PGA Tour Confidential: Brandt Snedeker wins FedEx playoffs, Ryder Cup preview
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.
SNEDEKER IS RICH, BUT IS HE ELITE?
David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: Well, well, well … Mr. Snedeker's bank account just got a lot more active. Thanks to a clutch putter, Brandt Snedeker was able to overcome a double bogey on the par-3 sixth hole Sunday and win the Tour Championship, the FedEx Cup and a total of $11.4 million. Does this put Snedeker among the game's elites?
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: He's on the way, but not quite there yet. This was a big-time performance; do it again a couple more times and I'll start throwing around the "e" word.
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Did Bill Haas's win last year make him one of the game's elite players? No. Winning is always good, but no.
Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: I think Sneds has arrived. Love his pace of play, his demeanor, his funky putting stroke, and did you hear him in the booth on Saturday? He'll be an analyst somewhere when he retires.
Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: I love how he steps up and hits it, but let's not anoint him just yet. Perhaps Sneds could get some advice from Bill Haas.
Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, Golf.com: Nah. Love Snedeker's game, but he's got a ways to go. This is the first time he's won with a lead. I'm more interested in seeing how he does next week. I think he's got the perfect style of play for the Ryder Cup.
Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: I liked how after making a watery double on the treacherous par-3 sixth hole, he just went right back to work. Didn't make another bogey until the 18th, when the outcome was decided. A great win, but I agree that he's not yet in the elite class -- only the wealthiest.
Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: I liked what Snedeker said: playing for money guarantees you'll be scraping it around near 150th on the money list; playing to win takes care of the money. I guess he proved his point.
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Snedeker's play this week, plus his British Open performance, means he's a player who may win some major championships. He has elevated his status, but he's not among the elite players until he starts piling up more wins and bigger wins. Don't forget, he beat only 29 guys this week. This win should probably come with an asterisk. It barely qualifies as a golf outing, let alone a tournament.
Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: I love Snedeker's demeanor and style. He doesn't waste any time hitting the ball, and his putting is phenomenal. I walked with him for five holes yesterday, and he was on cruise control. He looked unstoppable. Afterward, his caddie, Scott Vail, who seemed way more jacked up than Brandt, said to his friend, "He was so calm!" I think Brandt has arrived.
Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Does this win put Snedeker in the elite class?
Dusek: Most of us agree that what we like most about the FedEx Cup is that it gets most of the big-name players to compete after the PGA Championship. Would you keep the point system, the venues, the off week before the Tour Championship, and the field sizes? If you were in charge, what's the one thing you'd most like to see changed?
Ritter: I'd make the Tour Championship match play, because that's a fitting end to a true playoff system. Also, a friend of mine had another brilliant idea that I really wish I could claim as my own: for the match play brackets, allow the top seeds to select their opponents in each round. Imagine the headlines: "McIlroy calls out Woods for first-round match." You're telling me TV networks couldn't get behind that?
Morfit: I love that. It makes more sense and is more compelling.
Reiterman: We need to get your friend a blazer and an executive job in Ponte Vedra.
Shipnuck: One quibble: why the cuss don't they play one event on the West Coast?
Godich: But you've got the Fall Series. Quit complaining!
John Garrity, contributing writer, Sports Illustrated: I like all of it except the point system. They need a computer to tell you what's happening and another computer to check on the first computer's algorithm.
Bamberger: New York, Boston, Chicago (usually) and Atlanta -- you can't go wrong there. The courses I'm less sure about, except East Lake, which is unspeakably good. The size of the fields they don't have right -- and you certainly need many more at the finale to give it heft. The point system is not even close to making sense.
Herre: I like the revolving venues for the Barclays and the BMW, and the week off before the Tour Championship. My only nit is that guys can miss one of the early events and still win the big prize.
Godich: I still don't get the point system. At one point on Friday, Tiger was tied for fourth and Rory was tied for ninth. Yet amazingly, if the tournament had ended at that point, Tiger would've won the FedEx Cup despite finishing 38th, third and tied for fourth in the other three events. He would've passed McIlroy, who was 24th, first and first. Later, when Jim Furyk took the lead, he was in line to win the bonus despite a missed cut, a tie for 13th and a solo ninth. Just doesn't seem right.
Wei: Even the Tour's in-house "experts" have trouble figuring out the points. There was a handout of "simplified scenarios" in the press tent this week. Here's a sample for McIlroy: "If he wins the Tour Championship, he wins the Cup; has a reasonable chance of winning with a top-five finish; can finish as low as 29th and still have a mathematical chance of winning." That's not simple. And what does "reasonable" mean, exactly? I've always thought match play at the Tour Championship would be much more exciting.
Morfit: I don't get the points thing either. I just try to enjoy the golf. But it's only been six years.
