Tour & News

Tour Confidential: Justin Rose Nabs Win, What to Expect From Tiger

Tour Confidential: Thoughts on WGC Match Play Changes
Our panel discusses the changes in the upcoming WGC Match Play event at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, including format and venue swaps.

Every Sunday night, GOLF.com conducts an e-mail roundtable with writers from Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.

1. Justin Rose won the birdiefest that was the Zurich Classic after finishing T2 at the Masters. It’s easy to get ahead of ourselves when a player gets hot, but do you think Rose has turned a corner? What do you expect from the 34-year-old for the rest of 2015?

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@GaryVanSickle): Rose has always been a very good but streaky player. He's won in six straight seasons but at 34, he's never had a year when he went deep and piled up four wins, so why would he suddenly do it now? I expect him to play well for at least another month and make a run at Chambers Bay. After that, we'll see.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I really don't think Justin Rose had a corner to turn. He won the U.S. Open. He nodded off for a little while. It's not like he was living in Siberia. Sean Foley was walking with him in his Thursday round. The man is a miracle worker. For some.

Jeff Ritter, senior editor, SI Golf Group (@JeffRitter): I'm bullish on Rose. He was Europe's best player at the Ryder Cup, and now his game is again clicking at an opportune time. A second major title could be coming soon – maybe even at Chambers Bay.

Coleman McDowell, associate editor, GOLF.com (@ColemanMcDowell): Since the beginning of 2010, only Tiger and Rory have more PGA Tour wins than Rose’s seven. I wouldn't have guessed that. It’s the random bouts of erratic play that hurts. He started 2015 by missing three cuts in five tourneys, then tied for second at the Masters. He’s good for one win a year, and I’m guessing he wishes he didn’t burn 2015’s at the Zurich. 

Josh Sens, contributing writer, GOLF Magazine (@JoshSens): Getting ahead of ourselves? Seeing as he won the U.S. Open two years ago, and didn't exactly vanish afterwards (he won a Tour event in 2014, too, along with a couple of events overseas), I think any enthusiasm at this point would be belated, not premature. He always seems to be there in the big ones, and I'd expect no different from him the rest of the way in 2015.

Joe Passov, senior editor, GOLF Magazine (@JoePassov): Six wins in six seasons, 7 wins since 2010, a U.S. Open win over Phil Mickelson...Why is this guy always so overlooked? I guess it's because he tends to disappear a lot, whether it's injuries, low-key personality, mini-slumps – whatever. He just seems more of a top-10 performer than a top-5, which still ain't bad.

2. Tiger Woods committed to the Players Championship on Friday. What will we see from him next week at Sawgrass?

MCDOWELL: 73-73 and a trunk slam on Friday afternoon.

PASSOV: A media frenzy, followed by improved driving percentages (TPC Sawgrass is much more about placement and working the ball than it is free-wheeling from the tee). If the putter cooperates, top 15.

SENS: Since I predicted that Woods would fare well in Phoenix (where he played like a 15 handicapper) and then forecast a missed cut for him at Augusta (where he played more like Tiger), I'm clearly no Nostradamus, so when I tell you that I still don't think his tee to green game is sharp enough for him to contend at Sawgrass, you should bet the house on him to win going away.

RITTER: If he's healthy, Sawgrass is a nice chance for Tiger to build on the Masters and make another cut. But he'll need to drastically tighten up his driver to have any shot at contending.

BAMBERGER: He won't drive it poorly there because he won't hit many drivers. He won't short-putt like he did back in the day because he never does anymore. He'll grind it out, whatever he's doing, because the biggest change in him these last few years is his inability to grind it out, and if he's really trying to get back in touch with his 20-year-old self, that's the most important place to start.

VAN SICKLE: Tiger makes the cut next week and finishes in the top 12 but doesn't seriously contend on Sunday. Unless he does. Then I'm wrong.

