PGA Tour Confidential: Park wins third leg of Grand Slam, Bill Haas takes AT&T
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. Inbee Park steamrolled the field at Sebonack for her third straight major title of 2013, but despite her amazing season, Park has barely moved the attention needle. What's the bigger problem here? Flat-line personality? Lack of a glamorous look? Lack of excitement in her swing/game? Media burnout with successful Koreans?
Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: The problem isn't Park. It is the LPGA's. I'm not sure it would matter who had won the first three majors of the season. And that's really sad, because Park is far and away the best player in the world. She finishes eight under and wins by four on in an event where only two others break par? Wow!
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: That list is an impressive start. You can blame the media, but it's deeper than that. It's society. If she looked like Natalie Gulbis or even Nancy Lopez, it would be a whole different thing.
Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: It's probably a little of everything, but I for one have seen enough: it's time to take notice and enjoy what's happening here.
Joe Passov, senior editor, travel, Golf Magazine: Should we tap into a PR specialist--or a psychologist--to answer this one? Obviously, the answer is e) all of the above, but if I had to pick one for me, it's the personality. Park drains so many awesome long putts, and responds with that itty bitty smile and an even smaller wave of the hand. I emote more when I successfully swat a fly. I can respect her (immensely) all day long, but I'm not caring that much.
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Park's problem is she isn't glamorous and she plays on the LPGA tour, which gets precious little major network TV exposure. This win might start to expand her image. Or it might not.
Stephanie Wei, WeiUnderPar.com: She was actually quite charismatic in the trophy presentation. I think to a certain extent her flatline/robotic demeanor is why she's so darn good. And I think that with women's sports -- whether it's right or wrong -- beauty and glamour are part of what makes an athlete popular. It's just a superficial part of our culture that people don't like to talk about, but it's true.
2. This season the LPGA reclassified the Evian Championship as a fifth major. If Park gets to four, is that enough for you to call it a Grand Slam? Where would four out of five rank among golf's all-time greatest seasons? What if she sweeps all five?
Godich: Win at St. Andrews and give her the Grand Slam. I don't think anyone will much care how she fares at the Evian -- win or lose.
Passov: Try as they might, the LPGA never gets this right, and probably never will. The Ladies Canadian Open, formally known as the Peter Jackson, was converted from regular to major, then back again...and if you didn't win it when it had "major" status, then you didn't win a major. They eventually granted the Dinah Shore "major" status, long after everybody knew it was a major, then they renamed it, with a commercial entity in the title, which just screams "major." Women's British? Only recently acquired "major" status. And the Evian? As Brandel Chamblee wryly observed on the wrap-up show, if you can't remember whether or not you won it, it can't be a major. No Grand Slam for me, no matter what she does, because the requisite pressure of winning four long-accepted majors isn't in place. Win the first four, however, and Park deserves to mentioned alongside Hogan's '53 season. Win 'em all, and it will rank with Nelson's 11 in a row and Jones' Slam.
Bamberger: She wins the British, she has the Grand Slam. If she wins Evian, it's a nice win and a nice paycheck. But winning the Big Four? That would make this season one of the all-time great seasons in golf. Period. The only thing lacking would be intense interest by the public. Inbee can't control that. But she can control her ball, and that must bring her a deep satisfaction.
Van Sickle: You can't just dub something a major. The Evian isn't a real major and won't be until it stands the test of time. If Park wins the other four, that's a slam. This is a terrific achievement for her. That said, she's doing it at a time when women's golf seems a little light on great players. What future Hall of Famers is she beating? I don't know, maybe none, but she is beating them.
Wei: I wouldn't be surprised if Inbee wins all five. She's absolutely amazing and unflappable. And if she wins the Women's British Open, I'd consider it winning the Grand Slam. What fifth major? It's so contrived. Even if she only wins four out of five, it has to be the greatest season of all time. Remember, she's also the defending champion of this new fifth major, the Evian.
Ritter: If she wins the British Open that's four in a row, and that's a Grand Slam. End of story.
