Tour Confidential: Which tournament was the most fun to watch this weekend? Plus, Open favorites and Tiger's greatest win
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. Golf fans had a feast Sunday, with Justin Rose winning his second-straight event at the Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen, Mo Martin surprising the golf world with her win at the Women’s British Open at Royal Birkdale, Colin Montgomerie -- who finished second at the U.S. Open three times -- winning the U.S. Senior Open in a playoff, and Brian Harman punching his ticket to the British Open with his win at John Deere Classic. Which was the most fun to watch and why?
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I cannot remember a Sunday like it. I loved looking at the course at Aberdeen. I loved Mo's smiley manner. Brian Harman's gut-it-out win is what the Tour is all about. But the most compelling to me was Gene Sauers and what he almost did. Given where he's been, it is absolutely incredible and inspiring.
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@GaryVanSickle): The women struggled at Birkdale, so the most fun had to be Justin Rose's impeccable round at Royal Aberdeen. Great golf in a great setting and how about that weird TV shot of a tanker out on the ocean? Due to an odd reflection, it appeared to be hanging in the sky. Way cool.
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@AlanShipnuck): I had a blast switching back and forth between the Scottish Open and Women's British -- all that linksland left me with a stirring in my, uh, soul. Birkdale is awesome, and what a great Cinderella story Mo Martin turned out to be -- her near-albatross on the 72nd hole was a shot for the ages. And Royal Aberdeen looked great in HD. So it was a stellar Sunday morning here on the Best Coast.
Joe Passov, senior editor, Golf Magazine (@joepassov): The only telecast I watched in its entirety was the Women's British Open. Compelling characters, terrific course, actual classic links weather and a feel-good winner.
Mike Walker, assistant managing editor, Golf.com (@michaelwalkerjr): The Women’s British Open was the best because of the drama –-- Martin eagles 18 and then both Pettersen and Park have chances to force a playoff -- and the Royal Birkdale stage. But I got totally caught up in Monty’s playoff win in the U.S. Senior Open. The Champions Tour is at its best when it becomes the Second Chance Tour, and it was nice to see Monty get a U.S. Senior Open after so much U.S. Open heartbreak. But maybe we should save some of this great stuff for the week of the Wyndham Championship.
Josh Sens, contributing writer, Golf Magazine (@JoshSens): All due respect to the Centrum Silver set, but I can't get all that excited about a competition starring only golfers in their dotage. No dis intended toward the Scottish Open or the John Deere Classic, but they aren't majors. The biggest underdog on the biggest stage was Martin, and that made her win the most exciting to watch.
2. Justin Rose looks in great form, as does U.S. Open champ Martin Kaymer, while Phil Mickelson shot 65 and Rory McIlroy 67 in the final round of the Scottish Open. So who’s your favorite to win the British Open?
PASSOV: Tiger Woods. If he's in the field, I'm picking him. These greens are pretty benign, so he should fare nicely with the putter, and he remains the best course manager since Nicklaus, so he'll adapt where necessary. Plus, he can lay back off the tee, and not have to smash drivers out with the big boys, so that won't hurt him either. Easy enough to pick the great ball-strikers: Scott, Rose, McDowell and Kaymer. That will round out my top 5.
SHIPNUCK: My favorite was Rose even before this week. It's a big ask to win three starts in a row, but, hey, why not? Every other top player besides G-Mac seems to be just puttering along.
WALKER: Sergio Garcia. He’s been quietly having an excellent season, he’s putting well and the Open Championship has always been his best major. The fans will be totally behind him -- which matters a lot for an emotional player like Garcia. Feels like this is his year as long as he doesn’t wear yellow on Sunday.
VAN SICKLE: Phil's putting is not right, and McIlroy keeps throwing in a big number. With back-to-back wins and a U.S. Open already on his resume, Rose has to be the new favorite. It'll take a lot of mental stamina to win three events in a row, however. I don't think I'd bet on him because of that.
SENS: Henrik Stenson. He's been close before, his game is trending upward and being a first-time major winner is almost a requirement these days.
BAMBERGER: Tiger Woods. Nobody plays red-ass golf like him, and now he'll likely win just to prove Hank Haney wrong.
3. Tiger Woods had one of his signature wins the last time Royal Liverpool hosted the British Open. Where does Tiger’s 2006 Open Championship rank among his all-time greatest wins?
VAN SICKLE: Somewhere in the middle. Tiger won it without using his driver more than once. Was that brilliant strategy and course management or was his driver such a liability he didn't have a choice? Nobody really challenged him on Sunday. It was a good win.
SHIPNUCK: I'd put it tied for third. The '97 Masters will always define Tiger, and the '08 U.S. Open was his most heroic performance, but Hoylake was a monument to his discipline, course management and all-around game, with some deep emotional resonance in the wake of his dad's death. For me, it's right up there with the '00 PGA -- the single most exciting win of Tiger's career -- and his tour de force at the '00 U.S. Open, the height of his dominance.
PASSOV: High up there for course management and execution, but not much higher than that. He was better at both in his 2000 win at St. Andrews. For sheer, dominating genius, it's Pebble 2000 and Augusta 1997. For riveting drama, Torrey Pines in 2008, Valhalla 2000, Medinah 1999 and Augusta 2005 are my picks. However, kudos in 2006 for the emotional resolve, claiming the claret jug not long after losing his dad. Seeing him weep with Stevie showed everybody just what that meant.
