PGA Tour Confidential: Kevin Streelman wins Tampa, John Daly crashes out, more
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.
STREELMAN WINS IN TAMPA BY TWO SHOTS
Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: Greetings, golf fans. Kevin Streelman emerged from a pack of Sunday challengers and showed some grit while winning in Tampa. It was the first career title for the 34-year-old, and the win gets him into the Masters. Give us your thoughts on Streelman's victory, and his outlook for the rest of season.
John Garrity, contributing writer, Sports Illustrated: I really liked the way he won it. The par-3 13th and 17th holes had back-right pins surrounded by trouble, and most of the contenders either couldn't hit that shot or were afraid to try. (Justin Leonard missed both greens with pull hooks, showing the limits of his game.) Streelman showed real spine by hitting two gorgeous fades, and he birdied both holes. Man, that's how you're supposed to win. As for the rest of his season, I don't see how it changes anything. He'll just sleep better knowing that he finally broke through.
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Streelman came up big when it counted on the back nine and his 67 was better than you think. He won because he didn't make any bogeys. All four of those birdies counted. I don't know which was more clutch, stuffing the iron shot to a tucked pin at 13, making the putt at 17 or splitting the fairway at 18. We haven't seen him do this before. More, please.
Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: I like Streelman as a person. He's one of the nice guys on Tour. As for his game, he's surprisingly long off the tee for a modest-sized dude. He might do okay at Augusta National, depending on how quickly he can learn the greens.
Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: He'll remain what he's always been, a solid journeyman. Congrats to him though, great win.
Eamon Lynch, managing editor, Golf.com It's nice to see a guy win who isn't far removed from being, in his words, flat broke. But there's no aspect of Streelman's game that's so strong it portends a dominant stretch. What it means for his season is that he isn't fretting about keeping his card.
Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: Gutsy performance. It's nice when good things happen to good people.
Stephanie Wei, WeiUnderPar.com: Really happy for Streels. He's just an all-around solid guy who has a sneaky sense of humor (which you might not expect). He's worked really hard through the years and grinded his way from the mini tours all the way to the winner's circle on the PGA Tour. I wasn't sure how he'd react coming down the stretch while in contention, but he seemed pleasantly comfortable and embraced the moment . Love that he was a caddie at Whisper Rock after graduating from Duke and now he's a member!
Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: That was a nice win by Streelman on a tough track, but I don't think we're seeing the second coming of Jason Dufner.
BEST OF THE REST
Ritter: Boo Weekley fell two shots short with a Sunday 63, while a whopping 16 players were within five shots of the lead entering the final round, including veterans Jim Furyk and Justin Leonard; high-ranking pros Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia; relative unknowns Shawn Stefani and George Coetzee; and young bucks Ben Kohles, Harris English and Jordan Spieth. Each of these guys had moments in the spotlight on Sunday. Who impressed you the most?
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Boo. Boo will always be the answer to that question and any similar group, because he had endured far more than most to get to where he is.
Morfit: I think Harris English is going to win soon. The guy is a huge talent, and he's benefitted by having veteran Jimmy Johnson, Stricker's regular looper, on the bag.
Godich: I like what Spieth did. He's playing with next to no status (no pressure there), and his top 10 gets him into the field in Houston in two weeks. Plus, he was coming off a runner-up finish in Puerto Rico. Keep this up and he's going to play his way right onto the PGA Tour.
Van Sickle: Spieth is rock solid with the putter. He needed to win $101,295 and he made the putts he had to make to get it done. I'd say he is for real. That said, good ol' Boo Weekley is a shot in the arm for the tour. He's John Daly without the baggage. People love him. The media love him. He's good, clean fun, and the man can strike a golf ball. His 63 after four years out of the spotlight impressed me. Almost makes me want to start dippin' ... but nahhh.
Walker: Garcia's return to form. In 2010, he declined a spot on the Ryder Cup team, and now he's on his way back to being one of the world's best players.
Wei: That's a tough call! I'd say it's a tie between Boo and 19-year-old Spieth, who chipped in for birdie on 17 and earned enough money for special temporary membership on the PGA Tour. Boo put on a ball-striking clinic, even though we all know his weakness has never been in that department. I know he's been working hard on his putting -- in between his fishing -- and that was big on his way to a 63 on a super tough golf course. In between Phoenix and the Honda, his coach Scott Hamilton worked on getting the pop out of Boo's stroke by trying to make his stroke more fluid and accelerating through the hit.
Garrity: English has been on my radar for some time, and Coetzee appears to be another one of those formidable South Africans who keep washing ashore. But Spieth was the guy who caught my eye. The kid showed what he can do on a tough golf course.
Ritter: I loved the guts Spieth showed coming down the stretch, knowing that a top-13 would unlock exemptions for more PGA Tour events. He closed par-birdie-par to finish T7. Can't wait to see more of this guy.