Van Sickle: The points system doesn't work. It's too complicated, although losing it would mean Steve Sands wouldn't get to draw numbers on a board. The venues don't matter. The simplicity of going to total score for the four events is too obvious to ignore, but the Tour wants to reset the points to make the finish artificially close. Even if Rory McIlroy had won all three of the first playoff events by 12 shots each, his lead going to Atlanta would've been exactly the same.
Charlie Hanger, executive editor, Golf.com: At this point, I think the only real flaw is the complicated points system, but I like that anyone who makes it to the Tour Championship has a chance to win the Cup. I think Gary's total-points-in-relation-to-par would be cool, but I also really like the idea of somehow incorporating match play into the format.
Herre: The only drawback to Gary's system is that if it had been applied, McIlroy had such a large lead that this year's Tour Championship would've been irrelevant.
Van Sickle: Sorry. I forgot nobody's allowed to play that much better than everyone else, as Rory did for four weeks. The fact that Snedeker would've finished fourth in straight-up scoring just proves how jerry-rigged the points system is.
Herre: C'mon, Gary. That would have meant death for the Tour Championship, and you know as well as I do that the PGA Tour is part show business.
Van Sickle: In real playoffs, teams get eliminated. Not in the FedEx Cup playoffs. Real playoffs would get rid of all the players who miss the cut at the Barclays or the Deutsche Bank. Then you'd see some real drama. But you'd also lose some superstars that TV doesn't want to lose. So it won't happen. You might as well just give Tiger, Phil, Rory and Rickie Fowler, or whomever, free passes into the final to keep interest up. I also like the suggestion of adding a fifth day to the Tour Championship. Four days for a stroke-play tourney, and a fifth day to pit the top four against each other for one round. Eighteen holes for the $10 million. That would be dramatic no matter the foursome.
Godich: I'm with your Gary. (I think.) Nick Watney went from something like 50th to first after winning the Barclays. He was pretty pedestrian the next two weeks, finishing 28th and 45th. And even after finishing 28th in a 30-man field at East Lake, he dropped all of one spot in the standings, from third to fourth. Were there really only three players who performed better than Watney?
Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: I wouldn't change anything. We had four really good tournaments with some exciting finishes, the biggest names in the game all in the mix for the $10 million prize, and a FedEx Cup winner coming from the Top 5 in points at the start of the Tour Championship. What's wrong with that?
Van Sickle: None of the finishes were exciting because of the points system. They just happened to be exciting finishes, which is great. We all love that. The John Deere Classic had an exciting finish, too.
Reiterman: Only things I would change? Don't update me on the FedEx Cup standings until the back nine of the Tour Championship, and don't waste Steve Sands's talents doing second-grade math in front of a dry-erase board.
Herre: Have to agree that Sands's math classes are silly as well as annoying.
Morfit: It's sort of like Election Day make believe.
Godich: Funny, but after all that talk about the $10 million bonus, it would've been nice to hear what second, third and fourth were worth, how much Justin Rose made by holing that par putt at 18 to finish solo second, etc.
Van Sickle: One of these days the $10 million is going to come down to a non-contender's finish on the last two holes. Like maybe Justin Rose makes that par putt at 18 to finish second in the Tour Championship, and though he's not in contention for the FedEx Cup, he secures the $10 million for Rory. If he misses that putt, Snedeker or someone else wins the Cup. That hasn't happened yet, but it probably will.
Tell us what you think in the comments section below: If you were in charge, what -- if anything -- would you change about the FedEx playoffs?
ULTIMATE GRUDGE MATCH
Dusek: The golf world's focus now shifts to Chicago and the Ryder Cup. I don't know about you, but I feel like the whole season has been building up to this week. I've never felt the emotion at a sports event like I did on that soggy Friday at the K Club when Darren Clarke prepared to hit on the first tee. Likewise, the folks in Kentucky made their presence felt in 2008 at Valhalla. To sports fans who have never attended a Ryder Cup, what would you compare it to?
Bamberger: Seventh game of the World Series.
Shipnuck: Game 7 of the World Series, if the U.S. was one of the teams.
Van Sickle: It's the only golf event where fans care about every shot, one way or another. That makes it different, and better. Plus, team match play is the most exciting format in golf.
Walker: The World Cup, because of the passion of the fans and also because you have to wait a long time for it.
Morfit: I'd compare it to a piano recital in front of 10 million people.
Garrity: I think the Ryder Cup is more like the National Spelling Bee. Nobody gets to lose gracefully. The camera is right in your face on every shot.
