Welcome to the No Laying Up bi-weekly mailbag! In this space, we’ll address topics big and small, smart and dumb, irreverent and serious. You need to be a member of The Nest to submit a question to the mailbag, but the mailbag itself will be free to read (as long as you behave yourselves). Most of our questions are submitted via our message board, The Refuge, but if you’re not a message board person, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your Nest handle and your question. As a bonus, if your question gets picked, we’ll send you a free NLU towel.
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CKaneb: Are you going to be a guest/host on the Sunday Recap Pods/Liveshows now? Will your involvement on the Trap Draw be larger than it already is? Are there now three Strapped boys? New competitor on Tourist Sauce?
This is four questions you sneaky devil. I feel like Phil Mickelson, scolding the media at the U.S. Open for asking double-barrelled multi-part questions. I’ll field them as one because it gives me an opportunity to riff a little on my role at NLU. You will definitely see me and hear me on the Sunday Recap Pods and live shows. (In fact, check out our Sunday night discussion from Pebble.) It’s something I’ve done as a guest many times and I’m excited to continue doing it. One thing we’ve learned is, if you have a rotating cast (with Soly playing point guard), people tend to bring their best when it’s their turn to be on the Sunday show. So I won’t be on every week, but I will be on frequently. One aspect I’m excited about is that I’m going to be on the ground at the majors, so I’ll be checking in each night from the course, trying to offer a little insight from the venue before I go work on a column.
As for the TrapDraw, I think it’s fair to say I’ll be frequently welcomed into the space. Tron and I have talked about how much we want to do mini-deep dives into every professional sports owner and how they came into their money. It’s kind of mysterious, especially if you don’t live in the city where that team resides. I think we may make that a recurring segment. I’ll be steering the ship on Perfect Clubs, trying to make sure we’re landing at least one per month, whether I’m on the panel or not. D.J. and Randy and friend of the program Tim Simons will tackle the Oscars pod as there is no chance I will be able to watch all 10 Best Picture Nominations in time. (I think I may write something about Top Gun: Maverick, though, so look for that.)
Are there now three Strapped boys? I can confidently say no to this. First of all, we don’t know if Strapped will ever return! It might have been the ultimate walk-off homer. I teared up a little during “The Kid,” the last episode of South Carolina, which felt like the culmination of ten incredible seasons. If the show continues, I think you’ll see some changes, but I wouldn’t want to mess with its perfect chemistry. If you added a third person to Andre 3000 and Big Boi, would it still be Outkast? No, it would be a third guy everyone wishes would STFU so they could listen to Outkast. (I think Randy is Big Boi in this analogy, Neil is Andre, but your mileage may vary.) Neil and Randy might also be Simon and Garfunkel. Who can say.
As for Tourist Sauce… we’ll see. Adding this thicc boi to an already-crowded rental car in a foreign land seems like one more logistical headache, but maybe there is a written element of Tourist Sauce that might justify my inclusion. Watch this space, as we so frequently say.
Tdogg21: Professional golf has completely splintered in a way most people probably never thought possible just a few years ago. Now that sides have been drawn and lines have been drawn, where do you see professional golf one year from now? Do you think someone is going to blink and compromise or do you think this is going to be a fight to the death?
I probably should have learned my lesson at the PGA Championship to stay out of the prediction game, but I’ll take a swing at this one for the sake of entertainment. I think the most likely scenario is the Public Investment Fund of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia gradually loses interest in funding LIV Golf, an enterprise that isn’t generating revenue, and one day the spigot of funding gets turned off. We’ll hear plenty of spin about how they accomplished everything they ever hoped to accomplish, and now it’s an appropriate time to disrupt other industries. If you’re one of the lucky guys who was paid in full, you’ll shrug your shoulders and move on. But I suspect some players will never be made whole. And in that scenario, what are you going to do? Demand a meeting with Mohammed bin Salman? Send him an invoice? Good luck with that.
