PGA Tour Confidential: Australian Open, Presidents Cup preview

Wednesday November 16th, 2011
Tiger Woods shot a 67 on Sunday and finished third at the Australian Open.
Rob Griffith/AP

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.

WOODS SHOWS UP DOWN UNDER
Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Nice win for Greg Chalmers in the Aussie Open. He did a great job keeping it together down the stretch to hold off some big names, and it's a nice story for him and his family. But let's be real. The news from Down Under is about Tiger Woods, who shot rounds of 68, 67, 75 and 67 to finish third. Is Tiger back?

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: He looked more confident swinging the club, which is progress. But in the final round he missed a couple of medium-length putts he had to have. Those putts haven't fallen for more than two years now. That's the real problem.

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: Too soon to say, but three good rounds is progress. He needs to turn the 75s into 70s, which he did routinely in the past. If he had done that in Sydney, he would have won.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: He's climbing back, at the very least. When he needed a low round the last day, he got one, 67, and it could've been lower. The bad news is, he needed a low round because he tanked in the third round. I'll repeat my mantra of the last two years: He'll get his tee-to-green game back to a very high level. He's too good not to. He'll go as far as his putting takes him. I haven't seen him have four good putting rounds in a row since I don't know when.

Have a question for Gary Van Sickle's mailbag? E-mail editor@golf.com or ask it on Facebook.

Herre: Tiger had 34 putts on Saturday. That won't get it done.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Neither will three bogeys to start the round. He was grinding for 36 holes to get the lead, then gave it back just like that.

Van Sickle: Exactly. When he returns to being a great putter, he'll be ready to win repeatedly and ready to win majors. Until then, let's enjoy "the process."

Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: I don't think we can say Tiger's "back" until he wins at least one tournament of significance (and the Tavistock Cup doesn't count) and starts contending consistently and holing putts that count under pressure. But I will say I'm bullish on Tiger. I have been since he hired Joe La Cava.

Godich: It was what it was. Tiger showed more flashes of his old self, but when the heat was on (in the third round), he couldn't deliver. Then with most of the pressure gone in the final round, he went low. Tiger is rusty, but he is also showing that he's human.

Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, Golf.com: I still don't think we'll have a good idea of Tiger's game, and Foley's swing changes, until we're a few events into the 2012 schedule. That being said, if Tiger's game were a stock, I'd be buying a lot.

Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: It was the best he's looked since tying for fourth at the Masters. Still a few too many loose drives, but it looks like his game is on the upswing. It'll be interesting to see if he can carry any of this new mojo into the Presidents Cup this week.

Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Tiger's not back. He's winless in the past two years.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Is he back? No. He will never be "back." When he wins again, and I think he will, it will be as a different player and as a different person. The Tiger myth, that he created with many enablers, myself among them, means the old Tiger is gone, though not forgotten. Even if he wins two majors in '12, which he certainly could, it's a new day.

Wei: I'm with you, Michael. If he does win tournaments and majors again (I think he will), I don't think it'll be with dominance and intimidation. He'll win the way Joe Golfer does: with a bit of good luck and some alignment of the stars.

Mick Rouse, SI Golf+ Intern: Tiger has been a work in progress, and we're finally starting to see the results. I wouldn't say he's back, though. He is nowhere close to being the dominating force he used to be.

Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I liked Tiger's body language and the way he was swinging his clubs. Looks like that victory drought is going to end soon.

David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: No, Tiger is not back. He is further along in the process because he showed he can play three very good rounds in one event. We'll know he's back when he plays four.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: I think the thing I'm most excited about is that Woods put up a good score after basically falling apart in easy scoring conditions in the third round. He was so bad that Golf Channel's Mark Lye said he didn't even look close. But golf is all about the bounce back, and I hadn't seen that from Tiger lately.

Tell us what you think: Was Tiger's finish a sign that his game is on the upswing? What do you expect from him at the Presidents Cup?

TIGER'S BIG SWING AT 13

Gorant: Tiger was making a charge until he was undone by two costly bogeys on the back nine Sunday. At the 315-yard, par-4 13th, he went for the green and found trouble. You like the aggressiveness there, or should he have played smarter?

Charlie Hanger, executive editor, Golf.com: He said he thought he needed to get to 13 or 14 under, so he tried a risky shot. Seems like the right call. He might've had an equal chance for birdie had he played it safe, but he wanted eagle and a chance to win. He's way past playing for second place.

Godich: No problem with it. He was trailing. He needed to make something happen.

