Tour and News

PGA Tour Confidential: The PGA's international ambitions, Rory's 2014 prospects and golf's sacred rule book

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Jason Dufner and his wife Amanda get acquainted with the Wanamaker Trophy after Jason won the 2013 PGA Championship at Oak Hill.

Every Sunday night, conducts an e-mail roundtable with writers from Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.

1. The PGA Championship might be played internationally “once or twice a decade” to help grow the game, according to PGA of America CEO Pete Bevacqua. What do you think of the idea, and if the PGA is played overseas, where should it go?

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@AlanShipnuck): It's a horrible idea -- last I checked, it's the PGA of America. There are already tournaments with World in the title. These need to get the hell out of Tucson and Akron and become the global events that were promised.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@GaryVanSickle): I like the idea of an international PGA so much that I suggested it several years ago. Australia would be one obvious choice. Europe would be another. In fact, 2016 would be a great time to move the PGA to Europe, because the Olympics is going to foul up the golf schedule and you could squeeze the PGA in maybe two weeks after the Open Championship, making it convenient for Tour players.

Josh Sens, contributing writer, Golf Magazine (@JoshSens): I don't like it. We've already got the Ryder Cup, the Presidents Cup and oodles of other events around the globe. The game seems to be growing fine overseas. Where golf really needs help growing is in the United States. Keep the PGA Championship here.

Joe Passov, senior editor, courses and travel, Golf Magazine (@joepassov): I don't get it. Many other tournaments can be employed to "grow the game."

Eamon Lynch, managing editor, (@EamonLynch): The Open Championship boasts of being a global major, which is true only if you think the World Series is a global competition, too. Bevacqua is one of the smartest guys in the game and making the PGA Championship the first truly global major can only elevate its stature. Take it to Royal Melbourne, a stunning venue with a storied history. Hell, take it to China. The fans might need etiquette training -- just ask Stacy Lewis -- and most of the courses are mediocre, but it’s been played in worse places.

Jeff Ritter, senior producer, (@Jeff_Ritter): They should just have fans vote to select the country, like how they selected that final-round pin position this year.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I think it's a great idea. The borders have been coming down for years in golf (and most everywhere else) and we in the U.S. are the last to recognize it. I think Pete Bevacqua is one of the most original leaders in the game, and he shows it again here. Where to go? India, China, Vietnam, for starters. It really doesn't do anything for me, but a billion or golfers and sports fans likely have a different opinion. Playing true world-class courses is a must, and a challenge. If the PGA went seaside, that would be deeply cool.

2. Golf had another rules flap this week, this time at the Korean Open. Kang Sung-hoon won after leader Kim Hyung-tae got a two-stroke penalty for grounding his club in a hazard on the 13th hole. Agree or disagree: The rule book is sacred.

LYNCH: Of course. It's flawed and ought to be streamlined, but it's all we have.

PASSOV: Amend the rules -- make ’em easier to follow.

VAN SICKLE: The rule book is sacred. Maybe I don't agree with all of them, but they're the rules. Any player knows that as soon as he sets foot inside a hazard, he's got to be careful. At least, any player SHOULD know that.

SHIPNUCK: Agree. It could use a little streamlining, obviously, but following the rules is sacred to the sport.

SENS: As long as a rule is in place, it should be enforced, so no disagreement on the Korean Open decision. But that doesn't mean the rule book itself is sacred. Why not make everything a bunker, as opposed to a waste area, to avoid confusion? There are a number of oddball rules that deserve a closer look: out-of-bounds is one, I think. And did Craig Stadler really deserve to be penalized for a putting a towel down all those years ago so he wouldn't get his pants dirty? As for Tour events: should a player really have to go through the ritual of signing a scorecard in an age where every stroke is being calculated by so many others?

RITTER: It's like the Constitution. It's sacred, but can be further improved with amendments that reflect the times.

BAMBERGER: Non-golfers will look at this one in Korea (to the degree they pay any attention to it at all) and say, "There they go again." Some of the rules should be revisited, no question. But on a day-to-day basis, the players and the officials can do nothing but adhere to the book with utter strictness. A gray and murky area would leave a stain on the whole game. The starting point for professional golf is we believe the scores the players post. If we don't, we don't have golf anymore. Or not golf as we know it.