Here is the hard truth about LIV: There are some things about the format that are appealing, like shotgun starts and team competition and 54 holes. But none of that is dramatically different from PGA Tour golf. It’s still golf, a sport that is never going to feel disruptive or rebellious or cool. It doesn’t matter if you blare rock music on the first tee and let people wear shorts, it only conjures up the image of Steve Buscemi holding a skateboard over his shoulder saying “How do you do, fellow kids?”
Part of LIV’s biggest problem is, it’s not cool enough to appeal to a younger generation, and it’s too tacky to appeal to traditional golf fans. It would have a better chance at disruption if it was either less serious or more serious, but it can’t be either. At least if it was a show on Nickelodeon where golfers got slimed for double bogeys, it would be easy to differentiate.
I don’t think there will be a compromise because I think, outside a small audience that spends too much time on Twitter, no one cares about the players who left. And that’s going to become apparent once major season revs up. It’s not like Cam Smith or Dustin Johnson or even Patrick Reed and Bryson DeChambeau have been banished to YouTube or the CW forever. We still get to see them at majors. And therein lies a flaw in LIV’s plan. Casual golf fans only care about the majors. You’re never going to get them worked up about OWGR points. LIV players might have a more compelling argument if they were being barred from majors, but for the most part, they aren’t. Smith can play the Open until he’s 60. DeChambeau is in the U.S. Open until 2030. Johnson, Reed, Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia can play the Masters until they turn 65. Brooks Koepka’s exemption into the U.S. Open runs until 2028, and like Mickelson, he can play the PGA Championship for life.
If you’re expecting people to take up pitchforks and torches on behalf of Talor Gooch or Paul Casey, you’ve badly misjudged the paying customer.
I think there is a good chance that Smith or Johnson or Reed wins another major in the next few years, but that won’t change public sentiment outside some initial bluster. All it will do is underline the point. You mean I still get to watch them compete in majors? Great, then why should I care if they can’t play the 3M or the Valspar?
From TronCarterNLU: KVV, Is the addition to the Swilcan Bridge as egregious as I think it is? It honestly looks like a DIY, cock-and-balls-inspired backyard patio. It’s awful.
If you missed it over the weekend, or if you are not (like me) trapped in the funhouse mirror that is Golf Twitter, let me offer a quick recap to what my colleague Tron is referring to here. In an effort to shore up the ground in front of the Swilcan Bridge on the 18th hole at The Old Course, the St. Andrews Links Trust commissioned someone to put stones down and extend the path that leads to the bridge. The thinking was, grass is difficult to grow in such a highly trafficked area. Everyone who plays the Old Course wants a picture of themselves on the 700-year-old bridge. If the person holding the camera could stand on stone, and those waiting for their turn could as well, the ground in front of the bridge might not be a mud pit.
Did the initial photos make the extension look like a DIY patio you see in the Instagram feed of someone you went to high school with? They did. The Courier, one of Scotland’s largest newspapers, ran a front page headline that described it as “Painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa.” The outrage was so universal the Links Trust has already reversed course and announced that they’re going to remove the stones. (I hope some contractor from Fife got paid twice for this.)
The cul-de-sac patio look wasn’t great, but I think it’s important to have a little perspective here. Though we talk about the Old Course with religious reverence, please take a moment and remember that the Old Course is a living monument, not a museum. In 1968, they built a fricken hotel on the most famous hole in the world, a design that someone deemed so commercially essential, it should block your view of the fairway from the tee. For all the jokes about how there could be a hot tub in the stone patio, there is literally a spa inside the hotel, just a few feet away. Is there an invisible line somewhere that divides golf’s holy ground with a place where I can pay 140 pounds to get an organic seaweed wrap? This was sort of like putting a Starbucks on the outside corner of Notre Dame Cathedral, then claiming it’s not a big deal because some drywall and limestone separates a painting of St. Thomas Aquinas from the lattes. We’re kind of arguing semantics, right?
I wish we could save some of this energy and direct it toward other ways to preserve other elements that make The Old Course special. Just right of 18, you can no longer visit Tom Morris’ Golf Shop, a quirky, yet delightful place that had stood since 1866. It’s now something much more corporate, a soulless place that mostly sells officially-branded Open merch. There are holes where they have to put tees out of bounds just to retain some of the original design because the ball flies so far. There is rough in places that didn’t have rough for hundreds of years. Is preserving the muddy area in front of the bridge really where we draw the line?
