Tour Confidential: Are Team USA's Ryder Cup chances better without Tiger? Plus, Spider-Man returns and shorts on Tour
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 took himself out of consideration for the Ryder Cup next month due to his injured back and said he won't play again until December. Without Woods, are Team USA's Ryder Cup chances better, worse or nonexistent?
Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine (@CameronMorfit): Their chances are better without him for many reasons. First of all, Tiger, through little fault of his own, can be a distraction in these team events. In the worst cases, his fame and/or gravitational forces pull the team out of round. That won't happen without him there. Also, I don't think he and Tom Watson have much to say to each other. Also, he is not playing well enough to be of help.
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@AlanShipnuck): Definitely better, because it removes a huge distraction. Say Woods was on the team but was benched on Saturday -- that woulda been a monumental ruckus.
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Well, better. The way Woods was playing, he had less than a 50 percent chance of halving or winning his Sunday point. Alternate shot isn't really his thing. Better ball is better for him in theory but not in practice. I don't think he'd really like playing for Watson. It would be one more week away from his kids. I think the team's better without him. Marginally.
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@GaryVanSickle): Tiger isn't healthy enough to play well enough to help the team, anyway. He was out of the Ryder Cup the minute he had back surgery earlier this year. His absence doesn't change the team's chances. They'd be massive underdogs with or without him.
Mike Walker, assistant managing editor, Golf.com (@michaelwalkerjr): The U.S. team can only be worse off without Tiger Woods, especially this year as a heavy underdog on the road. Tiger did the team a favor by announcing his decision so early and removing a potential distraction, but he's easily one of the 12 best American players in the world, and his competitive fire and confidence will be missed. It’s impossible to feel like you have no chance when Tiger is on your team.
Jeff Ritter, senior editor, Sports Illustrated Golf Group (@Jeff_Ritter): Tiger's absence helps the U.S. because there's no way he could've played his best at Gleneagles -- and it was obvious to everyone. His poor play, and the ensuing circus around him, might've sunk a team that's already a heavy underdog. Instead of getting blown out by 6 or more points, I think the U.S now has a great chance to lose by only 4.
Josh Sens, contributing writer, Golf Magazine (@JoshSens): Better. Tiger has been no Ryder Cup stalwart. You could argue that the team has been weaker because of him, in part because so much energy has been expended trying to figure out who'd be paired with him. Not a fault of his own, but a reality. His absence also gives the U.S. team still more cause to play the underdog, a role I think the players will welcome.
2. On ESPN's "The Sports Reporters" on Sunday, Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News said that the PGA Championship should have waited until Monday for Rory McIlroy to play the 72nd hole, instead of rushing him through it "like the meter was running" while Phil Mickelson still had a real chance of forcing a playoff. Now that you've had a week to digest it, what's your take on how the PGA of America handled the final hole in darkness at Valhalla?
RITTER: It was a messy finish, but I was within earshot of Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler when they chatted on the 18th tee at Valhalla, and it certainly appeared that McIlroy approached Fowler directly with the idea to tee off quickly. Officials intervened only after the players had an agreement. The confusion that followed in the darkness is on the officials, but the players, and Rory specifically, appeared to hatch the plan.
BAMBERGER: Phil and Rickie showed incredible sportsmanship by letting Rory and Bernd tee off. Rory should have spoken directly to Phil and Rickie and said, "What do you want us to do here?" Lacking that, the official should have allowed Phil and Rickie to finish before Rory played his second shot. But the instinct, to get it in on Sunday night, was the right one. The situation was so odd and fast that everybody was caught a little off-guard. But I really don't think it changed anything. Phil nearly made his three -- it had a real chance. Rory seemed determined to finish no matter how dark it got.
SHIPNUCK: It was a s***show. So many ridiculous things coulda happened -- thank goodness Rory didn't blade his sand shot or 3-putt because of the darkness or we would be debating this for eternity, rather than just one more week.
