Tour Confidential: Can Tiger fix his game for the British Open? Plus, the rise of the LPGA and our golf movie wish list
Every Sunday night, Golf.com conducts an e-mail roundtable with writers from Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.
1. Tiger Woods focused on the positives after missing the cut at his first post-surgery event at the Quicken Loans National, saying, "I made a ton of simple, little mistakes. ... Those are the little things I can correct." Do you agree with Tiger's assessment of his game and, if so, can he fix it in time for the British Open?
Josh Sens, contributing writer, Golf Magazine (@JoshSens): Denial isn't just a river in Egypt. It should also be the name of Tiger's yacht. Sure, there's rust, but the problems in Tiger's game predate his layoff. It's hard to tell whether Tiger always believes the things he says publicly, but his issues don't seem as "simple" and "little" as he makes them sound.
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@GaryVanSickle): I hope you weren't expecting Tiger to say, "Boy, I never shoulda come back this soon. I am such an idiot." Of course Tiger put a positive spin on things. He might be right that he can fix things for the Open. I hope he is right that they're just little things and that he didn't come back too soon and do something to hurt his recovery. But I didn't see enough positives from Tiger to think he's ready to contend yet.
Jeff Ritter, senior editor, Sports Illustrated Golf Group (@Jeff_Ritter): Tiger didn't do many things well last week, but at least at Hoylake he won't need to hit many drivers. He had the dreaded two-way driver miss going at Congressional. He might be able to get around Hoylake with guile and strategy, but you can't fake the short game, which didn't look so hot this week either. If we're listing Open favorites, I'd slot Woods in the top 10, but not the top five.
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@AlanShipnuck): It's true that the worst part of Tiger's performance was his short game and no doubt he can tune that up considerably. But as has been the case the last half-dozen years or so, he needs more reps. It's baffling that he's not playing the Greenbrier and/or Scottish Open to prepare for Hoylake. Given reports that the heather is knee-high, and Tiger's driving was typically erratic at Congo, it's hard to imagine him being ready to contend at the Open.
Joe Passov, senior editor, Golf Magazine (@joepassov): If anyone deserved to be rusty, it was Tiger this week. Hey, it's not like he shot a pair of 82s. I like his chances at a quick fix.
Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine (@CameronMorfit): He also looked pretty hopeless when he came back from a long layoff at the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot. Then he won the British at Hoylake a month later. This difference is now he's eight years older, and he's given himself two fewer weeks to sort himself out. I'll say he makes the cut at the British, but it's hard to envision him doing much beyond that.
Michael Walker, assistant managing editor, Golf.com (@michaelwalkerjr): I agree that Tiger can correct his problems, but it’s hard to imagine he’ll regain the mastery of his game he would need to win the British Open in just two weeks. I like that he’s dialed down his expectations and taking it slow. Lindsey Vonn -- who is recovering from her own surgery -- must be a good influence on Tiger, who sounded more patient this week than I’ve ever heard him before.
Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated (@MarkGodich): He looked like the same old Tiger to me -- missed tee shots both ways, the occasional sloppy iron shot and a tentative putting stroke. I know he's going to be especially careful with his back, but perhaps it's time that Tiger shake up the routine. I've been saying it for a few years now: he needs to play more.
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Only Tiger can know, but he sounds like a pol.
2. 54-hole leader Patrick Reed collapsed on the back nine at Congressional, opening the door for Justin Rose to grab his sixth PGA Tour title at the Quicken Loans National. Does this win put Rose back on your shortlist of serious Open contenders?
SHIPNUCK: Hell to the yes. Rose has been close to putting it all together for months and he finally has. Dude is certainly dangerous at Hoylake.
GODICH: He'll contend, but I wouldn't put Rose on the short list. Keep in mind that he hit an indifferent short iron into 16, scrambled to make par at 17 after hitting iron off the tee and dumped his second in the water at 18, getting into the playoff only after making a 15-footer for bogey. Give him credit for grinding out a win, but his week was built on the Friday 65.
SENS: Yes. Post-major hangovers are common. Rose suffered from one after Merion. But lately he's shown signs of shaking off the fog.
BAMBERGER: Rose would be on my watch list for Hoylake no matter what he did at Congressional. Have you seen his iron play?
RITTER: After a nice run of first-time major winners since 2008, this year we've had two guys with strong pedigrees back it up with their second titles. That trend could continue at Hoylake. Rose was looking like a potential threat for the No. 1 ranking before getting derailed with a shoulder injury earlier this year. But now that he's back on form, he's as good a bet as any of other one-timer to take No. 2 this summer.
MORFIT: At this point my two co-favorites are Adam Scott and Martin Kaymer. Rose is at the top of the next group of favorites, along with Snedeker and Streelman and maybe Stenson.
VAN SICKLE: As a former U.S. Open champion, Rose was already on a short list of contenders. The fact that he's in good form again is a good sign, not that Congressional and Hoylake are similar courses, however.
