PGA Tour Confidential: Charlie Beljan wins at Disney after panic attack
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.
I WAS A TEENAGE 3-TIME EUROPEAN TOUR WINNER
Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, Golf.com: The golf season is winding down, but we've still got plenty to talk about after a wild week. Let's start on the other side of the world where there were two big headlines from Singapore. The first was Matteo Manassero becoming the first teenager to win three European Tour titles. The 19-year-old Italian broke out of a funk and beat a world-class field, which included Louis Oosthuizen, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson.
Unlike a lot of other young phenoms, Manassero does not have a powerful game (he only averages about 271 yards off the tee). Will that keep him from being a big-time player, or do you see Manassero as the next Luke Donald?
Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: Matteo is certainly at a disadvantage, but there is a rich history of successful short hitters in golf. One could do worse than being the next Luke Donald.
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I love watching the kid play. I think he'll do great things. Hitting it so short will put him at a disadvantage, but Mike Weir and Zach Johnson have won green jackets, so anything is possible.
Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: I'll bet on Manassero. Three wins at age 19 puts him miles ahead of any American player under age 25.
Charlie Hanger, executive editor, Golf.com: Exactly. He might not be a monster like Dustin Johnson, but he clearly hits it far enough to win a bunch of pro tournaments. With such early success, it seems like the sky's the limit.
Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: He'll never be a power player, but when I spoke with him at the U.S. Open, we talked a lot about how he'd gained distance in the off-season by strengthening his core and making a few swing changes. (He looked a lot stronger.) And as we know, he has an amazing short game. It's incredibly fun to watch him around the greens. Fantastic touch. (And FWIW, he's a great kid.)
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I don't think he'll be short forever. Bodies change in one's 20s. Equipment changes, too. He'll get more length. In the meantime, he's such a mature golfer at such a young age. And for his future? The kid should buy shades.
Herre: Hope he doesn't go chasing after a few extra yards-many a career has been disrupted by the search for distance.
Wei: I think he realizes not to do anything crazy. Sergio Garcia was paired together with Manassero several times and he said he hoped "Manny" wouldn't change his game and swing for extra distance. As we know, that can ruin careers and I'm a strong believer in playing your own game instead of the mob mentality.
Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: I am a believer in the youngster. Remember how for the longest time the rap on Donald was that he couldn't win? Well, Manassero already looks like he knows how to close the deal.
David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: The modern game is predicated on being able to crush the ball off the tee. Some courses will set up better for him than others, and he will win now and then, but Augusta and any U.S. Open venues won't be among them.
Shipnuck: Double D, Manassero is my early pick at petite Merion!
Dusek: He's all yours, I'll be pulling for Corey Pavin.
Herre: Good call, Alan. The kid is made for Merion.
Bamberger: Italians do so well there. Well, Eddie M. won a stylish am at Merion, anyway.
Does 19-year-old Matteo Manassero need more distance off the tee to compete in the biggest golf events? Join the conversation in the comments section below.
THE BEST YOUNG PLAYER TO CADDIE FOR (NON-RORY DIVISION)
Reiterman: If you had a chance to caddie for one hot-shot player under 25 not named Rory McIlroy, whose bag would you pick up: Matteo Manassero, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day, Branden Grace or Kyle Stanley?
Hanger: Fowler. He's always the center of attention and has lots of earning potential.
Herre: Don't know much about Grace, but the South Africans seem like a fun bunch.
Bamberger: Double M. How can you not love Continental golf? (Did I mention I'm in Barcelona?)
Reiterman: Nice! I highly recommend La Vinateria del Call, Sant Domènec del Call 9.
Walker: I think Fowler is going to have a very good PGA Tour career, but I'd go with Manassero. Lot of upside, and you know you'll be cashing some winner's checks.
Wei: I'm not picky, but I'd pass on Stanley. If I had to pick, I'd say Manassero.
Godich: I'm taking Rickie, for his potential as well as the, um, entertainment value. The one guy I'm not taking is Stanley. I don't think I'd be on the bag for long if he hit a rough stretch. Have to have that job security.
What young golf pro would you most like to caddie for? Join the conversation in the comments section below.
RORY MCILROY WINS EURO MONEY LIST WITHOUT EURO WIN
Reiterman: The other story out of Singapore was Rory McIlroy clinching the European money title with a third-place finish. McIlroy also won the PGA Tour money title to become the second player to win both. (Luke Donald did it last year.) The funny thing is, unlike Donald, McIlroy didn't win one title in Europe. Is that bad news for the European Tour?
Shipnuck: No, it's good news -- it proves the European Tour's globalization has been a success. It owns Asia, the Middle East, South Africa and points in between.