SENS: First place goes to the '97 Masters for historical significance; second to the ‘00 U.S. Open at Pebble for lap-the-field dominance; third to '08 at Torrey for hospital drama heroics; and fourth to '06 at Liverpool for surgical precision.
WALKER: I have it fourth behind the 1997 Masters, the 2000 U.S. Open and the 2008 U.S. Open. Tiger’s course management and iron play at Royal Liverpool were spectacular, and the raw emotion he showed winning after he lost his father made it unforgettable.
BAMBERGER: Maybe at the middle or below, something like that. And don't get me wrong, it was deeply impressive. But winning the Masters by 12 and the U.S. Open by 15 at Pebble and the two wins at the Old Course and the completion of the Tiger Slam and the Rocco and Bob May playoffs were all more memorable.
4. Speaking of Tiger, ESPN3 is going to show a Tiger-only feed of the British Open this week in addition to ESPN’s regular Open broadcast. Is this a proper focusing of priorities, since there’s a segment of viewers who only care about Tiger? Or is it a twisted instance of one man being held up as more important than the game?
SHIPNUCK: It's both. Tons of folks will watch no matter how much of a nonfactor Tiger is, so it's merely responding to the fans' desires.
BAMBERGER: Well, it says everything that's wrong with the game and modern culture. It's an effort to make money by giving people, some people, what they want. I just wouldn't know what to talk to those people about. How narrow can your life-view be?
SENS: I think it's a smart move. Tiger-lovers can get all they can eat. And Tiger-haters can tune in Friday to watch him miss the cut. Everyone's a winner.
VAN SICKLE: This is no different than any of the magazines or websites -- including this one -- that features a Tiger-tracker and blogs Tiger's shot-by-shot play. It's a great example of giving people what they want and it's a horrible example of giving people what they want. Tiger is bigger than the game, like it or not, and while his incredible career has done a lot for golf, the focus on him (through no fault of his own) has also hurt the game in some ways.
PASSOV: Who are we kidding? This guy has moved the needle in our sport like no one else. I'm only surprised nobody's done this before.
WALKER: The Tiger broadcast is a gimmick and nobody’s going to watch it. Since the networks show every Tiger shot unless he’s embarrassingly behind -- in which case they show half his shots -- there’s no reason for a Tiger-only feed. Plus, for a true Tiger fanatic, it’s not enough to just watch him win, they need to see Mickelson lose too.
5. Both Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy hit jaw-dropping shots in Scotland this week. Mickelson hit one of his over-the-head, backward flop shots to about three feet in a practice round, and Rory McIlroy drove the green on a 436-yard hole in the first round Thursday. Which shot was more impressive?
SHIPNUCK: Oh, Phil's by a mile. Downwind, on baked Scottish turf, I once ripped a 310-yard 3-wood. Lotsa guys hit it long, but Phil's shot was some Houdini shizz.
BAMBERGER: Oh, Rory. No question. Practice v. competition is not a competition.
VAN SICKLE: Rory's 436-yard drive was impressive. Downwind, downhill, firm ground, it doesn't matter. When a normal-sized golfer can drive a green from beyond 400 yards, the professional game has a problem. This is just a symptom of a bigger issue that needs to be addressed.
SENS: The flop is the more impressive skill shot, but any shot made when it matters will always get the nod over a practice round stunt.
PASSOV: Gotta go with Rory's seeing-eye blast. We're so accustomed to Lefty's magic act, it's almost become routine. I love it every time ... but Rory's smash? That's impressive.
WALKER: Both shots blew my mind. I give the edge to Mickelson, who can make you wonder if he sold his soul to the devil for a short game like that.
6. Earlier this week, Golf.com published a list of the 30 Best Links Courses in the World. St. Andrews took the top spot -- no argument there -- but some purists took issue with the inclusion of courses from the U.S., Canada and Australia on the list. Does a course have to be in the UK or Ireland to be considered a true links course?
BAMBERGER: Not the U.K. Not Ireland. True linksland is in Scotland. On the East Coast. In St. Andrews and north.
PASSOV: So who are these so-called purists? Not even the top experts I know can agree on exactly what constitutes an authentic links. Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales have the purest expressions and the greatest volume of so-called links courses, but other countries can lay claim to links as well. If we're talking sandy soil underneath indigenous turfgrasses -- such as bents and fescues -- that keep playing surfaces firm and fast on the kind of undulating terrain that was created when the sea receded and a proximate location to a prominent body of water, you probably have yourself a links.
VAN SICKLE: I'm going with the purists on this one. I'm not buying that there's a true links in the U.S. To quote Yogi Berra, I'll believe it when I believe it.
WALKER: That’s like saying only wine that comes from France is “real wine.” Great American links courses like Pacific Dunes have a different terroir than the old Scottish, Irish and English links, but they are authentic.
SHIPNUCK: Spiritually, yes. But a more inclusive definition of linksland is earth that was once covered by the sea, providing the sandy conditions and unique grasses indigenous to links golf. You can find this terrain in places other than the U.K., but somehow it just doesn't feel the same.
SENS: Ridiculous. Does ravioli need to be made in Italy to be stuffed pasta? Of course not.
The Tour Confidential roundtable continues Monday on our new weekly show hosted by Jessica Marksbury. Tweet her your questions @Jess_Marksbury.