Tour Confidential: Are Tiger and Phil done winning majors? Plus, Rory vs. Spieth and Players Championship picks
Are Phil and Tiger still major-worthy? How many more green jackets will Bubba collect? What's with the new Players' playoff? Rory or Jordan? Who will be the last man standing? SI Golf Group convened a panel of experts -- along with a Tour player who participated on the condition of anonymity -- to tackle these questions and more in this Tour Confidential Extra.
1. Are Phil and Tiger done winning majors?
John Garrity, special contributor, Sports Illustrated (@jgarrity2): I'm not even tempted to say they're done. Phil won a major nine months ago and Tiger, who won five times last year, is merely temporarily out of the picture. The majors are where these guys shine.
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@AlanShipnuck): They're both losing mojo at a horrible rate. Their bodies are betraying them, but they lust after majors and they have the know-how. If Phil can shake off Merion to win like he did at Muirfield, anything's possible.
ANONYMOUS PRO: Phil played horribly in Augusta, which totally surprised me. It was Phil being Phil—he overprepared and overthought it with that extra wedge in his bag. He pretty much designs a new club for every major these days.
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@GaryVanSickle): Maybe beating everyone isn't as satisfying as also outsmarting them.
ANONYMOUS PRO: Sometimes he should just go play.
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Like many, I'm openly rooting for Phil at Pinehurst. If he calls it a day after that, more power to him. Tiger, if he gets healthy, will be a threat at Augusta for another 15 years.
SHIPNUCK: Don't forget about Tiger and the 2015 Open at the Old Course, where he's won twice. People say this is the year Phil has to get his U.S. Open, but Chambers Bay next year is kind of wide-open; it might suit him perfectly. It's too soon to say they're done.
ANONYMOUS PRO: While there are a lot of good young players out there, I'm not sure how many of them are ready to win majors. Or beat Phil or Tiger on the final nine.
VAN SICKLE: Great players are like recessions—you don't know they're done until years later. How long was it after Arnold Palmer's last major in 1964 before anyone began thinking he might not win another? Probably a decade. We still believed when Jack Nicklaus made another Masters run in 1998 at 58.
GARRITY: Tom Watson challenged for the British Open when he was almost 60. Tiger and Phil can remain competitive for a long time.
2. Do you see more majors or a Hall of Fame in Bubba Watson's future?
BAMBERGER: Bubba will be an Augusta National specialist, but I don't see his game translating as well anywhere else. He could have 20 more Masters chances so why not one or two more wins?
ANONYMOUS PRO: I agree. Bubba's game doesn't travel great. He's all about using length to his advantage, and the U.S. and British Open venues don't play to that—except Pinehurst this year, with no rough. I see him winning another Masters, for sure.
SHIPNUCK: If John Daly can win on the Old Course, that should be a great course for Bubba too, with his ability to shape shots and trajectories. I can't wait to watch Bubba play the next 10 British Opens. It's easy to see Bubba winning two of the next seven or eight Masters.
ANONYMOUS PRO: Bubba is good in an Augusta environment and likewise Riviera, where he won this year. I'm not sold on his putting, though.
VAN SICKLE: With his shotmaking skills, you'd think Bubba would have a better major record. On the other hand, he's only been competing in them for six years.
SHIPNUCK: Bubba is a late bloomer. If we give him one more green jacket and he picks off a British Open, is he a Hall of Famer? Hell, yeah.
GARRITY: If he wins one more Masters, he's got more majors than Greg Norman and Johnny Miller. That's a Hall of Famer.
BAMBERGER: Fred Couples got in the Hall with one major and what, 15 total wins? Bubba doesn't have to win another major; he just has to win a few more Hartfords.
3. Do you like the Players' new three-hole playoff format?
VAN SICKLE: Playing three pretty good holes—16, 17 and 18—seems like a fairer way to determine a champion, but it may not be as dramatic. One thing about sudden death—it's sudden and it's final.
ANONYMOUS PRO: I didn't like sudden death starting at the par-3 17th at all. I don't like a playoff where it may be over with one swing. I'm not big on this, either. The 18th is the best hole on the course. Start there and just keep playing that hole until there's a winner.
SHIPNUCK: The three-hole playoff makes sense, but it's also a disaster. The 17th hole playoff distilled the entire, over-the-top essence of the Players—silly, totally gaudy and cool. Now you've got to slog through three holes.