PASSOV: I didn't like his judgment at the 72nd hole, but loved the putt he buried for bogey there. Congressional played tough, and he's a great tough-course competitor. He jumps into my top 5 Open Championship contenders.
WALKER: Justin Rose is on my shortlist of contenders at any major, along with Woods, McIlroy, Kaymer, Mickelson, Watson and Scott. An English winner at Royal Liverpool would be fun.
3. A week after Michelle Wie's U.S. Women's Open win drew higher ratings than the PGA Tour, we had a star-packed leaderboard that included Wie on Sunday, though Stacy Lewis went on to win the LPGA's NW Arkansas Championship. If Wie continues her winning ways, what's the ceiling for the LPGA in the American sports scene?
GODICH: Every sport needs a good rivalry, and we've got a nice one shaping up between Wie and Stacy Lewis. Kudos to Lewis for winning in her adopted home state a week after firing that final-round 66 to make things interesting for Wie at the U.S. Women's Open. That's three victories this season for the World No. 1. This could get really fun.
VAN SICKLE: Golf is a niche sport. The LPGA is a niche of a niche sport. It's always going to be that way. Some LPGA players -- like Wie and Annika and Nancy Lopez -- can crossover and become mainstream sports celebrities and attractions. That generates more interest in the tour, but it's still golf, so it's not going to be page-one stuff.
SENS: Wie has the name recognition to bump the needle for sure, but outside of the majors and big international match play competitions, I don't see the LPGA shattering any Nielsen records. The greater appeal is attending an LPGA event live. There’s easier viewing, beautiful swings and approachable players who are far easier to root for than many of their PGA Tour counterparts.
MORFIT: I think the LPGA has a huge upside now, which Mike Whan is going to enjoy taking out on the open market. Lexi, Michelle, Paula, Stacy Lewis -- those are some really compelling winners, and they're Americans. There's a coherent narrative on the LPGA, while the men are a bit unsettled at the moment.
WALKER: Considering the reduced schedules that the biggest stars in the men’s game are playing, the ceiling for the LPGA is women’s tennis, where Serena Williams is as big a draw as anyone in men’s tennis. All it takes is an athlete who captures people’s imagination, and that’s what Michelle Wie does. The other top players on the LPGA like Stacy Lewis, Inbee Park, Lexi Thompson and Lydia Ko are pretty compelling too.
RITTER: Hard to measure a ceiling for the LPGA Tour -- what would be the best comparison based on ratings and interest from the general public? Formula One racing? The Champions Tour? Bass Masters? All I know is that on a tour filled with great stories and charismatic players, Wie's star power stands alone. She can lift her tour to new heights. Where exactly those heights are remains to be seen.
PASSOV: Sports fans have always gravitated to attractive stars and rivalries. If Wie, Lexi, Lydia Ko and Stacy Lewis can win a bunch of events and knock heads on a regular basis, corporate America -- and the world -- will notice.
SHIPNUCK: I know I was a lot more interested in the finish in Arkansas than at Congressional. What a final-hole birdie by Stacy Lewis to earn another victory in her home state! But golf is a niche sport and the LPGA is a niche of a niche. Then again, there's no reason that Wie can't be as big as Maria Sharapova, drawing in plenty of casual fans.
BAMBERGER: The LPGA can surpass women's tennis, and Wie is only one factor among many.
4. In an exclusive interview with Golf.com, U.S. Women's Open champion Michelle Wie told Jessica Marksbury that it was very unlikely that she would tee it up against the men again, but here's another idea: Would you support the revival of a a mixed-team event sanctioned by both the PGA and LPGA Tours?
PASSOV: There was such interesting chemistry at Pinehurst on the Sunday of the men's final round, with top stars from both tours mixing it up, I think a mixed-team event would be a blast, but it would have to mean something, not just be a Silly Season tournament.
SENS: I've got nothing against those types of events as silly-season calendar-filler. Harmless entertainment. But as a sports fan looking for an emotional connection and edge of the seat excitement? It's not a concept I can get too worked up about.
SHIPNUCK: It's a no-brainer. Mike Whan has made everything else happen -- he needs to get this done, stat.
VAN SICKLE: There's something to be said for a different type of golf product, but to be honest, nobody cared about the original mixed-pairing pro tourney, and it's hard to see anybody getting excited about a revival. Ultimately, all that matters is whether a sponsor wants to make it happen. It sounds like Silly Season fodder to me.
MORFIT: I liked the old J.C. Penney Classic in Tampa. Cool event. Lots of fun. Sure, I'd bring it back. Good exposure for the LPGA, and you got to see another, more lighthearted side of the PGA Tour guys.
WALKER: Mixed-team events are too silly-season for me. What about a big-money event at a classic course with women playing from closer tees, like they did at Pinehurst?