Lynch: There were only two wholly impressive performances on Sunday: Streelman and Weekley. A win and a 63 on a tough course rise to that level. What was more noteworthy was the ravages of time showing among the veterans, particularly Furyk and Leonard. It seems that putters get cold on Sunday more often in your 40s.
JOHN DALY WRITES ANOTHER COUNTRY SONG
Ritter: John Daly crashed out of Tampa with a second-round 81 that included a 10 on the third hole. Will Daly ever be anything more than a traveling sideshow? Do you see a future for him on the Champions Tour?
Garrity: I don't understand how people continue be entertained by Daly, when it's clear that he's squandered his great talents and abused all those who have tried to help him. But I guess it's no different than jazz buffs, like myself, worshipping heroin addicts who can coax beautiful notes out of a horn. As for the Champions Tour, yeah, he'll be a star, might even win majors. The thing about John is, when he's healthy enough to contend, he'll win. That's because he never feels as much pressure inside the ropes as he feels just trying to get through a normal day.
Wei: As we've seen in the past, a large number happens even to the pros, but perhaps just more for John Daly. It's a shame that he's sort of a traveling sideshow because he has so much talent. Detractors say no one cares about him, but that's not true. He always has a massive gallery following him and living and dying by his every shot (hence, all the sponsor's exemptions). I actually do see a potential future for him on the Champions Tour. He still hits it relatively long. Three rounds and riding in a cart? Sounds about perfect for Daly!
Bamberger: If J.D. makes it to the Senior Tour it will be some kind of miracle.
Walker: Daly could have been the Babe Ruth of golf. He'll always be compelling the way Mike Tyson will always be compelling. And he's still the golfer most likely to get a face tattoo.
Van Sickle: The Daly planet is a Daly circus. I'm not going to rip him for the 10. He made a bad decision trying to play a shot out of the woods and once he made that mistake, he was trapped, pretty much like Kevin Na in his escapade. Long John could sure boost attendance and interest on the senior circuit. Whether he can beat those guys is another story. Mainly, though, he's got to make it to 50 first. A lot of us would've bet against that 10 years ago.
Gorant: The Champions Tour is all about the sideshow so he'll be perfect out there. He can deliver eyeballs, which are at a premium on the senior circuit, and they take things a lot less seriously, so that will suit him. He could be great for the Champions Tour.
Lynch: Let's leave aside why was he even in the field at Tampa, given that there are many more deserving of a spot. Having said that, he is the future of the Champions Tour. What would you rather watch? A 50-year-old Daly smacking long drives or Bernhard Langer grinding out wins? The senior circuit ought to be entertainment, and that's an element sorely lacking. It needs Daly.
Morfit: I think John is more than a traveling sideshow because he wants to win again and has the talent to do so if he can somehow put four rounds together. Yeah, we've been saying that a while--all the way back to before he won his last tournament at Torrey.
Godich: I am tired talking about John Daly. Real tired.
THE WORST HOLES OF OUR LIVES
Ritter: In honor of Daly, what's the highest score you've ever made on a hole? If it's not too painful, please provide the gory details.
Van Sickle: Playing Edgewood C.C. in Pittsburgh about eight years ago in high, gusty winds, I hit the second green in regulation -- no small feat. Two pretty good shots. The pin was all the way in the back on a narrow ledge and the wind was blowing toward the front of the green. It was going to be a three-putt, at best. I got my second putt past the hole so it would be on the flat part of the ledge. The next putt broke right and if I didn't make it, it was going downhill and downwind. Yup, I missed and I had 30 feet for my third putt. I repeated this process several times. Each time, I had a four- or five-footer that was do or die and each time, I missed. The other guys in the group said, "Ah, that's good, Gary," but I said, "No, I want to see how many it's going to take." I'm really trying on every putt. Punch line: I hit the green in regulation and nine-putted for an 11. As they say on TV, it was a challenging hole location.
Morfit: On strict orders from my therapist I've blocked out my brief but incredibly unsuccessful career in competitive golf.
Garrity: I honestly don't remember my highest number, but I don't think I've ever been in double figures as a grownup. I've usually been willing to chip out to the fairway or take an unplayable lie when necessary. I don't go "Tin Cup" on my sorry ass and take six swipes at my ball in the iceplant.
Godich: I made an 11 on a par-3 in the semifinals of a junior tournament at Stevens Park in Dallas back when I was about 10. I put my tee shot in a greenside bunker and couldn't get out. It was match play, but nobody thought to say I could concede the hole. I lost the match 1 up, on the 18th hole, and walked off that green in tears, convinced I would've won the match if I didn't need seven or eight swings to get out of that bunker.
