PGA Tour Confidential: The Tour Championship and Solheim Cup

Monday September 26th, 2011
Bill Haas earned two trophies -- and $11.44 million -- for his win at the Tour Championship.
Fred Vuich/SI

Every week of the 2011 PGA Tour season, the editorial staff of the SI Golf Group will conduct an e-mail roundtable. Check in on Mondays for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.

HAAS A SMART PRESIDENTS CUP PICK?
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated : What an unbelievable day of golf. I'm still coming down from all the adrenaline...and I never left my couch! My heart's in Ireland, but we should probably start at the Tour Championship. Forget the FedEx Cup, let's talk Presidents Cup. Due to his blind allegiance to Tiger Woods, Fred Couples now has to decide between PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley and Tour Championship victor Bill Haas for his final captain's pick. Who do you pick, and why? (And if anyone takes Fowler, they're gonna get the back of the hairbrush.)

Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: I'd pick Bradley and hope Stricker's shoulder/neck keeps him out so you can take both.

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: Yes, both Haas and Bradley would be ideal, but the Presidents Cup is still a ways away, and my guess is Sticker will be OK. I'd go with Haas.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: I think Bill Haas takes it. You have to pick the guy who's hot, even though the Presidents Cup isn't for another month and a half.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: I'll take Haas. Anybody who can make three consecutive saves in a playoff with $11.4 million on the line is good enough for me.

Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: It's a real toss-up, but I'd probably go with Bradley. Winning majors trumps money and other titles.

David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: I'd pick Keegan. Haas's win was impressive, especially his up-and-down from the lake in the playoff, but winning a PGA Tour event and then a major beats winning a no-cut, 30-player money grab.

Mick Rouse, SI Golf+ Intern: You have to go with Haas. He showed some grit out there and produced an amazing shot when he needed it most.

Gorant: You saw the end of the PGA Championship, right? Keegan birdied two of the last three with the big coffee urn on the line, and then took the playoff.

Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I'm taking Keegan. But, really, Bill deserves a spot, too, and Tiger should be the odd man out.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: If I'm Fred, I call Tiger Woods and tell him I changed my mind. You're out, and I'm taking Bradley and Haas.

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

Shipnuck: Given his, uh, non-linear thinking, Fred could probably get away with that. He's the only one who could.

Van Sickle: If the Presidents Cup points list was determined over one year, like the Ryder Cup, instead of two, Bradley surely would've made it. In fact, it's still unbelievable that he can have two wins, one of them a major, and not be among the top 10. Haas and Bradley both deserve to be on the team. I don't know how you pick between them. You shouldn't have to.

Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: I think Bill has the spot locked. Keegan has two wins, including a major, but he missed the first two cuts in the playoffs and didn't do anything too outstanding at the BMW or Tour Championship. He actually started well in both and then fell back. Meanwhile, Haas redeemed himself after he shot 42 on the back nine in Chicago. To come up clutch today was very impressive. Bill's dad, Jay, an assistant captain for the team, said: "You'd think if Brandt Snedeker or Keegan Bradley or Bill wins the tournament this week, then they should get that spot, perhaps, but again, I'm going to stay out of it." Peter Jacobson said it was "automatic" to pick Bill.

Shipnuck: I take Bradley. He just has a certain flair about his game that I like. Now, about Freddy. Do we go after him now or later for gifting a spot to Tiger?

Lipsey: Woods has no business getting a pick; he's running on the distant fumes of 14 majors and 71 Tour victories.

Herre: I find it interesting that Couples found a way to get his old pal and caddie, Joe LaCava, to Australia for the Presidents Cup — have captain's pick Tiger Woods hire LaCava!

Hack: Tiger is a ratings bonanza, a legend, and maybe the most important golfer ever, but he still didn't earn a spot on the team.

Dusek: If Tiger doesn't show much game at the Frys.com Open, wouldn't it be a solid move for him to give his spot to either Keegan or Bill? I know, the team will already be set, and I couldn't even type that with a straight face, but still .... it would be cool.

Van Sickle: I agree. This might be a good time for Tiger to step back and say, 'Fred, I'm not sure my game is where I want it, and these other guys earned a spot. Take me off the team.' TV would be miffed, but it would be a selfless act on Tiger's part.

Morfit: Great idea. Love it. Obviously not going to happen. Finchem would be apoplectic. Far more likely that Stricker will sit out.

Shipnuck: Vans, that would be damn near his first ever selfless act, at least when it comes to his golf.

Van Sickle: Exactly. That's why it would play so well and help his bedraggled public image.

Dusek: Tiger will be on the hook to make Couples look good. If Tiger tanks in Australia, Freddie sinks, too. If Tiger comes through and wins points, Couples looks like a genius.

Tell us what you think: Should Couples select Haas, Bradley or someone else for the Presidents Cup team?

 

 

PLAYER OF THE YEAR PICKS
Shipnuck: This Tour Championship did nothing to sort out player of the year. This is Haas's only win this season, though he lost two previous playoffs and had five other top-10s. But he was a non-factor at the majors. So, finally, who's your player of the year?

Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, Golf.com: Luke Donald. He brought his "A" game damn near every week.

Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: I'd pick Donald, too.

Gorant: The king of fourth place?

Reiterman: Yes, he could've won more, but any player out there could get hot for a week or two (Bradley, Haas). It takes a lot of stones to play as well as Donald has for an entire year.

Shipnuck: In a year without a dominant player, I'm taking the most consistently excellent performer, Luke Donald. We fetishize majors, but Donald brought the heat every time he teed it up.

Herre: POY has to go to a major winner. My vote goes to Rory McIlroy based on his sensational U.S. Open victory and overall solid play.

Godich: I'd say the finishes by Schwartzel at the Masters and Bradley at the PGA were just as sensational.

Gorant: Rory's not a PGA Tour member, though. I would give it to Bradley.

Shipnuck: The U.S. Open was the performance of the year, but Rory teed it up only 10 times over here, and he never really threatened to win anywhere but Congressional. Not a player of the year in my book.

Herre: I don't care if Rory is not a Tour member. I think he's world No. 1 and this year showed he has more game than Donald and everyone else.

Hack: Keegan's a major champ and a multiple winner. He's my POY.

Godich: A crazy year calls for a crazy pick: Webb Simpson. He won twice, had 10 top 10s and 19 top 25s in 24 starts.

Van Sickle: I'd make a case for Luke Donald, I suppose. There's a lot to be said for playing for No. 1 and beating the guy who was No. 1 to get the title. But Haas and Bradley and Webb Simpson are legit candidates, too.

Dusek: Keegan Bradley's big splashes are more deserving of POY honors than Luke Donald's relentless consistency and his win in February at the 64-man Accenture Match Play.

Morfit: I have to go with Luke just for the numbing consistency. It's very hard not to have off-weeks in golf, but he doesn't.

Tell us what you think: Who's your choice for player of the year? Why?

FEDEX CUP FINAL THOUGHTS
Shipnuck: I know none of us love the FedEx Cup points system, but a playoff with $11.4 million at stake makes for pretty good theatre. Was this FedEx Cup a success?

Godich: I think so. It helps to have a half-dozen or so players in the hunt on Sunday and four finishing holes that can provide crazy momentum swings.

Morfit: Absolutely. It's part golf, part Powerball. Nobody has a clue. Love that Haas didn't know who had won the FedEx Cup.

Van Sickle: Haas asked Jimmy Roberts who won it when he got to the podium, and Roberts told him it was him. He was stunned. That says it all about FedEx Cup drama. Despite that, the playoff was thrilling.

Wei: When Haas was brought up to the veranda for the trophy presentation, he saw the Tour Championship trophy and the FedEx Cup and said quietly to his wife, Julie, "Did I win the FedExCup?" She laughed and said, "Yes."

Shipnuck: It's funny, down the stretch I found myself obsessing over whether guys were going to finish T3 or T4, which could've had a huge impact on the Cup. Somewhere the computer nerds were smiling.

Godich: That said, the Golf Channel folks went a bit overboard when they broke down what a birdie by K.J. Choi meant to the race — on Friday afternoon.

Dusek: The best part was the Golf Channel projecting Keegan Bradley as the FedEx Cup winner on Thursday afternoon after he shot an opening-round 64 to take the lead. Guys were still on the course on Thursday!

Herre: It was pretty snoozy at East Lake until the final hour, which was terrific.

Dusek: It was unsuccessful in ending the season with a bang, but it was successful in providing four late-season events with strong fields and some good drama. Unfortunately, the FedEx Cup is not going away, so I'm going to try to focus on what it does instead of what it could do.

Gorant: Somehow it didn't hold my attention as much as it has in years past. Don't know why, nothing changed. Great finish today though. That was fun.

Hack: The FedEx math is impossible to follow. I've said that since the beginning. The golf, however, was terrific.

Tell us what you think: Does this FedEx Cup points system work? How would you change it?

 

 

TIGER'S NEW BAGMAN
Shipnuck: Joe LaCava is going to be Tiger's next caddie. I'm having a hard time caring, but LaCava is obviously an asset. Can he make a difference as Tiger tries to find himself?

Dusek: Sure, look how he made a difference for Dustin Johnson.

Shipnuck: Everyone loves LaCava, and a fresh set of eyes will help Tiger, but I'm not sure how much difference he can make. What separated Woods were his head and his putter, and both are now all messed up. That's out of the purview of the best caddie.

Wei: Well, I'm a little surprised that LaCava is leaving D.J. since he's a lock to make huge cash, but I don't think it's that crazy. LaCava just made the biggest check of his career at The Barclays, so it's obviously not about the money. Plus, he's a smart dude and arguably the best caddie in the game. A big part of Tiger's problem is mental, and I've seen LaCava in action as a psychologist. So I'm liking Tiger's chances of a comeback much, much better now.

Godich: I don't think Tiger is listening to much of anybody these days. And therein lies the problem.

Hack: With all due respect to LaCava — a fine caddie and a diehard New York Giants fan — Tiger's problems are about the mind, the swing and the flat stick. At this point in Tiger's career, it doesn't really matter who's toting the bag.

