Tour and News

PGA Tour Confidential: Woods and McIlroy meet again, Watney and Hanson win in Asia

Photo: Warren Little / Getty Images

Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods have spent a lot of time together inside the ropes in the second half 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?
Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: Let's start with Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods playing a big-money exhibition match in Zhengzhou, China. We saw them in a cash-grab in Turkey. They played seven rounds together in your more established stroke-play events on the PGA Tour (BMW, Barclays) and European tours (Abu Dhabi), and are rumored to be collaborating on an action film and a salad dressing. I know they're one-two in the world, but does anyone else worry about Rory-Tiger fatigue?

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: Not at all. Great to have two stars in the game after all those years with only one. It will be fun to watch Tiger try to keep up with young Rory, just as Arnie tried to keep up with young Jack a half-century ago.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Fatigue? It's probably their new business plan. Tiger & Rory barnstorming worldwide for huge dollars. Beats the hell out of having to shoot lower scores than 154 other players who are pretty good, especially if they end up as Nike comrades.

Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: For years we wanted to see this with Tiger and Mickelson, and they rarely played their best at the same time. We should enjoy Tiger-McIlroy while we can. The Bird-Jordan style commercials are probably already in production: "Off the scoreboard, off the ball washer, right in the cup..."

David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: I don't worry about it because I've got it. Maybe part of the reason why Rory playing head-to-head against Tiger in China doesn't get my heart pumping is because it's on the other side of the world, and aside from the wheelbarrows of cash, and some degree of pride, nothing is on the line. Scarcity creates demand. These guys have played a lot of golf against each other over the last two months.

Van Sickle: Just watched a baseball segment on TV recalling how Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig barnstormed with their teams, the Bustin' Babes and the Larrupin' Lous. Tiger and Rory could do the same, and very profitably.

Charlie Hanger, executive editor, Golf.com: Despite some level of Tiger fatigue, he's still the guy who has brought golf to its current high profile. If we have an heir apparent who will be a big part of the Tiger story for the next few years, that's just going to make golf that much more compelling to hardcore golf fans and the masses alike.

Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: Not fatigued at all. How many people were even able to tune into the Turkish and Chinese cash-grabs? This rivalry is just getting started, and it's cool to see both guys embrace it. (Of course, the cash has helped.) Also, I say bring on the salad dressing. I need something to replace Blue Cheese.

Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, Golf.com: I'm not even close to being fatigued. They're still in the honeymoon stage.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Fatigue?! For 15 years we've been clamoring for a true rival for Tiger, and now that he has one, you're going to complain that they're competing too often? Puh-leeze.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Are you getting tired of Tiger-Rory showdowns, or are you ready to see more?

SILLY SEASON CLASSICS
Morfit: We are now pretty well into Silly Season, which seems more laden with gold than ever. Between the old, mixed-team J.C. Penney and the Skins Game and the Battles at Bighorn (and elsewhere) and other Silly Season staples, what's your favorite Silly Season moment? I'll go with Lee Trevino making that ace at PGA West in the 1987 Skins Game, a hole in one that, as he said later, went around the world.

Dusek: Seeing Fred Funk play in a dress because Annika Sorenstam outdrove him. That never gets old for me.

Van Sickle: I also enjoyed that. Funk was still wearing the skirt when Tiger Woods helped him line up the putt. "I think it's two balls out," Tiger said, giggling hysterically. Woods was very proud of the line he'd thought up. Those were beautiful moments.

Walker: Can't blame Tiger; that's a great line. Tiger will be a fantastic TV commentator someday.

Herre: I played with Tiger in the PGA Grand Slam pro-am when the Slam was held in Hawaii. That was fun (and yes, he did read putts when asked). Always liked the Three-Tour Challenge, and there's a cool dynamic at the Father-Son event.

Hanger: You're holding out on us, Jim. Tell us about outdriving Tiger!

Herre: Don't want to brag ...

Reiterman: Freddie being Freddie in the Skins Game.

Van Sickle: I actually liked watching the short-lived Skills Contest, where competitors tried their hands at assorted shots, from long drives to straight drives to bunker shots and tree shots. It was fun to see how good these guys were. Chi Chi was on it one year, and he was amazing. They invited some non-pros, too, and Mark McGwire beat out the pros in 2003. Golf Channel's Big Break has borrowed some of those contests.

Walker: A skills contest would be fun, and I miss watching the Thanksgiving Skins Game. The problem today is that there is too much "season" and not enough "silly."

Van Sickle: Good line, but I disagree. We've got enough silly. Too much of the "season" is made up of limited-field events, which don't have the same buzz as full-field tournaments.

