PGA Tour Confidential: The British Open

Thursday August 5th, 2010
Anna Nordqvist shot 65 in the final round.
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Every week of the 2010 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.

\nONE-HIT WONDER OR HERE TO STAY?
Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Yes, Louis Oosthuizen was ranked 54th in the world heading into St. Andrews, but who could have seen this coming? Louis had made one cut in eight major-championship appearances. He had one European tour title. He was a 200-to-1 shot at the start of the week. He's 27, with a silky smooth swing, a solid putting stroke and an even temperament. But I have to ask: Are we looking at a special player who will be contending in majors for years to come? Or was this just the case of a good player getting hot at the right time?

\n \nJim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: I think he's the real deal and could have a Reitief Goosen-like career — starts by winning at home, then cuts his teeth on the Euro tour before breaking through in a major. Clearly Oosthuizen has the tools. He was the picture of calm Saturday and Sunday, so it would appear he has the temperament as well.

\n \nFarrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: I told everyone last week that we could have a winner that no one has ever heard of. That's to say that the South African is a really nice player, but there are just so many great players around the world who can win from week to week. There are a lot of guys like Louis Oosthuizen.

\n \nCameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: I think he's young enough and, thanks to this week, confident enough to go on a sustained run of good play. What other courses suit him besides this one, I'm not sure. Windy ones, I'd guess. I love his swing and his placid, smiling demeanor.

\n \nJim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: As the golf sage Gary Van Sickle is fond of saying, there's a reason many people had never heard of him. We've yet to see him do it consistently in a lot of different circumstances. He got the best of the wind this week and putted well on uncharacteristically slow greens. Can he do that on fast greens? Can he play target golf on longer courses with hot, still conditions? I'm in wait-and-see mode for now, but he could be a Zach Johnson like player over time.

\n \nRick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Oosthuizen seems awesome, but no more so than Yang, Immelman, McDowell and the other fantastic (relative) youngsters who've won a first major in recent times. All these guys have superior talent. Odds are that one of them will bag at least a couple more majors down the road.

\n \nAlan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: To Rick's point, I'll get really excited when any of these guys wins another major. Almost anyone can have one magical week. Do it again and you're a big-time player.

\n \nMorfit: One thing I think we're seeing this year is the importance of nerve in major championship golf. Guys like Oosthuizen and Graeme McDowell have not been fried and frazzled by years of world class, televised golf. Not to say the older players don't have any more majors in them, but we're starting to see the build-up of nerve-jangling moments wear on guys like Els, Goosen, Harrington, Mickelson, Singh and even Woods.

\n \nMike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: To that point, it's noteworthy that our last three little-known major winners come from middle- or working-class backgrounds. Oosthuizen and Y.E. Yang both come from farming families, and McDowell played at what his dad called a "workingman's club." Maybe they have a little more grit on the big stage than the country club/junior golf academy products.

\n \nDavid Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: It shows how important the mental the game is. The best players find a way to at least tread water when things get bad.

\n \nShipnuck: Also, the importance of ball-control. G-Mac and Louis both did a fantastic job of keeping it in play on tough setups. Power is nice, but avoiding big mistakes is crucial at the majors.

\n \nHerre: Oosthuizen appears to have more pop than McDowell. The little guy was movin' it.

\n \nShipnuck: That's because the fairways were running at 12 on the Stimpmeter.

\n \nMorfit: I liked the look of Oosthuizen's game a lot more than McDowell's, I suppose for reasons of pure tempo and really good balance.

\n \nWHAT TO MAKE OF WESTWOOD?
Gorant: What do you say then about a guy like Westwood, second again. Big time player or not?

\n \nGary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Don't think you can condemn Westwood for losing to a guy who had a career week. He did win the B-Flight. He just had too many long stretches where he didn't make putts.

\n \nShipnuck: Westwood has the makings of big-time, but he's not there yet.

