Tour Confidential: What's next for Tiger after splitting with Foley? Plus, Ryder Cup picks and Michael Jordan's heckling
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 spilt with his coach Sean Foley last week after four years together with eight PGA Tour wins and no major championships. Does this decision make Tiger more likely or less likely to get to his goal of 18 majors?
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@AlanShipnuck): More, definitely. Tiger needs to reboot in every conceivable way, and this gives him the chance for a fresh start.
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Well, let's start with No. 15, shall we? I would say more likely. Woods did win five times last year with his "Foley" swing. But even with all that success, that doesn't mean he trusted it enough in the extreme demands of major championship play. Maybe that distinction doesn't really exist, but I think it does. A swing Woods believes in is one that comes more naturally to him. The large number of practice swings you would often see Woods make before stepping up to it suggested some confusion. For his sake, you hope his swing evolves to something that is more intuitive. He played fast, for him, in 2000.
Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated (@MarkGodich): Nothing has changed. He's not getting to 18. Where does Tiger turn now? I'd swallow a little pride and put in a phone call to Butch Harmon. The biggest issue: Whomever he chooses is going to want to make changes, and we all know that will take time, maybe years. And Tiger turns 40 in 2015.
Mike Walker, assistant managing editor, Golf.com (@michaelwalkerjr): More likely. Tiger made a lot of progress with Foley. The 2013 season did wonders for his confidence. He also had chances to win majors with Foley that he didn’t capitalize on (the 2012 British Open at Royal Lytham, the 2013 British Open at Muirfield -- and don’t forget about “The Drop”). Once he’s healthy, he needs to have one goal: Fix the driver. That wasn’t getting better with Foley, so an amiable split was the right call.
Josh Sens, contributing writer, Golf Magazine (@JoshSens): Considering that with Foley, his chances were slim to none, with slim growing leaner by the day, this can only up the odds.
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@GaryVanSickle): I think Brandel Chamblee was right that the Foley swing may have contributed to, or possibly led to, Tiger's back issues. Then again, Tiger has hit about three million shots at 120 mph over the last 25 years, so who knows? He couldn't make any progress when he kept getting hurt, so this change can only help. Tiger is a long way from winning another major right now, however.
Jeff Ritter, senior editor, Sports Illustrated Golf Group (@Jeff_Ritter): Not sure it has much effect. Ultimately Tiger's single biggest hindrance to catching Jack has been himself, first from the scandal and then from his declining health. I don't think he's done winning majors, but no one has won more than three after turning 39, and Woods hits that number this December. Tiger is a huge long shot to get the four he needs to tie Jack.
Joe Passov, senior editor, Golf Magazine (@joepassov): Neither one. I'm with the camp that says Tiger would be fine without a coach, and that he'll be fine with whomever he selects. Hey, Jack had issues in later years, consulting Peter Kostis, Phil Rodgers and Jim Flick, among others. We didn't second-guess his every move then. Let Tiger be. Go back to less process, more feel, fix the driver, get healthy, make a few more putts.
2. The big golf news this week is the Ryder Cup wildcard picks. What factor should carry the most weight with captains in making their decisions: current form or past experience or something else?
VAN SICKLE: Current form trumps experience to an extent, but I think you're really looking for someone who can make a big shot or a big putt at a big moment. There are plenty of guys on Tour with great swings and they're 32 years old and have one or two victories. They can't handle the Sunday pressure. Those are the players to avoid.
GODICH: You need a little of both, but if I'm Tom Watson, I'm leaning toward picking the players who are the hottest. How many Cups has the U.S. won in the last 21 years? Why would you load up with players who are experienced at losing -- and who didn't play well enough to make the team on points? My first call goes to Chris Kirk, who quietly matched Rory McIlroy's 64 in the third round at the Deutsche Bank and then dusted him by four shots while being paired again on Monday.
BAMBERGER: If those are the only options, I'd go with current form. But more than anything, I'd try to find someone who likes the heat of the lights on a Sunday afternoon, because Ryder Cup golf will give you that in spades.
WALKER: Experience, especially for the underdog and largely untested U.S. team in Scotland this year. How well you played at the Barclays or the Deutsche Bank Championship won’t matter as much in three weeks as how you’ve handled Ryder Cup or major Sunday pressure in the past.