3. Rory McIlroy showed signs of life in Korea, finishing second after a final-round 67, and Tiger Woods said he sees McIlroy “starting to put the pieces together.” Will McIlroy return to form in 2014?

LYNCH: He can't play much worse, so yes. He's likely always going to be a streaky player -- and many top teachers think he has a major swing flaw, dropping the club too far inside -- but with his professional and personal life on a more even keel, I'd expect him to perform much better in '14.

SHIPNUCK: He better. Every player has a down year, but two in a row is a career derailed. Of course, now there's gonna be an endless drip of juicy details about his lawsuit with his former agents, the trial being a torturous year away. Just one more in an endless series of distractions.

BAMBERGER: Tiger's comments are a way to suggest that the difference between winning and not winning is comprised of, at this elite level, "pieces." I don't buy that for him or for Rory. Rory's inability to win in 2013 is not a question of getting the pieces together. To win again, he has to get his head on straight, rekindle something missing. He didn't forget how to play golf. He lost his mojo, likely on a temporary basis. Shooting low scores anywhere, against any field, is the best thing a Tour player can do to get his groove back, and last week was a good step. My guess is Rory 's scores in 2014 will be closer to what they were in 2012 than 2013. As for Rory himself, he's a work in progress. I hope the business of golf doesn't impede the remarkable freedom with which he has at times played the game, because he's been a joy to watch.

PASSOV: Rory has unbelievable natural talent. Give him some time, let him sort out personal and management issues, and he'll be back.

VAN SICKLE: A swift kick in the pants in the form of adversity is good for any successful player. Rory had it all in 2012 and let it slip away for a variety of reasons, one of which surely had to be human nature. He was living his life and enjoying it, and golf wasn't the only thing in it. That's good. And now it's back to work, lad. He'll be back, eventually, but I don't know the timetable.

RITTER: I think so. He had a bad year, but it's not like the talent just disappeared. He's an easy choice for comeback player of the year in '14.

SENS: Yes. Too talented -- with too good a head on his shoulders -- for him not to.

4. The Shriners Hospitals For Children Open returned to Las Vegas this week without recent celebrity host Justin Timberlake. Do celebrity affiliations do anything the help the PGA Tour’s appeal and do you miss the days when entertainment stars were more closely associated with Tour events?

SHIPNUCK: I covered the first JT Open and it was a blast -- his very public involvement brought a ton of buzz to a tourney that desperately needs it. If golf as an institution is trying desperately to get younger/cooler it couldn't have a better ambassador than Timberlake. That the tournament and Tour screwed up this relationship is criminal.

BAMBERGER: Celebrity golfers don't mean much to the players anymore. When the players had more of hangout mentality -- and the stars of stage and screen did, too -- the whole thing worked. Now everybody's in a rush and the bar is empty and the most important celebrity in the game is Clinton. And even he has his hands full drawing talent to the old Hope event.

SENS: Players, not celebrities, make or break a tournament, and money, not celebrities, is what draws the players. Using celebrities to market golf in general has merit (Hey, look, Samuel Jackson plays golf. Maybe I should, too). Using them to build up a tournament, not so much. I do miss the quaint days when a celebrity host could stamp his or her name on an event. I also miss the days when gas was 33 cents a gallon. This is a corporate age, and there's no going back.

VAN SICKLE: The designated celebrity may attract a few more casual fans, although I don't know that Danny Thomas ever necessarily packed the house at Memphis or Sammy Davis Jr. in Hartford. Did Dean Martin even show up in Tucson? I don't remember if he did. But a good celeb adds a little pizzazz, which can't hurt. I wouldn't mind one or two celebs in golf tourneys -- if they're real celebs and not like, say, Mark Cuban or Amber from “Survivor.”

RITTER: Not sure if the stars specifically help the PGA Tour, but we live in a celebrity-obsessed society, and anything that makes golf seem cooler is a good thing. Celebrities can certainly improve the sport's image.

LYNCH: Celebrity affiliations probably matter more to tournament organizers, sponsors and local charities than to fans or viewers. It's not as though prime events are lining up to have Andy Garcia act as host -- only events that are already struggling take that tack. If it helps them, have at it. But since the worst golf viewing day of the year is the celebrity-sodden Saturday at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, I'm in no rush to see more reasons for celebrity coverage at Tour events.

