Tour Confidential: The Day-Dubuisson Duel, Sergio's Sportsmanship and Ike's Tree
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. Jason Day and Victor Dubuisson put on a show for the ages in their Accenture Match Play Championship final, won by Day in 23 holes. Where does Dubuisson-Day rank in the annals of great PGA Tour duels?
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: In its freshness, this Match Play was way, way up there. South of the great duels that have decided majors -- Woods-May in the 2000 PGA Championship, for instance -- it is right near the top. It was so unexpected, the whole thing.
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@GaryVanSickle): It ranks right up there with Jeff Maggert's overtime duel with Andrew Magee in the Match Play final. I think we all remember that one.
Joe Passov, senior editor, courses and travel, Golf Magazine (@joepassov): This didn't have David vs. Goliath impact, Bob May/Rocco Mediate vs. Tiger or Jack Fleck vs. Ben Hogan, nor did it have Ali-Frazier heavyweight titan reverberations, such as the Nicklaus-Watson "Duel in the Sun" at Turnberry. Still, for two guys that held little rooting interest, I was riveted until the end -- and that says a lot after more than seven hours of watching golf.
Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated (@MarkGodich): It was captivating, but I'm not ready to put it at the top of the medal stand. There wouldn't have even been a playoff if Day hadn't played the 18th so poorly. Dubuisson's escapes were Seve-esque, but he hit horrendous shots from the fairway to put himself in those positions. And it wasn't like the two were matching each other birdie for birdie. Most amazing to me was that in a five-day event that turned into a birdie shootout, the two combined for exactly one bird over the last six holes and even halved a hole in the playoff with bogeys.
Jeff Ritter, senior editor, Sports Illustrated Golf Group (@Jeff_Ritter): It might rank as the best non-major, non-Tiger, non-Phil duel that I've ever watched live on TV. Dubuisson's pair of cactus escapes were just preposterous. Even my dad's patented foot-wedge wouldn't have worked from those spots. And Day's reaction to Vic's second Seve impression was priceless. It was just a great show. We tend to forget guys who finish second, especially in non-majors, but this is one runner-up finish that will be remembered for a long time.
Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine (@CameronMorfit): I can't say much more than it was one of the better ones in this event. Two guys who really didn't want to lose and played like it. Good for them. Also, what a great send-off for this event as we know it, since it seems likely the title sponsor, venue and maybe even the format will change next year.
Eamon Lynch, managing editor, Golf.com (@eamonlynch): It was hugely entertaining but this isn't a duel that will be talked about for decades. Showdowns that live in memory tend to be in majors and feature at least one major star. It's no reflection on Dubuisson, but I suspect the fleeting attention span of the viewing public means golf fans will struggle to remember his name in short order, at least until he reappears in a big way.
Josh Sens, contributing writer, Golf Magazine (@JoshSens): Somewhere far below the Watson-Nicklaus Duel in the Sun in '77 at Turnberry and somewhere just above my extra holes victory last week over my neighbor Joe in Tiger Woods EA Sports. You start throwing the word "annals" around and you sound pretty serious. But come on. Both guys are fine players, but they're not the sort who stop the golf world from spinning on its axis. And neither is this event.
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@AlanShipnuck): It's certainly the best duel in the history of the Match Play, which is enough. What a show! At the start of the week the story was that this tourney is on life support. Now we are all free to celebrate the glory of this delightful format.
2. Day is a world top-10 player with a stellar record in majors, yet gets little respect as a pre-tournament favorite. Is this fair since he only had one PGA Tour win before he won the Match Play on Sunday, or unfair, given his ability to raise his game on big occasions?
VAN SICKLE: Day has shown glimpses of greatness and has three runner-up finishes in majors and a third. He's been close. We need to see a few more wins, though, and some consistency. He's got a lot of potential, and he's still young. He seems driven to win, not just pile up huge stacks of money.
SHIPNUCK: Talent is an illusion or a lie. Wins are what matter, and Day may be on the verge of piling up a bunch, at which point he will be rightfully celebrated.
