Tiger Woods will make his 2011 season debut this week at Torrey Pines.
Carlos M. Saavedra/SI
By SI Golf Group
Monday, January 24, 2011

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.

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: Welcome to another edition of PGA Tour Confidential. Let's get right to it. By winning in Abu Dhabi, Martin Kaymer passed Tiger Woods in the World Ranking and is now second to Lee Westwood. Woods is third for the first time since 2004, and will be making his first start of the season at this week's Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. So, what can we expect from Tiger?

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: I think he will either win or come very close. If he doesn't, on that golf course, I think it'll be time to sound the alarms.

Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: It would be surprising if he's not in the top five this week. He loves the course, has had tons of success there, and has been working hard for weeks. Takes a lot to win, but he should be right there.

Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Tiger has a new swing and a fresh outlook on his life after a tough past year. He will win at Torrey Pines.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: He owns the course, but he doesn't own his swing yet, or his new self. My guess is that he's hanging around the lead all week but doesn't win.

Morfit: He just looked so close at the Chevron, and I'd guess he'll want to make a statement this year. That said, his putting is still a question mark and may or may not respond to all the reps.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Red-ass. He'll come strong.

\nClick here to submit a question for Alan's next mailbag.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: We don't know what to expect, and that's why Tiger is more exciting than ever right now. He might win, he might miss the cut. I have to believe he's going to finish among the top five, though. A win wouldn't be a surprise, given his track record at Torrey. And that would certainly sex up the race for the No. 1 world ranking.

Morfit: Yes, golf didn't get enough sexing up last year.

Shipnuck: It's true that winning is delicate and he might not yet have the confidence in his swing or putting. Tiger made it look so easy for so long, but it's really not.

\n Van Sickle: Exactly right, Alan. Tiger's secret to success wasn't a secret: he made clutch putt after clutch putt, and he didn't make bogeys because his short game and putting were so good. It is definitely not easy to climb back to that pinnacle.

Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: He's won this thing six times and has had time to get angry and get ready, so you have to think he'll be right there on Sunday. But if he misses the cut or finishes back in the pack? Ominous sign for his '11 season.

Tell us what you think: How do you think Tiger will fare this week at Torrey Pines?

Herre: Interesting development on the armchair official front last week. The Padraig Harrington DQ has both the R&A and the USGA saying they will take another look at the incorrect scorecard rule. Think they'll finally change the rule for signing an incorrect scorecard?

Shipnuck: If not now, when? There's a lot of chatter among the press and players, most of it in favor of abolishing the DQ, some of it for silencing fans altogether. I think it will get amended to a retroactive penalty, which I think is a mistake. I like that the rules of golf are so black-and-white. There's enough shades of gray in sports.

Morfit: If every shot is on video, as it is now at the game's highest level, it seems possible. It shouldn't be that difficult to review the breach in question and give a more specific penalty than what is now given, which is a firing squad.

Charlie Hanger, executive editor, Golf.com: Seems like public sentiment is calling for it, based on the comments on GOLF.com and elsewhere. Whether you agree with armchair officiating or not, it seems unnecessarily harsh to DQ for signing a card you didn't know was wrong.

Gorant: Hope so. It's a terrible rule. You don't want to give anyone an incentive to cut corners, but as long as the player didn't knowingly sign for the wrong score I don't see the point in the ex-post-facto DQ. Assess the strokes and move on.

Bamberger: No, I don't think they'll change. The DQ for singing an incorrect card is the thing that makes golfers hyper-focused on keeping a perfect card.

Van Sickle: No. These are the same guys who think laser rangefinders are a bad look. "The scorecard is sacred" has long been a mantra. I don't think they'll change a concept so central. The PGA Tour could for its events, though.

Gorant: You'd still get DQ'd for signing an incorrect card, but only if you erred in filling it out. Not because someone called in a violation after you'd signed it.

Bamberger: The point of the signed card is that you sit in the scorer's hut, you go over your round, you have a last chance to review any odd thing that may have happened. When you know it's all good, then you sign.

Van Sickle: It's just so simple to assess the proper penalty and adjust the player's score. It would make sense. But I don't see the USGA giving up that scorecard.

Herre: I like the interactive aspect of allowing fans to have a direct impact on the outcome of the event. A real point of differentiation for the game, plus it's in accordance with the spirit of the Rules of Golf.

Shipnuck: Exactly. The Tour should make a virtue of it, insisting an 800 number is on the TV screen so fans can call 'em in. The hardcore fans would definitely be engaged.

Van Sickle: Coolest idea I've heard on the subject, Alan — 1-800-Tattler.

Evans: I don't like the armchair rules officials. The "gotcha" nature of it is not real classy or good for the game. Plus, I don't think many Tour players knowingly cheat. Let them explain their intentions, and then make a ruling.

