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.
WOODLAND WINS TRANSITIONS CHAMPIONSHIP
Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: Let's start with another entertaining finish on the PGA Tour. Gary Woodland overtook Webb Simpson down the stretch. Wild finish for Woodland with five birdies and three bogeys on the back nine, and a steely par putt on 18. What do you like most about Woodland's game, and who of the three first-time winners so far this year (Woodland, D.A. Points, and Jhonny Vegas) has the brightest future?
Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: Woodland was terrific on the greens, as his clutch par-saver at the last attests, and I think his future is bright. The guy is clearly an athlete and a worker. That said, how can you not pull for Jhonny Vegas?
Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: I loved watching Points, but the guy is a journeyman. You have to think the other two have more of a future. Woodland is long, and it looks like he can putt. Good combo.
Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Vegas has more flair, but I'll go with Woodland. He has excelled on both coasts. His sand game needs a lot of work, but he's really long with a solid putting stroke.
Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Long-term you have to like Vegas, because he's got the longest horizon and he's already won. But I like both Vegas and Woodland from the perspective that they seem to have a lot of game and on-course charisma.
Morfit: Not to get too Clark Kellogg on everyone, but I like to see a guy with a big body that can take the wear and tear of hitting balls and all the travel. Vegas and Woodland have that.
Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, Golf.com: Woodland's calm demeanor kind of reminded me of a young David Duval when he was piling up wins. Judging by his post-round interview, you would never have known it was his first win. His game wasn't pretty all day, but he gutted out a win with a hot putter on a tough course. Fun to watch.
Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Really liked Woodland's tee shot on 17 after he made a mess of 16. Showed some moxie on the greens. I even liked the club twirl. But for brightest future, I'll stick with Vegas.
David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: The season is not even three months old, so to project the future on these guys is a tall order. Vegas started hot and seems to have a game that could be dazzling, but I agree with Cameron and think that Woodland looks to have a solid all-around game.
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: My guess is Jhonny V is the one with the big, big future, because of his size and strength and the simplicity of his swing.
Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: It was fun to watch two newbies strung out on adrenaline and desperately trying to win. That said, the Tour is definitely back to being background music for most people, what with Phil and Tiger in the tank. D.J., Vegas, Kaymer -- they just don't move the needle beyond the scope of hard-core fans.
Herre: Gee, Rick, you've certainly changed your tune. I thought you espoused loving the golf for the golf, not for the stars.
Lipsey: I do love it for the golf, but I'm in the minority, at least among average sports fans.
Gorant: Of course they don't move the needle, yet. Unless they arrive with a ton of hype, no players do until they start winning consistently. These guys just arrived on the scene.
Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: My vote goes to Woodland. I've been watching him this year, and the guy is good. Hits it a mile. And he showed this week that he can putt, too. He is still learning to play the game. He was a Division II basketball player before transferring to Kansas to play golf. He didn't play a competitive round on the national level until he was around 20!
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: They all look like world-beaters when they win. Woodland and Vegas both have futures in golf, and a chance to become very popular players, because they are big, big hitters. That has never gone out of style. Vegas has the smile to go with it; Woodland has the look of grim determination that he's going to do whatever it takes to beat you. Two nice additions to the PGA Tour, and two players to look forward to watching.
Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: The TV broadcast said Woodland didn't miss a putt inside 20 feet on Sunday (17-for-17). I'll say Woodland out-earns Vegas on the course over the next few years, but Jhonny makes up for it, and then some, on Madison Ave.
Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: It's hard to choose between Woodland and Vegas. They both have solid golf swings and good temperaments. However I'm concerned about the bad bunker play that I saw from Woodland on Sunday.
GOLF TV RATINGS ON THE RISE
Walker: From all reports, TV ratings for golf are up so far this year. Of course, much of this increase is due to Tiger's playing, since he was on sabbatical for this part of the schedule last year. But Tiger isn't playing all the events. Has golf on Tour been more exciting this year, or is the increase just a strange quirk (bad winter in the Northeast, weaker competition from other sports, etc.)?
Dusek: There's nothing like going against bad numbers from the year before, but the action has been great, and having Mr. Woods around is certainly a positive. If Woods and Phil Mickelson can turn their games around, ratings could really jump.
Bamberger: I don't think there's much Tiger effect at all. The ratings are up because the golf's been so good, close to the end, with the contenders showing all sorts of range in terms of age and background and nationality and golfing style, from Mark Wilson to Vegas to Points to Woodland. Nobody out of the cookie-cutter.
Evans: Avid golf fans are watching the telecasts. I think over the long haul in any type of business you appreciate new customers, but the real valued customers are the ones who understand the brand and keep it stable through market instability.
Lipsey: No cookie-cutter? Save Vegas, this isn't a United Nations melting pot of players we're dealing with.
Bamberger: Luke Donald's English. Mark Wilson is a bunter. D.A. Points had to play with a comedian. Watney's a self-taught bomber. Jhonny Vegas is the American dream. I better stop. I'm in sensory overload. It's too good.