PASSOV: I'm almost hopelessly nostalgic for the days of Bing, Bob and even Danny Thomas (hello, Memphis), but events like those are as outdated as wooden drivers.

5. While Webb Simpson cruised to a win in Las Vegas, the real PGA Tour star power was at the PGA Grand Slam of Golf in Bermuda, where Adam Scott outplayed fellow 2013 major winners Justin Rose and Jason Dufner, and Padraig Harrington, who subbed for Open Champion Phil Mickelson. Did you find anything compelling about the Grand Slam and is there anything the PGA can do to make it better?

SHIPNUCK: Nah, it was a snooze, as always. With the Skins Game kaput, the Slam should dust off that formula … and have each player buy in with some of his own money. That would get my interest.

PASSOV: Nice Bermuda backdrop -- but would work that much better if you compelled all four major winners to attend.

VAN SICKLE: The Grand Slam is a good, old fashioned golf exhibition. Not that there's anything wrong with that, as Seinfeld might say. It was less compelling without Phil, but even with Phil, it's an exhibition. It's a chance to watch these guys compete in a less formal setting. It's a TV show, and that's all it's going to be unless you've got Fred Funk playing a hole in a skirt. That was compelling.

RITTER: Bermuda looked sweet in HD. But they need to totally re-think this event if they want to make it a compelling TV show. A skills competition, a two-man scramble -- heck, maybe even a golf cart race. It's the silly season. Have more fun, and maybe more folks will tune in.

LYNCH: Three of the last six Grand Slams have been won by guys who didn't win a major that year, which is all the evidence we need that the event is struggling. Have the pros pair with an amateur and change up the format, six holes of best ball, six holes alternate shot, six holes scramble. I'd tune in to see Adam Scott have to play approach shots off the drives of an 18-handicap. Amateur slots could be open to anyone who makes a donation to the pro's charity of choice. Right now it's just an opportunity for the pros to wheel away another barrowload of cash, which doesn't really make for a compelling viewing experience.

BAMBERGER: I find the Grand Slam incredibly compelling, the one they play each year, with a stop in April, June, July and August. I set my calendar by it. As for the one in October, I'd much rather watch re-runs of "Get Smart."

SENS: Five words: tag team steel cage match.

6. On Tuesday, Jordan Spieth played an early round at Pine Valley and then later in the day played Augusta National. What would be your ultimate 1-2 punch of golf courses and why?

SHIPNUCK: Pebble and Cypress. Because of their beauty, history, and heroic shot values. And because I could be home for dinner.

VAN SICKLE: Your dream one-two punch should probably be two great courses you haven't yet experienced. I've played 60 or 70 of the top 100 courses, depending upon which list you use. I knocked off Merion last summer and enjoyed it immensely. Since I've already played most of the obvious big names in the top 20, I'd go with Sand Hills and any or all of the Bandon Dunes area courses. My personal best doubleheader day was Olympic Club and San Francisco Golf Club. I wouldn't pass up Pebble Beach and Cypress Point, either.

PASSOV: Give me Pebble Beach and Cypress Point -- not necessarily in that order -- and I'll go quietly.

SENS: Do I get access to a jet, like Spieth? If so, Cypress Point and Shinnecock. If not, Cypress Point and Monterey Peninsula Shores. Or Winged Foot East and West. Or Pacific Dunes and Bandon Trails. Or Barnbougle Dunes and Lost Farm. Or Sunningdale Old and New. Or Royal Melbourne East and West. Or any other two courses with good greens and a group of guys who like to play for a bit of money but don't take themselves and their games too seriously.

RITTER: Royal Melbourne and Augusta National. To hit both in one day I'd have to travel in some kind of rocket ship, which would add to the experience.

LYNCH: I managed a good doubleheader on my birthday this year: Kingsbarns with the Old Course as a chaser. But my ultimate 1-2 is Cypress Point and anywhere.

BAMBERGER: National Golf Links in the morning. National Golf Links in the afternoon. I've loved the place for decades, and fell in love all over again this summer at the Walker Cup. I want to be able to find my ball, advance the ball to the green, bump it along the ground at times and breathe brackish air. Heaven. As for Jordan Spieth, my admiration for this young man only grew when I heard of that double.

The PGA Tour Confidential debate continues Monday on our new weekly show hosted by Jessica Marksbury. Tweet her your questions @Jess_Marksbury.

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