\nBamberger: There's no room in the rules for intention. Sorry.

\nRitter: Great that Harrington's error was corrected, but I still don't like this trend of viewers phoning in to influence the result, especially after the cards are signed. We already have a popular competition where fans are allowed to call in and affect the outcome — it's called "American Idol." Golf shouldn't go down this road.

Hanger: I don't think it's fair for a few reasons. First, the guys who are most on TV are under more scrutiny than the rest of the field. Second, fans can only have an impact Thursday through Saturday. They can't review a Sunday result on Monday after the check has already been handed out. Third, while it allows fans to keep play honest, it also gives fans a chance to single out a player they don't like (or have placed a bet against) to try and find ticky-tack penalties with HD and slow-mo that never would've been seen or noticed in the course of normal play.

Van Sickle: I'm not a fan of viewers calling in penalties. But if justice is served, that's all that is important. The rules are the rules. It's too bad that the players on TV receive more scrutiny than those who aren't. As Michael said, you're responsible for your own score. So take care of business.

\n Bamberger: The most revealing thing last week was Harrington's complete composure when he learned about his penalty. He knows the game falls apart without strict adherence to the rules.

Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: In contrast to Graeme McDowell, who sounded pretty nasty when criticizing fans who call in penalties. Although I later realized that "anoraks" isn't as bad an insult as it sounds.

Van Sickle: Also, would there have been as much outrage about the DQ if it had been someone who wasn't a fan favorite (fill in your least favorite player's name here) as opposed to the beloved Harrington?

Shipnuck: Plus, Paddy's infraction was not ticky-tack — his ball moved a substantial amount. Just as Villegas took a huge swipe with his club and moved a big piece of turf. You didn't need HD and slow-mo to see these penalties. They were obvious to anyone paying attention.

Walker: It does make you appreciate that Woods and Mickelson have largely avoided this stuff despite having their every move on the course televised for the last 10 years.

\nHerre: Why don't they simply have an official watch the telecast? The Tour tried that in the early '90s but quickly abandoned the experiment when a couple of players got upset. With the advances in technology, maybe they should give instant replay another chance.

Shipnuck: Just because an official watches the telecast doesn't mean he or she will spot everything. Crowd-sourcing is much more effective.

Bamberger: Having an official watch would only help players turn in accurate scorecards, and I think it would be a good thing. He or she can do something viewers cannot — get to the player before he leaves the scorer's hut.

Shipnuck: Right, the beef isn't fans' calling in violations, it's that word often comes too late to alert the players before they sign their card. An 800 number or dedicated Twitter feed could sound the alarms before a player is even off the course. Although the Golf Channel night-time replay makes that a little more complicated.

Hanger: They could have an official watch, and it would be more fair than allowing fans who might have an axe to grind play cop, but to what end? Do we really want to spend our time looking for those one-dimple, centimeter-and-a-half rolls or the disturbance of a grain of sand on a backswing? If a rule is broken in a way that is intentional or has a material impact on the game, a player or official or TV commentator is going to notice. If the NFL studied every replay for holding penalties, the games would never end.

Bamberger: If your clubhead touches anything like sand, alarms should go off in your head. I your hand touches the ball after your mark has been picked up, alarms should go off in your head.

Herre: Golf fans with an axe to grind? This ain't the WWE, Charlie.

Hanger: You don't think there are enough Tiger-haters out there that someone might study his round in an effort to knock him out? Or Tiger-lovers who might hone in on Phil? Or gamblers who wanted to make a difference? I wouldn't put it past someone, and all it would take is one time.

Herre: Right, Charlie. And there were two gunmen in Dallas.

Gorant: Actually there were three shooters. I've go the details from Ollie Stone, but that's for a different forum.

Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, Golf.com: The guys who are on TV should be under more scrutiny. It comes with the big stage and bright lights. Mo' money, mo' problems.

Hanger: At a gut level, I hear you, but no — the rules should be applied to everyone equally, and this isn't equal.

Shipnuck: As long as they don't break the rules, they have nothing to worry about.

Van Sickle: The rules are equal. The number of spectators isn't, that's all.

Hanger: All I'm saying is that there are so many little details in an 18-hole round of golf that if you look hard enough, you might be able to find a blade of grass out of line somewhere. I think there's a difference between protecting the field and prosecuting it.

Van Sickle: I don't think there are all that many rules violations out there. You pretty much know if you committed one, or possibly committed one. It's just not that difficult. And if you're not sure, you stay in the scoring area until it gets sorted out.


Tell us what you think: Should the DQ rule for an incorrect scorecard be changed? And should fans be allowed to phone in rules violations that they see on television?

