#AskLav: Woods, Spieth poised to heat up majors


Chances are, as you read this you’re socked in by a foot of snow, wind-burned in all the wrong places, wearing a hideous scarf and without feeling in seven of your 10 toes.

Hey, feel your pain, if not literally.

This week in Orlando, I watched an elderly woman walk into the neighborhood grocery store wearing snow boots and what appeared to be her bed comforter. On her grocery list was all of the survival essentials: matches, water, Mentos, map and compass. The temperature outside was a relatively balmy 43 degrees.

So, yeah, those thwacked by Hercules are quite enjoying this Hawaii Swing. And what’s not to love? Warm sun. Low scores. Stunning vistas. Fun tracks. A welcome escape when spring seems so … far … away.

Well, for most of you, anyway. The cold snap here is all but over – high of 83 Saturday. Winter was so glorious.

Your questions for the 2014 debut of the #AskLav mailbag: 

Crazy? No way. Spieth absolutely could win a major this year. He’s said repeatedly that improving his major performance is one of his main focuses this year. There’s a small sample size, of course, but he’s shown that his game translates well on any course. Among other things, he’s a great driver (eighth in total driving a year ago), birdie machine, above-average scrambler (31st) and streaky putter with a knack for finishing strong (fourth in final-round scoring average). He should be a factor in a few majors this year, most likely the U.S. Open and PGA.  

Literally? Or figuratively, as in taking a severe dip in the rankings? If the latter, it’d be an amazing feat if Steve Stricker, currently world No. 9, can keep up his remarkable play once he turns 47; 2013 was arguably his best season ever, and he didn’t even win. Also wouldn’t be surprised by slides from Henrik Stenson (No. 3), who has to crash back to Planet Earth at some point, and Ernie Els (No. 27), who rarely was a factor last year and is in the midst of another equipment change. If you’re literally asking which players will take the largest divots this year, turf-wise, my money is on Sergio Garcia, whose trench-digging with the irons has always impressed. There are beaver pelts in every fairway because of him.

A great question that, unfortunately, is impossible to quantify. Unlike baseball, there is no saves statistic in golf, let alone WHIP or ERA. (Sorry, I’ve being reading too many Hall of Fame stories lately.) Absolutely, the way Johnson closed out the BMW, Tiger’s event and Kapalua was impressive, but I also recall him squandering an opportunity to win the John Deere, where he bogeyed the last hole to drop into a playoff, which he eventually lost. The point is, no player – not even Tiger, as we’ve seen recently – can slam the door every time he has a chance to win. But this tenacious competitor is just about as good as it gets.

The foursome of major venues is favorable for Tiger this year, but the field is far too deep now to assume that he can pick off two majors. Only four times in his career (2000, ’02, ’05, ’06) has he won two or more Big Ones in a season. The only other player to accomplish the feat in the past 15 years is Padraig Harrington (2008). So, yes, a better bet is Spieth winning one, if only because he’s playing so well that he’s bound to be in contention. 

Probably because you’re doing something terribly wrong. 

Appreciate the brevity. Hot: Adam Scott, Zach Johnson, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Harris English, Gary Woodland, The Dufners. Not: Jim Furyk, Lee Westwood, Ernie Els, Bubba Watson, Martin Kaymer.

Absolutely helps. Instead of merely going through the motions at a regular Tour stop, he’s showing up fresher and hungrier at the events he covets most. Smart move for an arthritic golfer heading into his mid-40s. 

That’s a question better suited for, say, @GCA (Golf Channel Academy). But for basic chips, this 7-handicap likes to play the ball off the right foot (assuming you’re a right-hander) with a pitching wedge and use a putting motion, with no wrist break. All other shots around the green, I use the 60-degree.

A few likely candidates: Brooks Koepka (assuming he gets enough U.S. starts to make a dent); John Peterson (tore up Web.com Tour Finals); Graham DeLaet (too talented not to break through); and Hideki Matsuyama (really, choosing the world No. 23 is cheating). Going deeper, Chesson Hadley had two wins last year on the Web.com circuit, and Matt Jones had five top 10s late last season on Tour.

Zach is trending that way, though I suspect he’s underrated (or maybe the word is underappreciated) only because of his style of play – short and straight, strong wedge player, sublime putter. But the dude has 11 wins – only Tiger, Phil and Vijay have more since 2004, Johnson’s rookie year. He’s world No. 7, on the verge of cracking the top 5. He has more than $31 million in earnings. Indeed, he has all the makings of a Tom Kite-type career. 

Hard to top Kapalua, with its wide-open, rollercoaster fairways. But Hulk could also bash away at the Golf Club of Houston, TPC Four Seasons or Firestone.