RITTER: It's probably a mix of things, with experience ranking No. 1. It's why Poulter and Bradley are virtual locks for their teams, and both will be great picks. Those guys bring more than a veteran presence -- there's a history and an intimidation factor.
PASSOV: What the heck is current form, anyway? The last time one of the automatic U.S. qualifiers won a tournament was April. Experience? Why pick a guy who has team experience, if he's got a losing record? As Captain Azinger proved in 2008, chemistry seems like a big deal and so does spirit. Keegan Bradley seems like a fire-breathing Ryder Cup dragon. Pick him. He's long and pairs well with Phil. I don't care where he finishes in points.
SENS: Given the unique pressure all players say the Ryder Cup brings, you've got to put past experience first. Keegan Bradley and Ian Poulter haven't exactly had stellar seasons, but based on the fire they've shown, I don't think you'll see either of them left out.
SHIPNUCK: Form, experience and a certain presence are all important. Only Watson knows how much weight he gives each factor, but for an old-timer like him, I'm guessing experience is key.
3. True or false: With a great field, on a terrific modern course, with much at stake, the Deutsche Bank Championship -- won by Chris Kirk on Monday-- still feels a little lost in the shuffle, what with football starting, U.S. Open tennis, and the Labor Day holiday, among other distractions.
GODICH: False. The Deutsche Bank featured an exciting leader board -- with a nice mix of names young and old -- and after months of blabber about FedEx Cup points, the race actually had some meaning. How could you not be intrigued watching Jerry Kelly as he limped home and eagled the 72nd hole to grab what would turn out to be the 70th and last spot in next week's field? And the Monday finish gave us essentially three days of golf on the weekend.
SHIPNUCK: True, but the Monday finish is helpful in getting past the clutter. Though, I for one, still find it discombobulating -- on Thursday I made a nice lunch and sat down in front of the TV excited to watch the telecast and was crestfallen to realize it wasn't on.
VAN SICKLE: They still play tennis? Monday finishes are terrible for golf magazines and just seem off-kilter. I know it's great for gate attendance in Boston. Maybe it felt lost in the shuffle because Chris Kirk isn't a big name. It wasn't lost in the shuffle the year Phil outdueled Tiger. That's the nature of the FedEx Cup, too, that this is merely Chapter Two in a four-part series. It gives the event a lack of closure, like "The Emperor Strikes Back," and takes some of the focus off the Deutsche Bank itself.
RITTER: True. It's a nice tournament that produced a good finish, but there's just a lot going on this week in sports. The Monday holiday conclusion looks like a good idea on paper, but it only further buries the event and makes it all feel disjointed.
WALKER: False. There may be a little golf fatigue in that we’ve had so many significant golf tournaments in the last six weeks --it’s like eating too much chocolate cake. But the Labor Day Monday finish is fun and really the only game in town, TV sports-wise. The Tour should do the same thing on Memorial Day.
PASSOV: True. Good crowds in a great city on a fun course, yet the entire event feels like a money grab. Way too much emphasis on who's moving on instead of who wins -- contrary to the very essence of tournament golf. These middle FedEx playoff events just feel too much like appetizers for the main course that is the Tour Championship. It wasn't must-see TV for me.
SENS: True. But not surprising. Hard to get too worked up about a series of events devoted mainly to enriching a small group of already very wealthy people. Wait. I just described pretty much every event in every major sport.
BAMBERGER: True this year. Not true that year Phil beat Tiger.
4. Like the Barclays, the Deutsche Bank Championship had a 54-hole cut to limit the field to 70 players for Sunday. Brendan Steele was one of several players to say that there shouldn’t be a secondary cut for the playoffs because players miss the chance to go low on Sunday and move up in the FedEx standings. However, Jason Day suggested that those complaining about the secondary cut should “play better.” What’s your take?
BAMBERGER: Take that idea and supersize it! Make the playoffs three events, not four. Start with 125 for the first round of the first event. Every round for the first eight rounds (two tournaments) send home the bottom seven (in cumulative scoring) for the rest of the playoffs. Now you have 69 in the Tour Championship, each player with his 144-hole score attached to his name. Lop off seven more on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, so fans are paying attention to the top and the bottom of the board. Now you have 48 for the Sunday finale. Playoffs should be a dogfight.
VAN SICKLE: I'm not in favor of limited fields for the playoff events. I'd rather see all 125 guys get to play the first three and have a cut each week. So you missed the secondary cut? Too bad. Cry me a river.
