PGA Tour Confidential: FBR Open

Monday May 24th, 2010
Kenny Perry won his 13th PGA Tour title on Sunday.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Every week of the 2009 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.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Welcome back to Tour Confidential, where no good deed goes unridiculed.

While watching the finish of the FBR Open, I think I noticed two signs of the current recession. Charley Hoffman was wearing a logo on his shirt from Waste Management. I think you can make up your own joke here. And James Nitties, despite being in one of the final groups, was wearing a plain, black cap with no logo. That never used to happen on the PGA Tour. If some logo-less rookie played his way onto TV on the weekend, he always scored a quick hat or bag deal.

Let's just hope the big money on the PGA Tour isn't going to go away before my son, Mike Van Sickle, gets there. By the way, he's joining this conclave this week. Mike is a senior at Marquette University and is ranked No. 4 in one of the world amateur rankings and got some nice pub in a recent article in Golf World. I get a big piece of your first endorsement deal, right, Mike?

Kenny Perry managed to hole a putt from off the fringe on the third playoff hole to beat Hoffman. I'm glad it went in, or the playoff might have lasted longer than the Super Bowl.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: The FBR playoff reminded me of that playoff where Frank Lickliter hooked his ball off the planet, followed immediately by Phil Mickelson slicing his ball into the same forested galaxy. Match play can be an ugly, ugly thing if each guy is infected by the other's lousy shots.

Van Sickle: Of all the exciting holes on the back nine in Scottsdale — that reachable island par-5 15th, the loud 16th, the drivable 17th — and they have the playoff on 18, kind of a scary hole, and then over to 10, a real nothing hole. A three-hole playoff at 15, 16 and 17 would be a great way to decide this thing.

Morfit: I followed Nitties and was very impressed. He drove it great, which was absolutely the key this week. He only seemed to start to feel the nerves on 16, which is understandable. He's a cool new addition to the Tour.

Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Nitties? Big scary fade. I don't know what you're seeing, Cam.

Morfit: There was some other guy who played a fade, forgot his name ... Oh, yeah, Jack Nicklaus.

Evans: OK, I'll give you that but I think some of you guys see a player have a good week and you think he's the next Tiger Woods.

Morfit: No, I wouldn't say Nitties is the next Tiger Woods. He used to have a funky, home-cooked move that was Jim Furyk-esque, but has been getting the loop-de-do's out of his swing since submitting to an actual instructor in '03.

James Herre, editor, Sports Illustrated Golf Plus: Scott Piercy looks like a player, too. I love his rhythm — even when he's walking.

Van Sickle: He must be a player. Remember, he won the $2 million first prize in that Ultimate Game gimmick tournament two years ago. That was no fluke.

Morfit: Hoffman took a lot of abuse this week for his green shoes and glove. Hoffman on the fans on 17: "They say I have a mullet. That's OK."

Herre: Yeah, Cam. Hoffman's getup reminded me of Ken Green.

Morfit: Here's a bold prediction from your third-place finisher Kevin Na, who prior to this week had finished T2 (2005) and T4 ('08) here: "I'm going to win here someday. Next year. I'm going to win here multiple times when my career is over, that's for sure. You know, I'm just falling a little short every time. One of these days I'll pull through, and when I do, I'll have a multiple-winning season."

Van Sickle: That's big talk from Na, a guy who made a splash early in his career, then disappeared for a while. Every golfer should have his confident attitude. Telling everyone about it may or may not be advisable.

Evans: Na is only saying what a professional should say. Is he supposed to say, "I want to have Chris DiMarco's career and win a ton of money and win twice and outfit my mansion with 15 flat screen TVs?"

Morfit: Na's still one of the Tour's turtles, but what's interesting is the play is so slow in general, he sticks out less. I nearly got sunstroke waiting for him to decide what to do with his near-impossible second shot on No. 1 (from a bush, in the native area, against a retaining wall). After he'd made his escape, I saw the group ahead of his was still standing on the second tee. Glacial is the new normal out here. Steve Flesch, a member of the Tour's Player Advisory Council, tells me it's his number one pet peeve and it's not getting any better. His explanation is the guys who are supposed to be calling infractions are too worried about maintaining their friendships with the players.

Van Sickle: It's been interesting watching old warhorse Kenny Perry battle some of the young guns in Phoenix, guys like Charley Hoffman, James Nitties, Kevin Na and Scott Piercy. Let's look across the Atlantic.

