PGA Tour Confidential: Tiger Woods injures Achilles, Justin Rose tops Bubba Watson at Doral

Tuesday March 13th, 2012
Tiger Woods withdrew from Doral with what he later said was an injury to his left Achilles.
Wilfredo Lee / AP

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 our all-new live Readers' Confidential or in the comments section below.

TIGER'S DORAL WD
Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: Greetings, golf fans. We have a special guest this week, and he's the only guy I know who has Gil Hanse in his Fave 5: Joe Passov, Golf Magazine's senior editor for travel and course rankings. (In hindsight, I probably should've brought in an orthopedist to be this week's guest.) Joe, thanks for joining us.

Let's start with the most shocking development of the day: Tiger's WD after teeing off on the 12th hole during his final round. We still have very little information, but after leaving the premises, Woods followed up through a representative to say that it was an injury to his left Achilles' tendon, which tightened during his warm-up and grew progressively worse during his round. The bright side for Woods: it doesn't appear to be the left knee. Woods said he'll be evaluated early this week. Your reactions, please.

David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: Obviously it's not a good sign, and I'll be shocked if Tiger plays at Bay Hill, his only commitment between now and the Masters. We're not doctors, but after so many issues with Tiger's left leg you have to wonder if his busier schedule (adding Pebble Beach and the Honda) hurt him.

Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Bummer. It was really starting to get fun with Tiger and Rory in the mix every week and a cast of other young guys battling it out. Hopefully it's not something that will keep him out for long.

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: Woods has had four operations on his left knee and now this. The best news would be that the knee and the Achilles injuries are not related. Short term, we might not see Tiger again until Augusta. Long term, I hope the leg doesn't turn into a chronic condition.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: For all the talk about his swing and putting, Woods's quest for 19 majors hinges largely on his brittle body. This is a very troubling development. Even if this latest ding isn't overly serious, it's the most recent sign that Tiger's late-30s body can no longer hold up under the strain.

Charlie Hanger, executive editor, Golf.com: Glad to see Tiger shut it down right away. The old Tiger might have tough-guyed it around the course and gotten hurt worse. Hopefully he'll be back for Augusta.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: It's a shame that Tiger got hurt since his game was clearly coming around. The Masters will be a lot better if he's healthy enough to play in it.

Have a question for Gary Van Sickle's mailbag? E-mail editor@golf.com or ask it on Facebook.

Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I keep hearing the voice of Jack Nicklaus on Tiger's quest for 18 majors: "You guys are all so willing to just hand it to Tiger: Greatest Player Ever, like it's over already. And he'll probably wind up as that. But he has to do it first, doesn't he?" Tiger will have to deal with both his leg and Rory McIlroy to get there.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: I guess the good news is that it's the Achilles. The bad news is that this could really set him back. Let's face it: The clock is ticking. The last thing he needs is more doubt in his mind.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: I'm hugely disappointed that Tiger is dealing with yet another setback. He was basically back, as far as I could tell at Honda. Now, who knows? The guy is running out of time.

Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: The left leg creates a Catch 22, which Tiger hasn't been able to solve. He can't get his game back without serious practice, and he can't put in serious practice without straining his leg. That's why his comeback has been filled with starts and stops.

Godich: OK, I'll be the one to say it. Seeing as Tiger hasn't exactly been forthright about his injuries (and other matters), let's hope it truly is just his Achilles.

Ritter: Mark, somebody had to say it.

Tell us what you think in the all-new readers' live Confidential or in the comments section below: What's your take on Tiger's latest injury?

HAS ROSE FINALLY ARRIVED?
Ritter: Justin Rose shot a Sunday 70 to take down a stacked field that included all of the top 50 players in the world. It was his fourth career PGA Tour win; the last was at the 2011 BMW Championship. He's been on the upswing for a few years now. Is this the year he joins the ranks of golf's elite?

Shipnuck: We'll see. The guy used to make some noise at Augusta, at least until Sunday. This is a nice win for a nice player, but there are a lot of dudes out there like Rose. The only way to be considered elite is to contend regularly at the majors and win one. Or better yet, more than one.

Herre: Rose is a terrific player with a wonderful swing, but he's streaky on the greens. I'd put him on the second tier of tour pros.