\n \nJohn Garrity, contributing writer, Sports Illustrated: Ouch. How can you say Westwood isn't big time when he's finishing on the leaderboard at every major? I'm not saying Louis won't be a star, too, but a lightning-strike win doesn't yet put him in Lee's class.

\n \nDusek: Lee is as close to big time as you can get without actually being big time. We've heard, "All I can do is keep getting into contention and playing my best," a few too many times. He was a million shots back today, and his right calf may still be bothering him, but I want to see more fire in his belly.

\n \nDamon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: No reason Lee won't be in the mix at the PGA. I'd like to see him be a little more clutch with the flatstick.

\n \nGodich: I think it's a fair question to ask: Does Westwood win a major? He's 37, he's had his share of opportunities (though today's runner-up finish wasn't exactly crushing), and the pressure is only going to mount.

\n \nMorfit: Yeah, he'll win one. He's got another four or more years of playing in these things, knocking on the door. One of these days it'll happen.

\n \nHerre: You never want to say a guy's NOT going to do something, but Westwood is only going to get so many chances.

\n \nDusek: I think his obvious talent will not be denied too much longer. Not to talk out of both sides of my mouth, but I think he'll eventually win a major. Then I'll be happy to call him big time.

\n \nMorfit: Van Sickle's column wonders aloud who's No. 1 at the moment. If I were writing that column, I'd say Westwood, for better or worse — he's the closest thing we've got.

\n \nShipnuck: Winning the Race for Dubai does not make you No. 1. Tearing up Augusta National does.

\n \nMorfit: But Westwood finishes either second or third in every major now. That's gotta count for something.

\n \nShipnuck: It shows a nice level of consistency, sure. But also some missing killer instinct that separates the truly great from the mere cash machines.

\n \nHerre: I can't see Westwood as No. 1. The guy is probably at his peak, and he still can't get it done.

\n \nShipnuck: Exactly. Not a closer.

\nINTERNATIONAL FLAVOR, AND RYDER CUP PROSPECTS
Godich: The winner was from South Africa, three players from the U.K. finished in the top four, a 20-year-old from South Korea was contending on Saturday. The U.S. put two players in the top 10 (Sean O'Hair and Nick Watney, at seventh), but nobody really challenged. Is the world passing us by, or was it just one of those weeks?

\n \nMorfit: You could say it's one of those weeks, but the trend holds up if you go back to the '09 PGA (Yang), or any number of recent majors, really. The U.S. has a lot of good young players, by which I mean they're good at making money. Every time we see a guy who looks like a potential big-time American player (Anthony Kim, Hunter Mahan at the '08 Ryder Cup), there seems to be a setback that immediately follows. I'm not sure Mahan and Sean O'Hair are consistent enough putters, and for that matter neither are Lucas Glover or Nick Watney.

\n \nWalker: Don't read too much into the lack of red, white and blue on the leaderboard. As many players noted, the Euro Tour players had an advantage because they play St. Andrews every year at the Dunhill Links Championship. When Tiger was asked about this Saturday, he said, "We all know them as just players." Tour golfers live in their own country of private airports, courtesy cars and regular weeks off. It's located somewhere in Florida, with a few principalities in low-tax spots around the globe.

\n \nGorant: Just one of those weeks, playing a different type of golf in conditions that American players don't see a lot of. Only two in the top 10, yes, but seven in the top 20. And six of those seven are under 30.

\n \nHack: The U.S. won the last Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, Phil won the Masters, Furyk and Stricker have two PGA Tour wins apiece this year, and there are plenty of talented players behind them (O'Hair, Mahan, Watney, Fowler, Bubba).

\n \nDusek: Compared with the depth of talent coming up from Europe right now, the Americans simply don't seem as strong. Sure, Anthony Kim is on the injured list, but the Euros' future looks brighter with McIlroy, Rose, Casey, Poulter, Westwood, Donald, Quiros ...

\n \nVan Sickle: The world is passing America by because just about every country is playing golf now. We're outnumbered, and just wait until China, Russia and India start churning out elite golfers. I don't see one specific country dominating men's golf, but it's going to get more international every year.

