Tour and News

PGA Tour Confidential: Jason Dufner beats Ernie Els in playoff at Zurich Classic

Photo: Kohjiro Kinno / SI

Jason Dufner won his first PGA Tour event in 164 career starts.

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.

DUFNER BEATS ERNIE ELS IN PLAYOFF
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Jason Dufner, likable journeyman, and Ernie Els, likable Hall of Famer, were in the playoff for the New Orleans title. Who were you rooting for and what does it say about you?

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: The Duff, all the way. I aspire to be that cool.

Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Interesting question. I was a little torn. It would have been nice to see Ernie get one after his struggles, but I also wanted to see Dufner break through. He's had his disappointments, but he can play. Guess I leaned toward Dufner.

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: Dufner. The first win is the toughest and the best. Nice to see someone break through and succeed.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: I was rooting for Dufner. He's on my rotisserie league team. Did I mention that I'm in what I believe is the world's longest-running golf pool (dating to 1986)? Plus, the guy is getting married next week. Talk about putting a damper on the nuptials if he had lost.

Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Ernie. Feel like he's running out of sunny days out there.

Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Els. Too likable to see him keep losing.

Bamberger: You couldn't go wrong, which was a nice problem to have. I love Dufner's style. Love it. But Ernie seems to playing for a higher cause -- the Autism Awareness movement -- and I think that got the nod for me.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: The real winner is always the game of golf. Or is it charity? I don't know. I just wanted one of them to hit the shot that won it, not that shot that lost it.

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

Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: I was pulling for The Waggle -- wish I could appear that cool under pressure. Dufner was close at the PGA last year, and it feels like this week could launch the final push to a breakthrough at a major in the next year or two.

Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: Ernie. Walked with him for the last six holes. I actually caught myself saying "yes" aloud and making a little fist pump after Ernie made par putt on 17 for par. I don't ever remember reacting like that -- we are trained to be so stoic! Dufner had just made a 43-foot bomb on 16, and Ernie had to have heard the roar behind him, and it was just as he was stepping in to putt. I thought the cheer may have rattled him. Obviously it didn't.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: I love Duff, but today I sided with Ernie, just because of the insanity he's endured with the putting, and because the majors will be more interesting if another Hall of Famer can get into the mix.

Van Sickle: I was suitably impressed with how well Ernie kept his putting stroke together most of the final round. He made some key putts. So did Dufner, who has gotten a little shaky with that club, too, although he wished a couple of clutch ones in. It's no fun to watch any pro struggle with the putter. Great to see Ernie making them again like he used to.

Godich: Even if he's making them with the type of putter he swore off a few years back.

Wei: It was a win-win scenario. Happy to see Dufner get that monkey off his back. He's a good dude. Everyone says he's a lot more interesting than he comes across on television, and he's very witty. Definitely came through in his presser Sunday. Asked where he was going for his honeymoon, he deadpanned, "The Players. TPC Sawgrass. You ever been there? It's got that island green..."

Lipsey: What a bummer for Ernie. Another putt to win, another miss. Ugh.

Godich: Kudos for his being able to laugh about it. He said he hit a bad putt, but it was better than the one he missed at the Transitions. No wonder the guy is so popular. Tiger could learn something there.

Wei: Els putted beautifully this week, otherwise. No 3-putts! Baby steps.

Lipsey: Els missed the only putt that really mattered, the one to win. That's hard to swallow. Hope he can keep at it, in spite of the misses.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Were you pulling for Dufner or Els in the playoff? Why?

IF YOU WERE A TOUR PLAYER, WOULD YOUR WIFE WORK?
Bamberger: Mark raises an interesting point about the impending nuptials for Mr. and Mrs. Duff. Let's say you're a married Tour player. Would you want your wife to have a career of her own -- teacher, lawyer, doctor, something where you have to be someplace everyday -- or would you prefer to have your wife traveling the Tour with you?

Gorant: I'd prefer that she be an LPGA star and I travel with her.

Godich: In this day and age, why couldn't she do both?

Bamberger: No, Mark, you have wimped out here. You're young. You play 29 events. What's it going to be?

Godich: OK, I'd want her to have her own career, so that we're guaranteed a check from week to week.

Hack: I'd want her to have her own career, interests and dreams. I imagine she would, too.

Bamberger: I agree, Damon, but it's actually very hard either way. Tough on a marriage to be apart that much, but it's probably even harder to always be in the "support" role, at least in this century. These lives are not as easy as they look on Sunday afternoons, watching TV.

Hack: Nah, in this scenario, I'm only playing 15 events a year. You know, after I win the Grand Slam I won't need to grind as much.

Wei: It gets real lonely out here. Twenty-nine events a year, going back to that hotel room and ordering room service alone gets old. Ninety-nine percent of players want their wives with them. I know a guy who broke up with his girlfriend because she wanted a part-time job of some sort.

