5. Sergio Garcia won the Qatar Masters on Sunday, following a solid 2013 season that ended with a win in Thailand in December. What's behind Garcia's resurgence?
MORFIT: I wrote years ago that the more Garcia is loved, the better he plays. I don't think he liked that story very much, but I stand by it. He's loved -- by the fans, by his girlfriend -- ergo he's happy, ergo he plays well. Golf is a very simple game.
BAMBERGER: For one thing, he seems to be semi-settled on a putting style. For another thing, he seems to have figured out that being Sergio Garcia is a pretty good thing.
VAN SICKLE: I'm not sure even Sergio knows what's behind his resurgence. Maybe he's just in a better place in his life, relationship-wise, maybe that claw putting grip has finally paid off in the confidence he needed on the greens (I'd vote that the biggest part) and maybe he was burnt out after 15 years of global golf and he needed the last two years to rebuild his fire. He's a popular player and golf is poorer without him.
SENS: Time off, refreshed attitude, diminished outward signs of self-pity, and the emotional relief of having apologized for his fried chicken remark for the 4,567th time.
PASSOV: I'd need a Ph.D., M.D. And maybe a few other degrees to pinpoint what makes Sergio tick. He's always had the talent, but rarely the maturity to climb to the top rung. Right now, he seems loose, happy and especially confident. With his skills, that's a recipe for success.
RITTER: He's been on the rise for more than a year -- the only thing that's thrown him off has been that boneheaded "fried chicken" comment at Tiger. Maybe it's happiness off the course. Maybe it's better coaching. Whatever it is, it looks like he's going to be a big factor this summer.
WALKER: Garcia is now consistently playing well week to week, and with his talent, that means he’s going to get some wins, maybe some big ones. He’s still just 34 years old.
6. At the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando this week, TaylorMade CEO Mark King led the call to change the game in order to attract new players. Among his ideas was to outfit courses with 15-inch holes into the greens, nearly four times larger than a standard cup (while offering a standard cup as well on the same green). Should the game be going down this road? What if anything should the game do to attract new players?
RITTER: I played in an event dubbed "the big hole open" in my hometown a few years ago. It was fun (never missed a 4-footer!) but cutting pancakes out of the putting surfaces was tough on the grounds crew and the greens, and eventually they discontinued the outing. I'm all for getting more people into golf. It has to start with making it more affordable and less of a time drain.
BAMBERGER: I was introduced to golf in an eighth-grade gym class in a public school. I wish there was more of that.
VAN SICKLE: Golf is too difficult, too expensive and too slow. I'm glad TaylorMade addressed one of those items since nobody else has. I don't know if those crazy-looking clubs and that trash can-sized hole will bring new players into the game. If Tiger Woods and his two decades of dazzlement didn't swell the ranks of golf, I don't know what will. Courses are struggling economically and don't have the money to redo architecture mistakes like building slow-play high-maintenance courses instead of fast-play low-maintenance courses. I say, aim small. If you're a parent, get your kid hooked on golf like our parents (well, mine) did. My son's playing minitours and trying to make the PGA Tour. I did my job. How 'bout you?
WALKER: Proposals like 15-inch holes miss an essential truth: Golf is appealing because it’s so difficult. Reaching kids when they’re in school would be a good place to start. It would probably help if golfers were a little more welcoming and less intimidating to novices on the course too.
PASSOV: I love golf for exactly what it is, and I don't know why I would care one iota about "growing the game." Why resort to desperate-sounding gimmicks to keep the sport healthy? Let's just turn off the water, to save money and bring the roll of the ball back into play, retrofit our courses by removing 50 percent of the hazards, thereby speeding up play, and increase the emphasis on walking and playing match-play. OK, now that I've said that, I admire Mark King and his forward-thinking colleagues immensely. I've seen the sobering numbers on play participation, especially the alarming decline in popularity in the 18-34 age group. Mark, I don't want to see golf bastardized beyond recognition, but I do want it to survive -- so I'll support you 100 percent on this one.
SENS: Faster rounds and easier access are obvious answers. But it would also be nice if a charismatic player came along and utterly dominated, a la Tiger or Nicklaus at their peaks. Unlikely to happen in this age of deep and global talent. But parity has less power to inspire fresh converts than does a single all-powerful superstar.
MORFIT: There are two big obstacles to participation: The game takes too long, and it's too hard. So the game needs to go down this road, yes. As to those exact parameters, I'm not sure, but I like King's willingness to shake things up.