WALKER: Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler should have finished the 18th hole before Rory McIlroy hit his second shot, even if that that meant we had to come back Monday morning. It wasn't fair to Mickelson, who was too gracious to complain about it. Feeling intense pressure to finish the event Sunday, the PGA of America made the wrong call.
SENS: In retrospect, the error was in the initial tee-off times, which pushed the event into the witching hour. Once that mistake had been made, I think it was the better choice to play up and finish on Sunday. I don't think any of the players, Mickelson included, to say nothing of the fans, would have benefited from prolonging the event.
MORFIT: That's one of those things we can debate all we want, but we'll never know how it all would've played out in the daylight Monday morning. (By the way, Monday was the nicest day I saw in Louisville.) My sense of it is that even if Fowler or Mickelson had found a way to make eagle, Rory would have found a way to make birdie and win whether it was Sunday night or Monday morning. You could argue that rushing 18 hurt McIlroy the most, as he was the only one of the three without a good look at eagle or birdie.
VAN SICKLE: It was OK for Rory's group to tee off at 18, but letting him hit up to the green before Mickelson and Fowler finished should've been left to Mickelson and Fowler, not the PGA. No doubt the PGA rushed things because it had egg on its face for not moving up the Sunday tee times with rain in the forecast. I agree that the PGA blew it...again.
3. Camilo Villegas won the Wyndham Championship for his first Tour victory since 2010. In 2008, Villegas was one of the Tour's brightest young stars, but he lost his card after a slump in 2012. Was this just a hot week for Villegas or is it a sign that he's turned his game around?
SHIPNUCK: It's not a fluke -- he's been trending in this direction for a while. Spider-Man coulda been a star, but it turned out he didn't have the temperament or personality to be in the spotlight. Maybe now he'll loosen up and enjoy things a bit more and make a deeper connection with fans (and reporters).
MORFIT: I like his new transition at the top of the backswing, which Peter Kostis made note of on CBS. It's less jarring. I'd guess he will play better now with more confidence, but this was a little like winning the B Flight. I'll believe more if and when he comes out on top at a major or WGC or FedEx Cup playoff event.
RITTER: Hard to say if he's back, but Sunday was a great round at a perfect time. Let's see if he follows it up with anything over the next few weeks.
BAMBERGER: Hot week. He's not a golfer with much finesse. But when everything's working, he can beat the field.
WALKER: Based on his season so far, it's more of a hot week than a return to form, but winning can do a lot for a player's confidence. Nice timing too with the FedEx Cup playoffs starting.
VAN SICKLE: I'm not going to pretend to know what's up with Villegas. He definitely had a hot week.
SENS: You don't just win a Tour event with an out-of-the-blue hot week. There's a long slog of work behind that win, even if we don't see it. As for whether it will last? That's the question for us all at whatever level we play, which is part of what makes the game so beautiful and compelling.
4. This was the first week in which Tom Watson's potential wild-card picks had the stage to themselves. Did any player distinguish himself?
MORFIT: Brandt Snedeker is definitely getting picked. He played well at Wyndham, went on Twitter afterward to say he's close to being back in the winners' circle, and Watson loves him anyway.
BAMBERGER: I have to think Fred Couples was there on a tryout basis. Unfortunately, he MCed. No, nobody did anything that would make you say, "That's my guy."
SENS: Webb Simpson looked strong. But I'd go back to Stricker's showing at the PGA as the brighter performance.
VAN SICKLE: Snedeker may have just locked up a pick. Bill Haas and Webb Simpson are now leading candidates for the other two.
SHIPNUCK: Sneds and Webb helped themselves with more solid play, but a win would've really solidified either of their candidacies, and they couldn't get it done. And Watson strikes me as a glass-half-empty kinda guy.
WALKER: No. Watson has the players he wants in mind already, and you're going to have to win to change his mind.
RITTER: You have to think Snedeker remains a front-runner for a pick, and Simpson and Haas might've nudged themselves into the conversation. But it's doubtful that anyone locked up a spot last week. On to the Barclays we go.
