PGA Tour Confidential: Bradley captures Bridgestone after Furyk meltdown
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.
BRADLEY WINS, FURYK CRUMBLES
John Garrity, contributing writer, Sports Illustrated: "So," my wife asked me, "who lost?" Which was pretty astute of her, because in 2012 the victor is usually some guy talking on the phone behind the clubhouse or grabbing a Caesar salad with his agent. This week the role of Adam Scott was played by Jim Furyk, who looked invulnerable for 71 holes before making a sloppy double-bogey at the end, handing the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational to an excited Keegan Bradley. Or am I not giving Bradley enough credit for his clutch up and down for the win?
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Pat has it exactly right. Jim lost. He needs to dump the hat. Ghost of Hogan hates it.
Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Furyk said it best. When he didn't put his third shot on the green, he made Bradley's par putt a heck of a lot easier. Keegan did shoot a final-round 64, and he rolled in that birdie at 16 right on top of Furyk's, but we should have been going to a playoff.
Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: I think he needs to do a better job with the timing of his 5-Hour Energy doses. First the late U.S. Open meltdown, now this on the 72nd hole. Those are two tough beats, especially for a guy in his 40s.
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Keegan did what he had to do, but this tourney was Furyk's all the way, and it will be remembered for his collapse.
Godich: Here's my question: If Furyk doesn't earn an automatic Ryder Cup spot, does Davis Love III use a captain's pick on him? The experience is great, but Furyk's inability to close the deal has to be a concern.
Bamberger: He picks him. The team is trending young.
Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, Golf.com: No doubt. Picks are about filling holes on your team. Hard to see Furyk not being picked.
Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: Yeah, Furyk is a leader and a fierce competitor. I'd want him in the team room and even as a partner.
Garrity: Yes, and it's match play. You don't need 5-Hour Energy if you can close out your opponents in four.
Shipnuck: Furyk's career playoff record on Tour is 3-8, and his Ryder Cup record is awful. And for all the majors at which he's contended, he's snagged only one, on a weak course. His rep is vastly inflated, and it might be time to look elsewhere.
Bamberger: Alan kills it. I rescind my earlier endorsement. Why did you not become a lawyer?
Garrity: I take your point Alan, but then I look at your stat and think, Wow, Furyk's been in 11 playoffs? That's a Hall of Famer stat.
Shipnuck: It does speak to his consistency. But only prevailing three times speaks to something else.
David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: If you're Davis Love, you can't be super confident that Furyk will make the hole-winning putt when the U.S. really needs it. Two near-wins do not a captain's pick make.
Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Did Bradley win the Bridgestone, or did Furyk lose it?
BOMBS AWAY AT FIRESTONE
Garrity: Along with Furyk's fumbling finish I'll remember the way Firestone's South Course played for the first three rounds -- as firm and fast as a parking lot. Matt Kuchar, hardly a bomber, hit a 240-yard 6-iron, while strongmen like Bradley blasted 440-yard-plus drives. Did you find this to be entertaining? Or just silly?
Bamberger: It is the death of the game I grew up with. R.I.P.
Godich: And Furyk hit it 384 yards at 18 on Saturday. Sorry, but that's just plain silly.
Wei: Well, the 18th was playing downhill and downwind, so you have to factor that in.
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Remember, the holes go back and forth (and up and down) a lengthy slope. Guys have been hitting 400-yard drives at the 16th for years. Nothing new.
Shipnuck: As one of our great thinkers might say, it is what it is. You have to adapt to the course that is presented. It was fun to watch such a racetrack, and interesting to see who could or couldn't deal with a radically different course on Sunday.
Godich: At least the boys in the broadcast booths have stopped ooh-ing and aah-ing every time it's reported how far someone is hitting a nine-iron.
Dusek: On a course that has so many nearly straight holes, and in hot, humid conditions, this is what technology and the modern athlete can do. Silly? A little. Entertaining? Yes. A problem? Not necessarily, just different from what we're used to.
Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Did you find the big drives at Firestone entertaining, or silly?
LOOKING AHEAD TO KIAWAH
Garrity: It's always tempting to treat the tournament preceding a major as a portent. The Bridgestone gave us a still-struggling Phil Mickelson, a Tiger Woods who putted horribly for three rounds, a second-round 80 by Rickie Fowler, and a blah performance by British Open champ Ernie Els. On the other hand, major winners topped the leader board (Bradley, Furyk, McIlroy, Oosthuizen), pursued by a cast of 2012 all-stars (Rose, Dufner, Stricker, Kuchar, Haas). How does Akron inform your expectations for this week's PGA Championship at Kiawah Island?
