What have we learned this year? Is the Kiawah Island Ocean course a quality venue? What’s your strongest memory of the War by the Shore? Are Tiger and Phil up to the task? And who will win the PGA Championship? SI convened a panel of experts -- senior writers Michael Bamberger, Alan Shipnuck and Gary Van Sickle as well as special contributor John Garrity, Golf Magazine senior writer Cameron Morfit and a PGA Tour pro (who participated on the condition of anonymity) -- to take up these and other questions.
Van Sickle: Three majors down, one to go. What’s the most important thing we’ve learned in 2012?
Garrity: That nobody -- not Rory, not Luke, not Tiger -- is ready to dominate. We discovered that golf pundits like ourselves overreact to every new winner. It’s the age of Geoff Ogilvy! No, it’s the Charl Schwartzel era! No, it’s Webb Simpson!
Van Sickle: It really is the Webb Simpson era, John. I named it that last year.
Garrity: No. What it is, actually, is a different guy winning every week.
Anonymous Pro: That’s right. We’ve had 16 different winners in the last 16 majors. The top players are doing nothing. To me, the biggest thing is that Luke Donald hasn’t even contended in a major. If you’re the Number 1 player in the world, you ought to contend.
Shipnuck: We learned that Tiger has scar tissue. He has proved that he can play spectacular golf -- enough to get three wins. But he gets to the majors, and he’s vulnerable. It makes the Tiger question more interesting. Can he win the tournaments that really matter? We don’t know.
Morfit: You can say the same thing about Rory. Everyone said, Golf has a new boy king, we’re in the Rory era. I now doubt that he’ll get to that point. We knew he was streaky, even when he won the U.S. Open. But we got so excited. Garrity is right. Rory is not the next coming of Tiger. That’s a good thing in some ways, and also a disappointment.
Shipnuck: Rory’s regression is one of the big stories of the year. He’s looking one-dimensional. Give him a soft course, he can hit it long and high and contend. Give him firm and fast -- typical major conditions -- and he’s out of his comfort zone. It’s going to be harder for him to win majors than we thought. Then there’s the celebrity aspect, which he seems to enjoy maybe too much.
Bamberger: I don’t think anyone would be surprised if Rory came out of his funk and won the PGA. It’ll be hot; the fairways and greens will be soft. Those are conditions that he likes.
Van Sickle: My concerns are his putting and his drive. I don’t think he’s a great putter. If you’re even thinking of being dominant, you have to be a great putter. Being pretty good isn’t good enough. Second, it’s a new world out there, where you become a superstar after one major, get more money than you’ll ever spend and hang out with gorgeous tennis players. That’s way more fun than pounding balls and working on your game.
Morfit: A guy who wants it is Lee Westwood. He is abandoning the farm in England and moving his family to Florida. He’s throwing everything into golf for one last-ditch effort to get the most out of his talent.
Shipnuck: Too bad he’s pushing 40.Go to page 2