PGA Tour Confidential: Brandt Snedeker wins Canadian Open, Hunter Mahan WDs
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. The weekend leaderboard in Canada featured several Americans who could fit the bill for "best player never to have won a major," including champion Brandt Snedeker, Matt Kuchar and Dustin Johnson -- and before his withdrawal, Hunter Mahan. Which of these four players is most likely to break through in two weeks at the PGA at Oak Hill?
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Sneds. He has an extra gear that these other dude don't possess. It's too bad his season was interrupted by a rib injury because circa Pebble Beach he was playing incredible golf. But clearly he's back on his game and a great putter who's playing well tee-to-green can tame any golf course, even fearsome Oak Hill.
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: The order for Oak Hill is Kuchar, Mahan, Snedeker, Johnson. The order for career titles is Johnson, Snedeker, Mahan, Kuchar.
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Oak Hill is a tough driving course that's long for amateurs but not so much for the pros. The rough and the trees aren't usually playable. When in doubt, go with the best putter. That's Snedeker, and he's hitting it well at the moment, based on the Canadian Open.
Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: All four of those guys are due, but I'll take Mahan, who's played in the final group on Sunday in two out of the season's three majors. Plus, after leaving Canada to be with his wife during the birth of their first child, karma owes him one, doesn't it?
Joe Passov, senior editor, travel, Golf Magazine: Snedeker showed a lot by coming back from a rare show of frustration -- his 79 in round 2 at the Open. He's putting so well, he's got to be a favorite whenever he tees it up.
2. Dustin Johnson had a piece of the lead Sunday before imploding with a triple bogey on the 17th hole. D.J. has more PGA Tour victories than any other player under 30 (he's won seven times), but do you still consider him an underachiever?
Bamberger: I really don't. He doesn't think his way around a course with ruthless efficiency, and that's a golf skill along with all the others he has. It's a skill you can learn and I imagine he is.
Passov: Yep. Underachiever so far. So close on so many big stages on so many occasions. With his length, touch and the ability to play hard courses well, he should be good for three wins a year -- and the occasional major. Hasn't happened yet.
Van Sickle: It's unfair to call D.J. an underachiever. He's an achiever. Does Rickie Fowler or Hunter Mahan have seven wins? Didn't think so. Johnson may or may not ever land his major. He's got the power, but there's more to golf than that. Maybe he's the George Bayer of this generation.
Shipnuck: It's a nice career so far but D.J. has always been content to coast on his prodigious natural ability. If he applied himself like Sneds has, Dustin could easily be No. 1 in the world, or damn close to it.
Ritter: It's hard to forget D.J.'s final-hole rules gaffe from that fairway bunker at the '10 PGA, along with his other blunders and missed chances over the years. He's had a nice start to his career, but it could be so much more.
3. Hunter Mahan was leading the Canadian Open and warming up Saturday morning when he received a call that his wife had gone into labor. Mahan immediately withdrew and left for the hospital, Did Mahan make the right decision, wrong decision, or was it just a bad idea to play the event to begin with?
Passov: I don't know any of the facts regarding a due date, which might make No. 3 the best answer, but short of that, he's a total stud for having his priorities in order.
Bamberger: I'd feel presumptuous trying to answer for another person. For myself, I would have played. The child is not going to remember the blessed event. For the new dad to win, or even contend, during the embryonic journey is a family story forever.
Van Sickle: No golf tournament or title compares with a human life or the birthing experience. Mahan made the right call and it was an easy one. Maybe he could've saved himself the trouble and not gone to the Canadian but who's truly clairvoyant? What? I knew you'd say that.
Shipnuck: I understand why Hunter tried to cram in one more tourney -- he's been playing well all summer long and will be on diaper duty the rest of the year, so why not give it a go? But he certainly made the right call in withdrawing. I mean, this was the Canadian Open, not the U.S. Open. And you simply can't miss the birth of your first child.
Ritter: You could almost hear wives across the world turning to their husbands and asking, "Would you have done that for me?" The answer, of course, is yes, he did the right thing. And given the paycheck Hunter potentially passed up, you could say that his newborn daughter has instantly become golf's very own "Million Dollar Baby."
4. For the second time in two weeks, we had a 59 on the Web.com Tour, this time courtesy of 28-year-old Scot Russell Knox. Given today's equipment, and the increasing frequency with which these sub-60 rounds are happening, has shooting a 59 lost some of its luster?
Bamberger: Yes. Fifty-eight is the new 59.
Van Sickle: Shooting 59 sure isn't like breaking the four-minute mile like it was when Al Geiberger did it. With the distances the modern players hit it, 59 is considerably easier. Charting the frequency of such rounds would show a marked increase over time. So yeah, it's not as big a deal. Especially when you shoot it in Double-A ball.