Bamberger: Not at all, except I have a hunch that McIlroy will play well. That might kill his chances.
Shipnuck: It's important. Hard to imagine the likes of Rickie or Phil suddenly turning it around on an exacting course like the Ocean Course.
Van Sickle: I'm not sure it informs anything. Tiger is still kind of close, but maybe no closer. Phil is M.I.A. But we're going from hilly, tree-lined, narrow fairways and small greens to wide fairways, big greens and no trees. Too different to assume anything.
Godich: Seeing as how Tiger won his last event before each of the last three majors, I don't think you can read anything into it. But if I'm anywhere near the lead on the back nine on Sunday -- and I'm talking about five or six shots -- I'm going to keep grinding. One thing we've learned this year is that no lead is safe. The Ocean Course should only add to the drama.
Wei: Their performances are good indicators for how they're playing right now, so you have to think they're going into next week with confidence and in solid form. But like Gary said, it's a completely different golf course.
Garrity: I'm very curious to see how the Ocean Course plays a couple of decades after the War on the Shore. It looked like the hardest course in the world back then, but that was the zenith of Ryder Cup pressure. Guys couldn't hang onto their clubs, much less control their shots.
Godich: Good point, John. What will the winning score be. Even par? 10 under? I haven't a clue.
Van Sickle: I'm looking for low scores. Wide fairways, soft (watered in the heat) greens and not much wind. Target golf, American style. Bombs away. Birdie-fest.
Wei: Johnson Wagner said half-jokingly that the winning score could be over par. It'll also be interesting to see how the PGA sets it up. There's room to move every tee 100 yards up or back.
Bamberger: I think the paspalum greens will be a huge factor. The ball doesn't break on them. Guys will hole bombs.
Dusek: I think the courses are so different, as are the requirements for winning on them, that it's hard to predict much based on the performances in Akron.
Tell us what you think in the comments section below: How does Akron affect your expectations for Kiawah?
Garrity: These are the so-called "dog days" of summer, but it would take a hyperactive pooch to keep up with this week's surfeit of televised sports. NBC's Olympics coverage consumed most of the pixels at my house, but Tim Finchem & Friends served up not one, but two PGA Tour events, plus a Champions Tour tournament in the Twin Cities and a Web.com shootout in Omaha. So let's take an unscientific poll: Did your household watch the Olympics or the golf?
Godich: Golf, mainly because it was a big event with big names in the hunt.
Ritter: Jim Furyk has melted down twice this summer, but only twice in the history of the world has a sprinter run a sub-9.65-second 100-meter dash. Usain Bolt's gold is what I'll always remember about today.
Bamberger: We are fortunate in that we have two (yard sale) TVs. Both.
Garrity: I picture you with one foot in the living room and one foot in the den.
Wei: Golf, but only because I'm at the event. I tried to watch the Reno-Tahoe Open yesterday, but I only lasted five minutes before switching to the Olympics.
Shipnuck: Tons of Olympics, and just enough golf.
Dusek: Our house was full of cheers for the Olympians. Personally, I'm a huge lover of the Games and have been since making the trip to Lake Placid in 1980.
Tell us what you think in the comments section below: What did you watch Sunday: Olmypics or golf?
STABLEFORD VS. STROKE-PLAY
Garrity: Akron had the world-class field, but my heart was at the Renoe-Tahoe Open, won by J.J. Henry. That's because Reno-Tahoe adopted the modified Stableford scoring system championed by the late, lamented INTERNATIONAL tournament. Do you share my belief that a variety of scoring formats would inject some life and levity into run-of-the-mill Tour events? Or are you a stroke-play purist?
Bamberger: I would like to see combo platters. Five days, seven rounds, medal to qualify and seed for weekend match play.
Reiterman: Now that's something I would pay to see!
Godich: I like the variety. I only wish they wouldn't do it in a tournament opposite a WGC event.
Garrity: I'd like them to do it IN a WGC event. I'd also like to see one of those "reverse scrambles" where you have to play the worst shot instead of your best.
Shipnuck: I like the Stableford...once a year. Ditto match play. I would love to see a two-man team event (Byron Nelson's win at the Four-Ball is part of his 11 in a row) and also a mixed team thing with LPGA players. The Tour needs more variety, but in moderation.