3. Bill Haas pulled away from the pack to win the AT&T National at Congressional. Many of us assumed Haas would break out after winning the '11 FedEx Cup and join golf's upper crust, but it never really happened. Could this victory springboard Haas to the next level?
Bamberger: He's an excellent golfer. His drive, from what I have seen, is not off the charts. I think he'll continue like this for many years to come.
Ritter: He had 10 million reasons to let off the gas last year. I still don't see him as a future elite player, but he's a nice guy and I'd be happy to be proven wrong.
Passov: He's an excellent player, from great stock, but doesn't seem to have the firepower to rise to the elite. Solid throughout, just not enough weapons.
Godich: It is time for Haas to take his game to the next level. The guy has won at East Lake, Riviera and now Congressional. That's a pretty strong resume. That he hasn't won more is head-scratching.
Wei: He's incredibly talented, but I think what's held him back a bit is his mental game. He has been in contention quite a bit going into the final round and then has wilted (then again, yes, he's won 5 times, but he is in right there after 36 and 54-holes a lot). It seems like he gets overly frustrated/mad if he makes a small mistake, like a bogey, and then it kind of cannonballs from there.
Van Sickle: I can't remember the last time a win served as a springboard to the next level for anyone. Maybe David Duval. Bill Haas is a very good player. When he starts doing this two or three times a year, and in majors, he'll be at the next level. Not yet.
4. Haas beat out a group of challengers who were seeking a first career PGA Tour victory, including Roberto Castro, Jason Kokrak, Charlie Wi and Jordan Spieth. Who's the best player in golf today without a PGA Tour title?
Passov: Charlie Wi has contended a bunch without breaking through. Right now though, I'll go with Graham DeLaet, and his crazy amazing stats.
Bamberger: Well, for pure talent, Spieth. He looks like he has everything, including maturity. No one will be surprised when he gets his first. But I will be more excited when Charlie gets his first. If he does.
Ritter: Felt like Brendon de Jonge might be a candidate for this one ...then I checked his record and saw that he has 21 career top-10s without a win. Yikes! I'd say he's due.
Van Sickle: I'll say Inbee Park. She hasn't won on the PGA Tour. How's that for weaseling out from under a question? Hah.
Godich: I'm going to go young and say Matteo Manassero. And since Matteo doesn't play the Tour full time, my other nomination is Jordan Spieth. It is only a matter of time before he wins. He is playing with a ton of confidence.
Wei: I'd say Spieth, but he is young and he has time, but Charlie Wi has been out there forever and thrown away 54-hole leads and succumbed to pressure whenever he's in the hunt. Brendon de Jonge and Brandt Jobe are two other names that come to mind.
5. Rory McIlroy missed another cut -- this time at the Irish Open, played at an undistinguished parkland course with a normal Tour setup. Is it time to hit the panic button? Is you made a list of 10 favorites for the British Open, would he even be on it?
Bamberger: I wouldn't hit the panic button, because what does that accomplish? A golfer finds his game by going back to what made him good in the first place. This period will look like a blip, some time from now when he's not in the thick of it. I'd put him in the top-10 for the Open, for sure. Can you name nine better golfers? Tour players can find their games with one good swing. Sometimes.
Passov: I found it oddly disconcerting last week to see him in the stands on a cold, dull day watching Caroline at a meaningless match at Eastbourne, the Wimbledon tune-up event. Why aren't you out testing drivers, or playing in another tournament -- or something -- to help find your golf game? There seems to be so many distractions for him right now. If the Open forecast is for damp and windy, he's not in my top 10.
Ritter: You almost never panic at his age but this looks like a potentially lost season for Rory, which was unfathomable back in January. I can't see him finding it at the British, but he's in my top 10 for the PGA as long as he's in the field.
Wei: I feel like the panic button was hit a long time ago. It makes me wonder if there's something going on off the golf course -- I'm telling you, it's not the driver because first time I had that club in my bag, I hit 13 of 14 fairways and only missed the one because I drove it through. I'm not sure he would have been in my top 10 for the British Open either way because we know how much Rory fares, or rather, doesn't, in tough weather conditions!