Bamberger: These days in our game, any time you can legitimately attach your enterprise to Rory McIlroy's young and curly mane, you're doing yourself favors.
Herre: All indications are that Rory will be playing a heavy U.S. schedule. He'll never abandon the Euro tour, but he'll do much better financially by maintaining a high profile on the PGA Tour.
Walker: We need to stop making a big deal out of winning both money titles. If Tiger had been a member of the European Tour, he would have accomplished this feat seven times.
Dusek: It doesn't mean bad news for the European Tour, but it clearly means that a player doesn't need to play exclusively in Europe, or avoid playing a global schedule, if he's interested in European money titles and other such accolades. Four majors, the World Golf Championships and a half-dozen other events are all you need.
Has the European Tour lost its mojo? Tell us in the comments section below.
CHARLIE BELJAN PANICS AT DISNEY, THEN WINS
Reiterman: Now to the drama at Disney. Charlie Beljan came into the week No. 139 on the money list. He shot a 64 on Friday to build a three-shot lead, but then he went straight to the hospital after his round. During his second round, he had trouble breathing and his blood pressure skyrocketed. After he checked out OK at the hospital, Beljan chalked it up to having a severe panic attack. He came out on the weekend, against doctor's orders, and won the tournament. Your thoughts on Beljan's wild win ...
Herre: I don't see how Beljan can survive on Tour with this disorder (apparently he has a history).
Bamberger: They say beware the sick golfer. But this is extreme. I'm guessing on some weird level he got out of his own way.
Hanger: What I can't get my head around is how he shot 64 while feeling like he was "going to die," with paramedics following him around the course. If he felt that bad Friday, how was he upright on Sunday?
Shipnuck: One of the performances of the year. Gotta love life in the nether regions of the money list -- a panic attack!! That's hard-core.
Reiterman: I'm actually surprised we don't see more of this. I know it's "just golf," but the pressure these players put on themselves is immense.
Bamberger: I totally agree with that, Ryan. It's astounding that there's not more full-blown psychosis out there. I'd like to see the medicine chests.
Shipnuck: Don't forget Robert Karlsson's breakdown this summer. I think this happens more than we know -- the W/D or missed cut is just chalked up to something more benign.
Bamberger: Please don't tell Garrity!
Dusek: It was incredible to see Charlie playing on Friday afternoon, sitting down between shots, visibly nervous and lumbering. I feel guilty for saying it because no one should risk his health for a job, but it was the most riveting and entertaining few hours on the PGA Tour in a long while.
Wei: OK, I have a lot to say all this drama. First of all, impressive win. As someone who suffers from panic attacks, I can speak to how scary and uncomfortable they are. You feel like the walls are closing in on you and you're suffocating, and worst of all, you feel completely out of control. However, once it passes, you're shaken up but otherwise, you're physically fine. (I wrote a column about it so people unfamiliar with these episodes could understand the incident better.)
Godich: Compelling, no doubt. When he staggered near one of those greenside ponds, I thought he was going to fall in.
Walker: I don't care what he did. To me, Beljan's the guy who called the president of the United States a 'D Bag' on Twitter. If he posted an apology, I never saw it.
Bamberger: He did? What a d-bag.
What did you think of Charlie Beljan's win at Disney? Join the conversation in the comments section below.
SO LONG, MONEY LIST
Reiterman: Because of the PGA Tour's 2013 schedule and exempt-status changes (full recap here), this was the last year for earnings to be a qualifier for a PGA Tour card. (It was also possibly the last event at Disney.) Will you miss the grueling, seesaw battle to make the top 125 on the money list?
Shipnuck: Of course -- it's the most Darwinian aspect of pros sports and the purest distillation of the exquisite torture of tournament golf.
Bamberger: I will. It was so Darwinian. It played out all year and always came down to one or two weeks. It was the real FedEx cup, but with a guy's livelihood on the line, not his philanthropy.
Herre: I will. This evening after the Disney I went right to the money list to see who dropped below the Mendoza Line today. The players who failed to make 125 are quite startling this year, starting with Gary Woodland.
Godich: But I believe Woodland is still exempt, based on his victory at the 2011 Transitions.
Herre: True, but Woodland was a hot item this time a year ago, a sure thing. Now he has a 12-month lease.
Godich: Also worth noting that Woodland is the guy who lost his swing coach (Randy Smith) before the 2012 season, after he dumped Smith's son as his agent. Wonder if Woodland regrets that move now.
Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: Woodland is fine for next year as per his victory in 2011. I spoke to him at McGladrey and he wasn't worried. He was injured for a big part of this year.
Reiterman: I will miss it, but I have to admit I'm looking forward to the four-tournament battle royal next season. Give the Tour credit for trying to spice things up.
