PGA Tour Confidential: 2011 Masters
Every week of the 2011 PGA Tour season, the editorial staff of the SI Golf Group will conduct an e-mail roundtable. Check in on Mondays for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.
SCHWARTZEL'S STAYING POWER
Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: For starters, Charl. Crazy start with the chip-in on No. 1 and hole out on No. 3, and then an equally impressive finish with four straight birdies. If you follow golf closely, you've been hearing about this guy for years, so is he here to stay, or was this a magical day that he'll be hard-pressed to repeat?
John Garrity, contributing writer, Sports Illustrated: We seem to be having this discussion after every major — McDowell, Oosty, Kaymer, and now Schwartzel. I'll go with my rote answer from 2010. He played like a Hall of Famer, but I'll have to see it again before I pronounce him a world-beater.
Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: I think we'll be hearing more from him. He could have gone even lower today as he was burning the edges whenever he wasn't chipping in or holing approach shots. The guy was calm and collected coming home, much more so than the other contenders, and four closing birdies say it all. Plus, you have to love his swing; it's a thing of beauty. So, he has the total package: Length, sharp iron play, great putter, no nerves.
Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Charl is the Trevor Immelman of 2011. He's a great player who had a magical day. So I don't think this win means he's going to win multiple majors or be on the leaderboard every time he plays. I'm looking forward to him playing in the U.S. more.
David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: It would be pretty hard for anyone to repeat the kind of magic that Charl showed today, but that golf swing is pretty damn impressive. His world just got turned upside down, but he's clearly got talent and can handle pressure.
Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: At 26, Charl should have some staying power. He has the swing, the nerve and the putting stroke. Pretty fierce combo.
Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: He does seem to have the total package. Have to love how he didn't blink when Adam Scott looked like he was pulling away, in the group right in front of him, to boot.
Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: His chip-in for birdie on No. 1 and hole-out for eagle on No. 3 may have been a little lucky, but you can't do much better than four straight birdies to close it out. I think we'll continue to hear more from him.
Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: He's a keeper and will live around the top 20 for a long time, but nobody wins bunches of anything nowadays.
Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: We'll be seeing him for years to come. He has one of the best swings in the game, and he's just an all-around solid player. He doesn't have any gaping weaknesses. We haven't heard much about him in the U.S. because this is his first year playing full time on the PGA Tour. He's won six times in Europe, and last year he placed in the top 20 at 3 of 4 majors.
Gorant: Charl and Louis Oosthuizen are countrymen, good buddies, surprise major winners of the last 12 months and about the same age. Who has the greater upside?
Godich: I'll take Charl, because the putting stroke looks that good.
Evans: It's hard to argue against a guy who birdies the last four holes under that kind of pressure.
Garrity: They both looked great in victory, but Oosthuizen's win was a links victory. That's a big deal in my mind, but the kind of golf they only play once a year. Schwartzel's game looks more evergreen to me.
Herre: I also take Schwartzel. In addition to what kind of player he is at this point in time, he has a better pedigree. Schwartzel dominated South African golf much like Ernie Els did a generation earlier.
Dusek: I think it's really impossible to answer this one, but if pressed I'd say Charl because he wasn't a runaway winner like Louis at St. Andrews. Schwartzel lurked, got some luck, and then closed.
Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: To finish like that on this Sunday showed real steel. Charl Schwartzel will be a player to watch at future majors. He'd been showing up on leaderboards in recent majors. Plus, I trust agent Chubby Chandler's eye for talent. He's got a good track record.
Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: Everyone in the media room was laughing that he was there to congratulate Schwartzel at the end, because Rory was the only client in the hunt that we knew about. Any way you look at it, Chubby wins.
WHAT TO MAKE OF WOODS?
Gorant: Tiger Woods lit up Sunday (I'm predicting an overnight rating of 15 to 17) but shot himself in the foot with uncharacteristic short misses on 12 and 15. Is the Tiger of old back, or is this a new version who can't be relied on to close the door when given the chance?
Lipsey: He gagged when it counted on Saturday and Sunday. Still a great player, but not a force to be feared. Not by a long shot.
Godich: I've been waiting to see how Tiger would respond under the gun, and it sure looked like the pressure got the best of him. First on Saturday, when he had two players ahead of him and shot 74. With nothing to lose on Sunday, he goes out in 31, but look how he responded after he shot to the top of the leaderboard.
