Tour Confidential: What's the secret to Miguel Angel Jimenez's success? Plus, Brendon Todd's win and Charles Barkley's swing
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. Miguel Angel Jimenez won the Spanish Open, becoming the European Tour's first over-50 winner. He's obviously not killing himself at the gym or denying himself at the dinner table. So what's the secret to Jimemez's late-career success?
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@AlanShipnuck): That he's not killing himself at the gym or denying himself at the dinner table. He has a fun-filled, well-rounded life, which has helped stave off burnout. Guys who live golf 24 hours a day should take note.
Josh Sens, contributing writer, Golf Magazine (@JoshSens): Hips as flexible as a mid-70s Travolta so he's actually not in terrible golf shape. But let's not overstate his success either. He has made tons of money, sure. But I don't see his name on any majors.
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: To what do we attribute Jimenez's late-career success? Likely red wine, possibly an active sex life, definitely flexibility. You probably don't need performance-enhancing drugs to keep your golf sharp. And, and I am stealing from Paul Azinger here, you don't need to live on a weight machine, either. But hot yoga, that can only be a good thing. MAJ looks like he would kill in hot yoga.
Jeff Ritter, senior editor, Sports Illustrated Golf Group (@Jeff_Ritter): Yes, he does more curls with glasses of Rioja instead of dumbbells, but Miguel also works hard at his game. Making another Ryder Cup team is a huge motivating factor for him this season, and at this point you have to think he's on McGinley's squad as long as MAJ is healthy in September.
Joe Passov, senior editor, Golf Magazine (@joepassov): This is one happy guy. He is recently married, looking ecstatic and resplendent (despite the appearance of his unfurled hair), and he seems to genuinely enjoy the heat of battle, knowing that a fulfilling life awaits him even if he loses. With that kind of attitude, he adds to it a wealth of experience and a knowledge of his strengths and limitations, so that he always plays within himself. On courses where shotmaking and strategy matter, he always seems to be a factor. Ole'!
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@GaryVanSickle): His secret? Either cigars or wine. I'm leaning toward cigars since comedian George Burns always had one with him and he lived to be about 137.
2. Brendon Todd won the Byron Nelson on Sunday, becoming the fifth former Georgia Bulldog under age 30 to win on Tour this season (with Chris Kirk, Patrick Reed, Russell Henley and Harris English). What made the difference for Todd at the Nelson, and what's behind the wave of success by young American players this season?
VAN SICKLE: The secret of golf, as once exposed by Tiger Woods in the mid-00s, is to not make bogeys. Todd did an exceptional job of that and led the field in scrambling (up-and-down percentage). You don't make bogeys, you don't make it easy for anyone to catch you. Not sure there's a wave, but there are just a lot of good players who have piled up in the waiting room while trying to get onto a Tour that is difficult to access and practically forces players to spend a few years in the minor leagues. Well, a lot of them are here, now, and they're good. And there are plenty more at the lower levels who could succeed if they can ever get a foot in the door.
BAMBERGER: They grew up watching Tiger Woods. The mantra for the kids is win now and to hell with the rough.
RITTER: These young players all seem to win as juniors, and again as collegians, and it just carries over to the pros. It's extremely impressive, and Todd is yet another strong addition to the ever-expanding list.
SENS: No one dominant figure so the pots are more readily there for the taking. It helps that the looming figures of the recent past (Mickelson, Woods, McIlroy) are either injured or having off seasons.
SHIPNUCK: There's definitely a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses aspect to these things. I'm sure Todd has drilled all those guys in plenty of casual games so that fills him with the belief that he, too, is good enough to win on Tour. Turns out, he's right.
PASSOV: Today's youngsters are so Tour-savvy, so polished, with fitness, coaching and superior competition on the way up the ladder. They see what's going on out there, and there's no longer a "pay your dues" fear factor, nor is there an overriding respect factor for the big names in the field. Those so-called big names simply don't close enough, so there's rarely any extra pressure for a young player -- American or not -- to push his execution and decision-making to a level it's not prepared to go. You have a five-month period in 2014 where McIlroy, Bubba Watson (at Phoenix), Kuchar, Adam Scott and other elite players can't get it done. What does that tell young players? "Why not me, then?"
3. In May, the PGA Tour pays tribute to two of its greatest players: Byron Nelson at his eponymously named tournament and Ben Hogan at the Colonial. What's the biggest change -- inside the ropes -- between the game when Nelson and Hogan were in their primes and today?
SENS: Back then it was six white guys from two or three countries, and not all of those guys were great athletes. Now a global game played by a great many studs who could have competed in any number of sports. If those two legends played today they have half the number of majors that they do.
BAMBERGER: In Hogan's day and Nelson's day, the ball curved more and you had to do more things with it. Putting, on rough greens that were more of an equalizer, was less important. Today's game takes more strength, more practice, more repetition, but less thinking and less toughness.
