PGA Tour Confidential: Adam Scott wins Masters for first major title
Every Sunday night, the editorial staff of the SI Golf Group conducts an e-mail roundtable. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.
1. Adam Scott is your 2013 Masters champion. For years, he's had the talent to win a major. What's changed about his game that's got him in contention regularly at majors and now finally winning one?
Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: Scott is absolutely one of the best drivers of the ball I've seen, and I watched him hit the most majestic tee shot on the filthy-hard, par-4 11th when he was paired with Jason Dufner on Saturday. I think that driving set him apart this week, plus he made some extremely timely putts. It was interesting that he credited Steve Williams for "an unbelievable read" on the final playoff hole, in the dark, when Scott had it only a cup outside the hole and Williams said it was more than two.
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Adam Scott made putts on the back nine Sunday to go with his usually superlative ballstriking. Can it really be that simple? Yes.
Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: It's tough to speculate what's in a guy's head or his heart, but by all appearances in the last couple of years Scott has become more driven than ever, and it's taken his game to a new level. If he made a few more putts Sunday, he actually could've run away with this one. He was staring at birdie putts all day, his tee-to-green game was that good.
Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: All his short game stats are better -- sand saves, scrambling -- including his putting. Of course draining putts makes everything look better. It's gotta be the broomstick.
Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, Golf.com: Ever since he switched to the long putter, he's clearly gained confidence on the greens. Combine that with his textbook swing and, say what you will about him, a great caddie in Steve Williams, and he's had all the tools to win a major. But, you still have to get some lucky breaks to win these things, and he got one on 13 when that ball stayed out of the water.
Eamon Lynch, managing editor, Golf.com: Four things. As Greg Norman and Brandel Chamblee have both noted today, he hits the ball a lot higher than he used to, which helps in every major this side of the Atlantic. He has more belief in himself. He has more experience of being in the mix on Sunday. Oh yeah, and he anchors his putter.
Stephanie Wei, WEIUNDERPAR.com: Stevie Williams, obviously. Duh. Jokes aside, I believe Stevie has helped him a lot. He's a great caddie and what's more, he balances Scott's personality and game. They're a perfect team. I remember at Bridgestone when Stevie stole the spotlight. Adam said he wanted to lay up and Stevie handed him a 5-iron and said take dead aim. He's also more confidence with his putter since he switched to the broomstick two years ago.
Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: I don't know that much has changed. He has always been a superior ballstriker. Maybe things came a little too easily for him early on. Credit to him that he kept grinding, especially after the disappointment at last year's British Open.
2. Scott is the sixth player to win a major with an anchored putter. Like Ernie Els at the British Open, Scott's putting with the short stick had been shaky before he switched. Are you ready to admit that anchoring is an advantage?
Lynch: The only major not currently held by someone who anchors the putter is the PGA Championship, which ironically is the only event run by a body that opposes banning anchoring. Anchoring doesn't turn bad putters into great putters, but it does make mediocre putters competitive. Just look at Scott's results in the majors before he went to the long putter and his results since.
Gorant: Anchoring is definitely an advantage. That doesn't mean necessarily that it should be banned, but like a large headed driver or a hybrid club, it's an advantage.
Van Sickle: Anchoring is not a better way to putt, it's only a better way to putt for players who can't putt. Scott ranked 39th in putting stats here for the week, I believe. Break up the Mets, eh? My plan for the last 12 major winners to use anchored putting before they kick in the ban is right on schedule. Way to go, Adam. Suck on that, USGA.
Ritter: As soon as someone shows me data that proves anchoring to be an unfair advantage, I'll support the ban. I do believe that anchoring provides Scott his best chance at getting the ball in the hole, but just like the claw grip, cross-handed grip, mallet putter and those fat, oversized putter grips. It's not for everyone. I still see anchoring as unsightly, but not unfair.
Reiterman: I still don't think it's a huge advantage. Like Scott said, give the pros enough time to practice with something and of course they're going to do well. If the anchored stroke is banned, I bet Scott will still go out and win another major.
Godich: Funny, but until he made the birdie putt on the 72nd hole, I mentioned to a friend that it might be time for him to go back to the short putter. The next six guys on the leader board were all using a short putter. One guy winning does not necessarily make it an advantage.
