Tour and News

PGA Tour Confidential: Is Graeme McDowell now the British Open favorite?

Photo: Richard Heathcote / Getty Images

Graeme McDowell pulled away on Sunday at the French Open, his final event before the British Open at Muirfield.

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. Graeme McDowell won the French Open on Sunday, his third win of 2013. With his low ball flight and links experience is Graeme McDowell now the favorite at the Open Championship?

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: In this summer of parity, I'm not sure anybody qualifies as the Open favorite. G-Mac is as good as any at this point. He's among a posse of favorites.

Joe Passov, senior editor, travel, Golf Magazine: I'm a fan of McDowell and his game, but missed cuts (and messed-up office pools for me) at the Masters, Players, U.S. Open and again last week at the Irish Open means he's nothing better than a coin flip. He's not the favorite for me. Of course he's a strong contender, but my lighter wallet tells me to be wary.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Unless you are betting, why does it matter who is the favorite to win the British Open? Oh, you're betting. Tiger Woods is the favorite to win the British Open, even rusty, injured and all the rest.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: Yes, I would install G-Mac as the co-favorite along with Tiger, who must feel Muirfield owes him one after he was blown off the course in '02.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: We all know how streaky McDowell is and he seems to be peaking at just the right time, so he certainly has to be one of the favorites. Interesting that he is not playing the Scottish Open this week. That says to me he feels really good about his game.

Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: Tiger has four wins this year and will be the top choice in Vegas despite his elbow injury. But I can see a Euro winning the Open, and G-Mac is as good a choice as any. He should probably be listed as a co-favorite with Woods.

2. Who will win another major first, McDowell or his buddy Rory McIlroy?

Bamberger: I think Rory, because, as we have seen twice, when conditions in majors are just right for him he can lap the field.

Godich: Rory is streaky like his countryman is streaky, so until I see Rors streak in the right direction, I'll go with Graeme.

Morfit: At this point I'd have to say G-Mac. What's happened to Rory this year has been painful to watch. Such a nice kid. Such an awful '13. Makes you wonder if he'll start to fear the number if he doesn't already.

Ritter: You've gotta like G-Mac's chances far more than Rory's at the British, but I'll still take Rory in this one. The 24-year-old has more talent than just about anyone on Tour, and there's a chance he could suddenly snap out of this funk in a similar fashion as he did last year, when he scuffled all summer and then blitzed the field at the PGA.

Passov: Even when McDowell is playing well, his funky swing and grind-it-out style makes it look like work. When Rory's on, it's child's play. If Rory can get it to click, just like he did late last summer, he zooms to the top. I'll hang a little longer with Rory to notch another major before Graeme.

Van Sickle: This sounds like a trick question. So I'll say Adam Scott.

3. At the Greenbrier, another WD for John Daly -- perhaps with surgery to come. He's almost a running joke right now, but the guy won two majors -- more than most of the recent Hall-of-Fame inductees. Formidable skills, major head case. Who would you pick in recent history as the player who accomplished the least, given how much talent he possessed?

Van Sickle: Daly should be embarrassed for taking a sponsor's exemption and then pulling out. If he was hurt, as he says, he should not have accepted a spot and taken it away from a real player. He's got to be the PGA Tour's all-time leader in WD's. In fact, he's only two away from WD 40. As for underachievers, I'd say Sergio Garcia has fallen into that category. He's got a bunch of wins on both tours, yes, but given his ability, I think he'd be first to admit he expected more.

Morfit: Probably Big John, but I'd have to put Charles Howell III and Davis Love III up there as well. Other players always looked at Love and asked themselves how he didn't win every week. Streaky putting has held them back as much or almost as much as anything else.

Godich: Charles Howell III. Two PGA Tour victories for a 34-year-old most of us thought would win at least that many majors.

Passov: He's not done yet, but Anthony Kim is the first name that pops to mind. Maturity and injury issues to be sure, but world-class talent and confidence that disappeared far too quickly. In the historical division, I'll go with a three-way tie between late-blooming Tom Lehman (only five PGA Tour wins total with that ball-striking?), Tom Weiskopf (16 wins, one major, with THAT swing and length?) and Greg Norman (maybe the greatest driver of all time--should have won 10 majors).

Ritter: Daly probably headlines that list. Despite his recent Hall of Fame induction, Couples is probably somewhere near the top, although his cranky back was a major factor. As for pros who should be peaking today, Dustin Johnson should have more Ws and at least one major by now for all of his talent.

Bamberger: I am not answering that question directly. I will say that for purity of strike, Fred Couples was maybe the best I've ever seen, with John Daly right beside him. I didn't see Nicklaus in his prime. Tiger would be right up there with Couples and Daly. Woods has 14 majors, Fred and Daly have three combined. Purity of strike is only one measure of talent.

