PGA Tour Confidential: Tiger Woods wins AT&T National, passes Jack with 74th title

Monday July 2nd, 2012
Tiger Woods won the AT&T by two shots for his third PGA Tour win of the season and 74th of his career.
Carlos M. Saavedra / SI

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.

TIGER WINS AT&T NATIONAL
David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: Greetings one and all, and welcome back to PGA Tour Confidential. The last time we watched golf at Congressional Country Club, Rory McIlroy won the 2011 U.S. Open in record-setting fashion. This time around, it was Tiger Woods winning the 2012 AT&T National to earn his 74th PGA Tour win and pass Jack Nicklaus. Asking whether or not Tiger Woods is "back" seems like a pointless exercise, but with three big wins, is he now player of the year?

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Tiger doesn't have a major, but nobody else has three wins. I can't see voting for Bubba Watson -- he's all but vanished since winning the Masters. And Webb Simpson was invisible before his U.S. Open triumph. I'd probably have to give Tiger the nod if voting started now.

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: Three wins make a great season for anyone, even Tiger at this point, so yes, he's the leader in the clubhouse for POY in my book. All bets are off if Watson or Simpson equals TW's win total.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Agreed. And don't forget Dufner, who has two wins, a runner-up and a fourth-place finish at the U.S. Open.

Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: No doubt, but it's POY with an asterisk because it's a majorless year -- so far.

Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: If the vote were happening now, you'd have to give it to Tiger. But if Dufner wins the PGA, or Mahan wins the British ...

Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: For the moment, it's Tiger. Lots of golf left though. Tiger's first two wins came two weeks before a major. He's playing the Greenbrier this week, two weeks before the British.

Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: He'd rather have a major, but Tiger is the player of the year so far.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Tiger is player of the half-year, but it means nothing to him, and I don't think the three Tour wins mean all that much to him, either, except for what they do to get him in position to win majors again. Two more majors this year. Couldn't be more fun.

Gorant: I don't know. When Feherty said he was now second in all-time Tour wins, Tiger produced a big, very pleased smile. The wins themselves may not give him too much juice, but those sorts of milestones mean something to him.

Lipsey: Watch out, folks. After about 28 abysmal and winless months, Woods has three wins in his last seven starts. He could be back to playing player-of-the-millennium golf.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: What meant the most to Tiger, I'd guess, is that he won at a Congo that played more like a major course than the Congo of June 2011, when that other "next Tiger" won. (What was his name again?) Maybe the next Tiger is ... Tiger.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: He's certainly POY so far, but even for Tiger 3.0, a year without a major is not a success. The British and PGA will determine how we (and he) view this season.

John Garrity, contributing writer, Sports Illustrated: Declaring Tiger "back" or "not back" may be a pointless exercise, but it's been a full-time job for most of us. My Tour Tempo co-author, John Novosel, declared Tiger "back" at the U.S. Open because Tiger was swinging with consistent tempo again. Same thing this week. So I say the Cat is Back and yeah, he's POY.

Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: Tiger's player of the year so far -- three wins in seven starts. OK, he needs that major, but winning any tournament is hard.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: If you're voting today, is Tiger player of the year?

WILL TIGER GET TO 15 IN ENGLAND?
Dusek: Tiger won at Bay Hill, and lots of people thought he would win the Masters. Then he won Memorial, and many folks thought he'd win at Olympic. Where do you stand on Tiger's chances at Royal Lytham and St. Annes?

Godich: He has to be the favorite. Ride the hot horse. Of course, I said that after Bay Hill and the Memorial.

Lipsey: On paper, he's a clear favorite. I have a hunch, though, that his mental major-itis could resurface.

Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, Golf.com: I don't buy for a second that Woods has some mental block at the majors. I think his new swing just hasn't been ready for 72 holes on a major championship course. He's obviously proven it can hold up at regular events; it's only a matter of time before he goes on another big run at the majors.

Herre: It looks like driver is the only club that TW is not hitting consistently, and he probably won't need it much at Lytham. Also, his putting seems to be improving, so I like his chances to notch No. 15. (Although I liked him in the U.S. Open, too.)

Bamberger: Tiger's chances at Lytham are outstanding. It's like Hoylake -- like all British Open golf, really -- but it's a course where golfing intelligence and controlled irons will carry the day. Watson was so dominant in the Open because of his golfing smarts. Tiger's right there with him.

Van Sickle: Let's say for the sake of argument that Tiger isn't the favorite at Lytham? Then who is? Tiger is the default favorite for all majors. No reason he can't win there. But his failures at the Maters and Olympic Club were troubling.

Gorant: Those bouncy links courses bring a lot of people (and luck) into it, but they tend to reward ballstrking more than putting, which seems to match pretty well with what Tiger's got going on right now.

Morfit: I refuse to make Woods the favorite for Royal Lytham & St. Annes. He tied for 22nd there in 1996 as an amateur, and for 25th in 2001. Like any British Open, so much will depend on the weather.

Garrity: Lytham sets up beautifully for Tiger's resurrected game. But that's beside the point. If he keeps hitting the ball like this, he'll be the favorite anywhere he plays.

