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PGA Tour Confidential: Rory’s lost year, Tiger vs. Phil, and Presidents Cup picks

Rory McIlroy
Jim Rogash / Getty Images
After four wins on tour last year, Rory McIlroy has yet to win a PGA Tour event in 2013.

Every Sunday night, conducts an email 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. Deutsche Bank Championship winner Henrik Stenson for “Comeback Player of the Year” and Rory McIlroy for “Biggest Disappointment.” Is anybody else even close in either category?

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: We could just give Erik Compton Comeback Player of the Year every year and feel pretty good about it. Rory is definitely Dud of the Year. Those who didn't see the folly in changing out every club in the bag, including the driver and the putter, plus the golf ball, should've learned something from this. Funny, haven't heard much from them lately.

Josh Sens, contributing writer, Golf Magazine: Hard to top Stenson. The man dropped his drawers during a tournament, then dropped to number 230 in the world. Now he seems to finish top 5 every time he tees it up. Yani Tseng started to unravel before this year, so her failure to return to form could also be seen as a disappointment. Given where she was and where she is now, she has probably fallen farther than McIlroy. But Rory deserves the label for the obvious headline-making reasons.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: Rory has been a total bust in 2013 and it's rare to see a guy fall this far despite making no major swing changes and suffering no major injuries. So yeah, he's basically the 2013 Buzzkill Player of the Year. Trophy: a leaky rain suit. As for Stenson, I can't think of anyone else who has come back from the abyss like he has -- except for Stricker, but that was ages ago, and surely a guy can't be comeback POY three times.

Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: Stenson is Comeback Player of the Year, but fan favorite Boo Weekley has had made a great rebound in 2013 with a win at Colonial. And while Rory McIlroy has had a spectacular flameout this year, he’s only 24. At age 35, Luke Donald will never see a trio of major venues that set up for him as well as Merion, Muirfield and Oak Hill. He notched a T8 at Merion and missed the cut at Murifield and Oak Hill.

Jeff Ritter, senior producer, I'm on board with both. In fact, Rory's 2013 might be the single most disappointing season of the millennium. Tiger's 2010 would also land in that discussion, but given his No. 1 ranking, the Nike deal and all the hype entering the season, you could make a case for Rory.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: I'll agree on both of those, but I'd also give a nod to Steve Stricker for the comeback award, based solely on how miserable he performed (and looked) at the Ryder Cup last year. The guy has made the cut in all 10 events he has played and has been a runner-up twice, in the top 10 three more times and in the top 20 in all but two starts. He contended at the U.S. Open and was in the hunt at the PGA. And he cut back his schedule so he could spend more time with the family. That's a pretty good year if you ask me. Wouldn't it be something if he stole the $10 million FedEx Cup bonus?

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Oh, Tiger, for sure, in the disappointment category. And in the comeback category.

2. Paired with Tiger Woods in the first round, Phil Mickelson shot 63. Asked afterward if Tiger brings out his best golf, Mickelson said, "After today it's hard to think any differently." Why does Mickelson play so well when matched up with Woods?

Bamberger: Because his golf is rooted in emotion, for good and for evil.

Morfit: It's simple: Mickelson has played so much competitive golf he needs a little something extra to get him going. The Masters does that. The U.S. Open. The British, at least this year. And Tiger.

Godich: Everybody is motivated to play well when paired with Tiger. Everybody is also motivated to beat Tiger when paired with him. Everybody includes Phil.

Ritter: Pretty sure there was a section of Hank Haney's book that mentioned how Butch Harmon gave Phil all of Tiger's "secret" gamesmanship tactics. If that's true, maybe it helps give Phil some extra mojo when paired with Tiger. Either way, Phil really is golf's ultimate showman, and it isn't surprising that he's able to elevate his game alongside Woods. A Tiger-Phil pairing is, after all, one of the best shows in golf.

Van Sickle: Phil lives in rarefied air, like Tiger. Just teeing it up to win a Schlabotnik Classic or any old tour stop doesn't get his juices flowing. Major championships, or a chance to beat Tiger does.

Walker: Mickelson has Tiger’s number now and he’s exulting in it.

Sens: I'm not sure, but given how well Mickelson plays in Tiger's presence, Tom Watson should consider teaming the two of them up in the Ryder Cup. They'd be unbeat . . . oh . . . .wait.


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