PGA Tour Confidential: Sang-Moon Bae wins Byron Nelson Championship
Every Sunday night, the editorial staff of the SI Golf Group conducts an e-mail roundtable. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.
1. Sang-Moon Bae got his first PGA Tour win at age 26 at the Byron Nelson. Bae has won 11 times in Asia. Where does Bae rank among his fellow 20-something golfers like Keegan Bradley, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, etc.?
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: It's hard to assess Sang Moon Bae since as a foreign player and a newcomer, the only way he could get TV airtime was to win a tournament, which he did. Very solid game. Kudos to Golf Channel's Brandel Chamblee, who was first media guy to predict big things for Bae when he got through Q-school at the end of 2011. Impressive swing, nice putting touch and that was quite a finish in the wind. He certainly ranks with Fowler, if not ahead of him, since they're tied in wins, but he looks like a possible top-10 player in the world type in a few years.
Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, Golf.com: He ranks ... nowhere near any of those guys. It's not even a fair comparison since Bae has yet to play two full seasons on the PGA Tour. This week was obviously a great step in his career, and that's about all I'm reading into it.
Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: He's nowhere close to being in Rory's league, but the fact he has won 11 times at such a young age shows he knows how to finish. Still, like so many other young guns, he is only a one-time winner on the PGA Tour. Let's see him do it again before we start projecting him for greatness.
Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: The only one he's in the conversation with is Fowler, since the other two are major winners. Rickie has certainly had a lot of high finishes to go with his win, and he's done a lot make the game cool, especially to kids, so I'd give him the nod.
Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: Eleven worldwide wins certainly gets your attention. On the 20-something hierarchy you've gotta put Bae somewhere between Rickie and Rory, and I'll admit that's a pretty big gap. I really liked how when Bradley fought back to tie him on the back nine, Bae -- er, "Moon" -- was able to come up with the clutch shots over the closing holes to beat the Ryder Cup veteran. It wouldn't be surprising to see Moon win again this year.
Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: I'd rank him ahead of Fowler just because he's won so many times as a pro. But I'd obviously rank him behind major winners Bradley and McIlroy. Bae has a sweet swing.
Joe Passov, senior editor, travel, Golf Magazine: With that gorgeous swing, great tempo and admirable driving distance, I think Bae is the real deal. I have a friend well-versed in Asian golf who in December 2011 wagered a thousand bucks that Bae would win a PGA Tour event in 2012 -- at 30-to-1 odds. Bae came close, losing to Luke Donald in a playoff at Tampa and my pal never did collect -- but that's how much he was convinced of Bae's talent.
2. Would you rather watch a scoring fest with eagles and birdies or see pros battle the elements like the winds Sunday in Dallas and struggle for pars?
Passov: I'm a blend man myself. Some weeks, it's fun to see the scoreboard bleeding red numbers, others, it's satisfying watching the struggle. At the Nelson, though, I would have preferred more birdies.
Ritter: Give me a mix of both, which is why Masters Sunday is my favorite golf-viewing day of the year.
Godich: It's nice to see these guys battle the elements every now and then, because it undoubtedly identifies the best player. At the same time, watching the best players struggle week in and week out would be a real buzz kill.
Reiterman: I've never understood why people enjoy watching the pros struggle to make pars. And it's probably why the U.S. Open is usually my least favorite of the four majors.
Van Sickle: I know birdie-fests make good TV but watching these guys hit all kinds of shots, good and bad, and showcasing who's got shotmaking skills and who doesn't is great fun in wild and windy conditions. I guess four days of that would get old but one howler a week is a real inside look at who's got game and who doesn't. One Battle Against the Elements to go, please.
Morfit: I'd rather see them do what they do best and score. Until the majors, when I like to see 'em suffer.
3. What's your favorite of the four Texas stops -- Houston, San Antonio, Byron, Colonial -- and why?
Passov: Colonial. It oozes serious golf history -- something in short supply among regular Tour events. This was a prime Hogan hangout, which is cool. The course doesn't test the guys the way it once did, but it's still among the most well-liked on Tour. Plus, few remember, but Colonial has hosted both the men's U.S. Open and the women's.
Van Sickle: If I was a Tour pro, I'd definitely mess with Texas. I'd play all four tourneys. I'm not a fan of the TPC San Antonio track -- it doesn't look like much fun for a resort course. I'd rank Colonial first -- the classic clubhouse, the shady trees, the Wall of Champions, and an old-school track. Houston's course is very modern but setting it up with Augusta-like conditions has made it almost a must-play stop. The Four Seasons Resort is a quirky course and it always draws pretty well. It's an exciting setting and, like Colonial, one of the better parties on the PGA Tour.
Gorant: Which one is closest to Austin? Actually, when Houston takes place the week before the Masters and they have the course set to mimic the conditions it's a good event.
Godich: Give me the Colonial because of its rich history. It's a shame they don't get a stronger field in Fort Worth. The Nelson hasn't been the same since it left Preston Trail back in the 1980s. Hopefully the move to the new Ben Crenshaw design south of Dallas will give the tournament a much-needed shot in the arm.
Reiterman: Houston is OK, and certainly works better the week before the Masters. But overall the Texas Swing is just so bland.
Morfit: I like Colonial for the Hogan history and the fact that even the oldies and other short hitters have a chance there.
4. Rory McIlroy decided to dump his management team and set up an independent management group led by his father. Smart move or another distraction in a season with a few distractions already?
Morfit: This is turning into a very productive season off the course and a not very productive one on it. Of course it's early yet.
