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PGA Tour Confidential: Rory McIlroy wins Dubai World Championship

Photo: David Cannon / Getty Images

Rory McIlroy won the Dubai World Championship for his fifth title of 2012.

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.

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING?
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: The Boy Wonder, playing in the Euro event in Dubai, won by two over Justin Rose. Rory McIlroy took the Euro money title to go with his PGA Tour money title, but did he have to play too much to accomplish this Daily Double? Will all this autumn golf show up in his play next year when it matters most? If you were his manager, what scheduling advice would you give the young master? Money titles are nice. The No. 1 ranking is nice. But my view is that he should be doing everything he can to win at Augusta, and there's a lot to be said for a total shutdown, or close to it, in November and December.

John Garrity, contributing writer, Sports Illustrated: Your view makes sense, Michael, but Rory played his best golf at the end of the season, right when he was complaining about being tired. If I were his manager, I'd give him the same schedule and see what happens.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Rory was definitely a little burned-out down the stretch, but it's a measure of his professionalism that he played with such intensity. He now has only one event in the next two months, so he can catch up on his rest. But lesson learned: he'll play less in 2013.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Winning never gets old, and I wonder if Rory isn't building a Tiger-like persona of invincibility. The Masters is more than four months away, and the kid is 23, so he has plenty of time for rest. He'll kick back with good thoughts of how he became the most dominant force in golf. And he'll come back relaxed, ready and oozing confidence.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: I'm not too worried about Rory burning out. I think it's more important he get in the habit of winning, a lot, as Tiger did. Consider 2012 a rousing success on that front.

Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: McIlroy wants to be a global star, so he's going to need to keep a global schedule. Long-term, he needs to limit his schedule like Tiger and Nicklaus if he wants to win like them. Short-term, it's hard to really question anything he's doing when you look at the results.

Charlie Hanger, executive editor, Golf.com: I think all the playing is good for him. Keeps the game sharp to play a lot of tournament golf. Maybe cut one or two of the Asian cash-grabs next year, but I don't think you can totally shut it down in November and December in today's world. There's too much money and international exposure out there, and quite a bit of good competition too.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Alan was right on. There's too much money and too many ranking points out there? Rory doesn't need any more of those. They're meaningless. What matters are wins, especially major wins. It doesn't matter when Rory plays as long as he's ready to play when he does. If that means taking November or February or May off, that's what he should do.

Hanger: Agree on points and money and majors, but I think wins in Dubai, even in late November, are good muscle memory for a player to have when the majors roll around.

Godich: Look at the guys behind Rory on the leader board this week: Rose, Schwartzel, Oosthuizen and Donald. How can you not be anything but energized after beating a field like that?

Van Sickle: Sure, but there is competition somewhere for 12 months of the year. He should play where he wants. He can skip as many events as he wants, too.

Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: Rory had a busy autumn, but it was also his best stretch of the season. I'd like to see him play a bunch of events in February and March to potentially peak at Augusta and then take it down a notch in October and November. But then again, he did just complete one of the best seasons in golf history. If his body can handle it again in 2013, why change anything?

Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, Golf.com: To me, winning both money titles is an achievement you do only once, and you do it while you're young. Now that Rory's done it, he only needs to get himself ready for four dates on the calendar, like Tiger and Phil.

Van Sickle: Exactly. That mountain has been climbed. Ho hum, now it's on to complete the career Grand Slam and start piling up major championships.

Garrity: You're right about Rory's priorities, but how does he "get himself ready" for those four dates on the calendar? I don't think he does it by sleeping in his own bed every night and beating balls every afternoon. He needs to play in tournaments and win tournaments. He needs to stay tournament-tough.

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: Woods has this schedule thing down pat. He'll be Rory's model in the future.

Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: At some point, someone's going to come along who doesn't necessarily adhere to Jack's and Tiger's world view that the majors are all that matters. Maybe Rory's goal is to win 300 times around the world, and the next generation will be inspired by matching that mark. The majors are great, but without the Jack-Tiger obsessiveness, they wouldn't have the all-or-nothing quality to them.

Van Sickle: That raises the question of whether players think it's even possible to catch Jack or Tiger. If not, why not try to set the mark for most WGC titles won? Or the record for the most appearance-fee money? Either is good business.

Herre: There's only one golf record that's meaningful to all -- 18.