Herre: He was behind and playing to win. Nothing wrong with that.

Van Sickle: I like the aggressiveness, but it's like baseball strategy. If it works, it's smart. If it doesn't, it isn't. The important part is, Tiger had the confidence to try that shot with his driver. I doubt he would've gone for that at any time during the last two years. He's on the upswing, definitely.

Bamberger: Aggressive is the name of the modern game. He absolutely played the right shot.

Shipnuck: It was a bad choice. He admitted he was between clubs and never appeared to commit to the shot. At Torrey Pines he had the discipline to lay up on a short 4 even though Rocco went for it.

Rouse: It didn't end great for him, but I like that Tiger went for the gutsy play. Playing it safe would have been more concerning to me.

Tell us what you think: Was Tiger's decision to be aggressive at 13 the right call?

John Daly, Round 1, 2011 Australian Open
Paul Miller/EPA
John Daly walked off the course during the opening round at the Aussie Open.

 

DALY DOES IT AGAIN

Gorant: In other news from Australia, John Daly walked off the course Thursday after imploding on two consecutive holes. His invite to the Australian PGA Championship was pulled, and he inspired a lot of ire. Is there anything left to say about J.D.?

Shipnuck: All I have to say is, Please go away.

Lipsey: He'll be back, like him or not, at a tournament near you, and sooner than you think.

Hanger: Daly showed terrible form, as usual, but I do think the indignant response from the Australian officials was a little disingenuous. What did they expect? He can't play a lick anymore and he walks off all the time. It's at least 50% their fault for inviting him. Plus, he hit seven balls in the water. Yes, he was swinging in anger, but at a certain point, why waste everyone's time?

Van Sickle: He hit seven balls in the water because he semi-wanted to at that point. He was pissed off about a penalty he'd just gotten for having hit the wrong ball--a range ball--from a fairway bunker. That's the kind of carelessness we've come to expect from John, followed by the usual it's-not-my-fault anger.

Wei: Daly tweeted, "when u run out of balls u run out of balls." Sorry, but you only run out of balls when you want to.

Bamberger: Is there anything NEW to say about John Daly? No. He's the single most talented golfer I've ever seen in person. So pathetic and sad.

Reiterman: As soon as he stops getting sponsors invites, he'll be gone. Does anyone turn up to watch Daly anymore? If he was playing a Nationwide event, I still wouldn't go out to watch him play.

Wei: Surprisingly, people do turn up to watch. On Friday at the Travelers, he had the largest gallery following him, probably at least 100 people who were living and dying by his every shot, and he wasn't even in contention.

Van Sickle: Daly was down to seven sponsors' invites on the PGA Tour in 2011. I doubt he'll even get that many in '12. He should go to Q-school if he wants to keep playing on the Tour.

Dusek: I applaud the Aussies for basically telling John that he's worn out his welcome and his behavior won't be tolerated. Daly hasn't forced tournament directors to that point here in the United States, but the ice is broken now. I wonder if more outbursts and embarrassments will lead to the stream of wildcards and invites drying up?

Tell us what you think: Does Daly deserve to be banned from future events Down Under? Are you tired of his act, or do you still pull for him?

MICKELSON IN THE HALL

Gorant: Phil Mickelson is in the World Golf Hall of Fame. He's obviously deserving after 39 wins and four majors, but is it weird to put guys in while they're still active and playing at the sport's top level?

Shipnuck: Yeah, it's weird. Minimum age should be 45.

Van Sickle: They should raise the minimum age to 50 just so these guys have something to look forward to when they're about ready for senior golf.

Herre: Since pro golfers never really retire, why not? Mickelson's induction will certainly give the HOF ceremony some buzz.

Morfit: I agree with Jim. No one ever really retires from golf. (See Old Tom Watson.) So it makes as much sense to induct a guy at 41 as it does at 50.

Bamberger: It's worse than weird. It's sort of desperate and unattractive. You should get in when you're done, when you can be reflective and thankful. Not when you're still trying to kick ass.

Godich: Very weird. What's the hurry?

Van Sickle: In a sport with this kind of longevity, it's just as weird to have Hall of Fame voting every year. I mean, guys play for 25 or 30 years, twice as long as other sports. There just aren't enough truly worthy golfers to induct a couple every year. The voting should go to every other year. Maybe that would pique interest slightly.

Wei: Sure, it's very weird, but Phil is clearly headed to the Hall of Fame at some point, so I don't see the harm. Well, unless I'm one of the other players on the ballot whose career is "done" and who got passed over because of Phil.