The American media has been so busy anointing young guns Anthony Kim and Camilo Villegas as the next big things, not without reason, they forgot about another potential star player: Rory McIlroy, who won the Dubai Desert Classic. I believe he's only 19. I wrote about him a couple of years ago at the British Open at Royal Liverpool. He was clearly a phenom then, and now he's living up to it. I just read a wire report that said Rory is going to jump into the top 20 in the world rankings, which is hard to believe.

I hope he likes Monty. He may make a run at next year's Ryder Cup team.

David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: I'd be curious to learn what Mike thinks about Rory McIlroy's win today in Dubai. Back at Carnoustie in 2007 he was an amateur phenom, but now he is one of the better European players out there ... and he's still only 19!

Mike Van Sickle: It's hard to really imagine winning a Tour event at the age of 19. You hear about so many solid players that can't even make it onto the tours until their late 20s or even 30s, but Rory is winning events at 19? Not only is that impressive, but at 22 I'm starting to feel old.

Evans: I think a very good player can get it up every now and then to win a tour event; a great player is a consistent winner. McIlroy may just be the flavor of the week.

Van Sickle: How come McIlroy's kid has already won a tour event at 19 and my kid is still in college taking dance movement classes?

Mike Van Sickle: It's actually Disciplines of Movement. We practiced our leaping in the last class. It's a lot of fun. How much do professional dancers make?

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Modern Dance, Mike, would be an excellent and different thing to list under "Hobbies" in the Tour media guide.

Van Sickle: I don't know. "Dancing With the Stars" might be pretty lucrative if you could get on there.

Meantime, McIlroy may make a run at the next Ryder Cup team, so I hope he likes Colin Montgomerie. Any thoughts on whether Monty is going to be a good Ryder Cup captain? Can he handle the relentless media questions without blowing up, or does that even matter?

Herre: I think Monty will be terrific. Come Ryder Cup time, he's the ultimate team player.

Evans: Monty is a headcase who cherishes the Ryder Cup, but if he can manage to not make it about him, he has a good chance of being a good leader.

Dick Friedman, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Have any past European teammates cited Monty as a mentor/tutor during the competitions?

Bamberger: Paddy Harrington loved playing with Monty and lobbied Nick Faldo to pick him last year, despite his dismal play. But Monty might have a hard time as Ryder Cup captain. The thing he liked about Ryder Cup play was it was a rare chance for him to be "one of the guys." But when you're the boss, and you're Monty, that's not that easy.

Van Sickle: Maybe being Ryder Cup captain in Wales won't be as tough for Monty as we think. There won't be many American golf writers there to cover it, based upon the number of newspapers that have given up the golf beat or furloughed their golf writers. The European journalists can be a tough lot but they all get behind the Ryder Cup team. They may not give Monty as tough a time as we think.

Herre: Of course the Euro writers will be cheerleaders. It's so weird listening to them cheer in the press tent — something that's simply not done in the U.S.

Dusek: Maybe it's just me, but I wonder if Faldo had led Europe to victory, might the powers-that-be have picked his lone assistant, Jose Maria Olazabal, to captain in 2010? The Monty pick is logical, but it also signals that the European Team is playing its trump card. This is the best captain they could hope to have. The Welsh crowds will be whipped into a frenzy and it's a chance for Monty to save the day. It would have been nice to save him for Gleneagles in 2014, but maybe they are desperate or feeling pressure?

Morfit: It's a stretch to imagine the Euros are desperate after one loss.

Dusek: I know, desperate is probably the wrong word. Maybe Monty made it clear that he didn't want to wait for Gleneagles, or they didn't want to use him at Medinah.

Morfit: Whatever the case, I'm sure there will be plenty of feuding in the tabloids about who was wronged (Ollie), who has hurt feelings, who is incompetent (I loved "Captain Cock-Up!") and if that fails they'll just make something up. Until next time.

Van Sickle: Speaking of Monty, would you have voted for him to be in the World Golf Hall of Fame this year? On the official international ballot, you could vote for three. It included Jumbo Ozaki, Sandy Lyle, Olazabal, Peter Alliss, Ian Woosnam, Graham Marsh and Norman von Nida, among others. Should a player be in the Hall if he never won a major, or is that overrated?