From Kbergen28: As a fellow Kevin I’d love to see your Power Rankings of famous (up to interpretation) Kevins. Can be real/fictional, sports or not.
For starters, have you seen the anti-Kevin sentiment that has become mainstream in Europe? It’s outrageous! The New Yorker did a whole piece recently about how being named Kevin in France can hold you back socially and financially and politically. Kevin is a fine Irish name. At the top, I’ll toss these out for your consideration:
1. Kevin Bacon: Right at the beginning of the pandemic, when no one knew what the world was going to look like, my family took comfort in watching movies almost every night. But no one wanted to watch scary movies (myself included), so we had to find things everyone could enjoy, from age 47 to age 8. Footloose was one of the biggest home runs. You forget what a great athlete Bacon is until you watch this. It’s a fairly ridiculous film, and yet his charisma carries the whole thing. (Let’s normalize men teaching other men how to dance again!) Bacon also earns the top spot for me here because of his small role in A Few Good Men. Everyone who loves this film focuses on the showdown between Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson at the end, but the rapport that Cruise and Bacon have – as military lawyers who are also softball and basketball rivals – to me represents the best of Aaron Sorkin’s writing shtick. I still have a close friend from high school whom I randomly text “You’re a lousy fucking softball player, Jack!” and he’ll immediately write back “Your boys are going down, Danny. I can’t stop that now.”
2. Kevin Costner: The news that Coster wants to get out of filming more episodes of Yellowstone nearly helped him surge to the top of my rankings. As a Montanan, I can’t tell you how conflicted I am about Yellowstone. I suspect Costner feels the same. The writing on the show is truly embarrassing, yet it’s weirdly addictive. It has driven up real estate prices in Montana to absurd levels by bringing in droves of rich people from out of state who want to play cowboy but can’t seem to grasp that they’re actually the bad guys in the conflict between the old west and new west. They believe they’re the Duttons, but really they just want to wear Carhartts and look at scenery porn. The tires of their F-150s don’t even touch gravel roads. Anyway, I could riff on The Untouchables, Bull Durham, Tin Cup or even Robinhood: Prince of Thieves, but did you know Costner used to be Tiger Woods’ partner in the Pebble Beach Pro Am? I’m all for PGA Tour players getting to pick their schedule, but damn it would be fun if the best players still played with some of the biggest stars. Tell me you wouldn’t be riveted if Rory McIlroy and Cate Blanchett were dueling Jon Rahm and Timothée Chalamet down the stretch.
3. Kevin Malone from The Office: Everyone loves to tweet the gif of Kevin spilling a giant pot of chili on the carpet of Dunder Mifflin, and to be fair, it is one of the great bits of physical comedy in the history of the show (if not television). But few things will ever make me chuckle more than Kevin wearing Kleenex boxes on his feet for Jim and Pam’s wedding because the hotel destroyed his shoes when he left them outside his room hoping they’d be polished. (“The smell became a safety issue, sir.”) Cap that off with Kevin putting his sore feet in the ice machine at the end of the night, and it’s just a Hall of Fame moment for Kevins. Throw in the fact that Brian Baumgartner is a massive golf nerd and this feels like an easy choice.
4. Kevin Garvey from The Leftovers: Years ago, I remember reading Jimmy Carter say that he would pay $10,000 if he could read To Kill A Mockingbird again for the first time. I don’t know if he was envisioning an Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind scenario, but if you love books and stories, that’s just about one of the most beautiful things I can imagine spending money on. I think I feel that way about The Leftovers, maybe the weirdest, coolest, bravest show I’ve ever seen. It’s not my No. 1 show of all time, but it’s certainly one I wish more people would go back and digest. If you hear Otis Reddings “I’ve Got Dreams To Remember” and you immediately think of Kevin and Nora dancing, you know what I’m talking about. Justin Theroux was a tour de force in it.
5. Kevin, the Bird from UP: Even though Kevin the Snipe is a fabulous friend, I mostly ranked him here on the .0001 chance Durant sees this and is enraged he’s ranked below a cartoon bird.