\n \nShipnuck: As prohibitive favorites playing at home, the Euro Ryder Cup team is going to be more jittery. When the gritty Yanks retain the Cup, no one is going to worry about the state of American golf.

\n \nMorfit: Oh, a brave call!

\n \nDusek: I wish I shared your optimism.

\n \nHerre: We're going to get creamed in the Ryder Cup.

\n \nMEDIOCRE SHOWING BY WOODS AND MICKELSON
Godich: Tiger played the first three rounds without the putter he used to win 13 of his 14 majors. He looked a lot like Lee Westwood — rock solid from tee to green, but absolutely no magic on the greens. Phil was, well, Phil. I hear he walked down the first fairway on Thursday with 13 clubs in his bag, as officials checked to see if his putter was conforming. What do we make of the uninspiring play of the world's No. 1 and No. 2?

\n \nDusek: I was really surprised when I saw Tiger warming up on the putting green this morning. I literally did a double take. I may be the resident gear head, but isn't switching back to the old putter before the start of the final round something Sergio Garcia would do?

\n \nEvans: With the new Nike Method putter, Tiger was looking for something that had a similar feel to the old putter, but with a little hotter face. Psychologically, he wasn't committed to it, so he dropped it. It will be back once Tiger figures out that it wasn't the putter that caused those three-putts.

\n \nGarrity: My Tour Tempo co-author, John Novosel, timed a few of Tiger's swings this week, and he says that Woods, while swinging faster than he did in his prime, is back on tempo with his full swing. But Tiger's putting tempo was way off. That's actually good news for Tiger. It means he probably doesn't need to change technique (or putters). He just needs to work on his timing.

\n \nHerre: Could Tiger's problem on the greens really be that simple?

\nGarrity: Yes. Novosel argues that tempo is a fundamental, not a refinement to a grooved swing. If your tempo is out of whack, it's almost impossible to produce a consistent stroke. And when you're working on swing mechanics or changing equipment, tempo is the first thing to go. But it's the easiest thing to fix.

\nGodich: But the one thing Tiger always had going for him — that pure putting stroke — deserted him this week. He has to be one perplexed guy.

\n \nVan Sickle: We were all bent out of shape over Tiger's errant driving the last few years, and the driver is one of the least important clubs in his bag. The putter is THE most important one. If Tiger has putting problems, and he probably does if he's switching putters, that has bigger potential implications than his driving problems. If you don't putt, you don't win. Period.

\n \nShipnuck: It was a very, very hard week to putt, because of the wind, the huge undulations, the graininess of the greens, and the daily changes of the speed of the putting surfaces due to wind and rain. So I wouldn't read too much into Tiger's struggles. He'll make putts again someday, but never like he did as a fearless, carefree twentysomething.

\n \nHack: Tiger's switching putters mid-tournament was the ultimate indication that he is in the wilderness — 99 putts over the first 3 days? What's next, a move to the long wand?

\nHerre: Tiger with the broomhandle? That I would like to see.

\n \nRyan Reiterman, senior producer, Golf.com: It could always be worse. He could go side-saddle like K.J. Choi.

\n \nMorfit: Choi's croquet-style hit just looks so desperate.

\n \nHack: I can't believe Tank broke out the sidesaddle putter at the home of golf. In fact, I think that's cause for losing the nickname Tank.

\n \nVan Sickle: As for Phil, I don't think he loves links golf. He says all the right things when he's over here, but his game is the 64-degree wedge flop, and the links game is bump-and-run and pitches and keeping it low and altering the trajectory.

\n \nShipnuck: I doubt either is too torn up about their performances. Tiger and Phil were not going to shoot 17 under this week. The U.S. Open stumbles stung a lot more.

\nMorfit: I disagree there, Alan. I think Mickelson really believed he was playing well enough to contend, and he just didn't get it done. An official told me Phil was so frustrated after his blah opening round that he walked back to his digs for the week rather than accept a ride. As for Tiger, Damon called it a while back in one of these Confidentials: The guy isn't winning a tournament this year, for obvious reasons.

