PGA Tour Confidential: Adam Scott wins first Australian Masters
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.
Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: This week, Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter and Brandt Snedeker all spoke in favor of a ban on "anchored" putters (i.e., long putters and belly putters), joining other long-putter-ban supporters like Tiger Woods, Tom Watson and Arnold Palmer. On the other side, Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley oppose a ban. The question: If PGA Tour players voted on this issue, what would the result be? Do your best Nate Silver impersonation and predict the voting breakdown.
Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: Only Karl Rove knows for sure, but I think a vote would be very close. On the one hand, anchoring would seem to be against the spirit, if not the actual rules, of the game. On the other, the USGA ruled in favor of anchoring decades ago. Why reverse that decision now? Because anchoring is beginning to catch on with the public? Illogical.
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Majority rules. They'd vote to ban. But it will get settled on the committee level. Can't leave it to chance.
Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: That's way too much math, but I think a vote on Tour would be 70 in favor of the ban and 30 against. Even guys who have used it as a last resort have said it seems like cheating and should be illegal. (Exhibit A: Ernie Els.)
Charlie Hanger, executive editor, Golf.com: I think they'd be banned in a landslide. For one thing, golf is lousy with purists. More practically, the vast majority of players still don't use them, so you'd have to assume they'd want to take anchored putters out of the competition's hands - and guts.
Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, Golf.com: I bet players would vote to ban it, but I'd pay to see Tiger debate Phil on the issue. Talk about a great silly season event!
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I thought it was interesting that G-Mac said Mike Davis told him they had "evidence" that belly putters were an advantage. If there's empirical evidence on that subject out there, where did it come from? No one's heard about it before this. Still, it's at least 60-40 against on tour. I'd like to see a vote on the Champions Tour.
David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: I think it's about 75% to 25% in favor of a ban. There are valid arguments on both sides, but golf has more traditionalists than progressives.
Jessica Marksbury, associate editor, Golf Magazine: According to the 2012 Tour Confidential surveys, out of the 70 players we talked to on the PGA Tour, 28 said long putters should be banned, 36 said no, and 6 were undecided. On the Champions Tour, 38 said ban, 29 said no, and 3 were undecided. Pretty interesting! I wonder how opinions will change this year.
Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: I have to figure there are more players still using standard-length putters, so I'm going to put it at 64% to 36%. The ban supporters would have their mandate, and I'd be interested to see if the proponents of long putters fight this thing in court. Should be fun.
Herre: I don't see this ever going to court.
Godich: Agreed, but it sure would be fun listening to lawyers trying to explain the technical aspects.
Van Sickle: I don't see a court case, but I could see players pushing the PGA Tour to create its own rules and get out from under the USGA. That would really be interesting.
Walker: I'm not sure the golfing public cares much one way or the other. The only place I ever see long putters is at Tour events.
Godich: I'll also be interested to see how the equipment manufacturers weigh in. They've got no small investment in this.
Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Would PGA Tour players vote to ban the belly putter?
ADAM SCOTT WINS
Walker: Speaking of long putters, Adam Scott won his first Australian Masters on Sunday. Where does he now rank on your list of Best Players Without a Major?
Herre: At or near the top. Scott is one of the best ballstrikers of his generation, but one-dimensional. Sort of an earlier version of Dustin Johnson.
Van Sickle: Adam doesn't rank as high as you might think, although I have to move him ahead of Sergio Garcia these days. Donald and Westwood are still a solid 1-2 punch. After that, it's up for grabs. Scott would be a contender for third. I'll wait for the BCS rankings first.
Reiterman: He has to be No. 1, even ahead of Westwood. Scott's won at least one professional event for the last 12 years, and he's picked off more big-name trophies than Westy. (I've heard Scott's caddie is pretty good, too.)
Van Sickle: I disagree. Westwood has had more opportunities to win majors than Scott, and he's won way more tournaments than Scott ever has. Whether you define Best Player Without a Major by how he's playing at the moment or by his entire career, Westwood ranks ahead of Scott. So does Donald.
Godich: Scott's not yet near Westwood and Monty's league, but give him time. And take that broomstick out of his hands ...
Dusek: Adam Scott is fourth, behind Luke Donald, Justin Rose and Ian Poulter. If it weren't for a brain-dead moment on 18 at Royal Lytham and St. Annes in July, Scott would already have one.
Van Sickle: If Scott didn't rank 143rd in putting, he might already have a major, no matter the state of his brain.
Reiterman: Watching Scott smash drivers all weekend at Kingston Heath made his 3-wood-on-18 decision at the Open all the more baffling.
Wei: So many good players don't have a major -- Westwood, Luke, Sergio, etc. I'm thinking top five.