Lipsey: If we had a family, stay home. Can't be fun dragging a family around the Tour.

Van Sickle: Everybody's different. Would be fun to have a wife along at some of the fun tour stops. The other ones, she finds out that a Marriott is a Marriott and a Macaroni Grill is a Macaroni Grill no matter where you go. There is a numbing sameness in dining options. I'd say go it alone during the week, have the wife come in for the weekend.

Morfit: I'd prefer she had her own thing but only until I bought my first Gulfstream.

Shipnuck: A flexible job, like, say, running a high-end lingerie boutique. Gives her an identity and a creative outlet, but she can also get away to nicer Tour stops.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: If you were a Tour player, would your wife work, or follow you from stop to stop?

TIGER TO HOLD PRESS CONFERENCE WITHOUT THE PRESS
Bamberger: Tiger's not having his traditional pre-tournament press conference at Quail Hollow, at least not with regular reporters. He's taking questions from fans and posting them on his website. His press conferences are so painful I can hardly blame him. On the other hand, it's kinda weird. What do you think of it? What is he really saying?

Morfit: It's fine by me. There's not much to talk about until he plays better.

Godich: If he thinks this is a way to connect with the fans, he's badly mistaken. Take those questions in a live setting. That would show me something.

Gorant: Think we can chalk this one up to Hank Haney. Hope he's making a lot off the book.

Wei: Kinda weird? It's awful. It's like he's waving his big middle finger to the media and showing them who's in charge. Tiger and his team fielding questions from social media? They can pick and choose which ones to answer.

Shipnuck: I think it's cool he's doing a Q&A with fans. But that doesn't mean he can't also do a pre-tournament thing with reporters. It's silly to think it has to be one or the other.

Lipsey: Amazing, years into the rehabilitation of his image, that TW keeps finding new ways to alienate others and do the wrong thing. How will the tournament sponsors feel when Woods doesn't do the pre-event media interview? Like their millions in sponsorship have been wasted. Gosh, TW, wake up!

Herre: As usual, Woods is only thinking of himself.

Morfit: There are actually only two generic pre-tournament Tiger transcripts, one in which he won his last start ("I've had some success") and one in which he hasn't ("just gotta get my reps"). ASAP merely plugs in the name of that week's title sponsor. I'm surprised you guys haven't caught on.

Van Sickle: I would've noticed if I'd had more reps, Cam. But I'm close, really close.

Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, Golf.com: I get why he's doing it, but I don't get the reasoning. His agent Mark Steinberg said they're a bit behind on social media, yet Tiger's got more than 2.1 million followers on Twitter, and he's done plenty of Q&As with his fans. It's not like he's just getting on board. And why can't he do both? His fan Q&A is on Monday, typically the pressers are on Tuesday or Wednesday. But I think we know why ...

Van Sickle: Tiger has figured out a way, he thinks, to circumvent the press. Plus, he gets to control which questions he answers. So unlike Steve Carlton, he'll at least talk to someone. Wouldn't be surprised to see Tiger try to be a little more candid, although he'll probably only use the puff questions, just to stick it to the writers. Tiger is weary from the spotlight and feeling the heat from the perceived criticism. He's really saying, "I've had enough."

Bamberger: Gary's last sentence speaks volumes.

Lipsey: Dude wants millions to buy houses, jets, yachts and the rest, but he's tired of it? His millions come from sponsors and purses inflated by TW's appearances, comments, etc. I'm shocked that Wells Fargo hasn't demanded Woods's presence and that PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem hasn't intervened at Wells Fargo's request. If I were the sponsor, I'd be fuming and not paying unless Woods talks. Legally, they can't make him, but Finchem needs to use his power as the commish.

Morfit: If he feels he's had enough, I can't blame him. Getting to be Master of the Universe (and reap every benefit) was payment for all the hassles of being him. He still has the hassles, but is no longer MOU and hasn't been for years. I wonder how much he has been able to recalibrate his life's balance.

Lipsey: Imagine if President Obama began doing this when he visits places. Woods commands the same interest in golf circles.

Van Sickle: Bill Clinton didn't run and hide when he started having issues; he outlasted the questioners. It helps to be president, though.

Hack: If Tiger can do this at a big tournament like Quail Hollow, he'll be playing this card quite a bit down the road, too.

Godich: What are the odds that he says he's "close"?

Van Sickle: What are the odds that he fields questions on the state of his learning center, how he's tweaked his Nike putter and something about the size of his Rolex? Even money. The next step is just giving his post-round quotes to his publicist, Glenn Greenspan, and having him distribute them to the media. Unless he's just won the tournament. Then he might come in to talk.

Hack: The shame of it all is that Tiger can be interesting when he wants to. I thought his anecdote at his pre-Masters presser about playing a practice round with Arnie and Jack was brilliant. Of course, Tiger was coming off a win, not a T40.