Hack: If Lytham is dry and running, as Paddy Harrington said it was during the Nelson, then Tiger can try to Hoylake his way around.

Shipnuck: It's a good ballpark for him because he can hit a bunch of 2-irons off the tee. These courses always set up well for him.

Mick Rouse, Golf.com contributor: For Tiger to win, I think it's going to be more of a mental struggle. If he pulls it out at the Open, though, the momentum we are seeing could hit the stratosphere.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Is Tiger the British Open favorite?

DANGEROUS CONDITIONS
Dusek: Thunderstorms damaged Congressional on Friday night, forcing play to be delayed on Saturday so clean up could be completed safely. Spectators weren't even allowed on the course for the third round. I was at St. Andrews on the Sunday before the 2010 Open Championship and watched winds of more than 50 miles per hour blow over metal barriers. What's the craziest weather you've ever witnessed, in person, at a golf event?

Lipsey: Sadly, I was at Hazeltine in the lightning storm that killed a man at the 1991 U.S. Open.

Morfit: Craziest thing I ever experienced at a major was a flash rain storm in Augusta one night. It was the night of the PGA of America's barbecue, and we were driving back to our rental house. Couldn't see a thing it was raining so hard. I thought the car was about to get sucked into a funnel cloud.

Herre: As a 13-year-old caddie during an outing in Wisconsin, another caddie and his golfer were hit and killed by lightning only a few hundred yards away. Healthy respect ever since.

Garrity: At the Champions Tour event in Kansas City a few years ago, thunderstorm winds blew the media tent across a parking lot, over a fence and onto the tennis courts.

Fortunately, I was not in the tent at the time.

Rouse: During my time working at the AJGA, Texas produced some crazy weather. Flooding in College Station. Ungodly high temperatures in Houston. Super high winds in Fort Worth lifting entire tents and sending them into water hazards or down the fairway. Those were always fun to fish out or chase down.

Bamberger: In the face of death by lightning, this is nothing, but while caddying in the '85 British Open, the wind was so strong (on Friday, I think) that at one point we could almost not walk though it, and good drives were going 120ish.

Van Sickle: Let's not forget Wales in 2010. If that Ryder Cup had been any kind of real stroke-play event, it never would've finished. There were two inches of standing water on top of three inches of muck. Unbelievably bad conditions.

Gorant: Some pretty healthy thunderstorms, but no death or floating media centers for me.

Hack: Non-stop deluge during a heated grudge match against my J-school cohort Mark Saxon at the Tony Lema muni in Alameda, Calif.

Godich: I played in a deluge at a course outside of Vegas a few years back. There were six of us. I refused to stop until my old colleague Greg Stoda, playing in the group in front, quit. He was thinking the same thing. We played two or three holes before we surrendered.

Van Sickle: There was a nasty storm that sent water over the drain and into the entrance of the old Quonset hut pressroom at the Masters. The plugs for the computers were on the floor, and with those early models, if your computer clicked off for any reason, you lost everything you'd written. The water poured in and hit the outlets. Sparks were flying and voices were screaming. The storm probably wasn't the worst, but it was one of the biggest disasters in golf-writing history. Reporters hate rewriting.

Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: The first round of the 2008 British Open at Birkdale. Cold, rain, wind, hail -- it did everything but snow out there. Sandy Lyle walked off the course after 10 holes.

Wei: Probably the "derecho" on Friday night, considering how quickly it blew in with barely any notice and how much damage it caused in less than an hour.

Shipnuck: I've played many times in NorCal fog so thick you couldn't see more than 30 or 50 yards in front of you. Talk about hit and hope.

Godich: Try playing in a West Texas dust storm.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: What's the worst weather you've seen on the course?

SIGNS OF LIFE FROM RORY
Dusek: Looping back to Mr. McIlroy, the European Tour's Irish Open was played in his backyard at Royal Portrush. It was a complete sellout, the first ever for a non-major European Tour event. What was your impression of the course. Is there anything to read into Rory's tie for 10th?

Gorant: He certainly looked better. The bogey-free 67 on Sunday was nice.

Garrity: I played Portrush last July on a splendid, sunny afternoon, and it was magnificent -- almost as good as Carne.

Reiterman: I was more interested in watching Padraig Harrington, who continued his good stretch of play. I'd watch out for him at Lytham.

Godich: Well, it's a start. Hard to believe that baby steps would be progress for Rory, but that's what it was. The strong Sunday finish should give him some momentum, too.

Bamberger: Portrush? Give it an Open. Rory's finish is good golf, which is better than poor golf. A top 10 at his talent level means very little. Close to nothing.

Shipnuck: Loved the course, and I liked how relaxed Rory looked. He's seemed a little stressed-out this year. He needs to go back to freewheeling and having fun, and the results will come.

Lipsey: Let's face facts, to Mr. Walker's dismay: Rory is great, but not a big-time, routine winner. Portrush, on the other hand, is as good as it gets, and more.

Gorant: How can you make the pronouncement. He's 23?

