PGA Tour Confidential: Tiger Woods wins Bridgestone Invitational by seven shots
Every Sunday night, the editorial staff of the SI Golf Group conducts an e-mail roundtable. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.
1. Going into the PGA Championship, who's your Player of the Year so far: Tiger with five wins, including two WGCs and the Players, or Phil Mickelson, with two U.S. wins, one a major, a Scottish Open and a runner-up in another major? Related question: How many "regular" wins equal one major in your mind, and does strength of field in the factor into your decision?
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Phil is my Player of Year so far. Majors are bigger in the Tiger era, so maybe it takes five regular wins to equal a major. Phil's got a major, plus one other. One more win by Tiger, though, and I'd change my mind.
Eamon Lynch, managing editor, Golf.com Tiger is clearly the player of the year, but ask yourself this: would Tiger rather have his season thus far or Phil's? I say Phil's, just to grab that claret jug. Regular wins equal a good bank balance, not a major. Just ask Lee Westwood.
Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: I'll take Phil. With one of those three victories being a major, that trumps Tiger's five wins, especially when you consider how he won that major. I don't know how you would begin to equate majors vs. regular events, but strength of field should figure into the formula. In the end, just win, baby!
Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: Tiger's the Player of the Year, but I bet he'd cash in all five of his titles for one major, including the PGA next week.
Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: I think Phil is probably a hair ahead of Tiger at the moment but everything is still way up in the air. Strength of field doesn't do much for me as long as we're talking PGA Tour or Euro events where most of the top players bother to show up.
Joe Passov, senior editor, travel, Golf Magazine: Tiger's got my vote. Not sure how many regular wins a player would trade for a major, but he's beaten the strongest non-major fields in golf three times, and Torrey and Bay Hill aren't bad, either. Plus, a T4 and a T6 in his two "healthy" majors so far ain't bad (except by Tiger standards).
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Put it this way, Would Tiger rather have his year or Phil's? There is no equivalency for majors, as Jay Haas, Bruce Lietzke, Steve Stricker and Kenny Perry have found out. They're special because they're so hard to win.
2. If Tiger wins six or seven events this season but no major, how do you view his year?
Passov: I think the players -- and the media -- overhype the majors, but I know I'm in the minority. By Tiger's standards, very good year, but not great. By any other measure, it's an awesome, practically halfway home to the watered-down Hall of Fame kind of year.
Morfit: I'd view it as a huge success for anyone but him. It's all about the majors for Tiger and has been for some time. That said, if he gets to eight this year it'll tie him with Snead, so he will get some of the recognition he deserves.
Van Sickle: Tiger has had a very good year but if he doesn't win a major, it'll be a disappointing season to him. He clearly made strides with his game and has to be happy with where he's at. But it's all about the majors for him. A shutout by any other name is still a shutout. He hates that.
Godich: Tiger would trade those seven victories for a major in a heartbeat. Just as he likes to remind us that he's won five times this season, he'd be equally quick to say, "I may have won only once, but let's not forget that one victory was a major."
Ritter: He's had a great year. Again, he's Player of the Year. A big reason why we media-types put so much stock in Tiger's major record is because Tiger puts so much stock in it. Look at another sport, like tennis. Does anyone know how many majors Serena Williams needs to catch Steffi Graf? (It's six. I had to look it up.) Passing San Snead on the all-time wins list is almost as impressive as passing Jack in the Slams, and Tiger will probably clip Snead next year. Not AS impressive ... but it's close.
Shipnuck: It's a spectacular year.... for anybody else. For Tiger, it's still unfulfilling.
Lynch: His season is already great by anyone else's standard, but that's not how he's ever been judged. If he doesn't win at Oak Hill, it's another lost year.
3. Tiger won the Bridgestone in vintage fashion, flirting with 59 on Friday and lapping the field before he even teed off in the final round. What is your favorite Tiger win and why?
Shipnuck: '97 Masters. Golf changed forever that week.