Herre: Let's talk a little Ryder Cup. David Love III and Jose Maria Olazabal will captain the 2012 sides — two excellent choices. I was a little surprised to hear DL3 say that part of the U.S.'s problem in recent years is that the Americans were trying too hard. Do you think he's right?

Hanger: Every athlete in every sport goes to that after a loss — I wanted it too bad, I was trying too hard — and of course there's some validity to that. But in the end the U.S. just got beat.

Herre: Remember the 1997 Ryder Cup at Valderrama, and Woods and O'Meara yukking it up while walking in after getting their butts kicked?

Gorant: Well, with the exception of the final day at Valhalla, the U.S. certainly hasn't looked loose out there.

Bamberger: I totally agree with Love. They're stiff and scared, and it shows up most in their putting.

Morfit: I actually don't think the Yanks have done much wrong the last two Cups. They were a roll of the ball from beating a heavily favored team last fall, and they routed Europe in '08. The real question for me is what happened to the teams in '06 and '04. They looked like the junior varsity.

Shipnuck: The U.S.'s biggest problem has been that Phil and Furyk have been awful in just about every Ryder Cup since '97. For all the talk about Tiger's so-so record, it's the other two in the supposed Big Three who are perennially dragging down the team.

Van Sickle: That's right, Alan. The other thing is, match play is all about putting. The Americans frequently show up with a less-than-stellar group of putters, as a whole. That was one reason Fowler was a good pick, and he proved it. The Americans usually get outputted, simple as that.

Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: Agree with Alan. Phil has gotten a free pass, but he has the most losses in American Ryder Cup history — 17. But he just brings so much to the team room! Except he brings down his partners.

Van Sickle: If Love had said the Americans were too uptight, I might buy that. But trying too hard? The Europeans are trying as hard as they can, too. What's too hard? That's so ill-defined. Are you going to tell me the Americans weren't trying too hard at Valhalla, when two guys on the team were from Kentucky? It seemed to work there.

Morfit: I agree, Gary. I give the benefit of the doubt to players at that level that they are doing their best to peak at the right time, whether that means settling down a bit or going all Boom Baby. Players will be guilty of trying too hard in every event, Ryder Cup or not.

Bamberger: I think he just means tight when he says trying too hard. The confidence is not there, for understandable reasons.

Walker: After Valhalla and the Monday comeback in Wales, I think Team USA is in a pretty good spot now. The really bad years are a distant memory, and guys like Anthony Kim and Rickie Fowler look like they are going to be anchors for the team in the next decade.

Herre: Golf Channel says Love is going to wear the microphone at Torrey. Guess he's not afraid of losing his "intellectual property."

Bamberger: Davis, all his career, has done what he thinks is good for the game.

Wei: Why don't they mike a rookie? Tons of the rookies would be willing to wear one. Tough to get veterans to change their ways. I know Davis is great in the press room, but how entertaining is he on the golf course?

Shipnuck: Love will be great on the mike. He has more personality than people think, and a pretty sly sense of humor. And he has a lot of interests he can riff on. Wearing the microphone is a performance, and players have to look at it as an opportunity for fans to get to know them. It should be way more than just kicking around strategy.

Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: A fading star looking for some buzz? Looking for some fun on the course, where he's not had much fun in a while? I'd be stunned if he said anything of interest.

Gorant: He was just named Ryder Cup captain, held a press conference and will be in the spotlight for the next two years. Can't see why he'd be searching for buzz. Maybe he just thinks it's a good idea.

Shipnuck: Davis understands that this is show business, and that fans/TV ratings ultimately make his fabulous lifestyle possible.

Van Sickle: Love is a guy who's no longer with Titleist and no longer the frequent winner he once was. He needs to keep his "brand name" out there, and wearing a mike is probably a good way to do that.

Reiterman: I'll be more interested if he wears one during the 2012 Ryder Cup.

Morfit: Now that would be good. A team-room cam.

Lipsey: Think ratings! We all bemoan the popularity slide. Things like this could help.

Walker: Unless Lee Trevino is wearing it and Bill Murray is caddying for him, player microphones are not going to increase TV ratings.

Morfit: Well said. What are we expecting these guys to say, exactly? And how is it different from all those conversations between Phil and Bones that have ended up on the air?

Wei: Did Ryan Palmer add a whole lot to the Sony Open? I didn't catch it since the sound was turned off in the press room last week, but some of my readers e-mailed to say it wasn't exactly the most entertaining commentary in the world. Golf Channel won't air any of the juicy stuff that would actually make the telecast more compelling.

Evans: There is no juicy stuff. This is golf. Tim Finchem shouldn't try to be Vince McMahon, and Golf Channel shouldn't try to be Spike TV. Ratings are generated by compelling golf.