Herre: The Ryder Cup has a bit of an Olympic feel, but I've always felt it is a lot better on television than in person. On site, there are too many people watching too little golf. As a TV show, each match is a tournament unto itself, and it's fascinating to follow the twists and turns. You really get a sense of momentum swings, which players are carrying their partners, and all of the other wonderful nuances of match play.
Wei: Well, I've never been to a Ryder Cup, but I have been to Game 7 of a World Series and the NBA Finals. I've been looking forward to Medinah all week. What FedEx Cup?
Hanger: Desk jockey that I am, I've never been to one either, but I think it's a lot like a really intense college football rivalry. The players want it so badly for themselves and the fans, and the fans take it so personally, that it's thrilling to win and gutting to lose. Auburn-Alabama or Ohio State-Michigan? For me, it's like Missouri-Kansas, pre SEC.
Godich: Let's not forget that in the biggest game Missouri and Kansas will ever play against one another, the Tigers prevailed, on the football field in 2007 at Arrowhead.
Garrity: Our audience probably didn't know we had three Mizzou alums on the panel -- until now.
Tell us what you think in the comments section below: To what event would you compare the Ryder Cup?
SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER
Dusek: If you were seated next to Davis Love at Ditka's on Wednesday night, what advice would you give him? Similarly, if you ran into Jose Maria Olazabal at another Chicago institution, Gene and Georgetti, what advice would you have for him?
Van Sickle: Give us some good quotes this week, puh-leeze!
Bamberger: Try to get some sleep. You make better decisions when well rested.
Shipnuck: For Davis: whatever Corey Pavin did, do the opposite. For Jose Maria: find a priest and do a reverse-exorcism, putting Seve's spirit in the bodies of at least half his players.
Godich: Swing that back-room deal to match Tiger against Rory in singles. Don't tell me it can't be done.
Garrity: I'd tell Jose Maria to order ice cream for dessert because they cut it with a cleaver, same as everything else they serve. Oh, you mean Ryder Cup advice? None. I don't buy into the captains cult.
Herre: I hope Love takes a lesson from Paul Azinger when it comes to pairings. Zinger's pods approach was brilliant. Would not presume to advise Olazabal, who no doubt will emulate Seve, his magnificent Ryder Cup partner.
Walker: Let the players take the lead. Both sides have so much Ryder Cup experience at this point that the captains shouldn't have to do much.
Hanger: Make it fun, keep it loose. These guys shouldn't be thinking about national expectations and history and all that junk. Bust each other's balls, play a lot of Ping-Pong, drink a few beers at dinner. Make them feel like it's just another golf match.
Wei: Don't make the atmosphere too serious. I know it doesn't get much bigger than this, but if Davis Love is super tense, the players will sense it, and that could add pressure. From what I hear, the team room is usually really relaxed and fun, and DL3 has surrounded himself with good assistant captains, including cart driver Michael Jordan, so it sounds like he's got things under control.
Tell us what you think in the comments section below: What advice would you give the two Ryder Cup captains?
FANS OR CAPTAINS?
Dusek: Who has more of an effect on the outcome of the Ryder Cup, the captains or the home fans?
Shipnuck: The players.
Bamberger: Fans by a nose.
Morfit: Captains. The team takes on the personality of the captain.
Walker: The fans are probably more important, but give the European fans credit for traveling well. It won't be only American flags waving in Chicago.
Herre: The fan thing is overblown. Captains can make a difference.
Godich: The fans. They can ignite the home team, as they did at the Country Club. Their groans and even silence can speak volumes as well.
Hanger: If I have to choose, I'll take the fans. Golfers aren't often in situations where large parts of the audience are actively rooting against them. That's got to throw them a little. The captains can make good moves and bad moves, but ultimately it's on the players to hit the shots.
Wei: Home fans. Imagine having all those people cheering for you! Of course, it could work the other way, bringing more pressure and expectations.
Tell us what you think in the comments section below: More influential: Fans or captains?
Dusek: I assume that everyone wants to see Tiger face Rory next Sunday in singles, but aside from that, what is the singles match you'd like to see most?
Shipnuck: How about Furyk vs. G-Mac with the Cup hanging in the balance? Two wounded warriors who would fight so hard. Also, Colsaerts vs. Dustin, for the pyrotechnics.
Godich: I want to see Jason Dufner against anyone, just to see if we can get any kind of reaction out of the Duf.
Herre: Sergio vs. Keegan Bradley could heat up in a hurry.
Walker: That's the one I'd like to see too. Bradley is going to be fun to watch next week.
Morfit: I'd like to see Keegan take on Rory. I've seen so much Tiger-Rory lately. Tiger and Rory at Augusta on Sunday afternoon? That I'd like to see.
Ritter: If he doesn't draw Rory, Tiger vs. Sergio would be great. They could call it, "Battle at Bighorn Part II: Even Bigger."
