5. Jordan Spieth was a slam-dunk rookie-of-the-year winner. The previous three winners were Rickie Fowler in '10, Keegan Bradley in '11 and John Huh in '12. Which of these four players has the brightest future?
SHIPNUCK: I'd say Bradley, but he's losing his putter in two years so who knows how that's gonna affect him. I still love his swing and competitive makeup; he's set the bar pretty high for Spieth, but I wouldn't be surprised to see the kid from Texas leap right over it.
VAN SICKLE: You've got to go with Spieth, who's just getting started. Bradley snagged a major early but has cooled off since. Fowler and Huh didn't have much impact this year on the course. Spieth played his way onto the Tour, won, and made the U.S. Presidents Cup team. It's hard to believe he's not going to keep getting better for the next couple of years. I can't say that about the other three.
WALKER: I’ll stick with major winner Keegan Bradley, but all four guys have the competitive fire that makes you think they'll have long, successful careers.
RITTER: Have to take Bradley since he's one major title ahead of the rest of that group. Spieth is intriguing, though. Besides Tiger and Phil, he's the player I'm most interested to watch this week.
PASSOV: Spieth is my pick. He's always shown remarkable maturity and has dominated at every level, yet showed the fortitude to come back from adversity when he flunked out of the 2012-'13 Q-School's second stage, leaving him with no Tour status. I'm wondering if Bradley's fight with the anti-long putter folks has distracted him a bit. Fowler has been a surprising disappointment, but he's hard to pick on, because he's so good with fans and so good for the game. Huh had a pretty decent year, though nothing special, and nothing says "star" about him right now.
MORFIT: I'm going with Spieth. He's consistently in the mix now in a way that I've not seen from the others.
SENS: Spieth. He’s accomplished more at his age than the others and nothing about his progress has seemed forced or fluky. Fowler is the flashier dresser, but he didn’t get his first win until his third full year on Tour. Bradley has a major and major talent, but a looming ban on anchored putting awaits him. As for Huh, great player. But isn't it fun to put a question mark after his name?
BAMBERGER: Spieth. He's younger and faster and better in most of the important categories, like ability to shoot low scores on Sundays.
6. Phil Mickelson has suggested he will play fewer events in 2014, following the lead of Steve Stricker, Tiger Woods and Adam Scott. What will fewer star appearances mean for the PGA Tour and its smaller events?
SHIPNUCK: Not much -- the stars don't play them anyway. But it'll be a major bummer if Phil skips Pebble and/or Phoenix, since he's always the biggest name at these tourneys.
VAN SICKLE: The PGA Tour continues to eat its young. The World Golf Championships made the lower-level Tour stops seem less, then the FedEx Cup made the WGC and all the regular stops seem less. Plus the FedEx Cup "playoffs" killed the summer schedule. Players are forced to play seven of 11 weeks from the U.S. Open on (two majors, four FedEx Cup, one WGC), thus making every other date on the schedule unattractive to the top players, and therefore to potential sponsors. “Less is more” sounds like a snappy argument unless you're out of the top 50 and suddenly can play only 22 events instead of 32. It's an alarming trend.
PASSOV: If he skips smaller, Tiger-less events such as Humana, L.A., Houston and St. Jude, they're in trouble. Here in Phoenix, where we have been without Tiger since 2001, we always say, "But at least we have Phil." Nobody moves the needle like Tiger, but Lefty is a healthy second.
RITTER: It's bad news for the little guy, but it's rare for high-wattage names play those events, anyway. Phil's entering his mid-40s, so a schedule cutback was probably inevitable. I just hope he doesn’t dump Scottsdale.
WALKER: Think about how few times Mickelson, Woods, Scott and McIlroy were in the same field this year. There is now a de facto Super Tour of the majors, WCG events, the Players, the FedEx Cup playoffs, and a couple other events like Quail Hollow and the Memorial. The Tour needs to start requiring the stars to play less-traveled events or we’ll have a permanent two-tiered PGA Tour.
MORFIT: It'll hurt, for sure, just because Phil moves the needle as well as anyone not named Tiger. But it's the right move for Mickelson. Given Scott's success, and Stricker's fine season, I'd be surprised if more guys don't do the same thing.
SENS: On the upside, more opportunity for fresh faces. But on the much, much weightier downside, paltry spectator turnout, dim TV ratings and greater dilution of a Tour lineup that already risks feeling watered-down.
BAMBERGER: The smaller events, like Colonial and Phoenix and San Diego and Hilton Head, are the heart of what the Tour has always been: a bunch of local businesspeople saying, “Let's put on a fundraising golf event -- it'll be fun!” The Masters, with win-you're-in, is doing a great service to help keep these events relevant. So is the allocation of World Ranking points. To circle back to the first question, these events will always make for good TV, when the golf is bunched, because the players care. With a win, a player's status -- social, financial, athletic -- can change. So can his life. Plus, we know a lot of these old tournaments on courses we've seen for years. The Tour always wants to reinvent itself. Maybe it should consider just tweaking the things that already are working well, like these so-called smaller events. They ARE the Tour.
The PGA Tour Confidential debate continues Monday on our new weekly show hosted by Jessica Marksbury. Tweet her your questions @Jess_Marksbury.