Herre: Tiger certainly had his chances. He looked a little stabby on some of those missed putts, which is not a good sign. Also, looked like he may have tweaked his leg/knee/something on the final hole. We'll have to wait and see if that is anything significant.
Gorant: As if he'd actually admit it. We won't know if he's injured until he goes for surgery two years from now.
Ritter: I don't think you'll ever be able to say "he's back," because to me that implies he's going to start winning five or more times per year again. I think those days are done, and this new generation of players will continue to challenge for majors. But is Woods close to winning a tournament again? Hey, he just finished T4 while leaving a lot of shots out there. I think he'll get a W before the summer is over.
Garrity: It's starting to look like a pattern, but Tiger's front nine today was incredible. I think what followed was God demanding further penance.
Charlie Hanger, executive editor, Golf.com: He's clearly not the pressure putter he once was, even when he's hitting the kind of thrilling shots he hit today. That makes me think he'll never again be the cold-blooded closer he once was.
Walker: We joke about "the process," but Woods sure looked close this week.
Dusek: This was clearly a big week for Tiger, and you've got to think that he's salivating over the prospect of two more months of practice before heading to Congressional. He may never be as automatic with the putter as he once was, but he played two excellent rounds this week, and that's part of "the process."
Godich: The biggest development might have been how so many guys responded after Tiger got a share of the lead heading to the back nine.
Herre: That's a great point, Mark. Instead of backing down, a bunch of guys kept right on going past him. You didn't see that much in the past. As has been suggested in past Confidentials, the intimidation factor appears to be gone.
Hanger: They certainly aren't rolling over for him like they used to, eh?
Lipsey: Now Tiger's just a foil who revs up the other guys, who then bury him.
Gorant: I'm not willing to go there yet. If he doesn't blow the gimme at 12 and birdies 13 to get to 12 under and two clear of the field, then it would have been interesting to see how everyone else responded, but he was never alone out front. He was never in control. When Tiger was going off, a lot of other guys were going backward. They only surged after he took himself out of it.
Godich: Tiger tied for the lead standing on the 10th tee on Sunday at Augusta had always been Tiger in control. Then he proceeded to miss the short one at 12, yank a seven-iron at the next, blow the short eagle putt at 15 and miss the 17th green from the middle of the fairway.
Gorant: Yep, that's why I agree with you that he's not responding to pressure the same, but not sure I agree that the rest of the field no longer fears him. Your examples prove one but not the other.
Godich: Tiger was tied for the lead after the birdie at 15. Scott birdied 11 to tie and 14 to move ahead. Day birdied 12 and 13. Heck, even Bo Van Pelt, playing right behind Tiger, caught him with a couple of eagles.
Morfit: You could take Tiger's performance two ways. I'm not sure I agree that it's a good sign that he played so well and yet lost by four. The flawless pressure putting is a thing of the past, which is eerie to watch play out before our eyes. It's like he's back, but he's not.
Hack: I think Tiger showed that he's ready to win again. This felt different from last year's T4. He was swinging as confidently as he has in years. Those short misses with the putter, however, are troubling.
Gorant: Saw a talking head earlier today contending that TW has changed his stroke, to more a modified pop stroke. That might explain why he seemed a bit "stabby," as Jim H. said. If true, it doesn't seem like a good move.
Lipsey: Stroke and swing don't matter. His head is all that matters.
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I've got a feeling there's more to Tiger's putting stroke change than meets the eye. Why change the stroke of the game's best putter of the last 10 years? Because he has to for some reason. I believe there will be more to come on this story this year.
Garrity: Pop putting makes sense at Augusta — if it's 1958 and you're Arnold Palmer or Bob Rosburg. But in 2011, you don't want to be using the same stroke you use for swatting flies.
AUSTRALIANS JUST MISS AGAIN
Gorant: Great day for the Aussies with Geoff Ogilvy, Adam Scott and Jason Day all making a run at the coat. Will the boys from Down Under ever win, and if so, who will get it?
Godich: I'll take Day. He's only 23. He just wouldn't go away. That was awfully impressive for someone making his Masters debut.