Van Sickle: Exactly my point. How many players realistically are chasing that? You think Hunter Mahan is taking dead aim at Jack's 18 majors? Nick Watney? It's great to dream, but some players probably should aim slightly lower, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Should McIlroy cut back on his tournament schedule in 2013? And do any records in pro golf matter besides Jack's 18 majors?

CATCHING TIGER AND JACK
Bamberger: What do you all think of this rash talk about Rory catching Tiger and Jack? Darren Clarke is now part of that conversation. I think it is pure nuttiness.

Shipnuck: Well, for 10 years the talk about Kobe is how he compares to Jordan. For all-time talents, you need a lofty measuring stick.

Herre: Yes, it's way premature. When/if Rory gets to double figures, we can talk.

Godich: It's like John Wooden said after watching seemingly invincible UNLV get upset by Duke when the Rebels were chasing their second straight basketball title in 1991: A lot of teams have won one title in a row. (I've probably used that before in Confidential, but that quote never gets old.)

Van Sickle: It's a nod to Rory's talent that the conversation has come up. Just like Jack and Tiger, there's no way to really compare Rory to either until time has passed. But Rory is off to a brilliant start, so we're sure to keep track of where he is vs. Jack's and Tiger's timelines. That said, Rory still doesn't have more majors than Ben Crenshaw, Curtis Strange or Andy North, among others. Win it and they will come.

Godich: It's nonsense. Just let the kid play. In this day and age, winning five majors would be quite the accomplishment.

Hanger: If anyone today has a chance of getting past 10 majors, it's Rory, but we all know how fickle this game can be. It's too early to talk about 14 or 18 majors for Rory, no matter the pace he's setting.

Garrity: I was re-reading SI's reporting on Tiger winning the 1995 U.S. Amateur at Newport, R.I. His dad said: "I'm going to make a prediction. Before he's through, my son will win 14 major championships." Everyone thought it was a hollow boast, but it's starting to look like an incredible prediction. Earl's number was FOURTEEN! (Sorry for shouting.)

Van Sickle: Earl called 14? That's a great piece of not-so-trivial trivia, John! Earl's Gandhi line is a little behind schedule, however.

Walker: I don't think it's rash to talk about McIlroy beating Jack's record. He's 23 and has already won two majors. Will he win 18? Not likely, but it's fun to talk about, and it doesn't hurt anyone. Plus, Darren Clarke has a new autobiography to sell and nothing gets attention like Tiger, Rory and golf's Everest.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Are you ready to start a McIlroy countdown to Jack's record?

TIGER'S RECORD VS. RORY'S SLAM
Bamberger: What holds your interest more: Rory's pursuit of the career Grand Slam, or Tiger's pursuit of 18 (and then 19)?

Morfit: I've been happy to stop thinking about 18, actually. Tiger set himself up for trouble by making that the end-all, be-all. Now that he's not going to get it, do we judge him a failure? Obviously not.

Bamberger: In the Haney book, Tiger talks about being satisfied at 14. Maybe he re-read Earl's U.S. Am prediction more recently than others.

Godich: Haven't you heard? Tiger doesn't read any of that stuff.

Garrity: It would have to be Tiger's pursuit of 19. Too many players have achieved the grand slam for that to keep me up at night.

Shipnuck: Tiger, for sure. It's an epic quest on so many levels, and we've all been invested in it from the beginning. We can circle back later on Rory.

Van Sickle: It's not their pursuits, it's them. We've been fortunate enough to see Tiger Woods hit more impossible, unlikely and unforgettable shots than any player in history. Win or lose, watching Tiger is a treat. The same for Rory and his seamless swing. The real fun is seeing them pull off the key shot that matters at the end, like Tiger's chip in 2005 at Augusta at 16, to name just one.

Godich: I'll take Tiger and 18. Everything seemed to come so easily when he got in the hunt, so I'm intrigued to see how he handles the pressure these days.

Hanger: Tiger. That would be one of the all-time great sports achievements. But it is getting less and less interesting to follow the longer Tiger's current major drought lasts.

Reiterman: It's still Tiger's pursuit of Jack, and it will be until he hangs up his Nike hat.

Van Sickle: It would be interesting to see Tiger get close to 18 just to see the reaction. I think there would be some blowback, like when Hank Aaron chased Babe Ruth's record. Nicklaus is a beloved icon; Tiger is a great player with a publicized scandal. I think there'd be factions rooting for and against Tiger.