5. Lydia Ko, 17, was fighting to become the youngest-ever major champion at the Wegman's LPGA Championship (won by Inbee Park) and to claim the No. 1 ranking. Yet it seemed not to get much media attention. What would you do to rectify the situation, either as her agent or the LPGA?
MORFIT: If I'm the LPGA, I'm making this kid a big part of my 2015 marketing campaign. Just as big if not bigger than Michelle Wie. Ko is such a cute kid, and she looks like she's about 12. There's got to be a sort of Doogie Howser M.D.-esque way to play up her precociousness.
SENS: This is an issue way older than Ko, and it applies to a lot more than golf. Ko is hardly the first soft-spoken, hugely talented non-centerfold athlete who has not received her full due. How do you fight those currents? I'm not sure I know, other than to just keep winning.
SHIPNUCK: She's such a charming young lady. They need to get her in front of people, and they'll create fans with a rooting interest. Letterman, The Today Show, stuff like that would be great; media tours at every golf publication should be mandatory; lotsa local media every time she tees it up. But all of these things take time and energy and won't help her keep winning, so it's a delicate balance.
BAMBERGER: As the LPGA commissioner, I would organize a couple foursomes with Lewis, Ko and executives from the major networks who are really into golf. I would tell those executives they can play for any terms they choose, handicap, amount, etc. If they win, the LPGA will pay up. If they lose, they would have to make an oath to giving women's golf full-scale treatment and turn it into the TV show it needs to be. Easier said than done, but it can be done. It requires brainpower.
VAN SICKLE: The LPGA has a small following in the U.S. There's no overcoming that, really, but as her agent, I'd get her booked on as many talk shows as possible, from Ellen to Jimmy Fallon to The View -- any and all takers. And then make sure she's got an interesting story to tell.
WALKER: The lack of attention had nothing to do with Lydia Ko and everything to do with the LPGA Championship. It's sad that the LPGA is leaving Rochester after 38 years, but renaming this event the Women's PGA Championship and moving it around the country will help make this championship feel like a bigger event. After the U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst and the Women’s British Open, the LPGA Championship didn’t have that major feeling. Ko has star quality. Her time is coming.
RITTER: The Tiger news dominated the media week, but overall the LPGA has had a great year and has made some strides in generating more mainstream interest. The 2015 schedule is packed. The brightest stars are winning events. Things are moving the right direction.
6. Gunn Yang won the U.S. Amateur. In addition to being considered a major by many golf observers, the U.S. Amateur is also the game's highest-profile men's event where the competitors wear shorts. Should shorts be allowed on the PGA Tour? Why or why not?
BAMBERGER: I like the slacks. I like the word. But shorts are coming. Sleeveless shirts for the fellas are, too. It won't be proof of the decline of civilization as we know it, but it won't improve anything.
MORFIT: Fine by me. It would probably help golf get recognized as a sport and not some genteel pursuit reserved for retired Wall Street types and other blue bloods.
RITTER: Shorts wouldn't be any more embarrassing than John Daly's pants, but I still like the tradition of PGA Tour pros dressed in slacks. Just feels right. Here's one I don't understand: why do major league baseball managers dress in full uniform?
WALKER: Hard to think of an easier and more simple way to make the pro game look cooler and younger than allowing Tour players to wear shorts -- and, yes, cargo shorts should be included.
SENS: No. But I won't pretend to be a guardian of tradition in this case. My stance is purely aesthetic. Too many legs out there I wouldn't want to see.
VAN SICKLE: The big war on caddies wearing shorts was finally won by the caddies despite protests that it would ruin the game's traditional image. Instead, nobody noticed and nobody cared. I wouldn't object to the men wearing shorts. Hey, the LPGA does. But allowing rangefinders on Tour is a far more pressing issue than worrying about shorts.
SHIPNUCK: Nope. Two words: Lumpy's legs.
The Tour Confidential roundtable continues Monday on our new weekly show hosted by Jessica Marksbury. Tweet her your questions @Jess_Marksbury.