Passov: Tons of buzz if it happened in a regular Tour event. Look at the crazy publicity when Phil lipped out for 59 at Phoenix this year. OK, it was Phil, and it was Phoenix. Scores on the Web.com Tour seem to be so low week after week, with folks posting them who aren't exactly household names, that these 59s almost lack legitimacy -- almost. Still impressive to do it in a tournament that pays prize money.
Ritter: There haven't been that many yet -- I still see a 59 on the PGA Tour in the same light as a perfect game in baseball, and they've happened about as often. But this latest 59 happened in the minor leagues, and on a short course. Nice round, but not that big of a deal.
Shipnuck: Wake me when someone shoots a 57. For pros today a 6,800 yard course like Hillcrest C.C., where Knox shot his 59, is laughably short. In fact, 7,800 yards is too short. To really challenge the pros -- to make them hit mid- to long-irons into a handful of par-4s and a couple par-3s, and to have two or three par-5s play as three-shotters -- a course would need to be 9,000 yards, maybe more. I mean, a 500 yard par-4 is driver/9-iron to most of these guys. So, yeah, 59 has been badly devalued by the distance explosion.
5. Tiger has won six majors since he turned 30. Phil Mickelson has won all five of his majors after he turned 30. What does Mickelson need to do to have a better second-half of his career than Tiger? And who wins more majors from today forward: Tiger or Phil?
Bamberger: Phil is so deep into the second half of his career, and doing so well at it, I can't imagine any advice that could possibly be useful.
Van Sickle:Phil has to give up being in love with hitting it past all of his playing partners. He also has to improve at hitting fades to the point where he's able to do it under pressure (see 71st hole at Quail Hollow for an example). That would make his game more complete. Phil probably has a shorter window to win majors since he's older. Then again, Tiger doesn't look like he's got it in him anymore on the weekend. I'll still go with Tiger.
Ritter: The health of each player is probably the biggest X-factor, although given that Tiger's younger, you'd think he'd have a slight edge. But I'll say from here out, Phil and Tiger each win two more majors.
Passov: Phil is phenomenal--but he's had so many majors where he simply wasn't a factor. The number of majors that Tiger has played where he wasn't a factor in any of the final three rounds you can count on one hand. I still see Tiger emerging on top.
Shipnuck: For starters, Phil needs to spend some time at No. 1 and be player of the year, two lofty honors he has never achieved. And obviously he needs to win a U.S. Open to prove that he is indeed a complete player. The way Phil is playing, I can see him easily winning another two or three majors, and it's impossible to have that kind of confidence in Tiger.
6. This week Inbee Park will chase history at the Women's British Open at St. Andrews, where she could win a fourth straight major this season. If forced to choose this week, is your TV set to the Women's Open, or the PGA Tour event at Firestone?
Shipnuck: You mean, would I rather enjoy the wondrous canvas of the Old Course, or have to endure the monotonous repetition of Firestone, which might be the most boring championship golf course known to man? I think that question answers itself.
Ritter: I'll take Inbee's run at history, and St. Andrews in HD.
Van Sickle: If Inbee Park isn't in contention, are you still going to be glued to the TV? Although it never gets old watching the Old Course. Firestone's holes have a certain sameness on TV. I'll still watch the men.
Passov: I'm really torn. I'm totally into golf history, I watch a fair amount of LPGA and gosh, it's St. Andrews! Still, I'm not going to change my Sunday plans to watch Inbee Park, especially with that thorny issue of Evian being a major (so what is exactly needed, LPGA, to win your Grand Slam?), but if Tiger and Phil are head-to-head down the stretch at Akron, I'm parked in front of the set.
Bamberger: This is not a serious question. First of all, the women are St. Andrews. St. Andrews vs. Firestone. Second of all, Inbee's trying to make history. Tiger and Co. and looking to haul cash. Third of all, she's got the most peculiar/interesting method of any elite player in the game. We know the swings the menfolk make.
7. Also happening this week: Golf Magazine will unveil its latest list of Top 100 Courses in the World, and in the U.S. What's the top course on your wish list that you've yet to play?
Van Sickle: My No. 1 unplayed course was Merion but I played there in late May and it was worth the wait. I haven't played any of the courses in Bandon Dunes, or Sand Hills. Or Cruden Bay, Castle Stuart, North Berwick or Portmarnock or...
Ritter: Augusta National will always be at the top of my bucket list, but for courses I could play just by writing a check, I'll take Pebble Beach.
Shipnuck: Oakmont, Chicago G.C., Fisher's Island, Prairie Dunes, Friar's Head, Kingston Heath, Cape Kidnappers, Barnbougle Dunes, Carne, Askernish, Diamante...
Passov: I would really like to say I've played Seminole.
Bamberger: A nine-hole course I am designing in my mind, with wide fast bumpy fairways, brownish playable rough, deep bunkers with coarse sand, smallish fast greens, tee boxes right beside them, itty-bitty scorecards and an honor box for green fees. You can play it in less 80 minutes, faster if you're putting well.