Van Sickle: I'm OK with one, maybe two Stableford events. The Tour could stand some variety, especially at a conflicting smaller event like Reno. I wouldn't mind an alternate-shot two-man team event, either.
Dusek: Stableford and match play are welcome breaks from the monotony of stroke play. That said, I don't need them every week.
Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Would you like to see more events use Stableford scoring?
GOLFERS AMONG GREATEST ATHLETES?
Garrity: Getting back to the five-ring circus, some are calling Michael Phelps "the greatest athlete of all time" for his Olympics accomplishments. This infuriates the fans of Michael Jordan, Pele, Bo Jackson, Muhammad Ali, Dave DeBusschere or any decathlon champ you care to -- or are able to -- name. How about golfers? Should Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus or Bobby Jones be part of the conversation?
Bamberger: Tiger and Jack, yes. Swimming is a great sport and Phelps is off-the-charts, but it uses one basic skill set. Other sports require more and are harder to dominate.
Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: I think golf doesn't get enough credit for the athleticism required: body control, flexibility, balance, hand-eye coordination, even explosion. That said, I don't think top golfers match top players in some other sports in pure athleticism.
Shipnuck: Tiger and Jack have to be in the conversation. Tiger has a stronger case; for 12 years he dominated his sport like no other athlete ever has. Nicklaus's legacy is built on longevity and consistent excellence, but he never lorded over the competition like Tiger did.
Godich: That consistent excellence includes 18 runner-up finishes in majors. Not to mention the nine thirds and the 18 other top-fives. Hard to overlook that.
Shipnuck: Right. How about this: Jack is the greatest golfer of all time (bonus points for class and sportsmanship), but Tiger is the most dominant athlete ever.
Dusek: The whole idea of "greatest athlete" is a little silly. Tiger is a wonderful athlete, and Nicklaus was too. Swimmers are in amazing shape and Phelps dominated, but all athletes have to specialize their bodies to suit their demands. For pure athleticism, NBA basketball players are damn impressive, but I've always admired triathletes, cross country skiers and rowers above everyone else.
Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Should the greatest golfers be in the conversation with the greatest athletes ever?
COUNTDOWN TO RIO
Garrity: I'll end with a reminder that golf and the Olympics will be reunited in 2016, when the Games fly on down to Rio. Are you fired up about it? Or are you bummed because there will be no gold medals for long-drive or 4-foot-sidehill putts?
Bamberger: Golf represents everything the Olympics are supposed to be and are not. I wish it were an amateur competition. That would show them.
Godich: Or why not have a qualifying tournament? No free passes. Let's see who really wants to be there.
Wei: The past week has definitely gotten me pumped up for Rio, but I'm concerned about the format. Seventy-two-hole medal play? Snore. I'd like to see more of a team component.
Shipnuck: The format is uninspired, the qualifying criteria somewhat nonsensical, they'll probably be sodding the course the day of the Opening Ceremony, but I'm very excited. A global sport like golf is badly marginalized by its exclusion from the Olympics, and this will certainly grow the game.
Ritter: Impossible not to watch the London Games this week without getting pumped for Rio. Golf boasts some of the world's best sportsmen, greatest athletes and -- even if it's a stock 72-hole tournament -- the potential for creating Olympic-worthy drama and unforgettable moments. Regardless of the competitive format that's ultimately chosen, it will be great for golf to be included in the Games.
Wei: A team format would create way more drama. Think about the excitement and the intensity that the Ryder Cup creates. Add that to the buzz of the Olympics and it's a major win.
Van Sickle: The Olympics will be a pseudo tournament. Only 60 players in field, probably 30 of them outside the top 100 in the world rankings. Track and swimming have heats to thin the fields. That's what Olympic golf needs instead of a watered-down field to start with. This should've been a three- or four-person team event, not an individual event. But you never know. They might even get that course in Brazil built in time to play on it.
Godich: How about this for a team event: One man and one woman. Three teams per country. Two days of better ball, a day each of alternate-shot and scramble.
Dusek: I'm sure I will be excited when the time comes, but the Olympic events I have always enjoyed most are the sports for which the pinnacle is an Olympic medal. No one is standing on a practice green tonight dreaming of winning a gold medal in golf, but I bet some 10-year-olds are dreaming of being Michael Phelps.
Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Are you fired up to see Olympic golf in Rio?