Reiterman: Would love to see Bubba vs Luke.
Wei: Dustin Johnson and Nicholas Colsaerts, the two bombers. And just to be a little different, Snedeker vs. Poulter. That would be the ultimate putt-off.
Tell us what you think in the comments section below: What one matchup would you most like to see?
Dusek: Davis Love says that Medinah should favor his big-hitting American team because the rough is down, the speed of the greens is up and it will play easier than a major. Do you agree that would favor the Americans even though many European players like Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy play so much golf in the United States?
Shipnuck: But two of the three guys you named -- G-Mac and Luke -- are shortish hitters. If Davis wants to win the Cup, he should tip out Medinah at 8,000 yards because power is the U.S.'s biggest advantage.
Godich: Love can set up the course however he wants, but the Ryder Cup always comes down to putting, whether it's for birdie or par.
Herre: I don't think Love's setup will favor either team. Traditionally, the Euros have out-putted the Americans, so I would expect them to do well on fast, smooth greens. Length? Everyone is long enough.
Morfit: The whole Americans-are-longer thing is vastly overplayed.
Hanger: The course setup will have minimal impact. These guys all hit it a ton, and most of the Euros play nearly as much in America as they do overseas.
Wei: From what I've gathered from talking to players this week, it will all come down to putting. A profound Dustin Johnson summed it up on Friday: "Make putts, you win. Miss putts, you lose. It's real simple."
Van Sickle: As our Anonymous Pro pointed out in our SI Golf+ Confidential, length isn't the big advantage it appears to be on paper at Medinah. I don't think the setup will favor one team over the other. It all comes down to making putts, and the guys on both sides can do that. It's a toss-up, which should make this another thriller.
Bamberger: Much more meaningful than course setup is crowd control. Fans really can influence the outcome of close Cups.
Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Will Medinah's setup favor the U.S., Europe, or neither?
THE WINNER IS ...
Dusek: And finally, it's prediction time: Which team wins the Ryder Cup and which player on the winning team plays the most critical role?
Shipnuck: U.S., 14.5-13.5. Tiger beats Rory in the 12th singles match to clinch the Cup. Armageddon ensues.
Reiterman: U.S. They've got the better team top to bottom, and the home crowd has to be worth at least half a point.
Hanger: The U.S. wins, primarily because they're deeper, like Ryan said. To be consistent with my failed pick from last week, I think Dufner goes undefeated and leads the wild champagne-spraying on Sunday night.
Godich: The U.S. wins by a point, with crying machine Steve Stricker providing the clinching point in the state where he played college golf. But the star of the week will be Dustin Johnson.
Walker: Europe. The core of the team (McDowell, Westwood, McIlroy, Donald) is a little stronger than the U.S. side. It should be close though.
Herre: I'm going to take the home team. As far as a potential difference-maker, I'll take the Duf. Paul Azinger, whose opinion I value on these things, says Dufner is a natural leader. He'll be a picture of calm, and even though he's a Ryder Cup rookie himself, he might make a great partner for Snedeker, another untested but promising player.
Ritter: My hunch is that the Euros will win another close one. Love makes one questionable pairing that all of us second-guess in next week's Confidential, while G-Mac and Donald have another huge Ryder Cup week. Euros win by two points.
Godich: Another traitor!
Bamberger: The Americans. Ryder Cup rookies, led by Snedeker, make the difference.
Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Who wins the Ryder Cup, and which players make the difference?
LEXI VS. LEWIS
Dusek: A final-round 66 From Lexi Thompson wasn't enough to catch Stacy Lewis, whose 69 earned her the Navistar LPGA Classic title, her third win this season. Lewis is now No. 2 in the Women's World Golf Rankings, and Thompson is 22nd. Two years from now, which player will be ranked higher?
Herre: Probably Lewis. Lexi has a bigger game but not a better one.
Bamberger: I'm on such a roll as swami that I really shouldn't answer, but Lexi has way more upside, because of her length and athleticism.
Garrity: That's true, Michael, but she also looks like a 40-year-old Ben Hogan when she's got a four-foot putt.
Shipnuck: Lewis. She's much better on and around the greens, and her iron play is just as good. I love Lexi's power, but the rest of her game is not on Lewis's level.
Godich: I'll take Lewis. She has found her game and is playing with a ton of confidence. And I love her grit.
Walker: Lewis. Always bet on performance over potential.
Van Sickle: It's hard to see Lewis playing much better than she has. Lexi still has a lot of room to improve, especially in the short game. I'll go with Lexi, but players like Lewis are fun to watch and easy to root for.
Tell us what you think in the comments section below: In two years, who's ranked higher: Stacy Lewis or Lexi Thompson?