Morfit: I would admit that it's an advantage for people who can't putt any other way, so yes, it's an advantage.
Wei: I believe that being able to putt without anchoring the club against the body is a fundamental part of the game, so yes, it is an advantage. I remember two years ago at the Masters when he finished T2 and dropped all those clutch putts down the stretch, I showed up at the practice green on Tuesday at Hilton Head and was floored at how many guys with belly putters I saw, including Ernie Els, who was considering playing with it for the first time that week. So, clearly, this trend was Adam Scott's fault in the first place. Full circle!
3. Everyone's had time to digest Tiger's infamous drop on the 15th hole Friday. Did the Masters make the right call by penalizing Tiger for the illegal but not disqualifying him from the tournament for signing an incorrect scorecard?
Van Sickle: I can shrink the Tiger issue to one sentence. Yes or no, did he sign for an incorrect score? The answer is yes. Therefore, he should've been disqualified, just like everyone else in golf history who's done the same has been. Big mistake by the Masters.
Morfit: Not at all. That one was botched by everyone involved, especially the rules committee and Fred Ridley. I'd have believed them if they gave me one reason why he wasn't disqualified, but they kept trying to throw stuff against the wall and see if anything might stick. "The rules are the rules," as Tiger said of Guan -- except when they're inconvenient to apply.
Gorant: Right or wrong it's a totally legit call within the rules, or Rules if you prefer. Just as Tiger didn't question the ruling against him, he has no reason to question the one in his favor. The rules are the rules, end of discussion. It doesn't seem fair when someone gets a free drop when they hit it so far off line that it goes behind the grandstand but that's how it works.
Lynch: Absolutely not. Tiger admitted in his post-round comments Friday that dropping the ball a couple of yards away from his original position helped him take a little off his next shot. He acknowledged that he gained an advantage in the process of violating a rule. Forget what his intent was. That has zero bearing. A drunk driver may not intend to cause an accident on the way home from the bar, but that doesn't mean there should be no sanction. He broke a rule and gained an advantage, then signed for an incorrect score. Nothing else matters. He should have been DQ'd.
Godich: I would have DQ'd him for signing an incorrect scorecard, but I suppose officials gave Tiger an out by not approaching him before he signed his card. How do you not take every precaution in that situation? On a side note, it continues to amaze me that players and their caddies either don't know the rules or are careless when addressing them.
Ritter: This is the right question to ask, because the Augusta rules officials are the ones who really botched this. In their statement Saturday morning, they essentially ruled that, because they didn't notice the violation before Tiger signed his card, they were responsible for the error, and a DQ was unjustified. Since when is a player not responsible for himself? By not DQ'ing Woods they created a new precedent that in the process made it look like they gave him preferential treatment. And they passed the buck to Tiger, who had to decide for himself whether to withdraw. My hunch is that TW didn't need long to make that decision.
Reiterman: I think they made the right decision. If this had happened to Tianlang Guan, or anyone else not named Tiger Woods, we'd be yelling about what an outrage it is to DQ someone for a minor rules infraction. But since it happened to Tiger, it was amplified. I think the DQ should be saved for blatant cheating, not misinterpreting the rules. And Woods still paid a heavy price. That penalty put him behind the 8-ball for the rest of the tournament and he never recovered.
Wei: My real issue is why the heck did Tiger not know how to make a proper drop from a water hazard? This is such a basic rule of golf!
4. Tiger ignored calls for him to withdraw over the incident. Have your feelings about Tiger changed at all this week? Do you think he wins the Masters if he doesn't hit the flagstick with that approach shot on Friday?
Lynch: These days Tiger needs to play his best to win a major, which didn't used to be the case. He wasn't playing his best and I don't think was likely to win this week. He hasn't broken 70 in the Masters in years, struggles with shots that require a draw at Augusta National and his putter was cool. Not a good combination. As for my view of him, nothing has changed. A terrific golfer, but tone deaf when it comes to matters of grace or humility.