Godich: If Rory were 34, I'd be concerned. Considering he's 24, I don't think it's time to start sweating things. He'll be back-and back strong-though that probably won't happen until next year.
Van Sickle: Rory should be in a concerned mode, but not panic. I don't think I'd put him among my top ten contenders. He'd probably be No. 11. I think he's capable of turning it around in a round or two, however. I wouldn't say he can't win at Muirfield.
6. It was a great TV weekend for fans of golf course design. Which course captivated you most, D.C.'s Congressional, Long Island's Sebonack, Pittsburgh's Fox Chapel or Indiana's Victoria National?
Passov: Fox Chapel was victimized by soft conditions due to massive rainfall--a big disappointment for sure. Fazio's Victoria National is amazing to look at and Congressional oozes history, but they're both forced-carry golf courses. These days, I'm into playing (and watching) the bounce and roll, and Sebonack showed off really well. The greens played tough, but not goofy, which was the concern going in.
Van Sickle: I'll play the role of homer and go with Fox Chapel. If you were offered one round in Pittsburgh any where you wanted to play, you'd go with the Fox. Oakmont is a death march and Laurel Valley is nice but Fox Chapel is a living antique. It's got a Redan hole and a Biarritz hole and it's challenging and great fun. You can't beat it.
Wei: From the little I saw of it, Fox Chapel looked incredible, but it's a Seth Raynor and I'm biased. I was at Sebonack this week and it was really a beautiful course, but design-wise, it can't compete with its next-door neighbors, National and Shinnecock.
Godich: I'll take Sebonack, if only because I was intrigued after hearing so much about the place. I have to say it didn't disappoint.
Bamberger: All interesting, but probably Sebonack, because I was so eager to see how good players play it. I know what it's like to shoot 88 on it: about the most beautiful course you could ever imagine.
7. Club pro Michael Bembenick shot and signed for a 103 in the second round of the Web.com event in Indiana. He refused to quit, stating that to do so would send the wrong message. Would it? Should there have been more consideration for his playing partners and to the PGA profession? What kind of message did Michelle Wie send by citing "illness" as reason for a WD, knowing she had to come back the next morning and would miss the cut no matter what?
Passov: I'm torn on both of these. If Wie hadn't had a history of pulling these stunts (where she was called out by Annika Sorenstam), I'd cut her more slack. You gave the fans 35 holes--cut your losses and get out. As for the club pro, this had to be a bad case of nerves compounded by a hard golf course. That said, the other guys in your group, and behind you, are tying to make a living, and your beyond-pathetic performance couldn't have helped them. I might have bagged it with nine to go, out of respect for those folks.
Bamberger: The pro move is to finish, unless you are a distraction to others. Rory McIlory at Honda was not a distraction to Ernie Els and Mark Wilson, and he should have played. Wie, the same. The club pro should have called it a day. One-oh-three? Web.com is supposed to be a pathway to the Tour, not an after-work league.
Van Sickle: Bembenick showed the never-say-die attitude golfers should have. So he played bad. So what? He finished. Quitting doesn't accomplish anything, unless you're trying to get better at quitting. It's not the first time Wie has bailed when things got tough. That said, plenty of PGA Tour players WD after a rain delay when they know they're missing a cut the next day. It's nothing new. But it certainly fails to impress me.
Wei: As a former competitive golfer, I have issues when I see people quit and I do see the club pro's point of view, but really, I wouldn't have blamed him had he not turned in a card. Props to him, though. It's a little bit of a black mark on Michelle, but you know, she really looked absolutely miserable out there. I'm surprised that girl hasn't completely lost it with all the pressure and crap she has to deal with. By the way, PGA Tour pros do it ALL THE TIME, but no one cares unless they're a name that moves the needle.
Godich: Good for Michael for grinding it out. And if he had WD's, his playing partners would have been standing around waiting for the threesomes in front of them. Who's Michelle Wie?