Morfit: Rory is more interesting by a mile. The story of Tiger's quest for 18 majors is totally dead. If and when he wins another one, it'll be mostly dead.

Hanger: I'm skeptical he'll get to 18 or 19, but to say it's totally dead is ridiculous. He is still the second best player in the world, and no one in any sport has ever been more capable of proving people wrong. As soon as he wins his next one, the Tiger-major-record watch will be fully on again.

Bamberger: I think Tiger's pursuit of Jack is one of the most compelling ever, in any field. And if he gets to 15, it becomes only more interesting.

Van Sickle: If Tiger wins No. 15, Tigermania will be back in full force, and the media will be positively hysterical. The Countdown to Jack will pick up right where it left off, especially with our TV friends.

Morfit: I just don't believe Tiger is going to come close to 19 majors. There's way too much young talent.

Godich: Here's a question: How important is the career grand slam. What if Rory wins 7 Masters, 6 U.S Opens and 6 PGAs? I don't think anybody is going to be all that bothered that he didn't win the British.

Walker: Except for every resident of the British Isles.

Bamberger: You have to win the British. You don't have to win the PGA, but you have to win the British.

Van Sickle: Phew! That's good news for Ben Curtis.

Godich: And Todd Hamilton.

Shipnuck: I totally agree with Michael. The British is mandatory for the legacy of a kid who holds the course record at Portrush.

Van Sickle: Right. Being from Northern Ireland, he has to win the British.

Godich: If Rory wins 19 majors, are people really going to say, "Yeah, but he never won the British"? I don't think so. A major is a major.

Van Sickle: I sort of agree, but if he wins 19 without a British, it'll be like Snead without an Open and Palmer and Watson without a PGA. He'll get as many questions about the one he didn't win as he gets about the 19 he did. Of course, if I had 19 majors, I could definitely live with that.

Garrity: If Rory wins 19 majors with no British Open, people will say there's something wrong with the Open, not with Rory.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Which storyline interests you more: Tiger's pursuit of Jack, or Rory's pursuit of the career grand slam?

TIGER IN 2013
Bamberger: December's a blur, and before we know it the new season will be upon us. There's a report that Tiger will play Torrey this year. Do you care? Maybe there's something wrong with me, but I love the idea of Tiger playing a U.S.-centric schedule, chasing Snead, chasing Nicklaus, taking no prisoners, giving guys the evil eye. I think we're due for a vintage Tiger season, and I mean five or six wins, a major or two, bad-ass stuff. It won't be because his swing is perfect or because he putts like he did in 2000. It'll be because he doesn't like all this Rory talk. What do you think?

Van Sickle: I think there's something to that, Michael. The challenge of Rory, the first real challenge Tiger's faced, may be just what Tiger needs to focus. But I don't think Tiger's really lacked focus. He lacks supreme confidence in his swing and his putting stroke. If he wins six times, I think it will be because he putts like he did in 2000, because that is what it will take. Any great player needs to be pushed. Rory can only help Tiger, but Tiger has to get it together. His weekend play at majors was disturbing.

Bamberger: Well, you're correct, of course: You can't win without putting great. But I'm trying to say that his putting in 2000 was at a level nobody may ever approach again. His bad major weekends in 2012 I attribute to the head more than the swing. The game was good enough on Thursday and Friday, right?

Van Sickle: True. You can fix a swing flaw with relative ease. Fixing a problem in the head is considerably more difficult.

Morfit: He should always play Torrey, given his record there. It will be good to see him back.

Godich: If Tiger would take my advice and play more, I could see a monster year. Alas, from the way he is talking, it sounds like he's planning on cutting back. I see three victories, none of them on the grand stage.

Van Sickle: I'd love to say Tiger should play more, we all would. But with the appearance money he can rack up overseas, it's hard to blame him for playing the minimum and going back to work rebuilding his cash empire with as many trips to Asia and the Middle East as he can muster.

Bamberger: With all due respect, he's at the point where he needs to play way less, not more. He needs a rested head and his old tapered approach. He's got to come in next year super hungry, super fresh and swinging well. That's how it used to be.

Godich: We can't agree on anything. He needs to play more and stop pounding so many balls. Enough with the robotic routine. Whatever happened to feel?

Bamberger: Arnold Palmer told me last month that Tiger's greatness was rooted in his robotic approach to practice.

Godich: I'm not saying he needs to scrap the practice, only that he needs to cut back on it.

