Tour Confidential: Cheyenne Woods' first win, Butch Harmon's star pupil Jimmy Walker, and is Pebble Beach overrated?
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’s niece Cheyenne Woods won the Australian Ladies Masters on Sunday for her first professional win. If you’re Cheyenne, is your last name a blessing or a curse? And how important would she be to the LPGA if she can make it to the tour?
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@AlanShipnuck): Huuuuuge blessing. Would we even be talking about her otherwise? But along with that name, she has a certain star quality and would be a massive boost for the LPGA.
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@GaryVanSickle): The last name is a bit of a curse, but since she's never been profiled or hyped as a potential superstar, her last name will be much more of a blessing. Any kind of media exposure she can earn is a plus for the LPGA these days. It's on the rebound, it’s adding tournaments and now it's needs a true breakout star of some kind. She'd be ideal, but I wouldn't project any predictions on her. Congrats to her. Let's hope she can keep winning.
Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine (@CameronMorfit): Other than the contract with Nike, where her last name probably helped quite a bit, I would think it would be a burden to be constantly compared to arguably the greatest golfer of all time. Good for her. She seems like a cool person, from what I've seen of her work in the pressroom, where she once surprised her hard-to-surprise Uncle Tiger. As for her value to the LPGA, she would help, but I'm not sure how much -- unless she somehow became dominant, which seems unlikely.
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: The best Tiger Woods moment at last year's U.S. Open, by far, was when Cheyenne asked her uncle a question at his pre-tournament press conference. Her surname is a gift. It comes with an athletic gene.
Eamon Lynch, managing editor, Golf.com (@eamonlynch): The Woods family name opens doors and adds pressure, but overall it's hard to see it as a negative. If the 363rd-ranked female golfer in the world was named Cheyenne Smith, would she be decked out in a Nike swoosh or be so well known within the game even before winning? Probably not. But she earned her spot on the European Tour and showed mettle in winning. LPGA commish Mike Whan must look at her and see a marketing dream.
Jeff Ritter, senior editor, Sports Illustrated Golf Group (@Jeff_Ritter): Woods' name is currently a blessing because it's helped her land sponsorships and exemptions into events. She's now squarely on the short list of ladies who could truly breathe life into the LPGA -- along with Lexi, Wie, Paula and maybe a couple others. It would be great to see Cheyenne take it all the way to the top tour.
Josh Sens, contributing writer, Golf Magazine (@JoshSens): Blessing. That last name means access, opportunities and sponsorship dollars that wouldn't likely be there if her name were Smith. If the "curse" you refer to is the alleged "curse of expectations,” then what professional athlete doesn't deal with that? I'm sure there are any number of talented sports psychologists who would be willing to help her cope with the suffering at no charge. And she'd be great for the LPGA, which could use all the compelling figures it can get.
Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated (@MarkGodich): It has to be a curse. Ask the Nicklaus boys. Ask Sam Saunders. Ask athletes in any other sport who are trying to follow in the footsteps of a legend. Sure, the name will open a lot of doors, but the opportunities only amp up the pressure.
2. Family ties were in evidence this week with Cheyenne adding to the Woods family win total and last week with Kevin Stadler winning at Phoenix. Which family do you consider the First Family of golf?
VAN SICKLE: I'd go with Bill and Jay Haas. Jay is still pretty competitive in senior golf and Bill is one of the Tour's better players. Kevin is just now trying to rise above the rank-and-file guys, and he's got a chance. It's cool that he's going to finally play in his first Masters. Bill and Jay have been there, done that, though. The real First Family of Golf probably remains the Harmon brothers -- Butch, Billy and Craig.
GODICH: I'll take the Haases. You've got Jay and Bill. Then there Jay's brother, Jerry, and Uncle Bob (Goalby).
MORFIT: I consider the Nicklaus family deserving of that honor. I think it's the only family in golf where one of the kids has actually graced the cover of SI.
RITTER: The Nicklaus family. I don't see that changing anytime soon.
BAMBERGER: The Thompsons: Lexi on the LPGA tour, Nick on the PGA Tour and Curtis, still an amateur, is probably the most talented of three.
SHIPNUCK: Old Tom and Young Tom, clearly. In modern times, I'd say the Kuehnes, with three kids each winning a USGA title, or Jay and Bill Haas' two generations of Tour success.
SENS: Elihu and Spaulding Smails.
3. At age 35, after seven years without a win, Jimmy Walker has won three times in his last eight starts. Which is the better teacher: Butch Harmon, whom Walker started working with last year, or experience?
MORFIT: I gotta go with experience here. Winning is a habit, although Walker looked pretty shaky on 17 and 18. I don't know which was harder to watch -- Jimmy with the putter or Nantz and Faldo wondering what in the world to do with old Clint up in the booth.
SHIPNUCK: You gotta say Butch, given that they started working together less than a year ago.
SENS: Harmon. Lots of guys out there have experience and don't succeed. Then they team up with Harmon and they do.
GODICH: Nothing beats experience -- and winning. Once he got that first victory last fall, Walker had to be telling himself, "Yeah, I can do this." I'd venture to say that he wouldn't have held on at Pebble if he had been looking for his first career victory.
LYNCH: Butch. Experience is invaluable, but it also brings scar tissue. Butch instilled self-belief when it matters.
RITTER: Both factors probably contributed, but Walker certainly bolsters the case for Butch. Do you think he could fix my slice?
VAN SICKLE: It's pretty hard to fault Butch's track record. Whether it was mechanics or the confidence instilled by what Butch taught, Walker is clearly playing with more swagger. Now when he gets in contention, as he often has, he's not wondering whether he can win, he's expecting to win. That can be all it takes to make a difference on Sundays.
