PGA Tour Confidential: Donald rallies at Disney, wins PGA Tour money title

Saturday November 5th, 2011
From one Donald to another: Luke Donald shot a 64 to earn his second PGA Tour win of the season.
John Raoux/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.

DONALD CAPS SEASON WITH A WIN
David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: Can anyone remember the last time the PGA Tour money title came down to the back nine on the last Sunday of the season? After Webb Simpson carded four straight birdies, Luke Donald answered with six in a row en route to a 64. His win Sunday, coupled with Simpson's tie for sixth, means the Englishman wins the PGA Tour money title in addition to the European tour's. How impressed are you with Donald for adding this week's event to his schedule so he'd have a chance to win the money title, and then actually doing it?

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: Donald is clearly 2011's player of the year. Very impressive way to wrap up the season. Now if he could only ...

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: I loved it. It was all the more special because the two contenders played together all four days. Kudos to the PGA Tour for pairing them for the first two days, and what are the odds that they'd shoot similar enough scores to be paired the last two days? It was a classic horse race.

Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Donald wrapped up player of the year. A studly thing to do, start to finish.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: It was easy to nit-pick Donald as No. 1, with his poor play at the Opens and only one previous win this year in the U.S. This awesome win now becomes the signature accomplishment of his reign -- so far.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: Luke always seemed like a not very happy guy. In retrospect, I guess that's because he knew what he was capable of achieving, and he wasn't achieving it. I'm happy for him and his team, especially his coach, Pat Goss, a good guy who's been in Luke's corner since he recruited him to Northwestern.

Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: As cool and impressive a performance as we've seen in a long time. Needing a win, he won, and that's something only Tiger Woods used to be able to do.

Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: Exactly. That's what I found most impressive. And, he started from a considerable number of strokes back before making a back-nine run. Sound familiar?

Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: Can't ask for much more from the final event of fall golf. Donald hit another gear on the back nine and proved he's No. 1 and the player of the year. Let the countdown to Augusta begin.

Charlie Hanger, executive editor, Golf.com: It's weird to say because of the pile of cash he won, but Donald's decision to play almost feels like a selfless act because it was such a boost for the Tour at the end of the season. Of course the run-of-the-mill NFL games today will still get more coverage, but good for Luke for showing up to make it interesting, and then delivering. Player of the year, and No. 1 in the world -- no doubt.

Godich: Don't forget Simpson. He got the ball rolling by playing last week, and saying it was with the intent of passing Donald in the money-title race. And then he delivered as well with a strong showing.

Mick Rouse, SI Golf+ Intern: I can't help but wonder how much bigger a story the chase for the money title would have been if Tiger and Phil were competing for it. It's a shame to think that a great sports story like this will go overlooked.

Gorant: Why is it a shame? The chase generated interest proportional to the popularity of the people involved. Tiger and Phil would have generated more interest because they've achieved a (whole) lot more over a long period of time. Plus, they have personas that have extended beyond the game.

Hanger: I think the question speaks to the difference between those guys and Luke and Webb. Tiger and Phil never would've shown up for these events just to win the money title.

Herre: Right. Woods and Mickelson won a sort of money title when they first turned pro.

Tell us what you think: Is Luke Donald your pick for player of the year?

WHO NEEDS A MAJOR THE MOST?
Dusek: Charl Schwartzel, Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke and Keegan Bradley are never going to be asked, "So, when are you going to win a major?" Which player most needs to win a major championship in 2012 in order to validate his place in the golf world: Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Steve Stricker or Dustin Johnson?

Godich: It has to be Donald. He is the clear No. 1 in the world, but ...

Gorant: Well, in terms of career achievements, Donald is the best player without a major, so I guess it's him. D.J. is probably the most talented of the crew and has had the best chances. Westwood and Stricker are both overachievers, in my book.

Ritter: Luke has to be first off that list; he's done everything else, and now it's time to deliver in a major. I'd rank Stricker second simply because, at 44, his time is quickly running out.

Herre: I would rank them in this order, neediest first: Donald, Johnson, Westwood, Stricker.

Godich: Why do you have Johnson so high? He's going to have many more shots than Westwood and Stricker.

Hanger: Not much argument at the top of the list, but I'd put Westwood at 2, Stricker at 3 and D.J. at 4. Johnson has a lot of years left, but time's running out on Stricker and Westwood.

Shipnuck: Westy, Luke, D.J., Stricks.