Lipsey: Guys who routinely win start early and don't stop. Phil, Tiger, etc. Rory will win, but not nearly as much as some predict.

Gorant: Phil won five times from 1991-95. In five years as a pro, Rory has three PGA Tour wins and three Euro tour wins, including a major. You're talking trash.

Walker: I agree with Jim, and I am still on the McIlroy bandwagon. Plenty of seats available.

Lipsey: I'll bet my two middle kids that Phil ends up with at least twice as many Tour titles as Rory.

Gorant: You're on. Although, nothing against your children, I'm okay with the ones I already have.

Lipsey: By the time we get the results, our kids will likely have kids, scary as that sounds. Let's throw a grandkid into the pot!

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: What do you make of Rory's T10 in Ireland?

2014 STARTS IN 2013
Dusek: PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem has announced that Fall Series events are going to award FedEx Cup points beginning in October 2013. So starting that fall, the PGA Tour season is going to begin in October and end at the Tour Championship the following September. Is this a good thing or a bad thing, or, as our esteemed colleague Michael Bamberger wrote, an unnecessary over-complication of professional golf?

Herre: It's pretty much what the Euro tour has been doing for years. The winners will get FedEx points, but they likely won't get an invite to the Masters. Which do you think is more important?

Van Sickle: It's a good thing, and it signals a change of attitude. Once the FedEx Cup started, the Tour seemed to want the fall events to go away, which was on its way to happening. Now, in this tough economy, the Tour wants to keep every sponsor it can. Giving those events points and starting the season in the fall was necessary to make them attractive to sponsors. If one or two big names are enticed to play a fall event so they don't fall far behind on the money list, so much the better. But it's about keeping the sponsors in this case. I don't think the fall "pre-season" is ultimately going to make much of a difference, but I applaud the Tour for doing exactly what I've repeatedly suggested ever since the FedEx Cup started. Where's my consulting fee?

Bamberger: The baseball commissioner, in theory, looks out for the interest of the fans, the players and the owners. There's much good in this move, as Gary points out. But for ordinary fans, it just kind of messes with history. We talk about the '60 season, the '79 season, the '86 season, the 2000 season. The Tour didn't have to sell anything to make those years meaningful. If they pull this off - and they likely will -- it will be a triumph of marketing. Blech.

Godich: And that makes 'em just like the NFL. The Giants won the 2011 NFL championship, but they won the Super Bowl in 2012. Who's to say the season has to start in January? And these guys play golf for a living, a sport in which 25 starts a year is considered a heavy schedule. Is playing 30 of 52 weeks going to kill them?

Gorant: It's not ideal (what happened to not competing with football?), but it's economically necessary.

Shipnuck: It's slightly nutty, but I think it's a good thing. The Fall Series has good events, and this elevates their importance.

Garrity: I see how it makes sense from a sponsorship standpoint, but I worry that it will gut the traditional Hawaii start to the new year. Kapalua has always been about last year's champions gathering to start the new year, and the Sony marks the debut of all the new cardholders. They'll have to re-brand those events.

Lipsey: Come back in a decade, and the Tour will likely have tweaked the whole thing into a very good program that everybody likes.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Is starting a new season in October a good move or a bad decision by the Tour?

ASSISTANTS TO THE ASSISTANTS
Dusek: And finally, in Ryder Cup news, Davis Love III announced that Fred Couples and Mike Hulbert will be two of his four assistant captains at Medinah. How can those two men help Love and the United States team, and who would you select as the other two assistants if Davis called you tonight?

Shipnuck: I have a hard time caring about RC captains, until they start acting like buffoons or morons. Their assistants are nothing more than cart jockeys. Wake me when someone actually hits a shot at Medinah.

Godich: And how many assistants does a captain with a 12-man team need? It's starting to look like a college basketball bench, with all those suits sitting next to the head coach.

Garrity: I try to stay out of Ryder Cup politics, but if I were captain I'd want Jay Haas and John Novosel as my assistants -- Jay to supply the supportive vibe and John to tune up the team tempos.

Lipsey: You are a shameless shill man, Garrity.

Garrity: I wouldn't say I'm "shameless," but I don't allow my shame to get in the way.

Bamberger: Assistant captains Nos. 3 & 4: Warren Buffett and Brooklyn Decker.

Herre: Love will probably go with two more of his pals, don't you think, Michael?

Bamberger: If I had to bet, I think Davis will go to Justin Leonard, because he's been there, and Brad Faxon, for valuable putting chit-chat.

Herre: Couples and Hulbert are the ultimate players' coaches. I wouldn't be surprised to see Couples become the 2014 RC captain, with Hulbert as an assistant.

Bamberger: I agree, Jim. I think Fred gets the '14 nod for Scotland, but on my scorecard DL3 is his assistant.

Shipnuck: The Ryder/Prez Cup captaincy thing is getting to be like "Melrose Place," with all the partner swapping. Isn't there any fresh meat to be captain or an assistant?

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Who should Love choose to round out his assistants at the Ryder Cup?

 

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