PGA Tour Confidential: Tiger Woods wins WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral
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.
A BATTLE FOR NO. 1?
Walker: Who will be the No. 1 player in the world on Dec. 31, 2013, and why?
Lynch: Tiger McIlroy.
Morfit: Man, that's a good question. I'm going to say Rory will, just because he's got so much firepower. I think when he's on, like he showed Sunday, he's better than Tiger. But I'll be they're neck and neck.
Wei: Rory... because he's young and has so much talent.
Ritter: It's starting to feel like Tiger's in the midst of a five- or six-win season, isn't it? That would almost certainly take him to No. 1.
Van Sickle: I think Tiger may be No. 1 by the end of the year. He's already got two wins, he's got two more of his favorite courses coming up in Bay Hill and Muirfield Village. And there's always the Masters, AT&T, Firestone, Deutsche Bank. It's a transition year of life for Rory, who's already two wins behind Tiger's pace this year. Tiger is focused.
Godich: Tiger Woods. I see Rory's play continuing to be erratic. Tiger may very well win at Bay Hill, Muirfield Village and Firestone, and I'm beginning to believe he picks up major No. 15. If he doesn't, I don't see him catching Jack.
Reiterman: Tiger. If he keeps putting like this it won't even be close.
Gorant: Stacy Lewis. She's playing well in all facets.
YOUR LESSON FROM A PRO
Walker: Tiger gave a lot of credit for his improved putting this week to a tip from Steve Stricker. If you could get a lesson from any PGA Tour pro, whom would you choose and what would you work on?
Bamberger: Fuzzy. I once had breakfast with Fuzzy and it was great. A lesson would be a lesser event but also good. I would ask him about short putting. He drilled them so hard the ball practically popped out.
Morfit: I'd get a lesson from Jack Nicklaus, because I think he understands the swing and could probably explain it in a way that I would understand. I think he'd rise to the challenge of fixing my hook.
Lynch: Get me Gary Player in a bunker. Especially after my f*****g woes this weekend.
Reiterman: Matt Kuchar. I have a very flat swing like Kuchar. However, he seems to be having a lot more success with it.
Godich: Bubba Watson. I want to hit it 330, and I want to be able to curve shots 40 yards in either direction.
Wei: I wouldn't mind a wedge/putting lesson from Stricker. It appears to have done Tiger pretty well this week!
Ritter: I'll take a short-game lesson from Phil. He'd make it fun, and if he shared some of that trademark creativity, I'd probably never look at routine chips and pitch shots the same.
Van Sickle: I don't think any of those tour pros can write a decent lead or conjugate verbs so I'll take a pass. Or did you mean golf lesson?
MORE SMALL-FIELD EVENTS?
Walker: With just 70 players in the field, the pace of play moved briskly on Thursday and Friday, and we got to see some truly marquee groups (Tiger/Donald/McIlroy and Mickelson/Watson/Stricker). Should the Tour hold more TV-friendly limited-field events?
Bamberger: No. A win means far less when you have only half a field. Grinding it out to make a cut is the foundation of Tour golf.
Reiterman: Absolutely. Hey, it's entertainment! Plus, how many times are Tiger, Phil and Rory in the same event? I'd guess about 13 times a year if we're lucky. Get the big boys together more often. If you want to watch six-hour rounds and listen to journeyman stories, check out the Web.com Tour.
Godich: There are too many good stories out there-and too many good players. The stars are already getting fat (and collecting World Ranking points) on these limited-field events. Others deserve a shot.
Morfit: I actually think this is a nice number of players. It's not too few, like at the Tour Championship, and it's not too many, like at the U.S. and British Opens.
Gorant: Well, they are more fun to watch, as long as you're OK with there being fewer touring pros in the world, fewer places for young talent to develop, etc.
Wei: I feel like the Tour already does a bunch of these made-for-TV events. It seems like they do it just about every week or whenever Tiger/Rory are in the field. I wouldn't want more.
Lynch: We don't need smaller fields as a rule. We just need to have the snails on Tour hit with stroke penalties and suspensions for repeat offenders. Then we can all enjoy an event without growing a beard before the leaders get done.
Ritter: I like the limited-field events, but they hurt the middle- to bottom-tier Tour pros who are trying to make a living. I think we have the right amount today.
Van Sickle: The field size doesn't keep events from having marquee pairings. It's unrelated. As for pace of play, sending a 70-man field off both tees means the paying spectators get only four and a half hours of golf, not a full day. Not a good value at these prices. A real tournament needs at least 120 players.
BE TRUMP FOR A DAY
Walker: Donald Trump and architect Gil Hanse are going to "blow up" and redesign Doral's Blue Monster course for next year's event. What PGA Tour course would you most like to blow up and start over on?
Van Sickle: I think the Bear Trap at PGA National would blow up nicely. It's a real nice stretch of holes for a resort course… if you want 5 ½ hour rounds. Even the pros think it's too gimmicky. And that statue of the bear could definitely use some C4 attached to it.
Reiterman: I'll go with Torrey Pines. For a course that's right on the ocean, it's a pretty bland course with very few memorable holes.
Morfit: It's not a regular Tour course but I'd blow up Whistling Straits, which I think is a mess and quite possibly the most dangerous place ever built to watch a golf tournament. Looks good on TV, though.
Wei: Doral is a good place to start. Wouldn't mind re-doing Bay Hill, either. Dove Mountain and TPC San Antonio are both forgettable.
Lynch: Throw a dart at the Tour schedule, and don't feel like you have to aim carefully. Let's start with any course whose name starts with TPC.
Godich: I'll be the contrarian and say let's leave well enough alone. That includes the Blue Monster.
Bamberger: Augusta National. I actually wouldn't do much, except get rid of about 500 trees and the so-called first cut and play 11 from the old forward tee. The course as it was when I first fell in love.