Tell us what you think: Should the be an age requirement for the Hall of Fame?

Tiger Woods, 2011 Australian Open
Rob Griffith/AP
Tiger Woods could face Adam Scott in a match this week at the Presidents Cup.

 

SHOWDOWN: WOODS VS. SCOTT

Gorant: Greg Norman has been talking up the inevitability of an Adam Scott-Tiger Woods showdown at the Presidents Cup. He's for it, and he says Scott is too. Is this a good idea, or does it threaten to turn the whole thing into a carnival?

Shipnuck: Oh, it'd be great fun. Golf needs more feuds.

Lipsey: Awesome!

Hack: Do it. Do it. Do it.

Herre: A carnival would be a good thing for this Presidents Cup.

Van Sickle: It already is a carnival. The fact that Stevie and Tiger reportedly had a talk and bumped into each other in a workout room maybe takes a little edge off that drama. But you can be sure that the media will jump on it with both feet. So go for it.

Bamberger: CAR-NI-VAL! CAR-NI-VAL! Of course it's a carnival. Most everything in this media age is a carnival and a spectacle. If it's good for TV ratings, it's good all the way around.

Morfit: I'd like to see Tiger play anyone who's at the top of his game, and I'll bet Tiger would, too. It's going to be the best indicator of where he is with his comeback. (Although in retrospect his pasting of Francesco Molinari at the Ryder Cup wasn't much of an indicator.)

Reiterman: Why not have them play? Who doesn't want to see Steve Williams's golfer vs. Tiger Woods?

Ritter: What currently stands as the most memorable Presidents Cup match in the event's history? Tiger-Els in OT in 2003? Woods-Scott has a chance to trump it.

Dusek: This is exactly what the Presidents Cup needs. If there were ever a reason to stay up until midnight to watch a sports event, this match would be it.

Wei: What's the harm? Who doesn't want to see that match?

 

Tell us what you think: Woods vs. Scott. Do you want to see it? PROVING HE BELONGS?

Gorant: Did Woods justify his selection by captain Fred Couples with his play last week, or does anyone still feel it should be Keegan Bradley?

Van Sickle: They don't pick the teams in November. It's too late now to justify anything. Based on play of the last two years, Tiger didn't deserve it.

Bamberger: It's not even close. Even if Woods won, he wouldn't have justified Fred's pick. Making these teams is an honor for playing well over a prolonged period, and captains should pick guys who will help give the team the best chance to win. Bradley has it all over Woods in both categories.

Shipnuck: The only way Tiger justifies the pick is by kicking butt at the Presidents Cup.

Dusek: A tie for third doesn't justify anything, but it gives you hope. I still feel that Bradley deserved the pick based on his play this season. The only way Fred's pick is justified is if Tiger wins most or all of the points he can.

Herre: Fred's timing was all off. He said he planned to pick Woods before Bradley won the PGA Championship. Awkward.

Morfit: I'm still wondering if one of the banged-up Yanks will drop out and get Keegan in the game, but it's getting late for that.

Wei: I checked with Keegan on Friday and asked if he was going to Australia. He laughed and said "no." Don't forget, Cam, we have Fred Couples and John Cook to replace Stricker and Mahan if needed!

Hack: Keegan earned a spot on the team with his play. I actually think he's the Rookie of the Year and the Player of the Year. Not sure what else the kid had to do in 2011. A rap video, maybe?

Reiterman: Tiger justified his pick by drawing more eyeballs to the Presidents Cup.

Hanger: Right. This is the same group that nearly unanimously said the Tiger vs. Scott/Stevie matchup was a good idea because this event needs the buzz. Sure, Tiger doesn't "deserve" it based on his play vs. Bradley's, but it was still the right decision to pick him because the event needs his star power. And, he looked in Sydney like a guy who could win some matches this week.

Van Sickle: Picking players for ratings is a terrible idea. Might as well pick Jack and Arnie, then. It hurts the credibility of an event that has slowly and carefully built up its credibility. It's just like writing stories about Phil and Tiger every day when they're in 21st place instead of writing about who's winning the tournament. In the long run, it's a disservice.

Rouse: Keegan deserved the pick, but it will all come down to how well Woods plays this week. If he plays well, no one will be talking about Bradley. If he plays poorly, you'll be hearing Bradley's name a lot.

Godich: This is like the undeserving team that gets in the NCAA tournament and then wins a couple of games. There are countless players who could light it up in Australia. That doesn't mean they belong.