Van Sickle: Tiger's Canadian Open win in 2000 was one of his most amazing because he won it by hitting a shot that no one else could've done-- a 6-iron from a fairway bunker with a 210-yard carry over a lake. That showed how much stronger and better he was than mere mortals. That was mind-boggling.
Ritter: The 2000 U.S. Open is my favorite Tiger win. I had just graduated from college, and I remember watching it with a group of friends at a bar and my buddy Shaun saying in between beers, "He's not that good." It remains one of the worst sports predictions in recorded history.
Morfit: I liked his comeback to blow the doors off Matt Gogel at Pebble, which was notable for its audacious show of firepower, and the 15-shot U.S. Open win at Pebble the same year, for the same reason.
Godich: It has to be the 15-shot victory at the 2000 U.S. Open. Not only did he lap the field, but he was the only player to finish under par. It was golf played at its finest, and Tiger never took his foot off the gas pedal.
Passov: The greatest tournament golf ever played was likely Tiger's crushing dominance at the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, where he won by 15, even with a triple-bogey, but my favorite Tiger win was his first professional major, the 1997 Masters. After opening with a 40 on the front, the 21-year-old with the weight and expectation as golf's "future" smashed every scoring mark and broke a few racial barriers in the process. It was electric being on the grounds that week.
4. What will you remember most about this year's Women's British Open: Stacy Lewis' birdie-birdie finish for the win or Inbee Park's Grand Slam hopes being blown away in the wind?
Morfit: The latter.
Godich: Let's give credit where credit is due: Much like Phil's finish at Muirfield, Lewis birdied three of the last five holes at St. Andrews to rally to victory. That's all the more impressive when you consider she did it on a windswept day when she had to play 36 holes.
Shipnuck: Stacy's brilliance, for sure. Her victory was the second best possible outcome for the LPGA.
Ritter: History will probably remember Inbee, but I'll remember Lewis' impressive birdie-birdie finish ... and the way St. Andrews shined in HD.
Van Sickle: It's gotta be Stacy's finish. Inbee Park's run was pretty much over after two rounds. What didn't happen is never as big as what did happen.
Passov: By the time I got around to watching it on Sunday, Park had long been a non-factor, and with it, my interest in the tournament. Kudos to Lewis, but seeing Pressel, Pettersen and especially Choi do nothing down the stretch didn't help matters. Still, with that cool breeze and blue sky dotted with billowing white clouds, the Old Course was a treat to watch. That's what I'll remember -- how much I enjoy seeing great players compete at St. Andrews.
Lynch: Lewis won it and that's what the week should be remembered for. Who birdies the Road Hole? That was quality.
5. Michelle Wie, who finished T56 at the Women's British Open, made the Solheim Cup team as a captain's pick. Was this wild-card choice about golf or TV ratings?
Van Sickle: Michelle Wie's pick was about chemistry and potential and the long ball. Wie can be a devastating talent off the tee with her length. And she's got history. But if I were captain, I'd want the best putters on tour on my team. That's not her. I don't think the ratings will be any different with or without Michelle Wie. They are what they are.
Shipnuck: Both. Let's face it, there weren't that many other good candidates. Wie's selection brings a ton of buzz, but don't forget she's played some of her best golf at the Solheim. Maybe this week will jump-start her career the same way the Prez Cup helped Adam Scott out of his funk.
Ritter: She isn't playing well, and putting is the worst part of her game. So, it must be ratings. Nothing else makes sense.
Lynch: It's about what all picks are about: the opinion of one person, the captain. And that's all that matters. Some players will gripe, but they had their chance to make the team. Captain's call.
Passov: Compared to the Michelle Wie I watched in 2003 and 2004, the Michelle Wie of 2013 has to be the biggest waste of talent/potential in golf history. I still root for her -- she moves the media needle for sure -- but given that most of the best players in women's golf (the Asians) will be nowhere near this event (which would provide more competitive flair), this move smacks of desperation.