SENS: I had my money on Day in all four of last year's majors. He didn't win, and I lost money, but it's only a matter of time before that changes, for him at least. He's been overlooked in the past, but those days are over, I suspect.
GODICH: I like Day a lot, but he'll be the first to tell you that it's all about winning. I do think this victory could be a springboard. He showed some real resolve, especially after making a mess of the 18th hole.
LYNCH: Truly raising your game on big occasions means winning and Day hasn't done much of that, so it's unsurprising that he doesn't get a lot of attention. Still, you get the feeling that he could go on a run and claim a bunch of titles. He's been second in three majors and he's only 26. Day is a big stage player, and we'll talk about him plenty in the years to come.
BAMBERGER: It may not be fair, but it really doesn't matter, does it? I mean, I participate in these pre-tournament pickfests, never get a winner correct, never think to mention J. Day, and do you think he cares? I kind of doubt it.
PASSOV: Unless you're in an office pool, the only thing that matters about picking a pre-tournament favorite is that he wins, not whether he's top 5. Day has reminded me of Tom Lehman in the 1990s. He didn't win much, but he always seemed to be center stage in the majors -- to his credit. I don't think he deserved any more hype or love, since he hadn't sealed the deal very much, but nobody out there was questioning his talent. I'm predicting the toughness he showed in winning the Match Play will translate into multiple wins.
RITTER: Not sure it's fair to say he wasn't a favorite -- after all, three of the 14 entries in our office bracket pool had Day as the winner, making him the most-picked champ. He's on the short list of best players to have never won a major, and I expect him to be one of the top five or six favorites in each of the majors this year. It's time for him to take that next step.
MORFIT: It's hard to make anyone a favorite when he has only one official Tour win. But winning the individual and team trophy (with Adam Scott) at the World Cup, and his family's losses to Typhoon Haiyan, seem to have been formative experiences for Day.
3. Frenchman Dubuisson looks like he'll be another steely Ryder Cup killer for Team Europe. We saw a lot of U.S.-Europe matchups at Dove Mountain. Were the results encouraging or discouraging for U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson?
GODICH: I'm thrilled if I'm Captain Tom. The youngsters are fearless. It was another great week for Jordan Spieth, Harris English showed some real moxie and Rickie Fowler, with his new move, brought back memories of his play at the 2010 Ryder Cup. I wouldn't mind having Patrick Reed on my side either.
LYNCH: I'd argue this week offers more for Paul McGinley to muse on than for Watson. After all, Dubuisson has pretty much made the European team on the basis of two tournaments. McGinley will be hoping the Frenchman continues to show some form over the summer. He won't want another Pierre Fulke, who made the 2002 team largely because he reached the final of the Match Play in 2001.
PASSOV: I don't think there's any correlation. Eighteen holes at a time at a fluky desert course doesn't prove anything -- though the way McDowell escaped against Mahan had to hurt. Ernie Els won the Wentworth Match Play seven times, but had a horrible record in this event until reaching his second semifinals this year, and that was playing over-par golf for his first three matches. Best thing about the Match Play for the U.S. was kick-starting Rickie Fowler.
MORFIT: If I'm Watson, I'm encouraged to see Fowler dusting Poulter and reaching the semifinals, but none too pleased to see G-Mac wriggling his way out of trouble and pinning another agonizing defeat on Hunter Mahan.
VAN SICKLE: The results were probably slightly discouraging, but what happens in the Tucson desert in February has little to do with what happens in Scotland in seven months. Too early to panic.
SHIPNUCK: Both teams are stacked -- just look at the World Ranking. The Match Play didn't identify a favorite but did confirm this is gonna be a Cup for the ages.
SENS: Neither. The Ryder Cup is its own animal with a distinctive sort of pressure. Is Dove Mountain a good predictor of what we can expect in Scotland? I doubt it. Sure. Dubuisson looks great. So does Jordan Spieth. Ditto Harris English, both of whom will likely be on the U.S. squad this year. If the Americans have cause for concern in the Cup, they also have reason for celebration. One weekend in Arizona doesn't change tilt that dynamic one way or the other.
