Tour and News

PGA Tour Confidential: Can Rory McIlroy capture the Tour Championship?

Photo: Stan Badz/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy has won three of his last four starts on the PGA Tour.

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.

RORY OR BUST?
Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, Golf.com: Let's get to this week's main event -- The Tour Championship. The first three playoff events have been awesome. Rory McIlroy has won two straight titles, and three of his last four events. But because of the revamped FedEx points system, he's not a lock to win the FedEx Cup. Will it be a letdown if McIlroy doesn't win the FedEx Cup this week?

Charlie Hanger, executive editor, Golf.com: I'm torn on this one. It does seem crazy that Rory's points are reset and he's got a relatively small lead after everything he's done in the playoffs. But that's also the thing that makes this the most like a real playoff. If the Patriots go 16-0 and lose their first playoff game, they're out. If the Yankees win the division by 20 games and lose in their first series, they're out. Your great season isn't complete until you win the last thing, and that's what this system is forcing Rory to do.

Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: Absolutely not. It's a playoff. Each event has to count, and the last event needs to be the most dynamic in terms of giving the 30 who made it this far a chance.

Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: It obviously isn't a playoff! As we've seen, you can miss an entire "playoff" event and still win the FedEx Cup. And can anyone read the scenarios? It's way too complicated. Match play at the Tour Championship would lend it more credence.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: It will be more weirdness for, all together now, A POINT SYSTEM THAT MAKES NO BLOODY SENSE.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: I've got no problem with it, and I bet Rory doesn't either. He's probably relishing the opportunity to complete the hat trick.

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: The playoffs have breathed some life into the Tour Championship, which had been a pretty dead event prior. I don't think it matters who wins.

David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: If Nick Watney wins the Tour Championship, at least he would have won two of the four playoff events to earn the Cup. But if Brandt Snedeker were to win the Tour Championship, he'd take the Cup with just one playoff win. I understand that he would've won the "right" tournament, but it would still seem pretty odd for his one win to trump Rory's two.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Do you like the FedEx Cup points system?

CUP PREDICTIONS
Reiterman: Let's hear your picks. Who wins the Tour Championship, and who wins the $10 million?

Bamberger: Rory, and he wins a lot more than $10 million. Which is nice.

Herre: I'm going to take Tiger to sweep. He's been in the picture throughout and is playing well. Plus, it'd be good for the U.S. Ryder Cup effort if he goes in with a big win.

Reiterman: I'll also take Tiger for the sweep.

Hanger: Of course none of us has any idea, but if we're ever going to get one right, this week the odds are in our favor with only 30 guys to choose from. I think Dufner wins the tourney and Tiger takes the Cup.

Godich: And if that happens, Bamberger will really be scratching his head. Rory loses the $10 million to a guy who didn't win a playoff event?

Wei: Wake me when it gets down to the last few holes on Sunday, but only if it's going to be a close call (which it usually is). It's just millionaires trying to pad their bank accounts with another $10 million plus. But I'll pick safe and say Rory and Rory.

Dusek: Phil Mickelson will win both.

Walker: I think Mickelson will take the $10 million, and he'll need every cent to rebuild the Padres.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Who will win the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup?

TEACHER AND STUDENT
Reiterman: In an article in the October issue of Golf Magazine, guest editor Johnny Miller says Tiger Woods's people once approached him about helping Woods with his short irons. But Miller says he turned down the offer because he didn't feel like he could give Woods his full attention. A lot of our readers cried foul on Miller. Do you believe Johnny? And if they ever did happen to work together, do you think Miller could really help Woods?

Herre: Early in his career, Woods did have an issue with distance control with his wedges (the problem cropped up again recently). And Miller was one of the best short-iron players ever. You have to take Johnny at his word. He's never been one to make false statements.

Godich: I don't know why Miller would have said it if it wasn't true. Could he have helped Tiger? Probably, but with the whole thing about Tiger's owning his own swing, Johnny would've eventually met the same fate as Tiger's other former swing coaches.