Hanger: I was very surprised to see Adam Scott have the showing he did. Talk about back from the dead. Maybe he and Day will finally live up to all the hype, and I think either could make a run at Augusta next year.
Herre: You'd think Ogilvy, with his short game, would have a chance, but something seems to be missing of late. I was most impressed with Day. I thought for sure he'd go away, but he kept making putts. We might look back at this Masters as his coming-out party.
Morfit: I like Day a lot. He just kept plugging along, even though everyone was cheering for the other guy(s) in his group, Rory on Saturday, and Rory and Rickie on Thursday and Friday. Ellie, Jason's wife, told me she was trying to be extra vocal to make up for the discrepancy.
Evans: Day had the best golf swing of the players in the last four groups. No one hit the ball with the control and power that he demonstrated. To me he has the most "upside" on this leaderboard, including Charl.
Wei: I was impressed with Day. I wasn't sure he could hold his nerve, especially as a first timer at Augusta, but he sure proved me wrong. The kid is fearless and such a solid ballstriker (obviously a great putter, too). But I was also really impressed with Adam Scott and his clutch putting. I think today was the first time I'd used the words "Adam Scott" and "clutch putt" in the same sentence since '08 when he drained a 50-footer to beat Ryan Moore in a playoff at the Byron Nelson.
Dusek: I followed Ogilvy's round on Saturday and he was seething afterward because his 73 could easily have been 69. He made nothing, got no breaks and knew he may have lost his chance to win, but his four birdies in a row on today's back nine showed me he was still up for a fight. The harder the course, the more I'd like him over Scott and Day.
Lipsey: The Aussies, any of them, are a hell of a lot more likely to win a green jacket in coming years than the Americans. Except for Tiger, Bo Van Pelt was low Yank this week!
Gorant: You could've said the same thing 20 years ago. You can't base it on one day. If you look at Tour results for the year, I think you'll see it's not as dismal as you're always in a hurry to paint it.
Lipsey: Look at the World Ranking. Look at the Masters leaderboard. All four major titles are held by non Americans, and the Euros won the Ryder Cup. For now, it's bleak at the top stateside.
ADAM SCOTT AND THE BROOMSTICK
Gorant: How do you think the traditionalists at Augusta would have felt if Scott and his broomstick had won, and what do we think his prospects are now that he's found a putting stroke? Will he be a top 10 player again?
Morfit: This will be a huge shot of confidence for Scott. That said, I don't think the traditionalists would smile upon the broomstick. Never have.
Dusek: Sooner or later someone is going to win with a long putter, and candidly, I don't think the Augusta folks would care one way or the other. As for Scott himself, we've never questioned his full swing, so if he believes the broomstick can help him on the greens (and obviously it did here) then he can certainly contend anywhere and anytime.
Hanger: I think the traditionalists wouldn't like it, but a bunch of other pros and real-life golfers will be running to the pro shop to buy their own. If it works, more power to him. He could ride that broomstick all the way to the Champions Tour 30 years from now.
Herre: Hard to get overly excited about a young guy with a long putter.
Lipsey: They might love it because many of the geezers (traditionalists) are using long putters.
Garrity: I thought Scott saving par on 17 to protect his lead was as telling as Schwartzel's flurry of birdies, considering how far Adam had fallen. He looked like a hardened veteran down the stretch. Traditionalists may not like his hardware, but they have to like his new backbone.
Evans: What traditionalists? Nobody is showing up on Magnolia Lane with a persimmon wood. Scott would have made a good champion.
Walker: I don't like the long putter either, but if Scott can putt now, look out!
Wei: Today had to have been a huge boost to Scott's confidence, especially on the greens. I was pulling for him. Nice to see his perseverance after going through a rough patch a few years ago. I hope he'll get back in the top 10.
POOR RORY'S COLLAPSE
Gorant: Okay, Rory. Brutal to watch. He's young and learning and all that, but it's hard to believe that next time he's in this spot today's events won't creep into his head. What do we think, future as bright as ever or is there some scar tissue developing? (Especially considering his 80 with the lead at St. Andrews last year.)
Hanger: So hard to watch. It was surreal to see him playing that shot from between the cabins. They didn't even know how to shoot that, he was so far off course. He handled it with great class even though he must be devastated. I think he'll bounce back, win a couple times this year, and be on our short list of major favorites for the foreseeable future. A lot like Dustin Johnson.
