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PGA Tour Confidential: WGC-Bridgestone Invitational

Tiger Woods, Bridgestone Invitational
Fred Vuich/SI
Tiger Woods won his fifth title of the year and seventh at Firestone.

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.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: This is too much. Tiger's front-nine 30. Tiger's hiccup after making the turn. Tiger's 8-iron. We need some sane voices here, folks. Brad Faxon, the Tour veteran and in my opinion one of the most insightful people in all of golf, is joining us today. Welcome, Brad, and welcome back everybody else. Let me start with this question: If there was one player I thought was in position to stand up to Tiger mentally, it was Padraig Harrington. Did Tiger get in his head, or did he just make bad swings, or what? We'll get to Tiger, but let's start with Paddy. Thoughts?

Brad Faxon: Thanks for inviting me to join you guys. Maybe it wasn't Tiger that got into Padraig's head as much as the rules official on the 16th tee.

Jim Herre, editor, Sports Illustrated Golf Plus: Interesting that when Paddy and Tiger were put on the clock on the back nine, CBS said it wasn't the first bad time for Paddy. Brad, does Harrington have a rep for slow play or was he just slowing down because of the situation?

Faxon: Padraig used to be very slow, but I really believe he has sped up his game and slow play isn't an issue anymore. But couple that with playing in the last group with Tiger, and everybody would just naturally slow down.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: In Padraig's press conference, he said yes, the official telling him they were on the clock did, indeed, rattle him slightly on the 16th tee. In Tiger's press conference, he blamed Paddy's 16th directly on John Paramor, the European Tour rules official who put their group on the clock. Tiger said Paddy rushed his third and fourth shots at 16 because he had to. Asked if his own 8-iron shot at 16 won the tournament or if the on-the-clock incident won it, Tiger answered, "Both." He really hung Paramor out to dry.

Faxon: Ironic a European tour official put one of his own on the clock. Our guys would probably have let that go.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I think that was a classic example of how Tiger forces players to try things they otherwise wouldn't. Paddy went for a spectacular par save because he knew that going one down with two to play against Tiger would be fatal. If he's up against Phil, Harrington probably plays a safer shot to the fat part of the green, confident that he can still make up the ground if he takes bogey.

Faxon: Also, this was really Padraig's first time in contention this year, so that might have something to do with it.

Shipnuck: I'm surprised Paddy was rattled by being on the clock. The Tour hasn't imposed a one-stroke penalty for slow play in what, 10 years? You think they're going to start now, gifting a win to Tiger? There's already enough material out there for Tiger conspiracy-theorists!

Faxon: Padraig must have had a really hard fourth shot or he would've dropped from the same place rather than walk back across the pond.

Bamberger: Is that very uncommon, Brad, for a final group to be put on the clock?

Faxon: Yes, very unusual. Especially since their finish was a perfect 6 p.m. ending just like the network likes. I doubt either would ever get fined or given an extra shot in that situation.

David Dusek, deputy editor, Brad, how important is it to stay in a rhythm that you've naturally established on the course?

Faxon: It's ABSOLUTELY important. Think of a baseball pitcher when he is pitching well, or a hot basketball shooter when he gets the ball. The rhythm is crucial, and the timing of this had to have an effect on Padraig.

Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Paddy's rhythm wasn't the problem. He just didn't have that shot out the rough under pressure. Rhythm is important, very important, but he's a slow-playing Tour pro who is accustomed to being put on the clock and playing in front of large crowds.

John Garrity, contributing writer, Sports Illustrated: Regardless of the state of his nerves — and I thought Harrington looked like his beady-eyed, unblinking self — he's still in the game if he doesn't blade that hillside wedge into the water. Brad, do you have any thoughts on the shot Paddy tried to play with Tiger about to make birdie?

Faxon: I believe without a doubt any Tour player would've tried to hit the same shot Padraig did. It looked like he had a slight downhill lie, and he must have bounced the club into the ground before hitting the ball.

Van Sickle: A very tough shot at 16. I got a close-up look at the lie. It was not good. I don't see anyone pulling off the short-sided flop shot more than one in 10 times, if that. It's been a wet summer here and the grass is as thick and juicy as new grass in May. If he plays it safe and takes a 20-footer, maybe he makes it and is tied with two to play. At least he makes bogey and is one back with a chance. I'm not convinced it was a smart play by Paddy.

Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Paddy's snowman at 16 won't soon, if ever, melt from his memory. He now has a spot alongside the rest of the trophies on Tiger's hunted-and-killed wall.

Faxon: I disagree wholeheartedly. Padraig is a big boy, and after the year he's had, he was probably very happy to be in contention against Tiger, even though the result wasn't what he wanted. I think Padraig will have a very strong finish to this season.

Shipnuck: Big picture, it's huge for Paddy to have been back in the hunt, and for 15 holes he effectively fended off Tiger. Two weeks ago Harrington was my pick to win the PGA, and I think this was a huge step back toward where he was. I think he'll accept the snowman as a gamble that didn't pay off and keep moving forward. Now I like him at Hazeltine even more.

Herre: I think Harrington will use Firestone as motivation for Hazeltine, as one of the CBS guys (Jim Nantz, I believe) pointed out.

Garrity: I have to agree with Alan that this week is a positive for Harrington, not some confidence-breaking tragedy. Every time Mickelson or Garcia or whoever doesn't convert a victory or has a disaster hole, we write that they are permanently scarred and will probably never recover. Then they come back a month later and win a major or the Players. It's not the top-10 finishes that cause brain damage; it's going a month or two without making a cut.

Van Sickle: Harrington wasn't mortally wounded. It's a mere glancing blow, lessened by the fact that next week is a real tournament, with a full field, and a major.

Bamberger: Unfortunately for Harrington, he won two of his three majors without Tiger in the field. Had he won today, you would be less likely to think about that 8 on 16. Given what happened, it may spring to mind.

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