Ritter: Early in a heated match during my junior year of high school, one of my opponents WD'd after getting stung on his hand by a bee. A few holes later, emboldened by having one less guy to beat, I plugged my second shot on a long par 5 into the face of a steep greenside bunker. Instead of taking a drop, I repeatedly tried to dig it out and ended up making an 11. On the bright side, thanks to that bee, I didn't finish last that day. High school golf was great.
Lynch: Anyone who can honestly answer this should be indicted for slow play. I pick up on terrible holes. Who the hell wants to see me grind over a 3-footer for a 15? Anyway, I'm like Nicklaus -- I erase all bad holes from memory.
Wei: I know in tournament play it's a 9 because it was so traumatizing. It happened at the 2004 NCAA Central Regionals in Nebraska. The weather was super crappy and there were thunderstorms and torrential downpours all week and we were definitely out there in unplayable conditions. I guess we also weren't so prepared for the weather, unfortunately. We were on a par 3 that really wasn't that difficult but it was raining super-hard and all my gear was soaked, especially my grips, and I didn't have waterproof ones. I dumped two in the water with what couldn't have been more than a 7-iron. It sucked because it was also my last competitive round in college, and to this day it still haunts me.
Bamberger: I made a 17. I don't remember much, but I do remember I three-putted.
Gorant: I made a seven on a par-4 once. It's too ghastly to relive. (Ha.)
PICK YOUR FAVORITE FLORIDA COURSE
Ritter: Tampa was the third stop on the four-week Florida Swing, and with its tall pines and tight fairways, the Copperhead Course provided a different look than its Sunshine State counterparts, PGA National, Doral and Bay Hill. Now it's time to spend your own money. Rank these four Florida tracks from the course you'd pay the most to play, down to the least.
Morfit: I like the look of the Copperhead Course. I was there doing some work before the tournament started and I swear the place could be in New England. So for that reason, I'll pick that first. I've played the other three, and with my game I have to rank them in order of playability, i.e., favoring the courses where it's least likely to run out of balls: Doral, Bay Hill, PGA National.
Wei: Rank: 1. Innisbrook -- love Innisbrook, which is by far the best track on the Florida swing; 2. PGA National; 3. Bay Hill; 4. Doral.
Bamberger: Bay Hill would be first, but only because of the Arnold connection. I wouldn't pay more than $50 to play any of them. I do like the muni in North Palm Beach.
Garrity: If I'm spending my own money I probably don't play, but this is hypothetical, right? I'd go with Bay Hill and Doral, one-two, because I've seen so many great tournaments on those layouts and I'm a sentimental hack. I haven't actually been to Innisbrook since the days of the JCPenney Classic, but I'm told that Copperhead is the best course of the four. PGA National doesn't interest me at all, possibly because I've hated that bogus "Bear Trap" branding from day one. Nicknames are only valid when they're coined by a player or a sportswriter, not by a p.r. firm.
Gorant: Golf-wise, it would be like pulling numbers out of a hat, but destination-wise I'll take Miami.
Walker: They're all out of my price range. I'll go 1. Doral, 2. Innisbrook, 3. Bay Hill and 4. PGA National. If I knew I'd see Arnie at the driving range, I'd make Bay Hill No. 1.
Van Sickle: I'd play the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook first, and the Island Course at Innisbrook second. Doral would be next. Then I'd skip PGA National and Bay Hill. I've already played them and frankly, I can't think of a reason to go back.
Lynch: Copperhead is a terrific layout and easily the best of the bunch. I've never played Doral, and nothing I've ever heard makes me feel as though I'm missing out. Bay Hill is fine but utterly unmemorable. PGA National is memorable, but so was the time my glasses fell into my school custard when I was 7. Doesn't mean it was fun.
Ritter: I'd shell it out for Bay Hill, for both the history and the off chance that I might bump into Arnie while I'm there. Innisbrook would be second, and I'd put Doral last because I've already played it, but I'm willing to revisit this after the Blue Monster gets Trumpified.
PLACE YOUR BET ON AUGUSTA
Ritter: It's time for another quick look ahead to Augusta. Vegas odds makers have made Tiger the favorite at 4-to-1. World No. 1 Rory McIlroy is 12-to-1. Is Tiger really three times more likely than McIlroy to win this green jacket? We'll get to the rest of the field in future weeks, but as we stand today, would you rather place a wager on Tiger, or on Rory with three times the payout?
Walker: I wouldn't want money on either one of them. The odds will always favor Tiger because so many people bet on him. Even during Tiger's slump, an odds maker told me that he'd be afraid to look up and see Tiger at 25-to-1. If McIlroy looks sharp in Houston, those odds will come down a little. Right now, 12-to-1 feels right for him.
