Tour and News

Tour Confidential: Is the Woods/Mickelson era nearing its end?

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Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson walk along the 13th fairway during the opening round of the 2013 Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston.

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. Patrick Reed, age 23, won the Doral on the heels of 24-year-old Russell Henley’s Honda win and 26-year-old Jason Day’s Match Play victory. Meanwhile, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have yet to finish in the Top 10. Is the Woods/Mickelson era of golf nearing its end?

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@AlanShipnuck): The era of them being week-in-and-week-out forces is certainly waning. But both remain dangerous in the majors and will for quite some time. And ultimately that’s what all of us care about.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@GaryVanSickle): Tiger's bad back is making the end of an era talk look a little more realistic. The thing about Tiger and Phil is they might not be a factor week-in-and-week-out on Tour or even play that much, but they could still rise to the occasion and knock down a couple of majors in any given year. It's too early to say they're done, but it's not too early to wonder about them.

Eamon Lynch, managing editor, Golf.com (@eamonlynch): Inexorably so. Mickelson is almost 44, and few arthritic golfers can summon their best very often at his age. At least one gets the sense that Phil still enjoys golf, still has motivation, albeit focused more on specific goals, like a U.S. Open win. Tiger's decline -- his swing and his health -- seems to have robbed him of any obvious enjoyment from golf. He will probably have a few more highs, but in career terms, he's closer to the boneyard than the bassinet.

Joe Passov, senior editor, courses and travel, Golf Magazine (@joepassov): It's too soon yet to sound the end of the Woods/Mickelson era. Both had such superb 2013 seasons that I don't think their games have gone that far south that quickly. This is especially true of Tiger, who has been the class of the field two Saturdays in a row before back problems derailed him. Besides, it's not as if 2013 stalwarts Brandt Snedeker, Justin Rose or Henrik Stenson have been tearing it up -- and oh, by the way, whatever happened to Keegan Bradley and Luke Donald?

Jeff Ritter, senior editor, Sports Illustrated Golf Group (@Jeff_Ritter): You can't say Tiger and Phil are done, but their era is somewhere on the back nine. Phil won the Open two majors ago, and Tiger -- as he likes to say -- has been close several times in majors over the past few years. They are going to be factors in more majors, but we're reminded almost weekly now that the Tour's new generation is the real deal.

Josh Sens, contributing writer, Golf Magazine (@JoshSens): Sunrise, sunset. Yes. But the great thing is that even in their twilights, these guys are sure to have more than a few flashes of brilliance left in them. That those sparks are going to get rarer and rarer will make them all the more fun when they do occur. Those kind of Cocoon moments help set golf apart from so many other sports, when your era ends and you either ride off into the horizon, or linger on, Michael Jordan-like, a few years too long.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated (@MarkGodich): I wouldn't say it's nearing its end, but Tiger and Phil are sharing the stage. As I mentioned last week, the young guns are just plain fearless.

2. After his win at Doral, his second of 2014, Patrick Reed said he’s one of the top five players in the world. Do you agree?

SENS: Top five in what? Shuffleboard? I dig the Cassius Clay-style bluster. Never hurts to have a little swagger in sport. He's been great so far. But no. Come on. Now, if he wins the Valero Texas Open in a few weeks, then maybe we can start talking top 25.

VAN SICKLE: Nobody else near the top of the world rankings is doing a damn thing. Right this second, yes, I'll say Patrick Reed is top five. But he's going to have to back that up with some more good finishes.

PASSOV: I have to admire his confidence -- that's critical if he's actually going to break into the top five -- but I totally disagree. He's never even played in a major. Patrick, let's see at least one major win, or at least a bunch of top 5s, before you pop off like this, rather than disrespect the players ahead of you who have accomplished that.

RITTER: Right now, at this moment, yeah, Reed is right. And I appreciate that he said it himself -- whether you like Reed or not, golf can use more players with an edge.

GODICH: I like Patrick Reed, and he is on an impressive run, but let's see how he does in the majors before we start making room for him on the Mount Rushmore of golf.

SHIPNUCK: He’s certainly one of the five hottest players in the game. But he needs more of a body of work in the majors and other big tournaments before he can be considered one of the best. I will say, his career is off to a helluva start.

LYNCH: He believes he is, which is probably all that matters.

3. We heard a lot of Donald Trump-fueled hype about Doral's redesigned Blue Monster this week. How did the course ultimately measure up?

VAN SICKLE: The course needs some serious tweaks. Personally, I don't think it's golf if you can hit a shot 10 feet from the pin and have your ball wind up in the water. A few greens need to be fixed and softened. I'm not thrilled with some of the sharp edges around the ponds, either. The course is definitely a tough test for the pros now, but good luck to the resort guests the other 51 weeks. I sure don't want to play behind the resort chop who hits it in that fairway bunker at 16 and has to spend 10 minutes raking up 40 yards of footprints to get out of there while I’m waiting. I'd say you can add 30-45 minutes to the average playing time for a round of golf for resort guests.

LYNCH: The new, still-firm greens means that this year Doral was more representative of what Trump wants to showcase: achingly difficult one-note golf that destroys scorecards in a manner he associates with the U.S. Open. As the course settles in, it will be more representative of what Gil Hanse was trying to achieve: a more thoughtful, strategic approach to otherwise flat, typical Florida golf.

RITTER: It was wet and wild and fun to watch. A nice improvement.