Hanger: I'd put him just behind Steve Stricker, tied with Luke Donald, and just ahead of Lee Westwood.
Godich: Hate to say it, but you have to wonder if Scott's opportunity passed at the 2011 Masters. Charl Schwartzel basically stole the green jacket from him. Say what you want about having plenty more opportunities, but the stars were aligned for Scott -- until Charl closed with those four birdies.
Reiterman: Ernie Els won a major this year, so Scott still has plenty of time. (Of course Scott was a big reason why Els won, so ... well, you get the point.)
Van Sickle: Good point. Although I wonder if Ernie would have been able to pull it off if he hadn't already won three majors? The pressure would've been that much more if he was trying to get his first.
Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Who is the best player without a major?
THE MECHANIC'S MAINTENANCE
Walker: The Mechanic, Miguel Angel Jimenez, continues to defy age, winning the European Tour's Hong Kong Open at 48. He celebrated as usual with a cigar and a glass of Rioja. Jimenez and Kenny Perry belie the idea that improved fitness is the key to a long career. So what is the key to longevity on the PGA Tour?
Bamberger: I don't agree with the premise. Perry is strong, in the manner of a bull, and Jimenez is wildly limber -- don't even look at his X-rated stretching.
Godich: No doubt the key is the Mechanic's pre-round stretching routine.
Wei: Well, clearly, wine and cigars are crucial, and sweet stretching exercises.
Dusek: A great iron game and just enough length off the tee to make sure you can still compete on lengthened, modern golf courses. If you have those two things, like Perry had and Jimenez has, winning is always possible. You just need a hot week against a semi-good field.
Herre: You have to stay healthy, for one. But most important, you have to really love the game. Being a Tour pro sounds like a dream job to most civilians, but it's a life lived on the road, with numbing repetition.
Wei: Yes, it's like Groundhog Day.
Godich: And with the kind of money they're playing for, how hungry are guys going to be as they get into their 40s?
Van Sickle: It helps if older players can still move the ball a ways off the tee, but even that is optional. What isn't optional is making all the putts from eight-feet-and-in like a 20-something. Hale Irwin enjoyed the best putting of his career from age 40 and on, and that's why he blew away the senior victory record.
Hanger: I think we'll see the improved fitness of today's players pay off in the years to come. There may be a time when 48-year-old tour winners are routine. Jimenez seems to thrive because he's so relaxed out there, which is something a lot of guys lose as they get older and more jittery on the greens.
Marksbury: I totally agree. There is a lot to be said for being at peace in life. Jimenez enjoys himself no matter what. There's no better way to play golf.
Wei: It doesn't seem like Jimenez is concerned with what will happen if he doesn't make the clutch five-footer to win. It's just golf, and his life will go on with or without another victory.
Tell us what you think in the comments section below: What's the key to longevity on the PGA Tour?
Walker: We had a Michael Campbell sighting at the Hong Kong Open. The 2005 U.S. Open champ was co-leader after 54 holes before finishing tied for eighth. It was his second top-10 in his last four events after spending years in the wilderness. (Between March 2006 and October 2010, Campbell fell 1,315 spots in the world rankings.) What causes players to "lose it" like Campbell or David Duval? And once it's gone, can they ever get it back?
Godich: I don't know, but if anyone has the answer, Tiger Woods is eager to hear it.
Herre: Golf's eternal question. What causes a Campbell or a Duval to lose it? What causes you to lose it? Golf is a mystery, and often maddening.
Hanger: I don't know the specifics of what went wrong with Campbell, but we all know as golfers how fleeting success can be. It's the same thing all golfers struggle with - one minute you can't miss, the next minute you can't do a damn thing right - just on a more extreme scale.
Dusek: Guys can "lose it" for tons of reasons. They get taken out of their routine because of the new opportunities that winning presents; they get a divorce or go through other personal issues; they undergo a swing change in the hopes of getting even better. Once you lose it, you can never become the player you once were, but that doesn't mean you can't compete and win again. Case in point: Tiger.
Van Sickle: Every player has a story. Ralph Guldahl was never the same after agreeing to write an instruction story, which forced him to think about what he did with his swing. His brain exploded and his game vanished. A number of guys tried to add length off the tee and vanished. I'd say the putting stroke inside eight feet is a career-ender, too.
Godich: I am fascinated by the guys who win a big event and then overhaul their swings, change equipment, or whatever. Exhibit One: 2002 Players champion Craig Perks.
Van Sickle: Perks was a fascinating example. He knew his swing wasn't tour-quality, and he was tired of trying to live off his short game. He took the Players win as a window to improve, but he was never able to get the results he wanted.