Wei: I also think it's a joke that Keegan isn't on the team, but at the end of the day, I don't think Fred has to justify picking Tiger. In a perfect world, captain's picks would be based on who "deserves" it more, but Freddie is free to pick anyone he wants. Plus, the only reason anyone outside the golf world knows there is a Presidents Cup is because Tiger is playing.

Tell us what you think: Did Tiger prove that his game is Presidents Cup-ready?

PRESIDENTS CUP STORYLINES

Gorant: What are our other favorite story lines from Royal Melbourne?

Shipnuck: There are no other storylines. As always, it's all about Tiger, one way or another.

Van Sickle: It looks like Tiger will be a total eclipse and obliterate any other story lines. It'll be Shark vs. Tiger or Stevie vs. Tiger or Adam vs. Tiger. At the end, if it's close, the team race can overcome that, though.

Herre: Woods will be the story going in, as he always is, but the Couples vs. Norman angle is interesting, seeing that Norman criticized the selection of Woods.

Bamberger: There's so much pre-game crap these days, in every sport, and the thing that gets lost is the sport itself.

Dusek: Jason Day, Adam Scott, Geoff Ogilvy, Aaron Baddley: Will the best Australian please step forward.

Godich: I want to see how Norman handles things if the Internationals come up short. He is certainly amped up about this.

Wei: There's a possibility that two American players may not be 100% healthy. Good news is that the U.S. has senior-citizen captains in Fred Couples, who finished tied for 15th this week in Sydney, and John Cook, who was 23rd.

Hanger: Tiger will dominate the headlines, especially in the lead-up to the matches, but team match play golf is too compelling for him to be the only story all week. The event will be the story by this time next week, and Tiger could well end up a sidebar.

Tell us what you think: Do any non-Tiger storylines interest you this week?

Jason Day
Greg M. Cooper/US Presswire
Jason Day could be a key member of the International Team this week at the Presidents Cup.


PRESIDENTS CUP PREDICTIONS

Gorant: So who wins this week? Also, who are your picks for star, rookie and surprise of the week?

Lipsey: U.S. wins, Woods smacks down Scott and Williams. That's the story!

Reiterman: I'm taking the International team, with Jason Day leading the way, and Kyung-tae Kim making a big splash.

Bamberger: The Internationals look like a better team--team being the key word--to me. My rookie is Jason Day. He's been playing great all year. Surprise? A warm-and-fuzzy Woods. It's time. It's past time. Golf's been good to him. Time to give back with the small, human gestures that he's capable of and that people actually relate to.

Herre: I like the Internationals solely on home field advantage, with Jason Day as the star of the match. There are 10 rookies playing, which makes taking a flyer on one kind of difficult.

Godich: The U.S. wins, and Tiger is the star and the surprise of the week. Even more folks jump on the bandwagon.

Dusek: I'll be pulling for the Americans but will pick the International team. K.J. Choi gives no quarter in match play, Jason Day has proven he's a stud and Ernie Els rides off in the sunset with one final performance worthy of his spot in the Hall of Fame.

Hack: Internationals win a close one, with Tiger and Jason Day making the most noise.

Gorant: Is no one bothered by Day's crumble under pressure this week? He had a chance and closed with a 74, and it's not the first time he's gone backwards under heat.

Morfit: Jason hasn't been playing much golf. I put more weight on his tenacious play at Augusta than his first start after a layoff.

Van Sickle: It is a concern. Match play is a different animal. Remember Monty turning into a steely-eyed putter in the Ryder Cup every two years?

Ritter: I think all of the Aussies will play well, but I'm still picking the U.S. Tiger beats Scott head-to-head, and Webb Simpson continues his breakout season by becoming the top points-winner among rookies.

Rouse: The International team has some great putters, so I'm giving them the advantage here. I think Webb Simpson will have a big week for the Americans, and Kim Kyung-tae will excel for the International team. Ryo Ishikawa will be the surprise. Tiger Woods will be the star, whether he plays well or not.

Wei: International team wins. Star: Jason Day. Rookie: Nick Watney. Surprise: Does Robert Allenby count even though apparently he has super powers at Royal Melbourne? If not, then Aaron Baddeley.

Reiterman: Despite not winning the Presidents Cup since Clinton was in the White House, I think the International team is the clear favorite this week.

Tell us what you think: Is Tiger Woods back? Do you want to see a Woods-Scott Presidents Cup match this week? Which team will take home the Cup?

 

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