RITTER: The biggest difference is in the sticks. Who would've thought golf clubs could evolve so much in 50 years? With the exception of telephones and computers and rocket ships, it's hard to think of a technology that's come further.
VAN SICKLE: It's a bit of a change that a 250-yard drive is no longer respectable. Now it's a solid 3-iron. Metal woods not only ultimately changed how far the ball flies, it changed the swing. With persimmon woods, we learned to swing carefully because a mis-hit shot went 30 yards less. With metal, mis-hit shots go just as far so there's no reason not to swing your ass off. Hence bigger and more athletic swings and also bigger and more athletic players. Pro golfers used to be in the 5-9 to 5-11 area. Now golfers are usually in the 6-1 to 6-4 range. It's a power game, not a precision game, although you've still got to putt.
SHIPNUCK: The courses are much longer and tougher and the equipment is much longer and easier to hit. Hogan and Nelson would be studs in any era but it would be tougher for them to separate themselves today, given that finding the center of the clubface is not as important as it was in their day.
PASSOV: Equipment and course conditioning were so primitive compared to what players enjoy now that most weeks in the 1940s and '50s, only the best shotmakers and ballstrikers would win. Results these days show it's the blasters and putters who usually prevail.
4. After countless lessons -- including his stint with Hank Haney for a reality TV show -- Charles Barkley still has that famous hitch in his swing, seen most recently at the Champions Tour's Regions Tradition pro-am. If Barkley asked you for golf advice, what would you tell him?
PASSOV: Try to replicate your free-throw routine. You start standing still, then you're poised for motion, then you let it go. Adapt the rhythm, timing, tempo of that process and see what it does for your golf swing. Then take up badminton.
VAN SICKLE: Chuck, take two weeks off. Then quit. Seriously, don't change a thing. Go out there and have fun and enjoy it, as you obviously are. So you're lousy at golf. Almost everybody is.
SHIPNUCK: Drink more, think less.
BAMBERGER: Enjoy. Either that, or take two weeks off and then quit the game altogether. But I prefer enjoy.
RITTER: I enjoy living in a world that includes Barkley's current swing, so I'd tell him to just embrace it and have fun…and then I'd ask him if he'd like to play for $50.
SENS: Go see Butch.
5. Big-wave surfer and recreational golfer Laird Hamilton released video of him riding his “GolfBoard," a kind of rolling surfboard that you ride around the course, to make the game more radical. Give us your best idea to make the game more radical or compelling. Golf jetpack? Combination golf course, all-you-can-eat buffet?
BAMBERGER: Here's a radical idea to make golf more compelling: play in under three hours. It's been done forever in Scotland, without any panting.
SHIPNUCK: That all the great private clubs in the U.S. adopt the Scottish model and recognize that the members are mere stewards of an important civic treasure and let outsiders play a couple days a week. How much excitement would it generate worldwide if average golfers could play Cypress, Pine Valley, Augusta National et al?
PASSOV: We've experimented with Segways out in Scottsdale. Lots of fun, lots of sprained ankles. Try music in the background, like Grayhawk Golf Club does on its practice range and beverage carts on every hole.
VAN SICKLE: A public course in Akron offers a daily special that for $20 or $25 (I forget) you get 18 holes, a cart and access to a free buffet -- breakfast before you tee off, lunch after you finish. It's no fine dining, obviously, but the last time I played there it was slammed with golfers. Really, how much do a few dozen dogs and burgers cost? It's great marketing and a smart read of the customers -- a bunch of fat Americans.
SENS: Golf is plenty compelling to play and very often exciting to watch. A good invention would be a collective chill pill for the industry.
6. The lottery for 2015 Masters tickets is now open. What's the best spectator experience in golf?
BAMBERGER: The fourth tee at Augusta National. You're on top of the players as they figure out how to play the par-3 fourth. You watch them chip and putt and approach the par-4 third. You hear what they have to say. You can see that the game is hard for them, too. I find that reassuring. That or the 18th green at the Old Course, any night when an Open is being player there.
SHIPNUCK: Watching Belen Mozo hit balls at the range.
VAN SICKLE: The worst spectating experience is the Ryder Cup. Yeah, the atmosphere is electric, but it's difficult to see any golf when 30,000 people try to follow four foursomes. The best? Any chance to walk Pebble Beach and enjoy its scenery is a good one. Still, nothing beats the British Open with its knowledgeable fans, unpredictable weather conditions and historic courses.
PASSOV: Nothing compares to the 16th hole at the Waste Management Phoenix Open at the TPC Scottsdale. It's the closest thing golf has to football. That said, there's no place in sports where you feel as privileged to be a patron, as in "thank you, Lord above, for letting me be here," as at the Masters.
SENS: Dustin Johnson's when he looks left in bed.
The Tour Confidential roundtable continues Monday on our new weekly show hosted by Jessica Marksbury. Tweet her your questions @Jess_Marksbury.