Herre: Seems like an odd choice for LaCava, who has done well with laid-back types. Not sure how he'll fare with a Type A.

Gorant: The most interesting thing is what it potentially says about D.J. Did LaCava think that a struggling Tiger still has more upside than the close-but-no-cigar Johnson?

Godich: Good point, Jim. And D.J. won just last month at the Barclays.

Herre: No caddie in his right mind would pass on a guy like Johnson. Talk about upside.

Shipnuck: I don't think a young caddie would leave D.J. But LaCava's been around forever and he saw the whole Tiger show. I'm sure he's thinking it would be cool to be part of a renaissance. And if Tiger sucks for a few years, LaCava can always latch on with another young comer.

Godich: Maybe Johnson is serious about playing more in Europe, something that LaCava probably wouldn't be crazy about.

Reiterman: LaCava is now caddying for a guy who's got a legit shot at breaking Jack's record. He could be a part of history. He'd be crazy not to leave D.J. Besides, if things don't work out between LaCava and Woods, I bet D.J. would hire LaCava back.

Tell us what you think: Is LaCava a good fit for Tiger?


SOLHEIM CUP BACK TO EUROPE
Shipnuck: What do you take away from this rousing Solheim Cup, which may very well be the best ever? I'm always going to remember Suzann Pettersen's passion and her extremely clutch play. She was the heart and soul of the victorious European squad.

Hack: So happy for the game of golf and for women's golf. Big names on both sides playing at the highest level.

Gorant: For a few minutes there I was ready to start carving the Michelle Wie statue. Pettersen killed that. Great match and overall great weekend, although the weather was a bit of a downer.

Van Sickle: Also, that golf course looked like a copy of the dreaded 2010 Course in Wales last year. Modern American style golf in Ireland? What's wrong with that picture, besides everything? Not that it ultimately matters in match play.

Herre: Dottie Pepper was polite on TV, but she made the same point, among others, in this week's SI Golf Plus.

Reiterman: First thing my wife said this morning: "Wait, they're playing in Ireland?"

Shipnuck: Also, the Davies-Inkster singles match was riveting. Two proud champions and grande dames playing their hearts out, trying to conquer some obviously shaky nerves. It was so fun to watch, I wish they had gone 36 holes.

Van Sickle: Nothing beats a close team match-play event, whether it's the Solheim, Ryder, Walker or even Presidents Cup. Every hole has an outcome — win, lose or draw — which makes it far more dramatic than regular stroke play. I enjoyed the Laura Davies vs. Juli Inkster match, although it's too bad Inkster's short-putting got exposed the way it did. Two veterans battling it out one last time, probably. I also like watching Morgan Pressel when she gets almost a sneer on her face that says, I'm not going to lose this match no matter what. Shades of Raymond Floyd.

Herre: Gary nails it. Team match play is the best. Lots of heroes, goats and drama in every session. Hated to see the U.S. take the pipe down the stretch.

Godich: I loved the back and forth between Wie and Pettersen. I also got roped in by the Inkster-Davies match. The golf wasn't great, but it was fun to watch those two grind.

Lipsey: The U.S. team's red, white and blue accessories — fingernails, bandanas, headcovers, face painting — were excellent. Men could take a lesson in accessorizing from the American women.

Van Sickle: I disagree, Rick. I think the fake tattoos and stars and stripes everywhere were over the top. The Euro outfits were classier.

Shipnuck: Not to take away from the feel-good vibe, but I thought it was bunk that, per Solheim rules, an injured Cristie Kerr had to forfeit her match, giving the Europeans a crucial full point. It would be much more sporting for the Euros to put someone in the envelope and take a halve. Or am I missing something?

Lipsey: Yes, that would be the proper thing to do, although without a rule stipulating that, it's hard for a team to give up a point in the heat of competition.

Godich: I couldn't agree more. I understand that was the rule going in, but Europe could have said it was only taking a half-point.

Wei: Hey, rules are rules, right? It sucks, but you have to take every advantage you can. Why would you give away a half point in such an important competition? I know Kerr was truly injured, but it would set a bad precedent. If you get a half point, why not withdraw?

Godich: Why would you give away a half-point? It's part of the spirit of the competition. There isn't a player on either side of these competitions--man or woman--who would fake an injury for the good of the team. These players have too much pride, and so much to prove. Nor would a captain ever suggest it. Look at the Ryder Cup, which, bad golf and all, has had only a couple of injury WDs over the years (on both sides).

Shipnuck: OK, time for some revisionist thinking. Can we now declare there's absolutely nothing wrong with the Solheim Cup? Yes, we need a team event that incorporates Asia and the rest of the world, but that ain't the Solheim Cup. Discuss.

Van Sickle: The only thing wrong with the Solheim Cup is that it excluded 20 of the world's top 30 players. That doesn't make it any less exciting, but no one is going to say that Europe rules women's golf. Maybe Korea and Japan should have their own team match-play event. I'd pay to watch that.

Ritter: Now the Solheim Cup, Ryder Cup and Walker Cup reside in Europe. Could be a while before those three trophies are all back on American soil.

Tell us what you think: Did you watch the Solheim Cup? Was this one of the most compelling editions ever?

 

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