Marksbury: It seems like the lapse always starts with a sudden change in confidence, which then leads to a search for a cure and unnecessary swing changes. In essence, a snowball effect that should never have started in the first place. It's tough to come back from all that.
Tell us what you think in the comments section below: What causes players to "lose it"?
PRESSURE ON THE R&A
Walker: The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews has replaced Augusta National as golf's most famous anachronism. While Augusta National admitted women members this year, the R&A counts no women among its 2,400 or so members, a policy criticized this week by the UK's minister for sports. Will public pressure force the R&A to allow women members, or will they muddle through the criticism with a stiff upper lip (and a stiff cocktail)?
Van Sickle: The R&A will eventually have to cave. It's such an easy issue to solve that it's not worth the crapstorm it's going to have to endure. I doubt they make it through 2013 without agreeing to a change.
Wei: It's almost 2013. Get on with it. They might as well face it now rather than deal with a PR nightmare.
Godich: It'll happen sooner or later, but with 2,400 male members, how many women would they have to add without it looking like a token gesture?
Van Sickle: It will only take one to get the media to move on to another topic.
Dusek: The fact that it hasn't happened yet means that it will be a token gesture no matter how many women are admitted. If the R&A had felt compelled by itself to make the change, it already would've happened.
Herre: The R&A will capitulate, just like ANGC, and the PGA in 1961, and the Tour, USGA and LPGA in 1990. Too bad golf is always decades behind the curve.
Hanger: Eventually, yes, they'll have women members. No organization can fight this fight for very long in today's world, especially not one that claims to be focused on golf's best interests and growing the game.
Bamberger: Yes because the R&A is so public it can't afford to stay all male, as Muirfield will forever.
Dusek: Augusta National was a convenient lightning rod that diverted attention away from the R&A, but now that's gone. The R&A will have a ladies locker room soon.
Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Will the R&A ever admit women?
REIMAGINING THE SKINS
Walker: This year will be our fourth straight Thanksgiving without the Skins Game. Imagine you've been put in charge of bringing back the Skins Game with an unlimited appearance fee budget. Whom would you invite? You can use senior tees, women's tees, teams, celebrities and anything else, just entertain us.
Herre: You have to start with Fred Couples, the king of the Silly Season; the players and the caddies would have to be miked; and of course the players would put up their own money. I'd fill out the foursome with Trevino (from the senior tees), Mickelson (from the tips) and Babe Zaharias (from the grave).
Van Sickle: I've got Donald Trump, Johnny Miller, Jan Stephenson and Bill Murray playing for $1 million a hole. No gimmes, Trump. Putt 'em all out.
Herre: That's good. Would love to see Trump and Murray together with the needle out.
Bamberger: I like that, Gary, but I'd replace Murray with Larry David, Trump with Warren Buffett, Jan Stephenson with Mickey Wright, and I'd bring in Tom Gloves for the fourth. Play it at Elie in Scotland.
Wei: How about The Donald and The President? That might draw some interest.
Van Sickle: If we can go to the cemetery for stars, I'll get Old Tom Morris just to see his reaction to a wood made of metal. Maybe I should bench Jan Stephenson in favor of a young Bob Hope? He was an ad-lib master back then, plus he was a legit amateur player who once teed it up in the British Amateur. He and Der Bingle could both play a little.
Dusek: I'd get Tiger, Phil, Jack and Arnie to play Pebble Beach while wearing microphones. They'd put up $5,000 per hole of their own money in a Nassau, with all the winnings going to charity. Let 'em press, double down, make side bets, pay for longest off the tee on the par 5s and closest to the pin on the par 3s. All the stuff we love to do on Saturday mornings. I'd get Erin Andrews and David Feherty to walk with the group, and Peter Alliss and Ken Venturi would be in the tower with Jim Nantz. (Say what you will, he's got the voice.) America would love to see it.
Wei: Anyone? That's a loaded question. Fred Couples, Lee Trevino, General Petraeus, Tiger Woods and Judy Rankin.
Hanger: I'd do two-man teams, alternate-shot. To start, teams would be: Poulter/McIlroy, Mickelson/Woods, Nicklaus/Watson, Sorenstam/Ochoa. At the turn, they'd have to switch partners, with new teams decided by fan voting.
Godich: Alternate-shot format. Partners are Tiger and Phil, Azinger and Seve (back from the dead), Kerr and Pettersen, and Clinton and Trump.
Wei: Love the alternate-shot format. That truly brings the "team" component into play.
Van Sickle: On a serious note, I don't think there's any way to revive the Skins Game. After the $10 million FedEx Cup, how big would the purse have to be to get the public interested?
Tell us what you think in the comments section below: What's your dream Skins Game scenario?