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PGA Tour Confidential: Masters Week

Anthony Kim, Houston Open
Hunter Martin/Getty Images
Anthony Kim won his third PGA Tour title on Sunday.

Dusek: Vaughn Taylor was very close to making his trip back home to Augusta a business trip, but Anthony Kim was able to beat him in a playoff to win the Shell Houston Open. Is there anything to take away from Kim's win other than he picked a good week to re-discover his putting stroke?

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: These are the kinds of events Kim needs to win to get his career where he wants to go. If he were to win the Masters, of course we'd say Houston proved to be the big stepping stone. The fact is, he had to par the 18th to win and he didn't get it done. He did get it done in a playoff, and that still counts. The first step toward being a star is winning. Kim won. It's a good sign for him and a good sign for the tour.

Godich: Sure, he botched the 18th, but he had some huge up-and-downs over the final 18 holes. Give him credit for that. Most of these tournaments are turning into short-game competitions. Kim was brilliant around the greens. Plain and simple, he was the best putter in the field this week.

Lipsey: There are only three players in the last several years who've had sustained excellence — Tiger, Phil, Vijay. The rest have had flashes of brilliance, but no more.

John Garrity, Contributing Writer, Sports Illustrated: But that's what's so good about Kim's win. This wasn't a flash of brilliance. This was mediocrity mixed with out-of-this-world scrambling. It's Tigeresque when you can say you won with your B or C game.

Lipsey: The guy beat Vaughn Taylor in a playoff at a ho-hum Houston Open after bogeying 18 on Sunday. Tigeresque?

Shipnuck: Put it this way: how many guys can win when they're hitting it sideways. It's a very, very short list.

Godich: Lest we forget, Tiger bogeyed 17 and 18 after holing that ridiculous chip at the Masters. So maybe it was Tigeresque. And playing with a bum thumb makes it all the more impressive, especially when you consider how good his short game was.

Shipnuck: Kim had some of the best up-and-downs I've ever seen.

Hack: Seems to me that Anthony Kim will be as good as Anthony Kim wants to be. How good that is, only he knows. Right now, he's in the Dustin Johnson, Hunter Mahan class, which isn't a bad place to be.

Dusek: One of the interesting things that I heard discussed during the TV broadcast was that Brad Faxon gave A.K. a few putting tips on the practice green at Redstone. Nothing radical, but seems like it helped. I'm surprised more guys don't seek him out regularly for putting help.

Shipnuck: A couple weeks ago I spent a day with A.K. and was impressed by how much he's grown up. He doesn't deny he was living in the fast lane, but he's surrounded himself with old friends who are solid guys who want to see him succeed. Now that he's figured out life away from the course, I think the wins will follow.

Van Sickle: I think Houston is continuing to build on its growing reputation as an interesting Tour stop. The supposed Masters-like conditions and the water hazards make it pretty attractive for TV. There's some good drama there. It's really revved up since landing the week-before-Augusta date that Atlanta used to own.

Dusek: I can't think of any other event and venue that have embraced being a tune-up for the following week's major. I think it's a very smart move, from a marketing standpoint, and judging by the field, the players like the idea.

Herre: Any event the week before the Masters would get a good international field. I found myself following Lee Westwood last week. He could be someone to watch this week in Augusta.

Dusek: Yani Tseng won the LPGA Tour's Kraft Nabisco Championship on Sunday at Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage, Calif. It's her second career major and third victory overall. What did everyone think of her victory?

Shipnuck: A couple years ago Annika annointed Tseng a future no. 1. This could be the beginning of her ascent.

Morfit: Seems like she's the real deal. I've been hearing raves for a while.

Evans: When SI Golf Plus polled our Top 100 teachers about who might rule the LPGA Tour this season, Yani Tseng got a bunch of votes. So I'm not surprised. She won the 2008 LPGA Championship, and she has one of the best swings on that tour — powerful with wonderful angles and great stability.

Hack: A natural progression. Tseng took Annika's old house in Orlando. Might as well grab her old ranking, too.

Shipnuck: Yani has a well-deserved rep for partying hard, but if she buckles down she'll dominate. She's more explosive than any other player out there, Lorena included.

Van Sickle: Does that make her the Anthony Kim of the LPGA?

Dusek: What about the timing of this event? Unless you were already an LPGA Tour fan, you probably missed the tournament because of the Final Four and the Masters. It's a major, but I wonder how many people actually saw it?

Van Sickle: Weird part is, you have a major championship and it's only the second tournament in the U.S. this year.

Shipnuck: When it was a week earlier in the schedule, it had to compete with the Players. The LPGA would probably move it back if they could, but it would leave a huge hole in the early part of the schedule.

Dusek: So what is the answer for the LPGA Tour if it wants more attention for the season's first major. Move the date again, re-think the whole schedule, or possibly play it outside the United States?

Shipnuck: There is a growing sentiment to play a major in Asia, but that's years away. I say start the season later and move the Dinah to the dead time between the Masters and Players.

Godich: They should move it back. They have played more events overseas than on U.S. soil, then — boom! — the first major is upon us. They have absolutely no momentum heading into the Dinah.

Garrity: I love that we're still calling it the Dinah. That tells me that it's an event with genuine staying power and a marketable image. It just needs a better run-up. The current short schedule is the equivalent of having Leno as your prime-time warm-up.

Lipsey: That might help, but not much. Fact is, the LPGA's real future is probably not in the U.S., at least not as a home base. Look at the Nabisco leaderboard. The bulk of the best players aren't from the U.S. anymore, so why should the tour be based here? It makes no sense.

Hack: I get the feeling that the LPGA likes the designation of having the first major of the golf calendar. Seems to me that the later it's held, the more lost it would get.

Van Sickle: The LPGA needs to get on the Golf Channel live, or somehow get on ESPN. Maybe the answer is finishing in the Monday-to-Wednesday window when Golf Channel has no other live golf to show, and no other tours are competing for TV time. It's a far out idea, obviously, but most tour events are driven by TV and sponsors, not gate receipts.

Godich: ABC and ESPN don't want the PGA Tour. What makes you think they're going to want the LPGA?

Van Sickle: The TV golf business model is going to have to change. Networks aren't willing to lose money on telecasts anymore no matter how good the demographics are. The networks are going to demand a better deal in the next round, and they're probably not going to get conned again by another FedEx Cup gimmick. (Assuming FedEx is willing to drop another $300 million for six more years.)

Shipnuck: It would be pretty cool if the tourneys started on Mon and ended on Wed or Thurs. It would fill a big void.

Herre: Everyone wants the weekend, but Mon-Tue-Wed makes sense for the LPGA and the seniors.

Garrity: And having covered many Dinahs in my time, I'm pretty sure that the Kraft Nabisco spectators are spring-break types and retirees who don't have to worry about office hours. A Tuesday finish probably wouldn't hurt the gate.

Hack: I think a Tuesday finish would be the white flag of surrender for the LPGA. Sunday is the way to go. Seems to me Commissioner Michael Whan is doing everything in his power to reach out to sponsors, and the players are, too. But finishing on Tuesday would signal retreat.

Godich: Can't hurt to try. The Monday-Tuesday schedule seems to be working for women's college basketball.

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