Hanger: I believe it's true. Would Johnny have been a good coach for Tiger? I'm sure Johnny thinks so, but I'm not sure those two egos could've coexisted peacefully.

Walker: The Johnny Miller Project starring Tiger Woods? I'd DVR that, but I'm not sure Miller could help. It seems now like Tiger's issue is confidence, not technique.

Wei: I like Johnny, but I can't see him and Tiger mixing well. I feel second-hand awkwardness just thinking about those two having a conversation.

Bamberger: I believe him, but I'm guessing he conflated it. Tiger's people? It would have been Earl or Butch, and more than likely they were just looking for an afternoon, not a long commitment. I think it looks ungracious, to bring it up now. It's vain. But it's typical of Johnny. He just says ... whatever. And I like him for that.

Godich: The only thing that would've made it better is if Johnny had said, "It's a process, and I just didn't have the time to watch Tiger hit a million balls ... or more."

Dusek: I would not be surprised if it were true, and I don't doubt that Miller could have helped Woods improve his iron play early in his career. Miller was one of the greatest iron players of all time, and that doesn't happen by accident. The real question is whether or not Miller could have "taught" Tiger (or anyone else) rather than simply explained and hoped that Woods could put into practice what Johnny knows.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Would you like to see Johnny Miller work with Tiger Woods?

Jiyai Shin
David Cannon/Getty Images
Jiyai Shin cruised to a nine-shot win Sunday at the Women's British Open

IF TIGER HAD 19 ...
Reiterman: Another article that caused a lot of chatter on the Internets this week was by Brandel Chamblee. He wrote that even if Tiger were to break Jack's record of 18 majors, Woods would still not be the greatest player of all time. Chamblee cites Jack's 19 second-place finishes in the majors, and his legendary competition as reasons why Woods will have a hard time surpassing the Golden Bear. You agree?

Godich: Ask the Atlanta Braves what it's like to finish second in the World Series. And haven't the Dallas Cowboys played in more Super Bowls than anybody? It's all about winning. Jack would be the first to tell you that.

Herre: I get Brandel's point, but disagree. To me it's simple: You win 19 majors, you're the best. Seconds, thirds, top 10s -- they don't matter.

Reiterman: Wouldn't the tie-breaker be most PGA Tour wins? Woods passed Nicklaus when he was 36. If he gets to 19 majors, it's hard to argue against Woods.

Hanger: The second-place finishes are impressive, I'll admit, but if you've won the most majors, you've accomplished the most, plain and simple. As for the competition, I get that Jack had the big-gun rivals in Palmer, Watson, Trevino and the rest. But I don't buy that the competition was stiffer in the old days. Tiger was blowing away the world at a time when the equipment made the game a lot easier for everyone. He was burying entire fields full of guys who could post crazy-low numbers. Tiger was so good that he never had a true rival - not even Hall of Famers like Mickelson and Els.

Walker: GOAT is always going to be subjective. Tiger proposed the major championships measuring stick a long time ago, and it's the best one I can think of. But Chamblee's right that the competition at the top during Jack's era was tougher than Tiger's era.

Godich: I don't know about that. Maybe Tiger was just that much better than everybody else. I don't remember Jack winning majors by the margins that Tiger has.

Bamberger: Jack played tougher men. I really believe that. I think the 19 seconds is proof of that. But Jack's PGAs and Masters were against fields much weaker than today's fields. Much. Jack's the greatest golfer of all time. Tiger's record, as of today, is as good as anybody's, Jack's or Snead's or Kathy Whitworth's or Mickey Wright's. But Jack embodies golfing greatness.

Dusek: If Tiger Woods finishes with 19 major championships, I think a compelling argument could still be made that Jack Nicklaus is the greatest player of all time because of those runner-up finishes in major championships, his Ryder Cup record, and the level of competition that he played against. Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Tom Watson ... those guys are legends and didn't exactly roll over for Jack.