John Garrity, Senior Writer, Sports Illustrated: I'm a Hall of Fame voter, and I vote for Monty every year. He owned the European Tour for a decade, and he was Mr. Ryder Cup in several Euro triumphs. And I've argued since '91 that if the Ryder Cup is the most pressurized event in golf, then we ought to give Ryder Cup heroes the same status we accord to the winners of major championships.

Evans: I don't think Payne Stewart — three majors and 12 wins — should be in the Hall of Fame. So you know what I think about a guy who never won a major or even an event in the States.

Garrity: I hear you, Farrell, but it's called the Hall of FAME, not the Hall of Guys with the Longest Careers. (If I were running baseball's Hall, I'd smash half the busts and put up a statue of Mark "The Bird" Fidrych.) Yeah, all of the majors that Monty almost won slipped out of his grasp, but he's an icon of the game. He's in my Hall.

Morfit: If Isao Aoki is in the Hall of Fame, I gotta believe Monty's lookin' pretty good.

Van Sickle: Monty gets in the Hall of Fame. He was too dominant in Europe for too long — eight Order of Merits. A winning turn as Ryder Cup captain wouldn't hurt his cause, either. I think that's what pushed Ben Crenshaw over the top and into the Hall.

Friedman: Crenshaw also won the Masters — twice.

Herre: Monty's a lock for the Hall of Fame. As is Ollie.

Mike Van Sickle: Which is more likely and why — Monty getting in the Hall of Fame or Kenny Perry getting to 20 victories, his stated goal?

Van Sickle: Monty gets in the Hall of Fame before Kenny gets to 20.

Evans: What happens to the 2009 season if the best player is Perry, 48, who is weary of the media and a lot of attention? How bad does the Tour need the young guys to be the stars?

Van Sickle: It doesn't matter what the age is. If Kenny Perry wins enough to be a star, he'll be a good story. The Tour needs somebody, anybody, to step forward and separate himself from the pack. Just as Harrington did last year, and Villegas and Kim. I'm very OK with a 48-year-old kicking butt. I think a lot of people would be.

Evans: Vans, no one in Ponte Vedra wants to market a 48-year-older from Kentucky. Good golf is not enough in this environment. This is entertainment!

Van Sickle: Kenny's got the golf course he built, he's got the down-home accent, he's got the hometown Ryder Cup hero role, he's got his drag-racing cars. Ponte Vedra doesn't have to market him if he wins three times this year. He'll market himself. He's got a handful of courses he plays well at — Colonial, Milwaukee, Memorial and some others. If a 48-year-old wins a bunch of times, he'll become a serious Cinderella story and that's good enough. He might get elected president of AARP.

Evans: Vans, how can a player with 13 wins be a Cinderella story? I think with Perry we are asking for the malaise that beset the Tour for most of the 1980s. The Larry Nelson-Calvin Peete-Curtis Strange-Tom Kite Tour.

Morfit: You can smell the Tour's desperation for Kim and Villegas to do well, and they both missed the cut this week, along with Phil and J.B. Holmes. It was almost like all the big names were sent home early.

Dusek: Mickelson missed the cut this week after Dave Pelz looked me in the eye and said Phil's hitting the ball great.

Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: The whole "young guns" thing is starting to feel an awful lot like the "Big Five." Another desperate attempt to prepackage excitement that fizzled.

Van Sickle: Gorant nailed it. Five minutes after Tiger is back, the young popguns will be yesterday's news.

Herre: Anybody have a take on the Ginn pullout from golf? I was surprised by the shrill response by the PGA and LPGA tours. Makes me wonder about the nature of the relationship between Ginn and the tours.

Friedman: I wonder if this is at least partly a warning shot to other sponsors who are contemplating bailing out.

Evans: Ginn did what it had to do. The Tour isn't entitled to a company's money. However I hope that the tour makes nice with Ginn and not alienate other potential sponsorship partners. People break contracts all the time.

Van Sickle: The Ginn incident should be sobering for the tour and the players. The tour has been talking a big game, don't worry, we've got all these contracts in place through 2010. When economic disaster hits and the companies don't have the money or go out of business or file for bankruptcy (the names Chrysler, Buick, Wachovia come to mind), a contract isn't worth the paper it's written on. Ginn just proved that.

Gorant: That's yet to be seen. The Tour is suing Ginn.

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