6. Kevin Durant: In all seriousness, I kind of love the way Durant lays bare the majority of his insecurities. He’s probably the greatest scoring forward the NBA has ever seen, and yet he’s as perpetually online as any media weirdo. I admire how human that is. You are, without question, one of the best basketball players in history, yet you get so bothered by stupid people saying stupid things about you, that you repeatedly fire up a burner account just to try and correct the record one gripe at a time? It’s so sad, yet I 1000 percent understand the appeal. Kevin Durant’s burner needs to join Golf Twitter. Watching him lock horns with our greatest burner account, which I will not name here for legal reasons, would be a gift to us all.
From Sarah: It’s 2026 and you’ve been tasked with writing the script for HBO’s hit tv show The Newsroom episode where the Newsroom covers LIV. What would you make sure to include? In what ways would our Newsroom crew elevate journalism through their coverage? What character would have a personal tie to LIV and what would it be?
Edit: Also, what would be included in the signature montage and what song would accompany it?
What an insane, delightful question. The Newsroom has gotten a bad rap in recent years, mostly because of that cringe-worthy scene where producer Don and the rest of his ACN team are determined to reveal to a plane full of people that the United States military tracked down and killed Osama bin Laden. It’s very cringe, particularly if you remove any of the context you get from watching multiple seasons of an Aaron Sorkin drama. The show was earnest, overwrought and over-acted, but it was also fun to see real journalism debates play out on television. How would the ATN team cover LIV Golf? I have to believe someone, maybe Olivia Munn, would get a tip that Phil Mickelson had given a second explosive interview that might sink the entire league. There would be a big debate about what constitutes off the record, and Jeff Daniels would give a speech about the Pentagon Papers and how absurd it is you have to be willing to go to jail to protect both Daniel Ellsberg and Ian Poulter, but that’s the job and if you don’t like it, there is the door kiddo.
Dev Patel would say something like “And what about the next time a journalist gets kidnapped and murdered?” and no one would have a good answer. In the third act, Sam Waterson’s character would reveal that he used to play cards with Greg Norman and he could always tell when The Shark was bluffing, and this wasn’t one of those times. In the end, ATN would decide not to run the story, protecting their source, and the episode would end as they watched the first LIV event on YouTube, with Roy Orbison’s “You Got It” playing over a montage of Charl Schwartzel spraying champagne in slow motion on Hennie du Plessie.
hreilly27: Who have been your biggest writing influences over the years - sports writers or otherwise? Which of their works should we seek out?
When I was in college at the University of Montana, I took an entry-level creative writing course while I was still playing football. (I use the term ‘playing’ liberally here. I saw the field like twice in two years.) One of the short stories we had to read for the class was On The Rainy River by Tim O’Brien, which is part of his novel The Things They Carried. I liked it so much, I found a copy of the book later that night at my uncle’s house and read the entire thing. I fell asleep as the sun was coming up. It has been the most influential piece of writing of my life. I would probably live out President Carter’s fantasy and fork over $10,000 just to feel that rush again.
As for sports writers, there are so many, it’s hard to narrow it down. But S.L. Price and Jeff MacGregor and Tim Keown are the three I suspect I ripped off the most to shape whatever my writing voice is. If you’ve never read Jeff’s piece about a rattlesnake festival in Oklahoma, remedy that this weekend. You should also read Tim’s piece about Steve Hendrickson, the price of football, whether any of it is defensible when it’s your loved ones being broken by the sport.
Driving-Disco: Has professional golf outgrown the ‘gentlemanly’ approach to the rules where players are expected to police themselves based on the (sometimes subjective) application of the rules and limited input from toothless and tardy rules officials? Andy Johnson of The Fried Egg proposed having a rules official with every group. Andy also emphasizes that while Patrick Reed gets a ton of negative attention and scrutiny for such incidents due to his history and demeanor, he believes that this type of rule-bending is much more common at the professional level than many believe.
Is there a cheating issue in professional golf?