RITTER: Ryder Cup stalwarts Kuchar and Dufner played well, as did bubble players Watson, English and Mahan. I think we can all agree that Spieth is making this team. Rickie Fowler made the biggest statement -- his wins over Poulter and Sergio were extremely impressive, and he just looked mature and in control for most of the week. Also, he's no longer dressing like a crayon, and now more closely resembles a Lithuianian wedding deejay. I'm not completely sure that's a sign of maturity but feel it should be mentioned. He played himself right back into the Ryder Cup discussion. Watson's list of candidates currently looks d-e-e-p.
BAMBERGER: Oh, I don't think what happens in Dove Mountain in February has any bearing at all on what happens in Scotland in September. Although both are Jack Nicklaus courses where you need to drive it in play. So maybe it does.
4. Sergio Garcia was both praised and mocked for offering Rickie Fowler a conceded 18-foot putt on the 7th hole while 2 up in their third-round match. What’s your take?
LYNCH: Fowler hadn't made a putt of that length all season. Not one. It was an overly generous gesture by Garcia to concede a putt that was outside the leather of Tim Herron's belt. But I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing that Garcia stands accused of being too gracious, since he has received his share of incoming fire for an absence of that trait over the years.
SHIPNUCK: Classic Sergio: he was trying to be magnanimous, but it came off as smarmy. I guess the bottom line is that his heart was in the right place, so we can tepidly celebrate his sportsmanship.
MORFIT: I like what Sergio did because of the way he explained it later, that golf is supposed to be a gentleman's game, and he felt a ruling had taken too long. If that's really how it all went down, good for him. It's a game.
SENS: Sergio's a sensitive guy. That's good when you're writing sonnets. Not so good when you're trying to close someone out in a cutthroat competition. As Brandel Chamblee pointed out over the weekend, Sergio was showing empathy. Since when has that ever done an athlete any good?
BAMBERGER: I thought Sergio's movie was eccentric but admirable. I think it was sincere. I think he really means it when he says the game has not felt very gentlemanly lately, and I think he's correct. It doesn't matter if Sergio has his own bratty history, I think you have to judge what he's trying to be. I admire what he's trying to do.
RITTER: I get that Sergio was trying to be a gentleman -- and perhaps he was successful -- but at that moment, didn't you just feel that he would end up losing by one? Of course you did. It was the one outcome that would stamp the putt concession as yet another point of controversy and drama in his controversial and dramatic career. In the end, it was all so … Sergio.
PASSOV: This was weird. Even when Sergio wins, he loses. Legendary sportsmen like Bobby Jones and Jack Nicklaus were also hard-core competitors. I can't put Sergio in that crowd. Sergio had to feel genuine empathy when he took so long at the previous hole, so he rewarded Rickie, albeit awkwardly. What if, after that, Rickie had made Sergio putt his own seven-footer? Maybe I'd feel differently if Sergio had faced a gimme of his own, but this gesture was strange. A simple conversation and apology walking down the fairway would have sufficed. That said, in the amateur ranks, Mickelson and others used to do this concession stuff as gamesmanship, just because they were so confident in their own abilities that they would win anyway. "Sure, take that 20-footer." Somehow, I don't see Sergio with that kind of self-belief.
VAN SICKLE: I feel like I missed the punch line with Sergio's move. It had something to do with bees. Good sportsmanship is good sportsmanship even if maybe it isn't good strategy, I suppose. Sergio knew what he was doing. I'll give him a pass on this one.
GODICH: Sergio never ceases to amaze. Dumb move. Too bad Rory wasn't there to give him a hug.
5. Last week, Augusta National announced that the Eisenhower Tree on the 17th hole had to be removed after being damaged in an ice storm. If it’s possible, should the club replace the tree?
SHIPNUCK: Only if they tear out those awful new trees down the right side. With the Ike Tree, that hole had become way too narrow. Maybe replace it with a sapling, but otherwise it's a better hole now, as is.
