, 2014
Bacon: I don't see how anyone can answer a player that isn't Phil Mickelson.
Since 2004, when Phil had one of his best seasons ever with 13 top-10s in just 22 starts, he has averaged just over seven top-10s a season, with the most being nine in '05 and the fewest was six in '10.
He has zero top-10s in 2014! That is absolutely incredible. Phil has never been one of those guys that regularly win 4-6 times a season, but he does contend a lot, and that's why his top-10 totals are always high.
This year he hasn't really been a factor in a single golf tournament, and for a guy coming off that epic British Open win, it seemed this year was designed for him to play well enough to get into the form he needed to snag that U.S. Open at Pinehurst and give screenwriters in Hollywood a lay-up of a screenplay, but his game has been absent all year and his shaky putting stroke was exposed at Pinehurst.
The answer is Phil, and nobody else is even close.
@shanebacon is there a favorite song to have stuck in your head while playing golf?— nicole montanez (@nicolemontanez) June 17, 2014
Bacon: I'm guessing you are one of those people that don't listen to music while playing, a debate I had earlier this week when the No Laying Up guys had me on their podcast (I listen to music during the round pretty much religiously now, while they are still a little more serious when playing).
But, if you want a good song to get stuck in your head, you want something soft, slow, and with a bit of consistent tempo. Listening to music is a staple on driving ranges these days, but I would avoid anything super loud, heavy, or fast, because that is counterproductive for someone working on making the right move consistently.
Personally, I'll go with something like Maggie Koerner, Brett Dennen or Rosi Golan, because it chills me out and makes me focus on tempo, tempo, tempo.
(Also, our pal Ashley Mayo made a good playlist last year for the range, and it's right here).