Lipsey: Love that he was so polite in the interview. Class act.
Herre: Is Rory the next Tiger, or the next Greg Norman?
Lipsey: He's accumulating scar tissue at a pace that's ahead of where Shark was at age 21, that's for sure.
Godich: He had an excuse at the British (the weather). Maybe we should have seen this coming. As well as he played for three days, he still looked a tad shaky with the putter. And that is where his troubles started today, with short misses at the first, the third and the fifth. He'll rebound from this. Let's not forget that he's only 21.
Evans: Rory would be lucky to be the next Greg Norman, who is an all-time great. There isn't going to be a second-coming of Tiger Woods for another two generations.
Walker: Bright as ever. Rory is still way ahead of the curve. Reminds me of Kobe's air balls in the 1997 playoffs.
Wei: Rory's a class act. How many guys would speak to the press so graciously after a round like that? He handled himself well. I think he'll get over this collapse. It might take some time, but he's not the first. He does need to work on his putting, though. His stroke is still a bit suspect, especially from 5-15 feet.
Gorant: What happened to Phil? Do you think in retrospect that winning in Houston might have taken too much out of him? He won in Atlanta a week before the 2006 Masters victory, but that warm-up win was a 13-stroke stroll in the park. This was different, no?
Godich: Phil may have been too amped up, even a bit overconfident.
Garrity: On Tuesday, an Augusta Chronicle headline read "It's Lefty's to Lose!" I suspect we're the ones who get too amped up, not Phil.
Evans: Phil didn't have it this week. He did all the things he's done in the past to prepare. He came in with his game peaking. He visited the course early. He just couldn't get on any kind of roll. That's golf.
Herre: Phil was all over the place off the tee. His short game pulled him through to an extent, but he simply couldn't take advantage of his length.
Lipsey: Over the last year and a half, Tiger's won zip and Phil's won twice. Face facts: these guys are no longer stars. In your minds, maybe, but definitely not on paper.
Gorant: They may not be the top two players, but they're still stars. Big difference.
WHERE DOES THIS MASTERS RANK?
Gorant: The green coats seem to have figured out the setup after a few years of overly penal, and dare I say boring, tournaments. It was an incredibly exciting day with a mix of young guys, grizzled vets, fan favorites and dark horses all vying for the lead. So where does this Masters rank for you?
Lipsey: As fun a back nine as I can recall, what with so many guys in the mix to the very end.
Hanger: Great fun to watch, and a surprise ending, but in the end I don't think it'll go down as one of the all-time most memorable.
Godich: Might be the best ever. When else have 10 players had a chance to win on the back nine on Sunday? The only thing lacking was a five-man playoff.
Herre: I thought it was one of the most exciting ever. Every day was full of surprises and plot twists, and the final couple of hours — matchless.
Evans: The 75th Masters demonstrated the parity of the game. The quality of the golf was excellent and the weather had absolutely no impact on the outcome of the tournament. The winner won with four straight birdies. The leader collapsed but in the end gave a very gracious speech. I can't imagine a better script.
Hack: I'd rank it pretty high, but behind the usual suspects of '86, '97 and '04.
Hanger: The USGA and R&A announced a change on Thursday morning, just in time for the Masters. Because of video-review disqualifications over the past year or so, the rules were changed so that players who learn of a violation after they sign their cards can sometimes be penalized without being disqualified. What do we think of the ruling?
Godich: What took so long?
Herre: Some criticized the rule change because it was done on the ever a major. I say, so what? The rule needed to be changed. Technology has gotten to the point where it has outstripped the human eye. The rule had been written for another age.
Hanger: It seems to me they were cramming overnight Wednesday to get it out before the Masters because they dreaded a video review situation that could've led to a Masters DQ that would seem, at least to many observers, to be overly harsh. It seems like a no-brainer fix, and it was smart for them to get it out this week, even if the news was lost in the shuffle a bit.
Gorant: Seemed like an obvious fix. Still, one interesting part is that if a violation is spotted during the event they will adjust the score without a DQ. But if the violation isn't discovered until after the event ends, then there will be no penalty. In other words, someone could win, have a call-in point out a bit of video that proves they broke a rule, but nothing will be done about it. Potentially troublesome.