BAMBERGER: I don't know anything about Walker-Harmon relationship, but I've heard Butch in action with other students, and it's pure golf. An adjustment here, an adjustment there, and a pep-talk to man-up and go after it.
4. Where does Pebble Beach rank on your list of the greatest American golf courses? Do you think the course is overrated or underrated?
VAN SICKLE: Pebble Beach may be slightly overrated as a golf course but as a golfing experience, it's still No. 1. The Pacific Ocean isn't going anywhere. It's right there, and you're playing practically on top of it. A great course makes you feel like you're in a special place, and Pebble Beach does that. So what if there are a few dull holes like 11, 13 and 15? The holes along the ocean are something every real golfer should experience.
SENS: Given that our own magazine has it at No. 7 in the world, I'd say overrated. But maybe it's that I have a hard time separating the design from the experience. The brutal pace of play, the pomp and ceremony on the first tee, the price-gauging at the turn -- great as I think the course is, all that other stuff is everything I DON'T want in my round of golf.
MORFIT: The place makes me want to move to the coast. It's just too beautiful, so no, I wouldn't say it's overrated. Some of those holes are so iconic, I consider it the St. Andrews of America.
BAMBERGER: Pebble as a piece of land could not be overrated. People who don't play golf are awed by the place. As a collection of 18 fascinating holes, it's overrated. But half the holes are off-the-charts beautiful, and that's what you remember.
GODICH: I'd give Pebble the silver medal, just behind Augusta National and just ahead of Pine Valley. While the seaside holes are spectacular, too many of the inland holes are rather pedestrian, relatively speaking.
SHIPNUCK: It's my favorite course in the world, and maybe the best. Beauty, history, world-class shot values -- what more could you want?
LYNCH: It makes the medal podium on the Monterey Peninsula, far behind Cypress Point Club, battling for silver honors with the Shore course at MPCC. Sure, there are six world-class holes, but great golf courses are not six holes. Too many folks are suckered by the breathtaking aesthetics and history (yes, you Shipnuck!). If you're ranking prettiest courses, it is near the top. If you're ranking great courses, it is middle of the pack.
5. With everybody’s favorite Pebble amateur Bill Murray on movie duty, who was your favorite celebrity to watch this week and why?
SENS: Chris Berman. Hey, it beats having to listen to him talk about golf.
SHIPNUCK: Peyton. He was a great sport with the fans and showed off a pretty incredible short-game considering his rust.
BAMBERGER: Phil. Because he was wildly unpredictable. Followed by Feherty. Manning gets points just for being there, but not enough to change the outcome of SB48.
LYNCH: I'm a conscientious objector where celebrity pro-am events are concerned, so I didn't turn on the TV until the focus moved to golf. Life is too short to watch a sitcom actor's swing deconstructed on the Konica Minolta Bizhub thingy against the inane, awkward chatter of Nick Faldo, who is really starting to make me miss Lanny Wadkins.
VAN SICKLE: I didn't see all of the celeb action, but what I did see was incredibly dull. The tourney really misses Bill Murray and Jack Lemmon and even Clint. I was intrigued to see Condoleezza Rice hit a few shots. If I had to follow a celeb for nine holes, I'd follow her.
GODICH: Peyton Manning. The guy's got a remarkably sound swing, and I was equally impressed with his short game.
MORFIT: I liked Walker's partner, whoever he was, because he knew that his job was to just putt out quickly and get out of the way.
6. After a quick visit to India, Tiger Woods spent the weekend at home, reportedly "working on his game." If you were his swing coach, or his life coach, what would be the first piece of advice you would give him?
SHIPNUCK: Eliminate every single mechanical thought you've ever had. Do nothing but chip and putt for the next month. Play like you're 16 again.
GODICH: I've been trying to tell Tiger this for years: Play more. I don't want to hear how he's striping it on the range. I want to see him make that swing when he's under the gun. Again and again. Shake the rust off. Schedule a couple of events you don't normally play. Nothing beats being battle-tested, even for someone with Tiger's experience.
LYNCH: Tiger's trip to the Middle East and India netted him several million dollars. I expect he spent the weekend at home counting that haul, not waiting for life advice from golf writers.
VAN SICKLE: It's impossible to make assumptions about Tiger and his game without more info -- like what he's trying to accomplish with his swing, what it feels like to him, how his body feels and how much he's able to practice. That's all info we don't know. Folks were critical of Hank Haney's work with Tiger and all he did was win. Under Sean Foley, Tiger won five times last year. So with a lack of insider info, I don't have any advice for Tiger other than don't listen to people who don't know the facts. Like us. As a life coach, I'd offer something controversial like, “Be a good person.”
RITTER: Here's what I see: no one in golf has less fun inside the ropes than Tiger. I think he needs to somehow take a step back and try to enjoy the experience of being the best player in the game. He's returned to No. 1 when a lot of folks thought he was toast. He's one of the best athletes ever. Enjoy it. I can't pretend to know what life is like inside his fishbowl -- there's no doubt that at times it can be suffocating -- but he needs to do whatever it takes to start having fun at work again.
SENS: If I thought Tiger were open to the sort of advice that really matters, I'd say learn about gratitude and the Golden Rule. But since what really seems to drive him is winning majors, I'd say, "Swallow your ridiculous pride and go back to Butch -- if Butch will have you."
MORFIT: The guy won five times last year, so I don't think he's that far off. If I was his coach, I'd tell him to just sit back and enjoy the ride, because whether he does or doesn't ever win another major, he's done enough. Maybe that would help him get out of his own way at Augusta, Pinehurst, Hoylake and Valhalla.
BAMBERGER: If I were his swing coach, I'd tell him to fire me and make up with Butch.
The PGA Tour Confidential debate continues Monday on our new weekly show hosted by Jessica Marksbury. Tweet her your questions @Jess_Marksbury.