LYNCH: No. Move up the tee and make it a reachable par 4, which Augusta doesn't have. Enough of the back-breaking holes already. Put some fun back in the course.
SENS: Yes, but a smaller version of it. The planting of extra pines on that hole have pinched the tee shot.
GODICH: Why not? The tee shot is pretty pedestrian without some kind of obstacle guarding the fairway.
MORFIT: No. It should take the hint from Mother Nature and get rid of more trees. (Not holding my breath.)
RITTER: The 17th hole changes a lot without that tree guarding the left side of the fairway. I think they need a new pine at or near that spot, but maybe one that's a different shape and species from Ike's. Can't wait to meander over to that spot in about six weeks to see what the members decided to do.
BAMBERGER: Oh, it is possible, and the club will do it. Maybe not for this year, because that would be a little showy and rushed. But soon. Surely in some nursery somewhere the boys cloned that tree.
PASSOV: Famous, awesome tree in a bad place on the golf course. Ike was right: It should have been yanked out years ago. Remember, it was named for Eisenhower not because he loved it, but because he hated it. Hasta la vista, pine tree. Better story knowing Ike gets the last laugh.
6. CBS announced a shakeup in its NFL pregame show, dropping Dan Marino and Shannon Sharpe while adding Tony Gonzalez. Which golf broadcast crew could use a shakeup?
MORFIT: They all could, and they're going to get it when Fox joins the game for real, since Fox excels at one of TaylorMade CEO Mark King's favorite words: disruption.
SENS: I keep waiting for CBS to replace Faldo with a mannequin equipped with a pull-string. Jim Nantz pulls the string once, and the doll waxes nostalgic over one of its major victories. Two pulls and the doll says, "He's going to just try to trundle it down there" but no one complains because it speaks in a British accent.
VAN SICKLE: Every broadcast crew could use a little shaking up. Probably Fox will do the shaking up for us, hiring away a few key talking heads here and there for its $1 billion USGA deal.
GODICH: I vote to put on probation any analyst who marvels at how far players are hitting it these days. "Did you say seven-iron? From 190?" has become a tired phrase. Technological advancements, stronger lofts, a ball that flies farther than ever, better-conditioned players, and this week at least, playing at close to altitude on a fast golf course -- we get it.
LYNCH: “All of the Above”? What's the average age and tenure of the on-air talent at CBS and NBC? Sure, guys like Peter Kostis bring an expertise that can often elevate a broadcast, but a fresh face in the mix wouldn't go amiss. Too many announcers trade the insightful for the trite, none more so than Nick Faldo. Brilliance as a player can translate to the booth (see: Miller, Johnny), but Faldo is proof that it doesn't always. Perhaps we'll see what a fresh team looks like when Fox Sports unveils its team.
BAMBERGER: I don't know, but on the other side, Sir Nick has hugely stepped up his game, chiefly by caring about players who will never sniff a single major, let alone six. I like Feherty. If I was the boss at Golf Channel, I'd get Chamblee to more tournaments, and I'd have Lerner do more commentaries. He writes with some understanding of the sweep of time and golf needs that. Like baseball, you appreciate golf more if you know where it’s been.
PASSOV: I know he won six majors, but I have trouble understanding Nick Faldo's anecdotes, expressions, references and puns. Someone I have no trouble understanding is Brandel Chamblee, who is clear, concise, incredibly well prepared and who can break down golf swings as well as anyone. An even swap would suit me fine.
RITTER: Overall I think golf's TV teams are strong -- but if ESPN ever decided to replace Chris Berman with a new broadcaster, a golf fan chosen at random, or one those jumping chollas from Dove Mountain, I'd be fine with it.
SHIPNUCK: Fox Sports. Its coverage of the U.S. Open is awful. Or so I've been reading.
The Tour Confidential roundtable continues Monday on our new weekly show hosted by Jessica Marksbury. Tweet her your questions @Jess_Marksbury.