GODICH: No, thanks. The women are providing plenty of entertainment as it is, and the guys could learn a thing or two from them on how to close the deal.
RITTER: The tours should take risks and mix things up in an effort draw new fans. A co-ed event might be fun, but to create real interest, you'd have to give it some clout and stage it somewhere in the heart of the Tour schedule. Hard to imagine that ever happening.
5. President Obama welcomed members of the U.S. and International Presidents Cup teams to the White House this week and received a sand game tip from Phil Mickelson. What was the most "high-profile" golf tip you ever received? Did it work?
WALKER: I’ve worked on a lot of Golf Magazine and Golf.com instruction stories with Tour pros and heard some great tips. My two favorites: 1. Morgan Pressel says to imagine the center of the cup from the ball’s perspective as it enters the hole (if you think of the hole as a clock, the center of the hole for the ball is closer to 8 o’clock than 6 o’clock on a left-to-right putt). It’s a great way to read break. 2. Geoff Ogilvy says to try to hit mini-draws with your chips. Trying this can help cure the chip-yips, so I’ve heard.
VAN SICKLE: Paul Azinger once gave me a tip on bunker play -- essentially, simply throw your hands through the ball on the forward swing -- and it worked great. I still rely on that thought, and I'm halfway decent on bunker shots (up and down about 45 percent), which is all an amateur hack can expect.
SHIPNUCK: Jack Nicklaus told me recently that I should try to hit the inside of the ball. It's such a simple thought, and from a pretty good source. I'm partial to a butter-cut so we'll see how it goes...
GODICH: Don't give up your day job. It's a recurring theme.
MORFIT: Jason Day said he could fix my hook in no time flat. Unfortunately, the range at Muirfield Village was a bunch of dirt piles, and it was the middle of winter, so the lesson never happened. Gary McCord finally looked at my swing and put a board between my toes and the ball, very close to the ball, and said, "Don't hit the board." It was meant to force me to take the club straight back and not so far inside. It worked. He's a very good teacher but avoids it religiously.
PASSOV: Tom Watson and I were paired at Hualalai in the pro-am of the Champions Tour event that opened the 2009 season. In the 18th fairway, he took me aside to show me the proper technique for hitting long pitch shots. I hit a beauty for him, and was pretty handy with that shot for the next 12 months. Old age has now rendered that skill mostly forgotten. I'll have to buy his DVD.
BAMBERGER: Loren Roberts gave me a putting lesson. Paint a straight alignment line on the top of your putter. For a while, I was less terrible.
RITTER: About four years ago Arnold Palmer fixed my grip while we were fiddling with clubs in his workshop for a story. His pointers did not lead me to a new career as a professional golfer, but I did start playing a little better -- and I remain grateful for the tip.
SENS: Mark Calcavecchia once suggested that I take two weeks off, then quit. I didn't take him up on his advice.
6. "Seve The Movie" was released in the UK and Ireland last week. (The move has no U.S. release date yet.) What golf story would you most like to see made into a movie?
MORFIT: Erik Compton. Guy on his third heart, who was once so convinced he wasn't going to survive a heart attack he called his mom to say goodbye, who two weeks ago was mixing it up at the U.S. Open, firing at flags, sending up roars around Pinehurst No. 2. It's a movie. It just hasn't been made yet.
BAMBERGER: The Robert Landers story. The farming golfer who made it to the show.
SENS: The story of Charlie Sifford and some of the other great black golfers of his era who were denied a chance to play.
VAN SICKLE: I'd like to see the novel that John Garrity is secretly working on, "The Robot Who Won the Masters After World War III," made into a movie. Of course, it's so top secret that Garrity refuses to admit he's even working on it (after I gave him the title). If not that, I'd go with The Gary McCord Story. He was probably the only golfer who ever appeared on "The Lawrence Welk Show," he was a tour journeyman (the stories there alone!) who invented the all-exempt tour concept and went on to a career as a one-of-a-kind humorist-broadcaster. Also, he's got the nifty mustache. He's the Most Interesting Man in the World.
SHIPNUCK: The improbable rise and tragic death of Champagne Tony Lema would be very cinematic. The white trash soap opera that is John Daly's life could be an amazing flick. But the story that needs to come to the big screen is, clearly, "The Swinger."
PASSOV: The Charlie Sifford story, called "Just Let Me Play," which was the title of his autobiography. The movie would have a Hollywood ending, where they invite him to play in the Masters.
RITTER: For a recent example, I think Erik Compton's story is fascinating, and I find myself wanting to know more. Maybe he's Hollywood-worthy.
WALKER: John Daly winning the 1991 PGA Championship at Crooked Stick. A true story that combines the best elements of “Miracle” and Kenny Powers in “Eastbound & Down.”
GODICH: Inside Augusta National.
The Tour Confidential roundtable continues Monday on our new weekly show hosted by Jessica Marksbury. Tweet her your questions @Jess_Marksbury.