Wei: Westy, Luke, Stricker and then D.J. No rush for Johnson, and no doubt he'll win several majors if he can stop pulling "Dustin Johnsons."

Herre: Johnson is probably the most gifted of the bunch and is already viewed as a slacker by some. He needs to shake that rep, and there's only one way. A win by Donald would be all about validation. I no longer expect Westwood or Stricker to win a major.

Morfit: As much as I want Westwood to get it done, I think Jim is right. At some point, because of the sheer number of close calls and his advancing years, his crazy run of near-misses went from encouraging to deflating.

Shipnuck: I say Westy because he's older than Luke and his brief reign at No. 1 was much less impressive. His window is closing.

Tell us what you think: Who needs to win a major the most: Donald, Westwood, Johnson or Stricker?

 

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SERGIO WINS A HOME GAME
Dusek: Sergio Garcia, who is now 31, won the Castello Masters on Sunday by 11 strokes. It was Sergio's first win since Rickie Fowler was in diapers -- nearly three years! El Nino showed some signs of life here and there in 2011. As an emotional, momentum player, how important is this win for Sergio?

Herre: Big. His scores were sick. I could see Sergio getting that first major before the others we've mentioned. He was building for a performance like this all year.

Godich: Just like Fowler's recent win in Asia will do wonders for him, Sergio will benefit from this. He proved to himself that he still knows how to win. He'll get nothing but positive vibes from that. The way that he dominated will give him another boost.

Shipnuck: One of the biggest of his career. It wasn't long ago that Sergio seemed ready to walk away from the game. Maybe he can once again be one of golf's most talented, charismatic players.

Morfit: Well, 11 strokes is a statement win. It says Sergio's back, and it says that was not a great field.

Lipsey: Like him or not, Sergio's one of the very few players we really care about, so it's great to see him in the mix.

Gorant: Good win for him. I'm sure it encourages him to keep going and helps keep sponsors happy. He's nothing if not unpredictable, though, so I'll need to see what happens next.

Rouse: Sergio dominated on a course where he was club champion as a 12-year-old. I hope this win gets him back on track, but I'm just not sure. His game always seems so up and down.

Wei: Great to see Sergio dominate and win by 11, even if it was his home course -- they're the only greens he knows how to read! Regardless, he deserves props for shooting 27 under at a Euro tour event.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: This win might vault Sergio back onto my list of the best majorless players. He had played his way off it.

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

Tell us what you think: Is this win a sign that Sergio will become a factor again in 2012?

OUTSPOKEN OGILVY
Dusek: I think all of us who have talked with Geoff Ogilvy would agree that he's as sharp as they come. Last week, he criticized Fred Couples for his early announcement that Tiger Woods would be a captain's pick for the Presidents Cup. "You can't ever say that picking Tiger Woods is a bad selection, but the way he picked him ... " Ogilvy said. "I don't agree with the way he picked him, announcing it months early, basically telling the guys who are on the fringe of the U.S. team there's really only going to be one pick.... I'm not going to stand up and say Tiger is a horrible pick, but I'm going to say it's very disappointing that Keegan Bradley doesn't get to play." Was Ogilvy out of line or on the mark with his comments?

Herre: Not at all. I believe his remarks reflect the consensus view on Tour.

Shipnuck: He was late. The Tiger pick is old news. Let's talk about something current, like Yani.

Lipsey: No more than snippy locker-room chatter. These guys are jocks, remember.

Morfit: There is something rotten about Bradley not getting on that team after the year he had, and his W at the Grand Slam makes the injustice even more woefully obvious.

Godich: I have no problem with Ogilvy speaking out, and I agree that Couples could have made a better pick. But if Fred knew all along that he was going to pick Tiger, why keep it a secret and lead others on?

Hanger: Right. Ogilvy's remarks were a backhanded way of saying exactly what Ogilvy said he wasn't saying -- that it was a horrible pick. If Tiger was the wild card all along, Fred handled it the right way by making his intentions clear from the get-go.

Wei: I agreed with Ogilvy's comments 100 percent. It wasn't fair to the other players on the cusp of the points list to be told a month early that they were playing for one spot.

Hanger: But they were playing for one spot. It's one thing to think that shouldn't have been the case, but since it was, it seems to me like the fair thing for Couples to do. The players wanted to know what they had to do to make the team, right?

Tell us what you think: Was Ogilvy out of line or on the mark?