I thought Andy and Brendan did a really nice job discussing this issue. For anyone who didn’t hear it, it’s worth spending some time listening to their pod from last week. Without getting too specific and potentially putting myself in legal jeopardy, I do think there are players who believe it is their job to see what they can get away with, following the murky language of the rules if not the spirit. After Lexi Thompson’s ball marking controversy at the 2017 ANA, Phil Mickelson gave a very interesting answer when asked what he thought about the four-shot penalty Thompson received in the middle of her final round the following day. “I know a number of guys on tour that are loose with how they mark the ball and have not been called on it,” Mickelson said. “I mean, they will move the ball 2, 3 inches in front of their mark, and this is an intentional way to get it out of any type of impression and so forth. And I think that kind of stuff needs to stop.”
Should we have a camera following every player hitting every single shot? Okay, then what about Monday qualifiers? What about local qualifying for the U.S. Open and Open Championship? Just the leaders, you say? Okay, what happens if I am often on camera but some guy who is grinding around the cut line isn’t, and at year’s end, he scraped together enough points to make the FedExCup playoffs and I miss them? You start to open that box and it’s unclear where it stops. Golf has boasted for centuries that it is a game of honor. There are loopholes ready to be exploited by people without honor. Would a rules official walking with every group fix some of that? We might catch more of it, but something else would also be lost too.
From NYC: Landmand Golf Club, all of the courses in northern Michigan, Sweetens Cove - these are all golf courses I want to play someday in the near future, and a question I ask myself when I consider going to these places is, will I feel safe traveling to these places? I’m a Filipino-American of Chinese descent. My lived experiences on golf courses have not always been great for no reason other than what I look like. Just a couple of years ago I played Bethpage Blue and was called a [derogatory slur] in the parking lot after my round.
This was a tough question to mull, but I wanted to end the mailbag with it because it’s important. Golf is a difficult sport to defend sometimes. It has, for the majority of its existence, been purposefully, aggressively unwelcoming to nonwhite people and women. Golf has always lagged behind the rest of the world, it has never led, which is deflating if you love the sport. Here is one fact I try to remind people of: Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947. It would be another FIFTEEN YEARS before the PGA Tour dropped its “caucasians only” clause in its bylaws, and Charlie Sifford was able to join. At that point, Robinson had been retired for almost five years. It is interesting that Babe Ruth’s baseball statistics are often discussed with the qualifier that he did not compete against black and Latino players during his career, but Jack Nicklaus’ records are not viewed similarly (by anyone, as far as I can tell) even though four of his six Masters victories came before Lee Elder was invited to participate in the Masters in 1975. (Jack won his fifth green jacket that year.)
Racism isn’t a golf problem, it’s a society problem, but racists put up a fight longer in golf than they did in other sports, and it still lingers in the game to this day. I have been paired with random people at municipal golf courses and people at various country clubs who made comments I found offensive or racist, and I’ve often lacked the courage to confront them about it, worried it would ruin the day or result in a fight. Instead I stewed in silence, which seems all the more cowardly.
Would you feel welcome at Sweetens Cove (in South Pittsburgh, Tennessee) or Landmand Golf Course (in Homer, Nebraska)? One hundred percent yes. I know the man most responsible for those two courses (Rob Collins) built them with the hope that they would be a community as much as a golf course, one that welcomes people of any background or origin. Is the same true of the surrounding areas? That’s a more complicated question. I will say, as someone who grew up in Montana, every state is more nuanced than it is portrayed in the political divide. There are people in Tennessee, Nebraska, Northern Michigan and Montana who might not look like you, or vote like you, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t kindness in their hearts. Check out this story of a New Yorker who accidentally flew to Sydney, Montana instead of Sydney, Australia. That is the Montana I love, and will defend to the end.
When it comes to golf, I think people like me have a responsibility to make those places feel as welcoming as possible. There is nothing wrong with debating and disagreeing when it comes to politics, but there is a line where politics cease to be a subject of debate, and what we’re actually talking about is people’s humanity. Golf has made progress, certainly, but the pace of progress remains but a drip.
You are welcome to play with me, NYC, at any course that will take our money. And for anyone who might view that as virtue signaling, I would heartily agree. Better to let people know you have a little virtue than to boast to the world how proud you are to have none at all.