PGA Tour Confidential: The Hyundai Tournament of Champions

Jonathan Byrd, final round, Kapalua 2011
Kohjiro Kinno/SI
Jonathan Byrd closed with a 67 and then beat Robert Garrigus on the second hole of sudden death.

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.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: The new Tour season is under way, and so is PGA Tour Confidential. A special welcome to an old friend, Brad Faxon, a superb player and a true student of the game. Brad will play the Tour's West Coast swing, and he turns 50 in August — a big year for him. Let's start with the incredible golf played at Kapalua. There was no Tiger (didn't qualify) or Phil (off skiing), but how could you miss them when you had Jonathan Byrd and Robert Garrigus, one of the most intriguing people in the game today, in a playoff, not to mention GMac going low and Camilo flipping divots?

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Funny how Byrd doesn't inspire us despite four wins before Maui. He was a great college player and is a promising pro. His career was interrupted by a hip injury, and then he lost his dad. He's got a lot of potential, but he's a soft-spoken guy who doesn't draw attention to himself. Definitely underrated.

David Dusek, deputy editor, And clearly you don't want to play Mr. Byrd in a playoff.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Garrigus is so high-strung that I had a feeling he'd miss a short one. Being a flat-liner like Byrd is a much better demeanor in sudden death.

A new season of Alan Shipnuck's mailbag begins this week! Send in your questions now!

Brad Faxon, eight-time PGA Tour winner: It's funny though, Alan, you wouldn't think two pars would win, would you?

Shipnuck: It wasn't the bogey on No. 1 that was fatal for Garrigus. It was not making birdie on 18. With his power advantage, he has to end the playoff then and there. Otherwise Byrd is sure to wear him down.

Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: Of all the guys that were in the hunt, Jonathan Byrd wins? Snore alert. Gotta give credit to Cam for calling it this morning. He also said Byrd would beat Garrigus. You should have put money down, Cam!

Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Byrd is refreshing. He's an old-fashioned player: no glove, flat Hogan-like swing, cool demeanor. And he's long enough to compete on most courses.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: For such a small guy, he can move it out there.

Faxon: Byrd is a really good player, a hard worker who studies his swing and uses Mike Bender, Zach's guy. He is strong and can hit it high and far. His cerebral nature has hurt him early in his career, but it's going to help him in the long run.

Dusek: There's no reason Jonathan Byrd, having won at the end of last season and to start this season, can't do in 2011 what Matt Kuchar did in 2010.

Shipnuck: This is Byrd's fifth career victory. I'm sure that number will surprise a lot of people. Wake me when Matt Kuchar wins 5 times. Or Camilo Villegas. Or Anthony Kim. Or Hunter Mahan. Or Bubba Watson. Or Bill Haas. Or...

Godich: You can add Charles Howell III to that list.

Tell us what you think: Was Byrd's win exciting, or were you searching for your remote control?

Bamberger: Poor Robert Garrigus! Brad, and everybody else, is missing a short one to lose at Kapalua less painful than in other places?

Van Sickle: Yes. You've already got a win, otherwise you wouldn't be there. Life is good.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: I think it'll be less painful to Garrigus because the guy's got an absolutely great attitude. He'll figure out a way to use it as a positive.

Faxon: Garrigus was smiling after missing that putt in the playoff, and people will remember that! As for missing the putt, yes it is painful, especially since he knew that winning there would have brought him back no matter what he did the rest of the year. I liked how Robert said this will just make him more confident.

Dusek: As Gary has pointed out, with such a small field this is "sort of a tournament," but if you are a pro you want to win. Period. Clearly Garrigus's game is in good form, and that should make him feel positive. But tonight, he should feel pissed.

Faxon: My feeling, even though there are only 30 or so players, is that the winning score wouldn't change much with a regular size field.

Morfit: Stricker said exactly the same thing yesterday.

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: Brad, you ever try a putter as short as Garrigus's?

Dusek: Willie Shoemaker didn't have a putter that short.

Bamberger: Kenny Green had one that was about 20 inches for a while.

Faxon: I remember Billy Andrade started with one close to that length, and then Ken Green used one like that, but you can barely feel the clubhead. I would love to know how heavy that thing is.

Herre: It has to be hard on the back.

Bamberger: How about Robert Garrigus' life story, addictions to alcohol and drugs, and talking so openly about it. If you're his manager, do you encourage him to be so honest and open? You can guess my answer.

Wei: Hell yeah, he should. Inspiring story. From what I've seen, he seems pretty candid in the press room. I've become a fan. Very likable and a good sense of humor. Oh, and his caddie's name is Shoestring!

Faxon: People love honesty. I think people will really grow to like him because he does so much for people. He will routinely pick up meals in the caddie trailer for the entire day.

Godich: The fact that he has picked himself up after the meltdown at Memphis last year says a lot.

Shipnuck: Worse than the triple bogey in Memphis was the way he sweated out his trousers, earning the nickname "Swamp Ass." It takes real character to overcome that!

Dusek: Half the PGA Tour could have that nickname.

Van Sickle: Everybody who tees it up in Memphis is eligible for that. The addiction story has already been told, and since he won Disney and got himself into a playoff in Maui, it's less of a story. You can overcome bad news by making better news. Winning solves a lot.

Evans: Garrigus isn't the first Tour player to struggle with drugs or alcohol addiction. I hope his manager is telling him to do whatever he needs to do to have peace with himself so he can play good golf. Doing that probably begins with his being open and honest about his past.

Bamberger: Amazing that his father was a medal-winning Olympic trap-shooter. Nothing will help you become a good golfer like exceptional hand-eye coordination. Our guest Brad is a superb ping-pong player, which, like trap-shooting, is another sport requiring great hand-eye.

Faxon: Michael, those in the know call it table tennis! Freddy Jacobsen schooled me last year. I bet lots of Tour players have great hand-eye coordination. To play at that level, you have to.

Bamberger: Table tennis? It's like traps and bunkers, Brad. I'm going with traps in recent years, honoring my muni roots.

Faxon: Love the word "trap" for golf. It just sounds right.

Shipnuck: Garrigus is my new favorite player on Tour. He's funny, charming, self-deprecating and truly appreciates how lucky he is to play golf for a living. It's impossible not to root for him.

Faxon: I agree with Alan here. Garrigus seems to be the same guy, win or lose, and he's friendly to everyone.

Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Garrigus was in the hunt at the AT&T National one year and was very open about his past. He really seems to enjoy each day of life, knowing where he's been.

Tell us what you think: Has Garrigus made you a fan? And you would ever try using a putter that short?

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