Dusek: Rose is a solid player and could well make the Ryder Cup team, but I'm not ready to say that he's on the cusp of being one of the elite players in the game. There can only be so many truly top guys, five or six maybe, and I see him more as a 10-20 player. He's not Rory, Luke, Kaymer or Westwood (at least right now), but like so many other guys, when he putts well he can win.

Gorant: Is there a limit to how long you can be on the upswing before you actually have to reach the next level? All his wins are at good events, but he's got to be more of a consistent force to be elite.

Van Sickle: He's made some significant changes in the last two years with Sean Foley, and he does still seem to be improving. Even if he's an old 31, he's still only 31. That's relatively young. He's got time.

Joe Passov, Golf Magazine senior editor, travel and course rankings: Rose reminds me a bit of Tom Lehman's career arc. Not many wins, but all quality, and he seems to be in the hunt a lot on big occasions.

Hack: I like the quality of Justin's four PGA Tour wins. He seems to be a big-game hunter. Next stop, a major.

Godich: I just don't think he's good enough on the greens. If he hasn't found the magic by now, I don't know when he will. He'll win every now and then, but I don't see him getting to the elite level.

Morfit: I fully expect Justin to put his name in the mix at Augusta. How long he keeps it there is the big question.

Tell us what you think in the all-new readers' live Confidential or in the comments section below: Is this the season Justin Rose joins the elite ranks?

BUBBA STUMBLES ON SUNDAY
Ritter: Bubba Watson took a three-shot lead into the final round, but then -- deep breath -- sprayed it off the tee most of the day, coughed up that advantage, eventually righted himself, hit an unbelievable approach on the 18th hole, pushed the birdie putt and lost by one. Does Watson need to rein it in to become a more consistent winner? Or is his twitchy, free-wheeling style the only way he can be successful?

Morfit: Bubba's got to be Bubba.

Shipnuck: Bubba talked himself out of this one, basically predicting the course would get to him sooner or later. On the rare occasions when he feels comfortable and content, he's dangerous, but the guy is very high-strung for tournament golf.

Hack: I agree. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy. "See, I told you this course doesn't fit my eye."

Godich: Bubba's all about feel and timing. When he's got that, he's really good. When he doesn't, you get his Sunday performance at Doral.

Herre: This is how he plays. He won't change, nor should he. Bubba is a lot of fun to watch, truly one of a kind, but he's also high-strung. He's going to hit some loose shots under pressure. The positive takeaway Sunday was the great shot at 18, where he overcame his nerves and rose to the moment.

Van Sickle: He reminds me of Phil Mickelson early in his career. Lots of spectacular shots, and lots of spectacular misses. Phil cleaned up his game and started winning majors. Bubba needs to do likewise.

Hack: Those lefties sure are hard-headed.

Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: He does things his way, and I'm not sure it's possible for him to "rein it in" because of his admitted concentration problems. He's never had a swing instructor or a mental coach, and he probably couldn't stay focused long enough to work with one, anyway. (Best line of the week: "If anybody says they are not nervous going into Sunday that's around the lead or close to the lead or has a chance to win, they are just lying to you. Their sports psychologist is telling them to lie to themselves.")

Gorant: I don't think there's any other way for Bubba. Man, he's hard to watch under pressure -- a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

Dusek: The worst thing Bubba could do is try to become more conventional, straighter and less authentic. He's a PGA Tour winner, a Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup team member. He's accomplished that by playing the style that comes naturally to him. He moves the ball a lot off the tee and from the fairway; trying to be a straight-line guy would drive him insane.

Van Sickle: I was amazed how many putts Watson made this week after watching his shaky stroke most of this year. I love a good feel player, but at some point, you've got to have some fundamental technique. That said, he's liable to go Louis Oosthuizen some week at a major and win by seven. But I think that's the only way he wins one. His questionable play in the PGA Championship playoff at Whistling Straits said a lot about him.

Morfit: I'd have loved to have been on the ground to see just how hard that second shot was on 18. I saw him hit a recovery shot like that at a Nationwide event years ago and was blown away.

Tell us what you think in the all-new readers' live Confidential or in the comments section below: Does Bubba need to dial it back to have more Sunday success?