Gorant: Honestly, I think this goes away once we get some more distance from the Hank Haney book. Really the first appearance since that hit, outside the police state of Augusta National.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: What do you make of Tiger's decision to host this Q&A with fans instead of the media?

BRING THE U.S. WOMEN'S OPEN TO AUGUSTA NATIONAL?
Bamberger: While the Zurich was being played on CBS, the LPGA event in Mobile was being played on Golf Channel, and it was a great event: Stacy Lewis closed with a 69 to beat Lexi Thompson by a shot. I'm not going to ask you which you were watching. I will ask you this. The LPGA is looking to get something going, Lexi and Stacy are part of the solution. But what about this: a women's event, like the U.S. Open, at truly iconic courses. I'm stealing this from a friend and want to know what you think. How about a rotation for the U.S. Open that includes Cypress Point, Torrey Pines and THE AUGUSTA NATIONAL GOLF CLUB? Can you feel it folks? Can we get something started here?

Herre: A Women's Open at Cypress would be brilliant. The ladies will be playing the Open at Pinehurst in a couple of years.

Gorant: Definitely. They've started doing some of that -- the Old Course, Torrey Pines, Pinehurst No. 2 coming up -- and it lifts the whole enterprise. They should boycott Augusta though.

Shipnuck: The world is full of wonderful 6,500-yard courses that are way too short for the men but perfect for the best women. It starts with Cypress, but how about National, Somerset Hills...

Godich: Merion.

Van Sickle: Crystal Downs. Colonial. Whistling Straits.

Godich: Colonial is a shotmaker's course with a rich history. It is too short for the men, but would be perfect for the gals.

Morfit: Crystal Downs. Like it. Looks good on TV -- even crazier than Whistling Straits.

Van Sickle: Only problem with Crystal Downs is that there are no medium or large-sized cities in sight. Where are the fans going to come from? The answer -- they aren't.

Gorant: Probably Riviera, too.

Van Sickle: These all sound great, but when you get down to it, the only site that's really going to get people to watch a Women's Open who otherwise wouldn't is Augusta National. Women's golf is a niche in the game of golf, which is a niche sport. They're a niche of a niche. I'd love to see some sponsor drop big bucks on the tour to promote the game, the way Nabisco once did and Mazda once did. But it's just like women's college basketball -- you can't make fans go to the games unless they want to. Pat Summitt made fans want to go with her team at Tennessee.

Wei: Augusta National? That's the funniest thing I've heard in a while.

Herre: I can't get past the incongruity of having a Women's Open at ANGC. It would be wrong on multiple levels.

Godich: I guess you'd feel the same way about Pine Valley?

Morfit: I am very curious to see how the Women's Open at Pinehurst works out, the week after the men have theirs at Pinehurst. That's almost how tennis does majors, obviously. Maybe there's something to it.

Hack: Can you imagine Wimbledon without Martina and Chris and the Williams sisters? I can't. Would love to see Yani and Lexi duke it out at Amen Corner.

Bamberger: Now that's what I'm talking about, Damon. I'm saying right here and right now, the U.S. Women's Open should go to Augusta National once every four years, and the other three should be other iconic clubs. Had there been golf in the Olympics in '96, there would have been a women's competition at Augusta. Why not a U.S. Open in late May or early June? Weigh in, please!

Godich: It would be smart of the Lords of Augusta, deflecting some of the talk about the membership issues.

Van Sickle: I asked Ty Votaw a similar question years ago when he was LPGA commish and he said, yeah, he agreed, if only it was that easy. They've started doing it with the Women's British. I'd love to see Pebble, Cypress Point and Merion, for starters. Throw in Shinnecock Hills. Oakmont proved way too difficult for the ladies, so they moved the tees way, way up and ruined the mystique. How about Firestone and the Stadium Course? Don't think Augusta National will go along -- it'd just be another opportunity for the media to discuss the membership policies -- unless it resolves that issue to the public's satisfaction.

Shipnuck: There's a handshake deal to bring the Women's Open to Pebble. It's long past the time to get that on the schedule.

Van Sickle: Why wait for Pebble? Sign it up for Spyglass Hill to get the ball rolling. Same ritzy neighborhood.

Hack: Know how Billy Payne would become the Branch Rickey of golf? Hold an LPGA major at Augusta and make the winner the club's first female member. You talk about ratings.

Wei: I'm sure Billy Payne is very concerned about the LPGA's ratings!

Bamberger: He is, or should be. His goal is to grow the game.

Van Sickle: As long as we're talking about things of equal likelihood, What if the Moon catches on fire, falls from the sky and lands on Trump Tower?

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: What would you think of a U.S. Women's Open rotation that included iconic courses like Augusta National? Is Augusta a good choice? What courses would you select?

 

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