Van Sickle: Mikes just aren't the answer. We've seen enough of them at the Skins Game to know that most players aren't going to be entertaining, insightful or forthcoming. It's not going to make a difference.

Wei: McDowell said at Kapalua that the boom mikes are always in their faces and lots of conversations are picked up that way. Now, if only Sir Faldo would shut up every once in a while, then we could actually hear what the players and caddies are saying.

Bamberger: It's just an experiment, at least in serious competition. Why don't we just see how it goes?


Tell us what you think: Is Love a good choice for U.S. Ryder Cup captain? Do you think he can get the most of out the U.S. team in 2012?

Herre: I don't think I've ever seen someone at the Hope be one over for his last 10 holes, put a drive in the water in a playoff and still win. Now that's what I call a Mongolian Reversal!

Wei: The energy at the tourney was amazing. For the flak it gets for being a bore-fest, I quite enjoyed it. I had goosebumps when Vegas won! Best possible outcome. Haas is a really nice guy, but he doesn't have that much charisma. Meanwhile, Woodland and Vegas both do. Pretty impressive that Vegas came out in his fifth career PGA Tour start and won the whole thing. (I know the field wasn't anything like Abu Dhabi, but it's still a W.)

Lipsey: Cheered hard for Vegas, who seems like a very cool dude with some smashmouth hyper-long power.

Van Sickle: You don't see many guys put their drives in the drink in a playoff, teeing off first — and then win the hole! Wow.

Bamberger: Best Hope in years, for the competitiveness. But to call it the Hope without any star hanging around on Sunday didn't feel right, to say nothing of it being on Golf Channel.

Herre: Matt Kuchar (13th) was the only player in the top 25 in the field. Hard to get much of a leader board with that handicap.

Lipsey: Bill Mulligan Clinton to the rescue.

Shipnuck: It was a great finish — lots of whooping in the Shipnuck household. This kid Vegas is totally likable and played his heart out for 89 holes. Near tragic finish at the last. Amazing up-and-down on the 91st. Then in the water on the 92nd and he still won. Woodland is a stud too. It was fun to watch two youngsters trying to hold on with so much at stake.

Wei: Woodland is really interesting. The kid hits it a mile. Every time I've heard his name come up, beginning at Q-school, the players just say, "He hits it LONG." He didn't start playing big national golf tournaments until he was a junior in college. He played basketball for a year at a Division II college and then realized there weren't too many 6'0" white guys in the NBA, so he decided to focus on golf instead. He transferred to Kansas and played on the men's golf team. Growing up, he didn't play any A.J.G.A., U.S. Amateurs, etc. because he was too busy playing basketball and baseball. Guy is just an incredible athlete, obviously.

Herre: Went back and read some of Vegas's transcripts. Interesting stuff about the chilling effect Hugo Chavez has had on golf in Venezuela. He's pretty much destroyed the game there.

Gorant: Yeah, that's one country we won't have to worry about in the Olympics.

Van Sickle: Actually, Olympic golf is an individual event, not a country-vs.-country team event, which I think would've been better. And on the contrary, we do have to worry about Venezuela because Vegas will almost certainly be in the field if he's among the top 300 ranked players in the world by then.

Herre: Vegas will be a great story at Augusta. He'll be like those Czech golfers who, in 1968, somehow got out of the country to play in the World Cup. They were welcomed as heroes.

Walker: At the risk of sounding like Sean Penn, I'm not ready to equate Venezuela with Iron Curtain-era Czechoslovakia. Excuse me now, I've got to go punch a photographer.

Wei: When Vegas played in the Nationwide event in Colombia last year, he had an intense security detail with him at all times because of the Venezuela-Colombia conflict.

Bamberger: Like everybody, I loved the finale and the playoff, and I especially love that tournament golf does not care where you grew up, what you look like, what your parents do for a living, how old you were when you got your first full set, who your teacher is. It only cares what you can shoot for 72 holes. Or 92, in this case. Welcome to Augusta, J. Vegas. You're gonna have a ball, and so will we.

Wei: And he also has arguably the best name in golf. Jhonny Vegas!

Van Sickle: He's right up with there with Bunky Henry, Herb Hooper and Bradley Dredge.

Wei: Five rookies, including the champion, finished in the top 11. Not too shabby. I'm excited to track these guys this year — lots of personality and game. I've gotten to know several in the past few weeks out here, and they've been such a breath of fresh air. I just worry they'll get brainwashed and turn into mindless drones eventually, but I'm trying to remain optimistic.


Tell us what you think: Did you follow the Hope this weekend? Are you interested in Jhonattan Vegas's story?

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