RORY'S WORLD
Ritter: In his first week with the No. 1 ranking, Rory McIlroy started out flat before tossing up a 65-67 on the weekend to nearly steal the title. In 2010, the story in golf was parity. Last year it was the rise of the young guns. Are we ready to declare 2012 the official start of the McIlroy Era?

Shipnuck: I'm ready. Even when he's not at his best, Rory is now always near the top of the leaderboard. Consistency and explosive talent make a pretty awesome combination.

Morfit: I'm a believer in Rory. I think he is the best player out there.

Dusek: Let's ask that question again on the evening of Sunday, April 8. Being No. 1 is great, but Rory has some work to do in Augusta.

Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, Golf.com: Judging by his record since winning the U.S. Open, and all of the burly security guards it took to hold back the autograph seekers after his round, I'd say we're already in it.

Herre: Yes. McIlroy is in the mix every time he tees it up. He might not win as often as Woods did in his prime -- no one in history has -- but Rory is clearly the class of professional golf.

Van Sickle: Rory has to turn these close calls into wins to get his own era. I like his chances, however.

Walker: The scary part is that he's miles ahead of his peers. Who is even second among the under-25s?

Dusek: In his last five tournaments, Rory hasn't finished lower than fifth. It's been an impressive run.

Hack: Rory is becoming an assassin. He was furious after his third-round 65, back-handing his ball into the water on 18. Rory is the new measure of greatness on tour.

Van Sickle: I don't think you can be the new measure of greatness on tour until you pile up the wins. Rory hasn't piled them up yet. He's got a couple, and he's got a lot of Luke Donald-like close calls. Greatness is winning. I'm sure Rory is going to stack the wins like firewood, but until he does, it's way too early to anoint him.

Dusek: I agree, Gary. As we discussed in Miami, once the wins start coming, and we know they will, all the second- and third-place finishes will look even better.

Godich: I agree. I am truly impressed with Rory, but greatness is measured by victories, not top-five finishes. He needs to build on this momentum.

Morfit: The guess here is that Rory is about to absolutely detonate. He comes that close to winning Doral after basically spotting the field three or four shots due to his NYC sidetrip? The guy is about to get big. I don't see him giving back No. 1 anytime soon.

Godich: Judging by the way he started this week, I wonder if Rory regrets jumping on that jet to New York after winning the Honda. I know the kid's only 22 and needs to have a personal life, but couldn't he have put off that getaway a week?

Gorant: Besides the NYC trip, he was also at the Heat game Saturday night. His inclination to make the scene could catch up to him.

Van Sickle: More power to Rory. He should lead a life, unlike Tiger. Well, a different life. I don't think attending basketball games is going to hurt his career, unless he tries dunking off a mini-tramp at halftime.

Herre: I'm not worried about Rory's lifestyle either. He's a clean-liver, so to speak.

Godich: Agreed, but jetting around the country during a tournament week can be draining. He's got plenty of time for that. It's not like these guys work every week.

Walker: McIlroy's on the right path. Why not enjoy your U.S. Open win, celebrate the No. 1 ranking, take a three-hour flight to visit your girlfriend, and watch your pal LeBron play basketball? He's taking the next three weeks off to prepare for Augusta. He's got his priorities straight.

Godich: You said it yourself, Mike. Three weeks off. He can do all the fun stuff and still play golf. He shot a first-round 73 on a day when a lot of guys were lighting it up. I'm guessing fatigue had something to do with that.

Wei: I think Rory's lifestyle is what will continue to make him the best. He's unbelievably talented and works hard, but he isn't afraid to take a break from golf and have some fun. Balance is important.

Tell us what you think in the all-new readers' live Confidential or in the comments section below: Is golf now in the Rory McIlroy Era?

HANSE WINS OLYMPIC BID
Ritter: After months of speculation, American architect Gil Hanse finally won the bid to design the 2016 Olympic golf course in Rio de Janeiro. Hanse and his design partner, Amy Alcott, beat out several high-wattage names, including Jack Nicklaus-Annika Sorenstam, Greg Norman-Lorena Ochoa, Gary Player and Robert Trent Jones II. Is Hanse the right choice for this job?