Wei: Yawn. I am so tired of the nonstop comparing of Jack and Tiger, who has not finished his career yet. That said, I don't agree with Chamblee. The difference between first and second is massive. Who wants to be the bridesmaid 19 times?

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Will Tiger be the greatest of all time if he wins 19 majors?

BRITISH BLOWOUT
Reiterman: Jiyai Shin dominated the Women's British Open on Sunday with a nine-shot victory at Royal Liverpool. She won for the second straight week and was the only player to finish under par. How much of this was Shin playing great golf, and how much of it was players' being unable to handle a 36-hole finale in brutal conditions?

Godich: I think you answered your own question. Shin played great golf in brutal conditions. Impressive, to say the least, especially for a player who said she hadn't seen the back nine until she played it in the opening round.

Reiterman: Plus, since Shin and Creamer finished their playoff on Monday, they lost a day of practice. Obviously didn't seem to bother them too much. Shin won and Creamer finished third.

Herre: Terrible conditions. A lot of players couldn't handle them, but Shin was simply brilliant tee to green.

Bamberger: Nothing in golf shows how squarely you hit the ball like playing in the wind. Els showed that at Royal Lytham, and Shin showed it at Hoylake. I'm sure the other players are tipping their hats to her, if they still have them. Wind makes golf. When Rory wins in the wind, and he will, I'll be a true believer.

Wei: What Bamberger said. If you're puring the ball, the wind won't really affect it that much. If you're just a little off, it can really make a difference. So I think it's a testament to how much better Jiyai is playing than the rest of the pack. Good to see her back in the winner's circle two weeks in a row after a two-year "slump."

Hanger: Amazing couple of weeks for Shin. And she started it all by playing in a pro-am with Travelin' Joe.

Reiterman: Players were wearing earmuffs, gloves and scarves. Didn't look like too much fun. Shin should've worn earmuffs on 18. Probably would've been the first player to win a major with earmuffs.

Herre: Bet she really appreciated the shower, with bottled water, on the final green.

Bamberger: Had Greg Norman worn earmuffs, he would have won a half-dozen majors.

Herre: How many would Monty have won had he worn earmuffs?

Godich: Lee Westwood just bought a pair.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: What were your thoughts on Shin's performance?

MISSED OPPORTUNITY?
Reiterman: With the PGA Tour taking the week off, the spotlight was on the LPGA and the Women's British Open. But wind and rain delays, sparse galleries, excruciatingly slow play and a runaway victory by Jiyai Shin didn't exactly make for compelling television. Was the Women's British Open the best event to have on this key date in the LPGA schedule?

Herre: The Women's British is usually in July -- the men's British, senior British and women's British are held back-to-back-to-back. It was pushed back this year because of the Olympics.

Bamberger: Right, this year the Olympics interfered. Usually, the Women's British is in a good spot.

Godich: If the LPGA ever wanted to capitalize with an event in the States, this was the week. I doubt golf fans were rushing for the remote to check out the Sunday morning finish. The time difference has to be a killer.

Walker: I'm not sure it matters that this was a PGA Tour off-week. There is always going to be TV competition. It just feels like the biggest stars on the LPGA -- Yani Tseng, Paula Creamer, Lexi Thompson -- haven't been consistent enough to build any momentum for women's golf this season.

Hanger: I don't think any event would have made a lot of difference; the LPGA is never going to make a dent in college football and NFL ratings. That said, it is a rare week when they were about the only game in town for golf fans, and the morning timing isn't ideal for drawing a crowd, even when the weather's fine.

Dusek: The LPGA would be wise to stage a high-profile event anytime there is a dark week scheduled on the PGA Tour, but with a five-hour time difference between the U.K. and the East Coast, I wonder if this was the best one to hold. The R&A and the LPGA can't control weather or the chance of runaway winners; they need to control what they can, however, and do what's best for women's golf.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Should the LPGA Tour schedule a different tournament for the PGA Tour's off-week?

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