Photo:

A general view of the green on the par 3 17th hole, which will play as the 13th hole during the 2015 World Golf Championships-Cadillac Match Play, at TPC Harding Park on March 29, 2015 in San Francisco, California.

3. Will the new WGC-Cadillac Match Play round-robin format prove more compelling or more confusing for golf fans? Does the new format influence your interest in the event?

VAN SICKLE: The new format makes Wednesday must-miss TV. Thursday and Friday will be fun but double rounds Saturday and Sunday? I like golf more than most people and even I don't want to watch eight hours of it at a time. I think having less do-or-die matches will take some of the fun urgency out of the event. How many guys with 2-0 records will play guys with 0-2 records on Friday? Boring. All problems are solved, however, by having a couple of big names in the final--something that rarely happened in the other format.

PASSOV: With the possible exception of soccer's World Cup, I have never found a professional sporting event that was improved by switching to a round-robin format. It may be better for casual fans, who will see the stars linger a little longer in the week, but I think of tennis, and all the tanking that goes on in order to jockey for the right spot. And the draw anticipation? What is this, the NCAA hoops tourney? Hey, get a committee to invite the last few players in and handle the seedings – that would get folks talking and arguing. Sorry, wake me when we get to the semi-finals. And for the 36-hole final at TPC Harding Park, it's back to bed.  

RITTER: The Match Play's biggest drama will shift from Wednesday, when half the field used to go home, to Friday, the new first-round elimination day. I think the revamped event will still be good, but an improvement? We'll see.

BAMBERGER: The new format doesn't particularly, but the new venue does. I like Harding Park, and I love to see the Tour at public courses. Bring back Rancho Park in Los Angeles and Cobbs Creek in Philadelphia and the West Palm Beach Municipal.

MCDOWELL: It matters more if it influences the players’ interest. Phil has already bowed out, and there could be top names still sleep walking through the opening rounds.

SENS: I'm not saying there aren't a few Beavis and Buttheads in our crowd, but give us golf fans a little credit. This isn't quantum mechanics, after all. I think we most of us have the mental acuity to grasp a modification in match-play format. That said, I'm not a fan of it. I get why they're doing it (reduces the ratings risk of a big-name player being one and done). But I prefer the drama of the elimination format, even if it means it might not be Rory vs. Spieth in the final match.

4. Lee Westwood won his third Indonesian Masters on the Asian Tour in the company of a weak field. Impressive achievement regardless, or does Westwood need to succeed against the game's best in order to regain his mojo?

PASSOV: When a top pro wins a tournament that you can't find anywhere on television, did he really win it? I don't get it. Sure, Thomas Bjorn and Y.E. Yang were enrolled and yes, Lee gets a massive check just for showing up, but I don't see how winning the second flight of your club championship puts you on the short list for U.S. Open favorites.

MCDOWELL: In 2014, he bookended missed cuts at the U.S and British Opens with a 7th place in the Masters, 6th in the Players and a T15 at the PGA Championship. He’s still inconsistent, but he’s gained a bit of his distance back that had disappeared. The 42-year-old had naturally lost about nine yards off the tee since ranking as high as 15th in driving distance in 2010. This year, he’s two yards further and up to 42nd in distance. Always a good sign.

VAN SICKLE: Lee Westwood is a very, very good golfer even at this age. To impress me, though, he's going to have to win a real Masters, not an Indonesian Masters or Hong Kong Masters or Scandinavian Masters. I guess it's hard to pass up appearance fee money even if you have to go halfway around the world.

SENS: I think the question answers itself. Winning in Indonesia is the golf-world's equivalent of being the biggest opera fan at an Oakland Raiders' game.

RITTER: Nice to see Westwood win, but as far as changing his outlook, Indonesia was the wrong Masters.

BAMBERGER: I was not aware that there was an Indonesian Masters. It sounds like a good time. Do they give the winner a coat?

Photo:

Is there a better stretch on the PGA Tour than Hilton Head, New Orleans and San Francisco?