BAMBERGER: At least 16, 17 and 18 are exciting holes. They offer the potential for tremendous drama.
ANONYMOUS PRO: One guy goes eagle-par, the other guy goes par-double and the 18th will be ceremonial. How exciting will that be? If the playoff is tied after three holes, where do they go?
VAN SICKLE: Sudden death at 17.
ANONYMOUS PRO: I don't like it. That's too gimmicky.
GARRITY: Three holes drain the drama. Before, you went to 17, made one bad swing and your dream died. There was so much tension and everybody felt it. Now if you dunk one in the water at 17, you just shrug because the other guy may make triple at 18.
BAMBERGER: When you have three playoff holes with water, you'll either see guys stepping up or puking their guts out.
4. Whose future looks brighter: Rory McIlroy's or Jordan Spieth's?
SHIPNUCK: Rory has an extra gear. At the Masters he was bombing his driver and playing from positions in some fairways I've never seen.
GARRITY: I'll go with McIlroy for the same reason. The really impressive lifetime careers come from the guys with big games who hit it long and play a lot of special shots.
VAN SICKLE: One thing Spieth does is get the ball in the hole. The man can chip and putt. Rory seems to have regressed on the greens, so I'll go with Jordan. It's always about putting, even at majors.
BAMBERGER: Rory's fundamentals are so good that he will have tremendous staying power. They're both great talents. Rory may not have as much short game as Jordan, but he's got more firepower.
ANONYMOUS PRO: Exactly. I like Rory's upside more, even though I don't like the way he's putting. He's pushing putts and getting blocky. When it comes to ball striking, though, Rory has everything.
BAMBERGER: One thing Spieth has is a monomaniacal zeal for golf. We've seen what a monomaniacal zeal for golf can do in the hands of Tiger Woods.
ANONYMOUS PRO: Jordan has kind of a knuckly ball flight and has trouble drawing the ball consistently. He couldn't draw one to save his life on the back nine on Sunday at the Masters. He's got a straight ball flight, kind of flat with not a lot of spin. Rory's power game is much better suited to majors and big courses.
SHIPNUCK: I read that somebody set the over/under on career majors for Spieth at 2½. A lot of great players—great players—won only two. It would be a big leap for Spieth to get to three.
GARRITY: Rory already has the Q factor, he's an outsized celebrity. He's recognized around the world and is really marketable. Spieth has a smoldering intensity but doesn't have a look or style that's truly marketable yet. I'd view Rory as an Arnold Palmer and Spieth as a Gary Player. They might be two players for the ages, but I remember which one I wanted to be when I was a kid.
VAN SICKLE: Bunky Henry?
GARRITY: Arnie. This question is like going back 20 years and asking who's got a better future: Tiger or Phil? There is no wrong answer.
5. And the 2014 Players Championship winner is…?
BAMBERGER: I think we all know Rickie Fowler is going to win this. Now that he's got his ears tucked under his hat in the wind, he's got one less thing to worry about.
SHIPNUCK: Not a bad call, Michael. Sawgrass is kind of a petite course that's all about position. I'll take Luke Donald. He's been in swing-change mode for a while and it's coming together, as we saw at Harbour Town. He's peaking, he's reengaged, and he's ready to win again.
VAN SICKLE: I'll go with golf's hottest player, Matt Kuchar. He had four straight chances to win and got the last one, at Harbour Town. He's won a Players and may be our next world No. 1.
BAMBERGER: Your logic is impeccable. I'm changing my pick to Ponte Vedra Beach resident Jim Furyk. You can win on this course by grinding your way around for 72 holes. Jim excels at that.
GARRITY: My streak of picking winners with Adam Scott is broken, so I'm going into long-shot mode and taking John Huh, if for no other reason than I can do the who's-on-first routine with my grandkids.
VAN SICKLE: It would be great for you if he beat Kevin Na in a playoff. Who won? Huh? Kevin? Nahhh. Huh?
ANONYMOUS PRO: I like Mr. Rogers.
ANONYMOUS PRO: That's Kuchar. He's got control of his ball better than anyone right now. I know it's a boring pick, but that's how Mr. Rogers rolls. Kuchar's one cardigan sweater away from having his own show.
The Tour Confidential roundtable continues Monday on our new weekly show hosted by Jessica Marksbury. Tweet her your questions @Jess_Marksbury.