SHIPNUCK: Secondary cuts make sense most weeks -- and Day is right that three rounds is plenty chance for a guy to get hot -- but the playoffs are different and should give guys one last chance to do something memorable.
PASSOV: I heard a great story just last week while in Myrtle Beach for the World Am. Some American guy was playing a team match at stuffy Muirfield in Scotland and for the second year in a row, lost his singles 5 and 4. His Scottish opponent started walking in and the American said, "I'd really like to play these final four holes. I've been here twice and have never seen them." His opponent shot him a withering glance and replied starchily, "Play better next time." Since the WGC events have no secondary cut, I don't understand why these playoff events do, but I'll side with Day on this one.
WALKER: I agree with Steele. The secondary cut is fine for regular tournaments, but it’s at odds with the idea of the FedEx Cup playoffs where guys can make a move with a really low round. Let ’em all play. What’s the harm? It’s more golf for everyone.
SENS: Day's got it right. For Steele and anyone else who griped, what can you do but break out a very tiny string instrument and offer to play him a pitying song?
5. Michael Jordan admitted in a Golf Channel special that he followed Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy in Saturday afternoon four-ball at the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah and tried -- unsuccessfully -- to get in Poulter’s head. Is this just good competitive fun or is MJ taking his advisory role with the U.S. Ryder Cup team too far?
VAN SICKLE: Jordan was out of bounds and shouldn't have been part of the official U.S. entourage in the first place. If you think you need to bring in a celebrity to win the Ryder Cup, you're probably going to lose. Why stop with Jordan? Get Lady Gaga, Penn and Teller and Hulk Hogan to show up and distract the opposition. Or, perhaps, get some better players.
SHIPNUCK: Given how Poulter played that afternoon, sounds like Jordan should get the Spike Lee Award for ill-advised gamesmanship. As the SI headline once said, Bag it, Michael!
WALKER: I love Jordan, and he’s one of the great ambassadors of golf in all its gambling, cigar-smoking, trash-talking glory, but he needs to attend the Ryder Cup as a fan and not a “team advisor” if he’s going to heckle the other side.
GODICH: If MJ really thought he could get in a world-class player's head, all the more power to him. At least now we know who to blame for igniting the fire under Poulter.
SENS: More than anything, it's yet another example of Michael Jordan's wildly distorted sense of his own importance.
PASSOV: Wouldn't it have been a blast to see Poults on the end of the Bulls bench and next to the team during on-court huddles, yakking and tweeting away? Come on, MJ. You were the greatest, most zealous hoops competitor ever, but back off. This isn't your time to intimidate. That's come and gone.
BAMBERGER: Way too far. Not golf. Not even Ryder Cup golf.
6. Los Angeles Country Club's North course is close to being awarded the 2023 U.S. Open. What other course most deserves a U.S. Open that's not currently on the regular rota?
PASSOV: I'm not a big fan of tricking up older, shorter classics just prove they're "relevant," so that eliminates a bunch of great courses for me. How about Spyglass Hill? It's tough, scenic, easy to grow dense rough, will be drier in mid-June than it is for February's AT&T and has long been underrated (as a tournament course) next to its Pebble Beach neighbors.
SHIPNUCK: Pine Valley, the leader in the clubhouse by about a dozen shots.
WALKER: It’s time for the U.S. Open to come back to the Country Club in Brookline, Mass. The USGA should have returned in 2013 for the 100th anniversary of Francis Ouimet’s win. We saw again this week how much the Boston area supports golf. Bring back the Open already.
GODICH: If Pine Valley is going to continue to be ranked among the top three courses in the land, don't we deserve to see how the best players in the world would tackle it?
BAMBERGER: Many to choose from, but I'll offer just one here: the underrated first course at Bandon.
SENS: Pine Valley. It will never happen, but the architecture lends itself to what the USGA likes. And would it be nice to finally get a peek at that place?
VAN SICKLE: The two courses at Streamsong are major-ready, but June in Florida isn't going to work, besides the fact that it's in the middle of nowhere and has little infrastructure. Three of the courses at the Bandon Dunes Resort might be able to host a major but again, it's far too remote to even be a possibility. Cypress Point and Pine Valley are way too short for modern golfers. Spyglass Hill might be able to do it, though.
The Tour Confidential roundtable continues Monday on our new weekly show hosted by Jessica Marksbury. Tweet her your questions @Jess_Marksbury.