Shipnuck: Watson calling out Player for cheating at the Skins. Golf never rests.

Van Sickle: When Watson grumbled to Gary Player about improving his lie in the Skins Game, New York Times scribe Dave Anderson overheard it and wrote it up, taking the Watson-Player feud public.

John Garrity, contributing writer, Sports Illustrated: My favorite was Arnold Palmer backing into a cactus in the Skins Game. And how about Casey Martin winning the long drive and a couple of other events in a 90's Skills Challenge? That was a benchmark for disabled golfers.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: What's your favorite Silly Season memory?

THIS WEEK'S WINNERS
Morfit: Tiger came up short in the 48-player CIMB Classic, and Rory did not win the BMW Masters. Nick Watney shot a final-round 61 to win the CIMB (Tiger finished tied for fourth), edging Robert Garrigus and Bo Van Pelt by a shot. Peter Hanson held off McIlroy for what he called his biggest victory at the BMW Masters. Who has a bigger future, Hanson or Watney, and why?

Herre: Watney's a few years younger, but if I had to pick right now I'd bet on Hanson. He's been coming on, and making the Ryder Cup team seems to have given an even bigger boost. Looked really good dusting Rory.

Van Sickle: They're both impressive when they're on, but Hanson is already 35. I'd give the edge to Watney, who is 31. I also like how Watney has worked to improve his play on the greens.

Garrity: Yes, age puts it all in perspective. Same thing with 35-year-old Jason Dufner -- fantastic player, but he took a long time to climb to the top. His future is .... shorter. Those early 30s years are priceless. Hogan became a star at 32, didn't he? If he'd waited 'til he was 35, he wouldn't have had many yip-free years.

Dusek: I agree it's Watney, and it's also worth noting that Watney's wins -- while not large in number -- have often come on big non-major stages. He won at Torrey Pines in 2009, at Doral and AT&T National in 2011, and the Barclays Championship earlier this season. His next step is to get those results in the four events that matter most.

Reiterman: Watney. Seems like when he's in contention (minus that 2010 PGA) he gets it done, and it's usually on a big-time course. He'll win multiple majors before he's done.

Shipnuck: Hanson showed a ton of toughness and played brilliantly to hold off Rory's charge, but I'll still say Watney. He's younger, much longer and has already won bigger events.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Who will have the better career from today forward, Watney or Hanson?

PLAYING FOR A PROMOTION
Morfit: Big doings today on the Web.com tour, where Justin Bolli, who came into the Web.com Tour Championship 44th on the money list, won the tournament and got himself a PGA Tour card for 2013. Jim Herman got the 25th and final spot, getting in thanks to James Hahn's birdie on 18, which bumped out Adam Hadwin. I always find this type of stuff pretty compelling, since livelihoods are on the line. At one point, I think I heard a Golf Channel guy utter the phrase "with not all precincts reporting." How many of you guys watched it unfold on Sunday?

Dusek: The Dusek house was in full hurricane prep mode on Sunday, so golf had to take a backseat. That said, the Sundays of events like the Web.com Tour Championship are usually a lot of fun to see.

Hanger: If TV does its job and keeps you informed of the players' backstories, it can make those rounds pretty dramatic. We have to know a little about the players to care about which ones make it, and don't.

Van Sickle: I saw Adam Hadwin, a Louisville alum who played college golf against my son, hit a putt while I was channel-surfing toward the NFL Redzone. It should be compelling golf, but most viewers don't recognize any of the names, whether it's Q-School or Web.com. How many times have I heard complaints about PGA Tour events being boring, even if they went to sudden death, because the players weren't big names? It's golf for true golf fans, of which there are fewer than we used to think, I'm afraid.

Garrity: Kansas City is just out of hurricane range, so I caught some of the Web.com finish between Chiefs turnovers against the Raiders. I, too, enjoy the battles of bubble-boys, although the drama is totally announcer driven. Watch with the sound off and you might as well be viewing a 24-hour web-cam from your local muni.

Shipnuck: I was crushed they didn't show it here in China! It's golf with no chaser. The pressure can be almost unbearable, which makes it such great theater.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Are you interested in stoylines where a player's livelihood is on the line, like the final round at the Web.com Championship?

NICEST GUYS ON TOUR
Morfit: Okay, this question is slightly off-beat, but given the Peter Hanson win, I have to ask: Who's the nicest, most decent guy you've ever come across on the PGA Tour? Hanson would be in my top five, for sure.

Van Sickle: They retired the nice-guy trophy with Byron Nelson. No contest.

