3. Charl Schwartzel defended his Alfred Dunhill title at South Africa's Leopard Creek, his first European Tour win in a year. Are you bullish that Schwartzel can be a top 5 golfer again, or is he one of those mysterious South Africans (see, Louis Oosthuizen, Branden Grace) who flashes brilliance for a spell and then retreats?
VAN SICKLE: I have to admit that Charl and Oosty are enigmas. Their swings, their games and their demeanors say world-beaters, but that obviously isn't happening. Sometimes we underestimate the difficulty of bouncing back from life-changing major championships and the fame that goes with it, especially if the winners are from small towns or are introverts. It's hard to get that same urgency and desire back after winning a Masters, say, as Charl and Bubba Watson did. Nobody wins a Powerball jackpot and says, “Boy, I can't wait to go out and win another one!”
MORFIT: I'm not holding my breath. He seems a bit too mercurial to get up there in the top five, and it's going to get crowded at the top in 2014 with the players mentioned above.
SHIPNUCK: He certainly has top 5 talent. His struggles this year may be an aberration because he was nicked-up with various physical maladies. I think Grace overachieved there for a while -- he’s not in the same class as Charl and King Louis. Oosthuizen’s interest level comes and goes, whereas I think Charl is more dedicated to maximizing his considerable potential. Let’s see what a healthy Schwartzel does in ’14 before we render a verdict.
SENS: The only really mysterious thing here is why he spells his first name like that. Other than that, Schwartzel's varied results have less to do with nationality than they do with the fickle nature of golf. Lots of guys show flashes of world-beating brilliance only to retreat back into the pack. It's just so hard to stay dominant, and it makes you marvel at what Tiger has done all the more.
RITTER: He's got a sweet swing and one major title, but not sure I see Charl as the next Ernie. I think he'll continue to pop up on leader boards and snag the occasional title ... but how bad does he want it? Top 5 guys need that extra drive.
PASSOV: In winning the 2011 Masters in such dramatic, impressive fashion, Schwartzel looked like he had top five written all over him for years, given that pure swing and alpha attitude. He and Oosthuizen have battled on-and-off serious injury problems, and I know that in tossing away the South African Open title the week before, it came to glaring light that he's had real trouble in fourth rounds this year. Perhaps this win will kick-start his campaign to regain his elite status.
BAMBERGER: Charl is an enigma wrapped in a riddle, or his golf scores are, anyway. He always looks like he's shooting 68.
4. In a casual round a couple of weeks back, Bubba Watson went around California's Pelican Hill in 81 strokes -- using only a hybrid. Fifty years ago, the British pros staged a 7-club event at Turnberry in Scotland. The winner finished 4-over-par for 72 holes. Would you watch a silly season event using such a format? What inventive shotmaker on tour would be the favorite?
SHIPNUCK: Oh, hell yes! That’d be great TV. Bubba would be tough to beat, but I’d also like Phil’s chances. Tiger, too, if he was into it.
BAMBERGER: Silly season? How about in the prime of the year? Four clubs would be ideal, seven tops, and I'd put the players on a strict shot clock and watch them shoot 70 in about three hours.
SENS: Yes. I'd watch. Just as I watched in the '80s when Faldo and Seve went head to head in the one-club classic, armed only with 5-irons. It was good fun then, and it would be good fun today. What I'd really like to see, though, is more every-day golfers playing with fewer clubs. It would speed up play (less indecision) and increase creativity, and I doubt many people would score much worse.
RITTER: Sure, why not? There's more room for silly season to become sillier, and an 18-hole event like this would be a blast to watch. Bubba would be a runaway favorite, and I'd love to see Phil challenge him.
VAN SICKLE: One-club tournaments were revived in Milwaukee during my sportswriting days at The Journal and I covered (and competed in) a couple of them. I saw Tuckaway CC pro Terry Beardsley win the first one with an impressive 76 using only a 4-iron, as I recall. I'd watch a one-club silly season event, although I'd prefer to see the pros be allowed to putt with an actual putter for scoring purposes. I'd make Tiger Woods the favorite, in the unlikely event he could be enticed to play.
PASSOV: You ever watch the glee that these guys display when they're asked to show off these types of skills? How could this not be totally entertaining? It's hard to pick against Tiger, so I would envision a three-way playoff with Woods, Mickelson and Bubba, with Tiger taking the crown. If we held it at Turnberry, I'd put 64-year-old Tom Watson in the mix. He'd love this format.
MORFIT: I'd watch a one-club challenge. As for who would win, I'd pick someone with a lot of patience and a sense of humor. Maybe Graeme McDowell?