Dusek: I guess that's one of the reasons why I won't miss Q school all that much. I don't watch golf for torture, I watch for fun, entertainment and excitement. In some ways the final PGA Tour event of the season and Q school can provide that, but in the back of my mind I know that every player out there battling for a card had numerous chances to avoid being in that position. They are fighting for a top 125 spot because they haven't played well and might not deserve to return.
Walker: There's something so pure about the money list. I will miss it.
Wei: The race for finishing in the top 125 on the money list was so refreshing. It's simple and everyone can understand it and do the math. I am already mourning the death of the current system. The Tour is becoming more and more like the NASCAR model. Yeah, 'Merica!
What do you think of the PGA Tour replacing the money list with FedEx Cup points to determine Tour status in 2013? Join the conversation in the comments section below.
Reiterman: Which brings me my next question ... Of the players Nos. 126 and above, what name jumped out and made you say, "Wow, I can't believe he's that far down on the money list!"
Herre: Lucas Glover, Camilo Villegas, Y.E. Yang, Hunter Haas and Angel Cabrera also caught my eye.
Dusek: I'd almost forgotten that Camilo Villegas still plays golf.
Godich: Villegas is the stunner. Remember when he was flying through the playoffs a few years back?
Bamberger: How about Retief Goosen? Swing looks great, he looks great. I know the putter's balky, but in your mind you think of the guy as still, if not elite, this close to it.
Wei: Camilo Villegas. He almost had to go back to 2nd stage of Q school, but now "only" has to endure finals since he finished No. 146.
Morfit: That is odd to see Villegas so far down the list. Of course he looks like a world-beater next to Anthony Kim. What a difference a few years can make.
Walker: Yang, for sure. After 2009, I thought he was going to have some good finishes every year and win from time to time.
Who are you most surprised to see finish outside the top 125? Join the conversation in the comments section below.
FOUR MORE YEARS OF A GOLFER IN THE WHITE HOUSE
Reiterman: Last Tuesday, a golfer was re-elected to the White House. (He also reportedly played on Saturday.) Is it good for the game when the commander in chief is also a golfer? And do you think Obama will speak up more about his love of the game in his second term?
Godich: It can't hurt. I'm guessing he'll put the clubs away for the most part. He can start booking whatever tee times he wants in 2017.
Bamberger: It has always been good for the game when there's a First Duffer in the big house. More significantly, it's good for us when a president spends time on the links. I find everything becomes clearer when I'm out playing golf. Really.
Godich: Really? Would you mention that to my wife?
Bamberger: "Dear Mrs. Godich: Mark needs to spend more time playing golf. He is one of my editors. I need him, as we used to say of Nixon, tanned, rested and ready. I believe golf will help. Unless he plays as he did at McCallum's event this year."
Godich: But, but, but ... What about the par I made getting up and down out of the fairway bunker at 18?
Bamberger: The shot that brings you back.
Herre: The president is freed up now, so I'd love to hear him explain why he likes the game. Obviously, it's great that he plays. Maybe he'll join Clinton at the Humana and, along with 43, reprise the three-president appearance at the Hope two decades ago.
Morfit: Why should he be ashamed to play? He may as well speak and lead how he likes at this point. No third term.
Wei: I completely agree with Bamberger -- always found it funny when the GOP criticized Obama for golfing. It's a stress reliever and the president needs a hobby to cope with the pressures of being the leader of the free world. As those of you who are on Twitter know, 98 percent of the PGA Tour is more concerned with tax hikes than the president helping grow the game.
Godich: And you're surprised by that?
Reiterman: I'd say it's more like 99.9 percent.
What do you think of President Obama's golf game? Join the conversation in the comments section below.
STACY LEWIS FIRST AMERICAN POY SINCE 1994
Reiterman: We often like to debate who's the best American on the LPGA Tour. Well, there's no debate right now. Stacy Lewis officially wrapped up the LPGA Tour Player of the Year race. She is the first American to win the award since Beth Daniel in 1994. Are you surprised it was Lewis who ended the drought? And are you surprised it took this long for an American to break through?
Godich: I'm not really surprised it took this long, and I'm even less surprised it was Lewis who broke through. With her injury history, I think she knows how fortunate she is even to be playing. She's a grinder, and she's not going away anytime soon.
Shipnuck: It is surprising that Paula or Michelle or a handful of other, more hyped Americans haven't put it together for one big year. But Lewis has no weaknesses in her game and is quite a fighter -- and a very appealing person -- so it's great for the LPGA that she has broken through.
Why has it taken so long for an American to win Player of the Year on the LPGA Tour? Join the conversation in the comments section below.