Reiterman: While I haven't spent a ton of time on Tour, I'll never forget seeing how well Padraig Harrington treated his pro-am partners at Quail Hollow in 2011. It was a Monday afternoon, no one was around, and he gave them his full attention, answering their questions, giving lessons in the middle of the fairway. And then he stopped and gave long, thoughtful answers to each question I had.

Dusek: I've had two equipment-related one-on-ones with Rory McIlroy and came away both times thinking that he's charming and mature beyond his years. Shocker, right? However, the nicest player I've met on the PGA Tour is Justin Rose. They also don't come any better than Phil Mickelson's caddie, Jim "Bones" Mackay.

Herre: Will second Mackay. He's always accommodating, a straight shooter.

Dusek: On the Wednesday before this year's Masters, Mackay agreed to do an on-camera interview with me for Sports Illustrated at the Majors. Not only did he drive himself to our location, but he arrived 30 minutes early because he said he wanted to avoid traffic. "Don't worry about me, I'll just sit here and wait until you guys are ready." Needless to say we did the interview right after I picked my jaw up off the ground.

Van Sickle: He operates on caddie time -- 30 minutes early for everything.

Morfit: I agree, Gary. One of the more enjoyable features I've done in the last few years is the one I did on Bones. The guy was full of so many good stories, I could have done a pretty entertaining story with just the ones that got cut.

Shipnuck: Nick Price.

Garrity: Jay Haas is the first to come to mind. He always gives the impression that you're more interesting than whatever he was doing. Great smile, too. A natural.

Morfit: John, I'm right there with you on Haas. If they were all as amiable as that guy, our job would be so easy a caveman could do it. He reminds me of a line from a movie I just saw: "A man for whom kindness is an instinct."

Walker: I worked on a Golf Magazine instruction cover story with Stewart Cink in Hartford in 2008. He couldn't have been nicer, chatting with golfers on the course who stopped by to watch. At one point, the photo shoot was dragging a bit and I said, "Thanks for your patience, it's only going to be another 15 minutes or so." He said, "Take your time, I blocked out my afternoon for this." That was a first.

Herre: Had the chance to spend some time with Mike Donald recently. He's an interesting guy with a clear-eyed view of golf and life.

Ritter: Haven't spent a ton of time on Tour, but generally speaking, most pros seem courteous (even if they're faking it) and willing to give a quote if you're respectful of their time. Among the most amicable and quotable, Stricker and Zach Johnson would be somewhere near the top of my list.

Van Sickle: I heartily second all the names mentioned above. Maybe there's something about golf that keeps you humble (well, there definitely is), but this shows the game has no shortage of classy, nice characters. If you asked the opposite question about who the biggest jerks are, it's tough to come up with very many names.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Which pros to you think are the nicest on Tour?

WGC-HSBC
Morfit: The last WGC of the year is this week: the WGC-HSBC Champions at Mission Hills, China. Fifth-ranked Justin Rose, the European Ryder Cup hero who won in Turkey, seems to be the hottest player among the many stars lined up to compete. Is there any one thing that could happen at the Olazabal Course at Mission Hills to alter the narrative of 2012? What would it be? Could Phil Mickelson play himself back into the conversation? Could Rose begin to challenge Rory-Tiger-Luke? What are you curious to learn from this impressive collection of talent at "Asia's Major"?

Dusek: A win from Luke Donald would almost seem like, "Hey, remember me?" It feels like most of the Americans in the field are just playing for money and for momentum going into 2013.

Van Sickle: No, the die has been cast. There are a lot of players who could put themselves back in the big picture for 2013 with a win, like Luke Donald or Martin Kaymer or our pal Hanson or someone looking for a much-needed encore like Sergio or Padraig. But I don't think anything will change much no matter who wins this week.

Walker: Nothing that happened after the Ryder Cup can alter the 2012 golf season, but it would be nice to see Mickelson continue to play, and putt, better, like we saw in the playoff events and the Ryder Cup.

Herre: I might put Hanson on my SI Ranking ballot should he win, but otherwise I'm looking forward to Kapalua.

Ritter: It wouldn't change much about how we remember this season, but I think a win would be big for Mickelson. He looked so lost this summer after contending at the Masters, but then found his form at the FedEx and Ryder Cups. A win would be a nice bookend to his title at Pebble Beach early in the season, when he stomped Tiger on Sunday, and would give him some good vibes heading into '13.

Shipnuck: Nah, the BMW Masters was this year's Asian major. We learned that a tourney with almost no Americans but all the top Euros is great fun and a helluva leaderboard.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: What potential storyline would you find most interesting this week at the HSBC?

 

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