 

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YANI DOES IT AGAIN
Dusek: Yani Tseng won the LPGA Taiwan Championship on Sunday, giving her 10 victories on the year and $2,873,629 on the season. At just 22, does anyone doubt that she'll be at least as dominant in 2012? Who will emerge as her major rival?

Herre: If the LPGA is lucky, Yani will get some competition from Lexi Thompson.

Lipsey: The most impressive season we've seen in many years, male or female. Tseng has no rival, except Patty Berg's LPGA record of 15 majors.

Wei: Lexi Thompson is the only feasible rival for Yani.

Lipsey: Possible, but unlikely. Winners like Tseng tend to come one at a time.

Godich: Michelle Wie. All she has to do is get that degree so she can focus solely on golf. Or so I'm told.

Gorant: I agree with that, minus the sarcasm.

Shipnuck: Lexi has more power and just as much determination. All she needs is a little more seasoning. Yani is going to own 2012, but after that it could be an epic rivalry.

Van Sickle: I don't see Tseng's rival yet. She probably won't be an American.

Wei: I have no doubt Yani will be just as dominant in 2012, and for many more years to come -- in a Tiger-like way.

Tell us what you think: Will Yani dominate again in 2012? Who will emerge as her biggest rival?

RORY AND CHUBBY SPLIT
Dusek: Rory McIlroy has decided to part ways with his agent, Chubby Chandler. Is there anything to read into this move by the U.S. Open champion?

Shipnuck: This is like early-period Tiger, when he fired a bunch of people before getting the business side of his career in order. It shows a certain ruthlessness by Rory, which is probably necessary. Hopefully things will now settle down for him, because it's been a very bumpy ride since Congressional. Not coincidentally, he hasn't won during this transitional stage.

Herre: Chandler's dissing of the PGA Tour might have played a small part in all the defections, but it's more likely about his status as a "celebrity manager," as McIlroy put it, as well as Chubby's performance for his clients. Maybe they simply expected more.

Lipsey: It makes me think Chubby is definitely the most well-known agent in golf, because only such an agent would get headlines for being fired.

Rouse: Maybe Chubby's right and Wozniacki's cute persona is just a front for her true Yoko-ness.

Wei: I think Rory's BFF G-Mac had a lot to do with it. I've also sensed a bit of tension between Rory and Westy, even though Chubby claimed they were the best of friends. It might be telling that Rory has unfollowed Chubby and Westwood on Twitter! Handbags at dawn!

Hanger: It must be a real blow to Chubby and ISM. Losing the guy with arguably the most upside and marketing potential in the game is going to hurt bottom line.

Tell us what you think: Does Rory's split from Chubby mean anything for the rivaly between the PGA Tour and the European Tour?

MEMORABLE MOMENTS OF 2011
Dusek: Twenty years from now, when someone asks you about the 2011 season, what do you think will be the first things that pop into your mind?

Hanger: McIlroy's first major win.

Gorant: Got to be Rory at Congressional.

Herre: The first two majors. The way several players blew TW's doors off on the back nine at Augusta had a distinct the-king-is-dead feel to it, and McIlroy's win at the Open was the most overall impressive win of the year.

Shipnuck: I think 2011 will be remembered for the arrival of two transcendent talents, Rory and Lexi, and for the dominance of two players who should have fairly long runs at the top, Luke and Yani.

Lipsey: Tseng dominating, Woods being the captain's pick and the chatter about that pick.

Godich: I'll remember the quartet of remarkable majors: Schwartzel's four-birdie finish at Augusta; Rory's romp at Congressional; Clarke's tear-jerking surprise at the British; and Bradley's back-from-the-dead rally at the PGA in his first start in a major.

Ritter: Tiger's failure to end his winless streak. For a couple of hours on Sunday at the Masters, Woods charged and many of us thought, "Is he back? Is this it?" Then Woods stalled, and his comeback never materialized the rest of the season.

Morfit: I'll remember Rory at Congressional, and the fact that Donald, Simpson and Bill Haas each made more than $9 million between the PGA, the Euro tour and the FedEx Cup. That is baseball money.

Wei: Rory blowing it at the Masters and his rebound to dominate at the U.S. Open, which arguably triggered the start of the Wozzilroy era.

Van Sickle: The start of the Webb Simpson Era.

Tell us what you think: What will you remember most from 2011?

 

 

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