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.
TIGER WINS BY TWO AT DORAL
Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: Tiger Woods won the WGC-Cadillac Championship in vintage fashion this week (despite a shaky 18th hole), finishing at 19-under for a two-stroke victory. Over the past year and a half, Tiger has had several flashes of his pre-Thanksgiving 2009 brilliance. What if anything is different about his performance this week?
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Tiger looks deadly again with a sand wedge from 100 yards. That's new. He rolled the putter great for four straight rounds. That's new. He's still playing nearly one-dimensional golf, hitting mostly only cuts, instead of playing the variety of shots he used to play. I've always said his "comeback" would depend upon his putting. He putted well at Doral and he won. Pretty simple.
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: He's morphed into Steve Stricker on the greens. But not quite yet his old self. Back in the day, he was the best putter in golf history, by far.
Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: His putting was different. He took the fewest number of putts he's ever taken over four rounds, and as much competitive golf as he's played, that's not something we should overlook. It's a refreshing change for him, and he's got to be feeling really, really good about Augusta.
Stephanie Wei, WeiUnderPar.com: Tiger looked like he did in San Diego. He was pretty clinical this week. His wedge play has been much better this season than it has been in recent years.
Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: Three things: First, his putting was the best it's been since his last major in '08. Next, the TV broadcast showed a stat on Saturday about how Tiger is in the top 10 in left-rough avoidance off the tee this season, while in the past few years, he was ranked well into the 100s. In other words, he's successfully eliminating the left rough off the tee again. And finally, I swear his red shirt was brighter this week than it used it be.
Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, Golf.com: It was all about putting for Tiger. He only needed 100 putts this week, the lowest total of his career. There was also plenty of room to miss with the driver.
Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: The putting seemed to be at another "old Tiger" level, and to a lesser extent the swagger.
Eamon Lynch, managing editor, Golf.com He was making putts this week and keeping his tee shots on the premises. He used to have that one-two punch every week, but recently it's been more elusive. Any week he can tap that combo he will be hard to beat.
Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Plain and simple, Tiger made more putts than anyone else. I'm sure he wishes he could bottle some of those 10-footers for Augusta National.
RORY RALLIES TO FINISH T8
Walker: Rory McIlroy looked comfortable with his new equipment for the first time this year. He finished T8 with an eagle and five birdies on Sunday. Was McIlroy's early-season setback just a blip or do you think he'll continue to struggle to adjust to his new gear and/or the weight of new expectations?
Lynch: Weren't we having a similar "woe is Rory" dialogue last summer when he played poorly for a stretch? He ended the year with five wins and an 8-shot stroll in a major. Let's just admit that Tiger skewed the expectations for a No. 1 on a weekly basis. Golfers are streaky. McIlroy is no different. The gear, his swing faults and the attention all add layers, but would it be a shock if he wins his next outing? No.
Bamberger: His poor play has nothing to do with the new equipment and everything to do with the zeroes on his deal. He'll be back. And then he'll go away again. And then he'll come back. He ain't no machine.
Godich: Rory certainly looked more comfortable, but I would argue that if he continues to play a limited schedule, he will continue to struggle. He's got to get a better feel for his equipment and his new ball, and the only way he's going to accomplish that is with more competition.
Morfit: McIlroy seems to have turned the corner, which is great. There was something really sad about seeing him get outplayed by Woods by 15 shots over the first three rounds. He beat Woods by six Sunday, so I'd say that's a start.
Reiterman: I think McIlroy will have a really good season (couple of wins, contend in a major or two), but this is shaping up to be Tiger's year.
Gorant: I try to avoid jumping to the easy storylines, such as "Rory's struggling because of the pressure from his new deal and being No. 1," but he admitted that was the case this week and looked like he was able to relax this week, which allowed him to start hitting shots again. He'll continue to come around and be a factor at Augusta.
Wei: We'll see. I think Rory just needed a few rounds under his belt and something to boost his confidence. Sounds like adjusting to the gear and expectations is just a process. Give him a few more reps and I think the kid will be just fine.
Van Sickle: McIlroy shot 65 on Sunday in wind and when the greens were their firmest and pins the toughest. It was like shooting 61 on Thursday. It was the best round of the week. He may still have some fine-tuning on distance control and wedge play but he appears to have his swing straightened out. His setback was a blip.
Ritter: It was a blip in the big picture, but despite a nice finish at Doral, I'm not ready to put him back in my list of Top 5 contenders at Augusta. I think he'd be smart to add one more event to his pre-Masters schedule. Right now, he's scheduled to play Houston, and that's it.