Every week of the 2009 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.
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: OK, let the nonsense begin. First up is the Transitions, where Retief Goosen took control with an eagle on No. 11 and played pretty airtight golf to close it out on a tough track, finishing with a very clutch par putt on the 72nd hole. This was his third victory in his last 11 worldwide starts. None have been against big-time fields, but a win is still a win. Are we ready to declare that Goose is back? (Even I won't dredge up the Big 5, circa 2005.)
Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: He was the Shinnecock Goose this week, getting up and down from everywhere and making a mile of putts. He recently dropped 20 pounds after being guilted into it by Gary Player, who still does pushups and situps daily. He's worked hard on his game. Add a narrow course and dying greens, and the Goose comes to life.
Shipnuck: Hmmm, a narrow course increasingly sounds like Augusta. Goose has never been the same since self-immolating on Sunday at the 2005 U.S. Open, but he now has to be considered a threat at Augusta after all, dude has finished in the top 3 at four of the last seven Masters.
Jim Herre, editor, Sports Illustrated Golf Plus: The Big Play in this week's Golf Plus will include a cool drill on short putts Goosen was 55 of 55 from five feet and in, and something like 61 of 63 from 10 feet and in.
Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated Golf Plus: He could be the big winner in this whole financial crisis. If courses stop watering greens to save money, Goosen will become the best putter on Tour.
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I agree that Goosen is back to being a very good tour player, but I'm going to have to see him contend in a major to convince me he's back to being a top-5-in-the-world-type player. He had some problems the last few years, including the broken pelvis (jet ski) and the Lasik eye surgery problem, and he lost his putting stroke, which is always a concern for those approaching 40. How many guys go to a belly putter, revert to the standard length and return to being a great putter? Goose would be one of the few, but you can't argue with results. He's trending upward.
Shipnuck: It's amazing how one round can change a career. If Goosen closes the deal at Pinehurst, that's three Opens in the span of five years, and he's a fist-ballot Hall of Famer. Instead it's taken him four year just to climb back to respectability.
Dick Friedman, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Not to diminish Goosen's accomplishment, but might it have helped that Tiger, Phil, Padraig, Ogilvy and the rest were not on hand to at least put the pressure on? They'll all be at Augusta.
Van Sickle: I don't know that blowing up in the '05 Open really fazed him. This was a guy who has been hit by lightning. It wasn't as traumatic as what Phil and Monty suffered at Winged Foot. Goose couldn't break 80 the last day. It was like losing a baseball game by the 10-run rule. If he can regain the confidence in his putter, once his deadliest club, he can be a factor in majors again.
Friedman: Before we make the transition from the Transitions ... Don't know about you guys, but the highlight for me was the appearance on Saturday of '70s TV icon Erik (Ponch) Estrada, who was doing promotional work for the sponsor. Considering how many guys had to get up and down, we had CHIP's as well as chips.
Herre: How do we categorize Charles Howell's week glass half empty or half full?
Shipnuck: It's always half-empty until he wins. He doesn't need any more lucrative near-misses.
Van Sickle: At this point, any upwardly mobile finish has to be positive for Chaz. Definitely a showing worth being optimistic about.
Hack: Just left Charles, and he was pretty pumped about his work with new coach Todd Anderson. "Starting to trust it," he said, and I believe him. He said he's been like a fastball pitcher learning how to throw curve balls and sliders. He says he feels like he's becoming a complete golfer. He looked like one this week.
Herre: Yes, Damon. Loved the half-shots Howell was hitting into many greens. Never thought I'd see the day.
Shipnuck: Solid reporting from the front lines. But we've been hearing for years and years from Howell that he's close to figuring things out. Gimme a couple W's and I'll start to believe it.
Hack: That's fair. Not being exempt for the Masters has been a wake-up call for him. He said he thought about it all day today, but in a good way, as inspiration. He didn't get it done this week, but it's on to Bay Hill and Houston from here. And if he doesn't get in? He said he'd watch every shot on TV. Howell is an admitted golf nerd. Says he loves GOLF.com, by the way. Reads and enjoys our Press Tent. He saw that I picked Goosen or Lehman out of the final group today, and he gave me some grief. We had a good laugh.
Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Charles Howell is a good PGA Tour player: he's rich, hardworking and makes a lot of cuts. He'll win some more tournaments, but who says he has to be great? Being consistently ordinary and proficient at staying on the tour for 25 years is not a bad way to be remembered.