Van Sickle: Yes, Tiger is three times more likely to win the green jacket. If you're still trying to fine-tune your ball and how it reacts to your putter and wedges, that's enough to keep you out of the winner's circle at Augusta. The trick on betting is to bet the winner and ignore the odds.
Gorant: Until I see Rory play again and get a sense of where he's at mentally and with his game I'd definitely go with TW.
Garrity: Vegas odds makers are smart, I guess, but they look like chumps when they anoint a guy as favorite because he won last week's tournament. Tiger had the putting round of his life to win at Doral -- do we really think that's going to be his norm going forward? I will say this: Tiger is three times more likely to win this Masters than he was a year ago, when his tempo and mechanics were so out of whack. But no, I'd place my bet on Rory.
Wei: That's almost a tough call. I want to say Rory because I bet the majority will go with Tiger, but right now it's hard to bet against Tiger. Only caution flag is that he wants to get that 15th major victory out of the way and the pressure/thought of it might make him push. I feel like that's what we've seen happen in the past few years.
Morfit: I'd rather wager on Tiger. It's very difficult to just show up at Augusta National and expect to play well if you haven't even put four good rounds together yet. Rory needs to schedule another tournament, and I'm pretty surprised he hasn't done so.
Ritter: He'll be fine eventually, but I'm still not sure Rory has completed his early-season "adjustment period." I'd place my bet on Tiger.
Bamberger: Rory, for sure. The point about gambling is to the big payoff and, in golf betting, Sunday fun. Betting Tiger like that is like buying U.S. bonds.
Godich: There's a simple reason why Tiger's odds are considerably shorter. I don't see why anybody would bet against Tiger at this point.
Lynch: Rory, even with the same odds.
STACY LEWIS'S STRANGE PENALTY
Ritter: Stacy Lewis was penalized two shots on Saturday night after TV video revealed that her caddie, Travis Wilson, hopped into a fairway bunker and used his foot to test the sand's firmness as Lewis contemplated her shot. Who takes most of the blame: the caddie, Lewis, or television, which tracked her every shot and provided indisputable evidence of the violation?
Garrity: I'm quick to blame TV when Slo-Mo catches violations that can't be seen by the naked eye in real time, but this isn't one of those cases. If Wilson flexed his knees and scrunched his foot, he tested the sand. Case closed.
Godich: A caddie isn't asked to do a lot, but he or she better know two things: the boss's tee time and the rules.
Van Sickle: The caddie for Stacy Lewis gets the blame. His mistake, his blame. He should know the rules better than that. Besides, the caddie shouldn't be setting foot in the bunker before his player hits the shot in the first place. Cardinal sin. That said, Stacy should keep Wilson around. That's one mistake he'll never make again.
Walker: The caddie took responsibility, as he should have. I don't have any problem with people calling in violations from television.
Lynch: Unless a TV cameraman was pulling extra duty as her caddy, the medium is blameless. It's all on the bagman.
THE NEW NO. 1
Ritter: Despite the penalty, Lewis still won the Founders Cup and ended Yani Tseng's 109-week stranglehold on the No. 1 ranking. Feels like we're at the start of a new era on the LPGA, doesn't it? Who, if anyone, do you see as Lewis's biggest challengers this season?
Godich: We haven't heard the last of Yani. She's in a bit of a slump, but she just hits it too far to be dismissed.
Wei: Lewis's performance on Sunday was very impressive, especially since she started from four strokes back and Ai Miyazato is no slouch. It was almost shocking to see her mess up and double the 16th. All credit to Lewis, though, who found a way to find the positive out of the unfortunate two-shot penalty on 16 in the third round. I think her biggest challenger will be Yani Tseng, who hasn't been playing well in the last year. Maybe the pressure of not being No. 1 will be a relief and we'll start seeing results again.
Walker: Na Yeon Choi looks like the most formidable challenger for Lewis. It won't be an American player. Lewis is the only American in the Top 10.
Van Sickle: Since there's no heir apparent on the horizon, I'll go with Yani Tseng as the most likely candidate to be the next No. 1 in women's golf. Lewis seems like she just keeps getting better and better. Yani was too dazzling to go away. Maybe it's a new era, maybe not. There's got to be a Lexi Thompson or Lydia Ko or some big-hitting teenager about to bust loose on this tour soon. No idea who that'll be, though.
Morfit: As Rory has proved this year, when you get to No. 1 the biggest challenge comes from no single competitor but all of the added demands and expectations that go with it. In this case, Lewis might benefit, albeit just a little, by the relative lack of attention the LPGA gets.
Garrity: This season? Don't know. I'm waiting for Lydia Ko to get her card.
Ritter: Lewis is a great for the Tour and a cool story. More than any adversary, I think her biggest challenge this season will be the new pressure that comes from being No. 1 -- and I think she's ready for it.
Lynch: Even if it is a new era, will anyone notice?