Godich: Let's see: Six missed cuts and a curious WD at the U.S. Women's Open and nothing better than a tie for ninth in 17 starts this year. I think the stats speak for themselves. And if the LPGA needs Michelle to drive the needle, it's got an even bigger problem than we thought.
Morfit: Both. What if she's the women's version of Poulter, a totally different player in that single event? One can hope.
6. When it comes to the major championships, the PGA Championship is clearly fourth among equals. What can the PGA of America do to elevate the status of its championship?
Lynch: Go to strong courses every year, limit the number of club pros playing so it doesn't look like a union picnic, and do something about what is indisputably the worst broadcast in golf every year.
Godich: The charm of the PGA used to be watching the world's best players play practice rounds with and compete against 40 club professionals. Now that number has dwindled to 20, just so the PGA can say it has the strongest field of the year. Let's reduce the size of the field, increase the number of club pros and pair touring pros with club pros in the first two rounds. Until the PGA of America does something, this major has the feel of another Tour event. The field just happens to be bigger. You'd think an organization that represents the lifeblood of the game would take better care of its own.
Morfit: I actually think the PGA is cool. And you could make the case that two PGAs in particular shaped where we are now: Rich Beem refusing to wilt amid the Tiger roars, and Yang just taking him down out of nowhere. But they should avoid gimmicks like letting the fans pick hole locations.
Ritter: It would be hit-or-miss for TV ratings, but going back to match-play format would give the PGA an identity (or, in this case, a return to its old identity). To spice it up even further, I'd borrow an idea a friend had and let the top-seeded players choose their opponent for their opening-round match. Can you imagine how great that pre-tournament selection show would play on TV? Host: "Hello, Tiger. Who would you like to select as your Round 1 opponent?" Tiger: "Give me Sergio." Golf fans: "Whoaaaaaa!"
Passov: Do NOT convert it to match play (see, WGC-Accenture, early departures, for example). Take it to really compelling new venues (Whistling Straits has been a great choice) or say Sebonack, which looked really strong for the Women's Open this year. That said, it's not so bad being the fourth among equals. At least the men's tours agree that four majors is enough, and that these four events are cemented as such for the indefinite future.
Shipnuck: More daring course selection instead of U.S. Open leftovers. The PGA should colonize every cool new course that opens in the U.S. so as to carve out a different identity from the national championship.
Van Sickle: The PGA has done a great job of picking venues, not counting the occasional Valhalla. The only way to not be the fourth major is to move up in the batting order. Play the PGA in February or March, and you're a bigger deal. That's the only way. Nothing wrong with batting cleanup. It worked for Rocky Colavito [LINK: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocky_Colavito].
7. Pick your PGA Champion (and a potential dark horse).
Van Sickle: It's hard not to see Tiger doing this for four more rounds on a somewhat similar course. Sometimes the obvious pick is the right one. I was leaning toward Luke Donald until his back-nine fade at Firestone. It might be a Zach Johnson week. Oak Hill will be about who avoids the rough and who can read the greens. Zach is good at both.
Godich: Your winner is Tiger Woods. But if it doesn't happen this week, I'll take Jimmy Walker as my dark horse in keeping with the PGA's tradition of producing first-time winners. Jordan Spieth rounds out the trifecta.
Lynch: Phil. Dark horse: Michael Thompson. Doesn't the Honda Classic winner usually take this title? (Two of the past four years.)
Ritter: Gotta see Tiger put it together on a major weekend before I'll take him. Give me Snedeker to win, Stenson as a dark horse.
Passov: Henrik Stenson is pre-ordained to finish second. For the forth time this year, I'll pick Tiger to win. Straight hitters prevailed when Oak Hill hosted in '03. Tim Clark is currently top 5 in driving accuracy, and finished third here in '03. He's my dark horse.
Morfit: Jason Day wins. And Poulter is dark horse. Or vice-versa.
Shipnuck: Keegan Bradley is my winner. Tiger is my dark horse -- after all, dude hasn't won a major in eons.