\n \nHerre: Tiger and Phil are 1 and 2 only according to the vagaries of the World Ranking.

\n \nGorant: They both seem a little lost right now. It'll be interesting to see which one of them can get it straightened out first. Next guy to win is No. 1.

\n \nMorfit: I like Phil's chances a lot more than Tiger's, especially because Phil did better than Tiger at the '04 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. (Phil tied for sixth at six under; Tiger tied for 24th at two under.)

\n \nHack: I agree that Phil should be favored over Tiger at Whistling Straits. Tiger hasn't made a big putt in a major since Torrey Pines in 2008. That's a lifetime ago.

\n \nShipnuck: In 2004, Phil arrived on the 72nd tee at the Straits just one stroke off the lead. He likes the course, unlike a lot of others.

\n \n \n \nRATING THE BROADCAST
Godich: Though we'd all agree that ESPN and ABC are one in the same, the British was the first major to be telecast on cable for all four rounds. When it was over, Paul Azinger said, "I hope the viewer wasn't bored to death by the blowout." Well, were you? How did ESPN do?

\n \nDusek: I didn't see one second of the ESPN coverage, but I did find the BBC coverage pretty good. The running joke I heard was, "How do you know you're watching the Open Championship on the BBC? Jim Nantz gets more air time than Tiger Woods."

\n \nMorfit: I thought it was sort of fun to watch Oosthuizen win because I like the guy. How can you not like a player who can't stop flashing that gap-toothed grin and reminding everyone that his friends call him an ogre? That said, the ratings will be, um, not good.

\n \nDusek: Darren Rovell, the sports business reporter for CNBC, sent me a message predicting the worst British Open ratings in 28 years. We'll see if he's right.

\n \nGorant: Major fail. Too many voices. North, Watson, Weiskopf, Strange, Azinger, Alliss, Rankin, blah, blah, blah. They spent so much time cutting back and forth to each other in different settings that they hardly showed any golf. I was watching this morning with my wife and at one point she said, "We've been watching this for 20 minutes, and I've only seen four guys hit a ball." And two of those four were Tiger or Phil. I know they're somewhat limited by the BBC feed, but it was way too much blather and pre-produced features with purple prose and not enough golf shots.

\n \nGodich: If broadcasters were counted like golf clubs, I think ESPN would have exceeded the 14-club limit.

\n \nEvans: Too much moralizing about St. Andrews and not enough golf. The roster was packed with major champions — Watson, Weiskopf, Strange, Zinger — but they weren't as sharp as guys who do TV golf on a regular basis. It's nice to see all the coverage, but ESPN could have taken a lesson from NBC or CBS on how a wonky golf telecast is better than one that has Peter Alliss trying to summon the spirit of Old Tom Morris.

\n \nReiterman: The HD broadcast was amazing; I've never seen a British Open look so good. ESPN had a lot of bells and whistles that were nice, especially the live ball tracker. But did anyone else find it annoying, and even a little embarrassing, that the announcers kept pronouncing Louis's name two or three different ways? It's a unique name, but by Sunday you'd think they would have figured it out.

\n \nHerre: The highlights for me were Rocco Mediate, who was a hoot; the cool graphic of the Loop, although by Sunday ESPN had worn it out; and listening to the always entertaining Paul Azinger, especially when he talked about longtime foil Nick Faldo on Friday. Having Watson on the weekend was also a plus, although I heard a lot of platitudes from him. My big criticism was the pitiful lack of reporting on the unknown winner. They had Oosthuizen on top of the leader board from Friday on, yet never delivered anything remotely fresh or interesting. I expected a big finish from Rick Reilly on Sunday, but even Rick, one of the best reporters I have ever worked with, went all Mandela on us. So many ESPN voices, so much blah-blah, so little new information. Definitely a missed opportunity.

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