Gorant: Smells fishy. Hope he's not imploding before our eyes.
Van Sickle: Rory should surround himself with folks he can trust. At this point, he's pretty much like Tiger. He needs somebody whose full-time job is to say "No" to everything. So it's probably a good move but since we really don't know the details, I can't say that with any certainty. I hope he's happy with it.
Godich: This won't be a distraction at all. Rory is certainly disappointed with his erratic play, but give him credit for enjoying life. He'll get things figured out soon enough.
Reiterman: It's hard to call this a "lost year" for McIlroy since there are three majors and the FedEx Cup still left to go. But you get the feeling this is a big transition year for Rory (new gear, a couple other new endorsements, relocating to Florida, and now, new management). And that's not a bad thing. He's gotten advice from a lot of other guys who are in similar situations (Federer, Scott, Tiger.) It's still a bit surprising, though. Seemed like the guys at Horizon did everything they could to cater to Rory's needs.
Ritter: It might prove smart eventually, but right now the only headlines Rory needs are those that scream of his return to the winner's circle. Despite this latest (minor) distraction, I think he's almost there.
5. The USGA is going to announce its final decision on the controversial proposal to ban anchored putting on Tuesday. If the USGA goes forward with the ban, will the PGA Tour and PGA of America fall in line or will the decision divide the game's major powers?
Morfit: I think the Tour might go their own way even though I know Tour commissioner Tim Finchem has said he's not crazy about the idea of breaking away. The PGA I have no idea, but Ted Bishop has been out front in the backlash against the USGA's stance, so I'd guess the PGA won't want to ban anchoring either.
Gorant: PGA of American seems hell-bent for a showdown. Think the Tour would have fallen in line but with Ted Bishop playing the role of true iconoclast it might allow the Commish to draft behind him.
Van Sickle: It was one thing for the PGA Tour and PGA of America to express dissent with the proposed anchoring ban. It's quite another to have the cojones to defy golf's governing body. I don't think they will if only because they're big believers in the good of the game. It's kinda like if you vote for the losing presidential candidate. You're not happy and maybe you don't like the new guy, but, hey, he's your president now and you've got to support him.
Reiterman: I can't imagine everyone not falling in line. However, there's been a lot of tough talk from various sources. Let's hope there's a little more chaos before this is all over!
Ritter: The PGA Tour and PGA of America have talked a big game, but soon it will be time to put the game first. That means swallowing hard and supporting the USGA, because two sets of rules would be an even bigger mess.
Godich: The Tour won't fight it, but the PGA of America will question why the USGA would implement the ban if it's serious about growing the game. Tour players will be burning up their cell-phone minutes in consultations with their attorneys.
6. Which of today's anchorers would be most negatively affected by a ban?
Morfit: Adam Scott was really a changed guy went he went to the long putter. I think he has a lot to lose. Thank goodness he won his Masters.
Van Sickle: I'd look at Tim Clark, who's been long-putting for as long as I can remember, as a guy who will suffer. Same with Ernie Els, who still looks shaky at time with a long stick, much less a short one. Bradley and Webb Simpson are relatively recent converts (college) so maybe they can adjust. No one is talking about seniors but this can't be good for serial yipper Bernhard Langer, and a bunch of other Champions Tour stars.
Gorant: Adam Scott, since we know he can't putt the other way.
Ritter: Tim Clark and Carl Pettersson have made some strong comments against the ban, an indicator that they may not be so confident their own ability to adapt. Those are my two guys to watch. By the time it's said and done, the ban will probably cause the most carnage on the Champions Tour.
Godich: Tim Clark. There's a reason he flew across the country to attend a Tour meeting on anchoring in January.
Reiterman: You have to look at guys like Webb Simpson and Keegan Bradley who have been using belly putters their entire careers. I'm sure they'll have an adjustment period, but they'll keep winning trophies.
7. Ken Venturi, 1964 U.S. Open champion and legendary broadcaster, died Friday at age 82. What will be Venturi's most lasting contribution to the game?
Passov: I wish Venturi would be better remembered as a player. Sure, we've got "The Match," and his '64 U.S. Open win, but only the old-timers remember that he was a phenomenal talent -- probably better than Arnold Palmer in the late 50's -- just compare their 1958 seasons, for instance -- before physical and mental issues took their toll. As it is, we'll likely best remember him for his broadcasting, sentence fragments and cliches notwithstanding. It was like listening to your favorite uncle telling stories about the war. The communication was flawed, but you knew it was heartfelt and that he had intimate knowledge of the subject matter. RIP, Kenny.
Van Sickle: The story of Venturi winning the Open in record heat and tempting death will never get old or go away. His voice was a comfortable one on the air as a broadcaster, especially because of his longevity. If you think golf announcing is more about comfort factor and familiarity than what is actually said, Venturi was perfect. He had his foibles and his annoying cliches, too, but the fact that he lasted in the booth forever attests to the audience's belief in him.
Reiterman: I think when you look at Venturi's career as a whole, you just have to admire what he overcame. Battling oppressive heat (and bad medical advice) to win the U.S. Open. Overcoming a stutter to become one of the greatest broadcasters in the game. Incredible man.
Morfit: I think he'll be remembered as a broadcaster since he was on the air so long for CBS. But the legend of a man fighting a U.S. Open almost to the death of him, and winning, has some pretty serious legs.
Godich: There is no singular memory, and that is a good thing. Venturi proved time and again that less is often more. Broadcasters in every sport could learn a thing or two about the way Venturi did his job.