4. Architecture fans gushed after the restoration of Greenbrier's Old White course to its 1913 C.B. Macdonald glory. Yet it yields some of the lowest scores on Tour. Can a course be considered "great," or even be a great PGA Tour venue, if it yields a steady diet of 63s and 64s?

Bamberger: Absolutely. Sixty-three is the new 69. The Tour pros aren't beating themselves up and neither should we. Enjoy!

Passov: Tough call, because it just shows how ridiculously good that PGA Tour pros are and how modern equipment has obliterated the challenge proffered by many Golden Age courses, unless they're set up like Merion was. As long as the pros have multiple options on many shots and have to both think and execute to succeed, the course holds up, even with low scores. If the layout serves up soft conditions and too many driver-wedge scenarios, it might still be fun for member play, but can't be considered "great."

Godich: I have no problem with it. The place looks spectacular. And let's not forget that we're talking about a par-70 layout. Why doesn't anybody get up in arms when the Masters champion finishes at 12 under?

Morfit: I don't think a course necessarily has to beat back today's top pros to be considered architecturally noteworthy. I played a course the other day, Eastward Ho in Cape Cod, Mass., that wouldn't hold up against Tour pros unless it was quite windy, but it was still a gem.

Ritter: Sure. Why can't a course be great and while also serving up the occasional low number? I'm no architect, but Kapalua is the coolest course I've seen in person, and the pros destroy it every year. Doesn't taint my view of the place at all.

Van Sickle: Scores have little to do with what makes a course great. Scores are based mainly on conditions. I guess Oakmont is lousy then because Johnny Miller shot 63 there once. I haven't played at Greenbrier so I'll withhold comment on its greatness until I got a better look at it.

5. Jordan Spieth, who finished T23 at Greenbrier, has six top-10 finishes in 15 starts this year. Spieth, 19, has earned temporary status on the PGA Tour and is clearly one of the top 125 players on Tour, but the only way he can qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs is with a victory. Fair?

Godich: I don't understand how a guy who makes enough money to earn temporary Tour status isn't acknowledged as a Tour member. And shouldn't the goal be to start the playoffs with the 125 players who have performed the best over the course of the year?

Passov: Fair. Stupid, but fair. The pros, via their policy board, make the rules, presumably to protect everybody and favor nobody. If Spieth has earned the right to qualify through his excellent play, let him in -- that's democracy and free enterprise at work. But rules are rules. Change the rule. Want to know why Jack Nicklaus never played on a Ryder Cup team until 1969? Same deal.

Van Sickle: The PGA Tour has a lot of rules to keep outsiders off the Tour. Especially outsiders who are good players. I don't agree with many of its membership rules, especially the non-member money list. There should be one money list, member or no member. If you're a non-member and you can manage to win more money than the members, more power to you. You should be rewarded with a spot in the FedEx Cup, among other things, not punished for starting the year on the outside.

Morfit: That seems like a weird rule. He's having a great year. There should be a way for that kid to be playoff-eligible.

Ritter: The FedEx playoffs exist solely to create compelling TV shows in September, not to be fair. So, yes, Spieth is getting jobbed.

Bamberger: The question assumes I understand anything about the FedEx point system. But on its face, and because the Tour is doing the gate-keeping here, I'll say unfair.

6. A Houston Chronicle editorial proposed that the USGA make the purse of the U.S. Women's Open equal to that of the Men's Open. (Justin Rose took home $1.44 million at Merion; Inbee Park won $585,000 at Sebonack.) What do you think of this idea?

Ritter: The USGA could make a great statement by making that move, and they surely have the cash. Go for it.

Bamberger: It's a nice theory and a worthy goal, but prize money is not a place to practice equal opportunity. It is rooted in TV deals, viewership, ticket sales, blah, blah, blah. The men dominate in those categories. It would be cool if they didn't, but this is the marketplace at work.

Passov: Ridiculous. The reason the tennis women achieved equality at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open is that they were part of the same tournament as the men, and in some/many cases, were the stronger attraction, even if they were on the court for less time. The U.S. Women's Open is a separate event from the men's Open. Let the market determine what the payouts should be. Should we kick in the same prizes for the U.S. Senior Open, so that we're not seen as discriminating against seniors? No, thanks.

Morfit: Seems like an easier idea to sell in tennis, where the women and men play the Grand Slams same time, place. Maybe that's why the USGA is trying the back-to-back thing at Pinehurst next year.

Godich: I'm all for the women getting what they deserve, but until they start attracting anywhere near the crowds, sponsors and TV ratings, they don't have much of a case. That said, it would be nice to see the USGA do something to at least close the gap in the purses.

Van Sickle: I'm pretty sure the Houston Chronicle didn't mention how much the Women's Open makes in profit versus the men's U.S. Open, if it even makes a profit. It's a ludicrous suggestion. The events don't generate anything remotely similar in levels of interest or revenue. I suppose WNBA players should make the same salaries as NBA players, too, in the name of fairness. The Houston Chronicle needs to call Parker Brothers and get a Clue.

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