5. Coming off Hilton Head and New Orleans, the Tour heads to San Francisco for the Match Play. Is this the best stretch of cities the PGA Tour sees all year? If not, what is?

SENS: Great stretch of cities, no doubt, especially given San Francisco's proximity to my hometown of Oakland, the much cooler destination just across the bay. Better restaurant scene, more predictable weather, easier parking and the same titillating possibility of a devastating earthquake at any minute. I don't think you beat the back-to-back of New Orleans and SF. But Maui, Oahu, Monterey and LA early the season ain't too shabby. And I know the pros love it when the Tour works it way back to Napa and wine country in the fall.

PASSOV: Certainly if you like seafood restaurants, you've done well by entering these three events. For galleries, give me the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Farmers in San Diego and Pebble Beach. Historically, though, it's hard to top the PGA Tour itinerary of August-September 1976, when the pros played two straight weeks in Akron, Ohio, took a week in Pinehurst, then returned for one more week in suburban Columbus, Ohio. Go Bucks!  

VAN SICKLE: Sorry, New Orleans is not on my list of top cities unless you mean the list of places that need urban renewal. The FedEx Cup will have a stretch with the New York area, Boston and Chicago. Hard to beat that.

RITTER: This might be the best three-week run to experience a diverse slice of the U.S., but in the fall you could pack your passport and melatonin and hit Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur and the Rivera Maya in the span of a month. Sign me up.

BAMBERGER: As a city guy, I am not calling Hilton Head a city. But New Orleans followed by San Francisco is hard to beat, and in week III I'd point the players to St. Augustine, a small and spectacular city with a ride to work that makes you want to play the Ventures at the highest volume you can tolerate.

MCDOWELL: Perhaps not the best, but certainly the most diverse happens in the fall: Las Vegas to Sea Island, Georgia to Kuala Lumper, Malaysia. 

6. While addressing the topic of scoring records being broken at a Memorial Tournament benefit with Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo's sense of humor apparently fell flat to many when he said he cheered against Jordan Spieth in the Masters to keep his name in the record books. What comedian should Faldo seek out to help with his delivery?

PASSOV: Brits from Monty Python to Ricky Gervais have cracked me up, but I've got to say, Sir Nick the Jokester often baffles me. I would seek out a funnyman who gets golf. Let's combine the zanyness of Will Ferrell, the world-weary observational powers of Bill Murray, the self-deprecating sarcasm of Brian Regan, the angst of Lewis Black and the twisted genius of Larry David. This would be good fun.  

SENS: Hmm. Maybe Ricky Gervais, whose David Brent character from the Office had a similarly awkward self-referential sense of humor and a rare ability to make people squirm. But I'm not really sure there's any hope for Faldo. This is a guy who thinks that his Austin Powers' impressions are still funny. No change in delivery is going to help that.

BAMBERGER: His fellow golfer, Larry David. I heard otherwise, by the way. I heard Sir Nick killed in Columbus.

VAN SICKLE: Any comedian would help Sir Nick. By the way, he may have been trying to sound like he was joking but he wasn't joking. Sir Nick is not funny in the slightest and he should not try to be funny on a crew that includes Gary McCord and David Feherty, who frequently are funny. 

RITTER: Faldo should call the one comedian who shares his appreciation for life's finest things. A man who, like Faldo, instinctively knows which Shiraz to pair with a seven-course dinner and can work a room full of dignitaries with an effortless grace. A man who carries himself with a style and decorum that's worthy of British knighthood. And of course, that man is Larry the Cable Guy.

Justin Rose Wins Zurich Classic For Seventh Career PGA Tour Victory
Justin Rose survived a start-and-stop week at the Zurich Classic due to heavy rains that plagued New Orleans and won his seventh career PGA Tour event. 

The Tour Confidential roundtable continues Monday on our new weekly show hosted by Jessica Marksbury. Tweet her your questions @Jess_Marksbury.

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