Passov: Both Tom Fazio and Tom Weiskopf told me beforehand that they thought Nicklaus would get the gig. Yet, architect Brian Curley, who did all the courses at China's Mission Hills, told me that Hanse was the obvious choice because he was the least self-promoting and thus wouldn't overshadow the Olympic brand. Plus, the players and administrators have really liked what Hanse did to TPC Boston, and especially his player- and user-friendly design of Scotland's Castle Stuart.

Van Sickle: He hasn't built a bad course yet. In fact, nothing but good courses. None of the other nominees can say that. It's amazing and quite a surprise to me, but the Olympic Committee got it right. I have to believe that was Peter Dawson's doing.

Passov: Many assumed that Peter Dawson would have favored Martin Hawtree, the R&A's go-to guy for Open rota fix-ups. However, I do know that Dawson was quite taken with Hanse's efforts at Castle Stuart.

Godich: Not to state the obvious, but we won't know until we see it. In this business, you're only as good as your last project. No pressure there.

Dusek: I'm sure any of those designers could produce a good course, and Hanse has built some damn fine tracks, but honestly, are people going to start making travel plans to Rio starting in the fall of 2016 to play golf? I don't think it matters who designs this course. Will anyone go to Rio to play it just because Gil Hanse designed it, or not go to Rio because Jack Nicklaus didn't design it?

Walker: I'm sure the Hanse course will be great, but I'm with Dusek on this one. Tiger, McIlroy, Kaymer, Ryo and Schwartzel are the important names for the Olympics, not the course designer. The goal of golf in the Olympics isn't to build one course in Brazil. It's to build 10,000.

Herre: Hanse is an excellent choice and will create a solid course. He kind of reminds me of Mike Davis: down to earth, approachable, loaded with common sense. People like Hanse and Davis are great representatives for golf and will impress the Olympic community.

Shipnuck: Hanse or Doak were the only choices they could have made. The era of artificial, high-maintenance courses is over. The Olympics is the best possible venue to show the world that golf is changing.

Ritter: Even if Hanse submitted the finest plan, didn't the committee potentially blow this one by not selecting Jack and Annika? Hanse may be the best on a bulldozer, but Jack would've been (and already is) the best global ambassador. Wouldn't it have generated more Olympic buzz, and been better for the game, if the committee selected the biggest name to promote golf globally during the run-up to the Games? I doubt Jack and Annika would've built a two-star muni.

Van Sickle: Mickelson had the definitive quote: "It would've been easy for the Olympics to go with a famous name. They went with the best guy instead."

Gorant: Yeah, it's nice to have steak beat sizzle every now and then.

Passov: I'm with you, Jeff, but there might have been some concern that Jack doesn't have a great record when it comes to working with low-budget jobs, and there's no question that Hanse's "work with the environment" style is more in vogue -- and perhaps more appropriate -- for this project.

Herre: And Hanse will put in the hours on-site. Heck, he's moving to Rio. Nicklaus and Norman would never do that.

Wei: Hanse was definitely the right choice. They could have easily gone with the big names. Jack-Annika or Norman-Ochoa would have made a wonderful photo op and lots of hoopla, but after all that, the course would have to stand on its own.

Tell us what you think in the all-new readers' live Confidential or in the comments section below: Is Gil Hanse the right choice for this job? Or should the Olympic committee have chosen a bigger name for the project?

FINDING ANOTHER TRUMP-WORTHY BARGAIN
Ritter: Doral's new owner, Donald Trump, was omnipresent this week, and it seems clear that the Blue Monster will be positively Trumptastic in a few years. The Donald got into Doral on the cheap, but are there other Tour stops that could vastly improve with a combination of renovation, scheduling and a little luck? Time to put on a cotton-candy toupee and your real-estate cap: if you're Trump, which PGA Tour venue do you see as the best "buy low" opportunity on the calendar?

Gorant: None, since the word is that Trump bought Doral for the possibility that Miami will legalize casinos in the near future. There was a measure up for vote recently that was narrowly defeated. The value is in the slots, not the golf shots.

Herre: Trump was motivated primarily by the real estate aspect of the Doral deal. There is no longer any land available in the middle of Miami. I could see him being interested in, say, Harbour Town.