Van Sickle: I really didn't like to see Tiger resorting to just hitting fades most of the time in late summer. He used to be Hogan-like in dialing up whatever shot was called for. It made me think that he didn't have the confidence in his latest swing to do that. I hope that was just a temporary thing.

Reiterman: I've been saying Tiger's got one more "Tiger" run in him, like you described below. As long as Woods is healthy, there's no reason he can't do it.

Shipnuck: Tough call. Three or four wins at places he always win seems likely. But his fragility at the majors hints at something darker. If Tiger wins another major he could take four more after that, but the first one is by far the hardest. On the biggest stages, I'm afraid he no longer has belief -- in his swing, in his putting, in himself.

Godich: Every time Tiger lets an opportunity pass -- and you could argue that he let four of them go in 2012 -- the pressure will only mount. Tiger is human. Nobody fears him anymore. He is a soon-to-be old 37. Nothing new here, but it is what it is.

Walker: Another way McIlroy helps Tiger is that he takes some of the media and fan focus off him. No question that Tiger will always be golf's No. 1 star, but I would imagine it's a relief to share the spotlight after so many years alone in it.

Ritter: He contended in three of the four majors this year but never broke par on the weekend. For the first time in his career, Tiger's problems appeared to be more mental than physical, and that makes me doubt he has another "bad ass" run in him. I can see another 2-3 wins this year, but I'm not picking him to win a major until I see something more on a Sunday.

Hanger: I think he has more majors and bad-ass years in him, but I think Rory is going to make it much harder on Tiger. He may provide some motivation, but Tiger also has to beat him.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: What do you expect from Woods in 2013?

BOOKS FOR GOLFERS
Bamberger: There was some silliness this week about what the young golfer would get the young tennis player for Christmas. We will not entertain this matter. But if you could give only one book to one player in this festive season, what would it be?

Shipnuck: I would get "True Links", the wonderful coffee table book that chronicles all of the world's great links courses, for the R&A's Peter Dawson. He and other Philistines are now plotting to "modernize" the Old Course. Crikey! When will the madness stop?

Godich: "The Swinger," and I'm giving it to Rory. He needs to be reminded of how quickly things can turn.

Garrity: There's only one golf book, as far as I'm concerned. (Excepting, of course, "The Swinger," "To the Linksland," "Blood, Sweat and Tees," etc.) That book would be "Out of the Bunker and Into the Trees" by Rex Lardner, former head writer for The Ernie Kovacs show. Absolutely brilliant and laugh-out-loud funny.

Van Sickle: "The Dogged Victims of Inexorable Fate" by Dan Jenkins, the greatest golf book ever. It's an expanded collection of his old SI golf pieces. The chapter on "The Glory Game," his bad muni-course days in Fort Worth, is the single funniest chapter ever written on golf. Or so says I. Laugh while you read a little golfing and sportswriting history.

Garrity: If it's Jenkins (or Lardner), the book should go to straight-laced Webb Simpson. It could loosen him up.

Walker: To Paul Azinger, Rickie Fowler and all the other pro golfers who showed an interest in politics this election season, I'd like to give the best book ever written about politics and government: "Animal Farm" by George Orwell.

Gorant: Paul Krugman's "The Great Unraveling" for Paul Azinger, just to watch his head explode.

Hanger: The last thing these guys need is a golf book. They need to expand their horizons! I'd get them the new Michael Chabon, " Telegraph Avenue."

Garrity: If it's not about golf, most tour players won't read it. Unless it's by Limbaugh, Coulter or O'Reilly.

Reiterman: I'd give Tiger a copy of Laura Hillenbrand's "Unbroken," about an army lieutenant in WWII who's pushed to the limits of endurance when his plane crashes in the Pacific Ocean. Given Woods's fascination with the military, it sounds like something he'd enjoy.

Morfit: To the members of the U.S. Ryder Cup team, I would give "Where'd You Go, Bernadette," by a Maria Semple, a writer of "Arrested Development," because they looked like they could really use a laugh.

Ritter: I'd give Tiger "No Easy Day," the story of the raid on Osama Bin Laden as told by one of the SEALs involved in the operation. Just finished it at the end of my honeymoon, and given Tiger's interest in and reported enthusiasm for the military, I bet he wouldn't be able to put it down.

Godich: You were reading "No Easy Day" on your honeymoon? Already?

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: If you could give one book to one player, what would it be?

 

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