Van Sickle: Tiger's flagstick episode cost him maybe three shots -- two for the penalty, one for the birdie he didn't make. That would get him to 8 under, one off the playoff, but more important, would get him right in the grill of Scott and Cabrera. That might've made a difference. But golf would've never lived down the ensuing asterisk or my name isn't Barry Bonds Gorant: Don't know if he would have won, but it sure would have been fun to see him try.
Reiterman: It's a big leap to hand him the green jacket, but there's no doubt it completely changed the tournament for him. He was in control of his game, about to take the lead, and then he watches his ball fall in the water. Had to be a huge shock to the system, even for a 14-time major champion.
Godich: Withdrawing would have done more for his reputation than any victory. We'll never know how things would've played out if not for the bad break, but I will say this: That tournament was there for the taking when Tiger stepped to the first tee on Saturday, and even after opening with a birdie, he couldn't answer the call. We saw much of the same last year. This is becoming a troubling trend.
Morfit: I still think Tiger seems a little different than he has in the past -- happier, somehow. And I'm optimistic about that. I will never stop trying to like him and giving him more chances, because I think people never stop changing and it's never too late until we're dead.
Ritter: My feelings about Tiger didn't change this week. Had he withdrawn, it would've been a huge boost for his image, but I don't begrudge him at all for continuing to play after catching a break. If you subtract four shots from his score (two for hitting the flag and going from kick-in birdie to bogey, and two for the penalty), he finishes at 9-under, which would've tied the leaders in regulation, but I still don't think he would've won. He didn't make nearly enough putts under pressure on Sunday, and pressure-putting continues to be his weakness in majors. It just feels like he wants it too badly.
Wei: No, my feelings about Tiger have not changed. Fire hydrant, Perkins waitress, rules ... apparently Tiger forgets the rules at times. Anyway, Tiger shouldn't have hit the flagstick in the first place. The ball was coming in too hot.
5. In his Masters Diary, Gary Player called Tianlang Guan making the cut at 14 "the most historic event in golf I've witnessed in my lifetime." Do you agree with Player? What about Guan's game that makes you feel like we could be looking at a future PGA Tour star?
Van Sickle: It's unlike Gary Player to resort to hyperbole but I agree, Guan is a big deal. He may or may not prove to be a world-class player, but his image is the biggest thing to happen to Asian golf, maybe ever, and we will feel its rippling effects probably sooner than we expect.
Ritter: Something tells me that if given some time for further reflection, Mr. Player may admit that he has seen other events over his Hall of Fame career that surpass Guan's performance at Augusta, but I applaud his enthusiasm. As for Guan, he could be a future star, a complete bust, or anything in between. Let's give him some time.
Godich: Remarkable. I didn't think the kid would break 80. His swing isn't exactly a thing of beauty, but his short game is. That said, let's let him get through the eighth grade before we anoint him as a future PGA Tour star.
Reiterman: Well, the Black Knight has certainly seen a lot in his day, so you have to take his comment seriously. But time will tell. K.J. Choi and Y.E. Yang have obviously done a lot for golf in Asia, and Guan's incredible week can't do anything but help.
Wei: Well, Guan was the youngest to play in the Masters and then he became the youngest to make the cut WITH a one-shot penalty -- which was the first-known in Masters history, so I guess it was indeed the most historic event in golf in that regard! At first, I thought it was a bit of a hyperbole, but when I thought about it like that, it makes sense. Guan has won a lot at the amateur level before he's even in high school, which is a good indicator of players becoming future Tour stars. His short game and touch were incredibly impressive, he was the shortest hitter in the field, he didn't have a double bogey all week, and the way handled himself with maturity and class in the television interview after he got the slow-play penalty -- in his second language, no less -- was mind-blowing. Would you like me to go on?
Gorant: Historic depends on what happens next. Does he ignite a golf boom in China? Does he become a top-line player? Along those lines, I'm not sure he'll make it. Probably 50-50 that he becomes a major player in the game. Lots can change when you're only 14, everything from interests to body types to abilities.
Morfit: I think Gary got a little carried away. He likes those diminutive golfers, obviously, but 14 is pretty darn impressive. I have no idea if we're looking at a future Tour star. He's too young to make such a prediction.
Lynch: Gary's enthusiasm is admirable. So was Guan's grace in a difficult situation on Friday. Others could learn from both.