Van Sickle: Right, the value is in the land -- more than 800 acres. Try finding that much open space in the Miami area.

Wei: You don't need to be a real estate expert to see why The Donald bought Doral for only $150 million. The place is poorly run. I'm not impressed, especially for the exorbitant prices they charge. Another Tour venue that could benefit from Trump's influence? I'd say the Transitions Championship in Tampa. Players really like Innisbrook's Copperhead course. It's by far the best course on the Florida swing.

Passov: Trump likes a high-profile, big-city presence. I'm not sure of the dynamics, but even with Justin Timberlake's presence, Vegas is still small potatoes, with a bad date and few fans. Maybe the Donald can transform it.

Van Sickle: Joe is onto something there. Vegas has always been a lousy tournament with a lousy date and lousy attendance. It could definitely do better. Disney as the season-ender could use some sprucing up, too.

Shipnuck: Yes, Vegas. It's a great town with a superstar host and yet it creates zero buzz. Trump should buy Shadow Creek, move the tourney there and get it on the FedEx Cup schedule. Presto, a big-time tourney!

Walker: The Grand Slam of Golf could use Trump's showmanship skills as well.

Tell us what you think in the all-new readers' live Confidential or in the comments section below: What other Trump-worthy bargains are out there on the PGA Tour?

BEST COURSE IN FLORIDA SWING
Ritter: Doral was the second stop on the four-week Florida Swing. Some may say the Florida rotation is a little dull, but for your money, which of the four would you pay to play: PGA National, Doral, Innisbrook or Bay Hill?

Van Sickle: I'll take Innisbrook any day of the week. Doral would be a distant second. PGA National and Bay Hill are zero fun for low handicappers, much less hackers.

Herre: I'd take Innisbrook, which is fun to play.

Passov: If Arnie were in my foursome, I'd pay to play Bay Hill. About five years ago, Ernie Els singled out Innisbrook's Copperhead as the best course the PGA Tour plays in Florida. Others echoed that. They like it for the same reason I do -- it's an honest, straightforward, tough test. But for me, its elevated greens and predictable bunkering are no match for that "other" Florida Tour course they now visit in May.

Van Sickle: I'd also take Lake Nona or Keene's Point over Bay Hill any time.

Herre: What about the new and improved Isleworth?

Van Sickle: Isleworth wins best clubhouse by a mile. I'd stay indoors there. It's awesome -- putting green, basketball court, golf simulators, big screen TVs everywhere, great bar, spiral staircase to the locker room. It's one of the best clubhouses in golf. You don't even want to go home once you're there.

Shipnuck: I'd just stay on the West Coast and keep playing those courses.

Hack: I'd rather drop a few clams and play the muni North Palm Beach CC with Bamberger.

Dusek: I'd prefer to give GOLF Magazine Top 100 Teacher Eden Foster a call and head to Naples to play Calusa Pines.

Tell us what you think in the all-new readers' live Confidential or in the comments section below: Which of Florida's four Tour courses would you most want to play?

PICKING A WINNER AT TRANSITIONS
Ritter: The Florida tour continues this week with the Transitions Championship. The field is solid, but the season's three biggest news-generators -- Tiger Rory and Phil -- are sitting out. Someone else is going to snag a title and the headlines. Who do you think it'll be?

Herre: I'd like to see Tom Gillis get the job done.

Morfit: Love that guy Gillis.

Godich: After a solid start to his season, Gary Woodland broke through there last year. The trend continues this year with Harris English.

Van Sickle: Maybe Luke Donald will get his game back. It's a good course for him, but when you hit it straight and chip and putt like a demon, every course is good for you. That would really mess up the world rankings debate. That would be great.

Gorant: I'll go with Nick Watney.

Dusek: Seconded. Nick Watney.

Hack: Webb Simpson.

Ritter: I'll take Matt Kuchar.

Wei: Harris English. He won the Southern Am with a final-round 65 last summer. He has six starts and has made six cuts so far in his rookie season. He played in the last group with Rory at the Honda and didn't have his best stuff, to say the least, but it was his first time in that position on the big stage, and he probably learned a lot.

Tell us what you think in the all-new readers' live Confidential or in the comments section below: Who do you like this week at the Transitions?

 

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