6. After Guan's slow-play penalty on Friday, David Duval tweeted out a list of slow players on the PGA Tour, including regular offenders like Ben Crane and Kevin Na and also Padraig Harrington, Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods. Considering how slow play is on Tour, was the penalty on Guan fair?
Godich: You answered your own question. All the debate about slow play on Tour, and they make an example out of the kid? The ruling would have had some teeth if somebody else was penalized on Saturday or Sunday. I'm sure there were plenty of candidates.
Van Sickle: According to my sources, Guan took six minutes to hit a putt on one green earlier in that round. He was blatantly, over-the-top slow and finally couldn't be ignored. The penalty was fair. And to be honest, it only added to his notoriety and his legend. I think he did everything last week but kill a bear with his bare hands like Davy Crockett.
Ritter: He was warned three times during his back nine to pick up the pace. It was tough but fair.
Gorant: I want to know if other players have had bad times and not been penalized. If so then it's a total sham. One of the TV guys explained how the current rule protects slow pokes, because the whole group has to be out of position before individuals start getting timed. So slow guys can plod along until they're on the clock then pick up the pace.
Lynch: A friend of mine took his 12-year-old daughter to a junior event in Georgia last weekend and rounds took six hours. That's laughable, and the pro game is no better. Forget a "three strikes" theory: slap the offenders with stroke penalties and DQ them for a second offense. Guan received multiple warnings, he just isn't experienced enough to game the system like the pros, who speed up after a warning then slow it down soon thereafter. Golf needs to do more than name and shame.
Reiterman: Penalty was fair ... if that's how it was enforced at every tournament. Unfortunately that's not how it is and they decided to make an example of a 14-year-old. If they had hit Crane or Na with a slow-play penalty, we'd be having an entirely different conversation.
Wei: It didn't seem like a single player agreed with Guan's penalty. I spoke with a few players or entourage members on-site and they all said it was slow in general. One player-manager on site said via text, "Everyone was slow, Kevin Na was in front of us and he took forever again. Our group played the front 9 in 3:15. 5.5 round." Guan was slow, but maybe the warning could have been communicated better. When I saw him play on Thursday, his pace of play was one of the first thing that crossed my mind, so why wasn't he warned then? Crenshaw's caddie said the same thing.
Morfit: Yes, it was fair. He was warned and warned, so I'm glad someone did something about it, or at least tried to do the right thing. I'm glad he didn't miss the cut because of it.
7. Phil Mickelson had one of his worst Masters ever, finishing 9-over, and Rory McIlroy took himself out of contention with a 79 on Saturday. What happened to these pre-tournament favorites?
Morfit: I'm still wondering that myself. At least Rory was sort of in it for half the tournament. Mickelson was just awful and not even close in any way. My guess is he wasn't feeling well with the arthritis.
Van Sickle: I guess the course was too easy for Phil. Hey, that's what he said. Rory still hasn't found it this year. One good round in San Antonio doesn't mean it's all OK and perhaps he's spent so much time on his long game that his short game wasn't quite ready for Augusta.
Ritter: Neither Phil nor Rory came into the Masters in top form. It wasn't their week.
Wei: Phil was rattled because the Shell Houston Open wasn't the week before the Masters, per usual, and perhaps that messed him up. It was weird to hear him say in his pre-tournament presser he was nervous going into the week! Rory's 79 on Saturday was a bit alarming, but I was afraid he might make a mistake or two that would cost him. However, a lot of players had high rounds on Saturday. Keegan Bradley, one of the favorites going into the week, shot 82.
Godich: Rory had never finished better than 15th in four appearances at the Masters, and the runner-up showing in San Antonio might have been a tease. As for Phil, he wasn't exactly riding a wave of momentum when he pulled into Magnolia Lane. And while Augusta National rewards good shot-making, it can also expose you if you're not on your game.
Reiterman: Phil ... you just never know. I mean a "Phrankenwood"? Rory was cramming to find any kind of form for Augusta, and clearly he's still not 100% confident on the course.
Lynch: Phil is past his prime and Rory is having an erratic season. Footnotes to the week, nothing more.