SHIPNUCK: It definitely looks better and provides a more interesting, strategic test. But it’s way more extreme than the typical Hanse design, and you gotta assume he was nudged in that direction by the blast furnace that is Trump’s mouth. For Trump to state he wanted even par to be the winning score is ridiculous -- this ain’t the U.S. Open, and it shouldn’t be. It’ll be a much better venue next year when some tweaks have been made and the greens are more mature.

GODICH: I loved it. Best I could tell, they toughened the course without tricking it up. I especially liked what they did to the 7th, 8th, 15th and 16th holes.

SENS: It stood up well. Always a good sign when a course metes out some lumps and not all the players come off whining. Means they thought it was tough but fair. And besides, it's in a different stratosphere from the Blue Monstrosity it replaced. That joint was one of the most grossly overrated -- or at least overpriced, since not many sentient beings rated it all that highly -- courses anywhere.

PASSOV: Trump National Doral's Blue Monster proved a superior test for the game's best. Yes, it was too hard, with greens too firm and fast during the nasty winds on Friday, but it yielded plenty of birdies and eagles on Saturday and Sunday, as well as a few low rounds. I would have liked to see the rough brought up a little to stop so many shots from rolling in the water -- recoveries are such a great part of the game -- but Mr. Trump thinks great golf needs to be hard golf, and that's what he delivered this week.

4. Which famous golf course or Tour stop could most use a Gil Hanse/Trump National Doral-style makeover?

VAN SICKLE: I'm not a big fan of the Bear Trap finish at PGA National for the Honda Classic. The course in San Antonio is also kind of an oddball. Those are two nominees.

LYNCH: I'd suggest Tour venues tend to suffer more from a dispiriting sameness of setup than a deficiency of quality architecture. Still, there are a few clunkers where the bulldozers could be ushered in. I nominate Torrey Pines, where at least the good views help take your mind off the utterly banal layout.

SHIPNUCK: I sincerely hope you don’t mean a Trump redo but a vintage Hanse renovation. If so, I’d say Torrey Pines South. It’s such a great piece of land but the Rees-ification made it too hard and monotonous. I’d love to see Hanse improve it.

RITTER: All the courses that host the Humana Challenge. What was the winning score there this year, 28 under? That event needs some teeth. Bring in the cranes and the Trump-copter!

PASSOV: Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, used to have the reputation as the hardest par-70 in golf. Ben Hogan, Cary Middlecoff and Arnold Palmer were all supporters of its quality and sternness as a test of golf. Hogan won Colonial five times, with a one-under-par 279 his BEST score. Since 2000, the highest winning score is 269, with Zach Johnson's 259 in 2010 and 261s shot by Kenny Perry, in 2003 and 2005 being especially egregious. Colonial and Hogan's legacy deserve better.

GODICH: I will reluctantly nominate Colonial. Hogan's Alley is just too short by today's Tour standards. A renovation would create some buzz and might bring the big names back.

SENS: Torrey. Stunning backdrop. Snooze-inducing design. Would be great if they narrowed the yawning gap between the two.

5. Ian Poulter called Hideki Matsuyama an “idiot” on Twitter after Matsuyama slashed the 13th green in anger with his putter and didn’t fix it. What do you think of players calling out each other on social media? Do you think Poulter would have done the same thing to a more established player (e.g., Tiger)?

SHIPNUCK: It’s great fun, for sure, but a punk move. Handling it the old-school way would’ve been better -- that is, behind closed doors. Hideki was an easy target. No way Poults is that strident with a big name.

VAN SICKLE: I don't think Poulter is afraid to call anyone out. And what Matsuyama did was completely wrong. It's one mistake to do that, it's a worse mistake not to fix it. Somebody put a diaper on that baby when he's done with his tantrum. There is no excuse for behavior like that. Poulter was right on the money.

PASSOV: Poulter is such an opinionated, loose cannon, that it's always fun to see what he'll say on any topic. I don't think he would have called out Tiger or Phil, for instance, but Poults is king of social media these days, so you never know. I guess I'm from a different era, when these sorts of matters were handled privately, behind closed doors, but nowadays, everybody and everything seem to be an open book, so perhaps Poulter was within his rights in calling out Matsuyama.

GODICH: If you've got something to say to someone, say it. Don't hide behind social media. What was Poulter's motive -- to embarrass the guy? I'm confident that Matsuyama felt embarrassed enough and immediately knew he had done wrong. I'm also confident that his wallet will be considerably lighter sometime soon.

LYNCH: I imagine that Poulter would have chosen more judiciously from his poorly stocked language cupboard had it been directed at a bigger star than Matsuyama. The real question is whether Tim Finchem will scale his fine according to the star wattage of Poulter's target.

RITTER: I enjoy players calling each other out on any form of media -- Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Three-square, Blink, Blark, Flark, TV interviews, or, if all else fails, face-to-face works well, too. What you think of Poulter, or the point he was trying to make, is almost secondary to the fact that this episode was wildly amusing. It had some real heat. Rivalries are good for the game. Heated rivalries are fantastic. More, please.

SENS: I think it's juvenile but entirely unsurprising. Asking a guy like Poulter not to vent his thoughts on Twitter is like giving a toddler a rattle and telling him not to rattle it. The impulse control just isn't there. To his credit, Poulter said he was also going to have a face-to-face with Matsuyama. To his discredit, I don't think he would have tweeted the same thing about a more established peer. Matsuyama, who is a terrific player but still something of an outsider in the Tour ranks -- in no small part because of a language barrier -- made him an easier mark.

6. Early in the week, the Seminole Member-Pro attracted all four of 2013's major champions. Outside of the PGA Tour and the majors, what’s the best event in golf?

SHIPNUCK: It’s hard for me to care about the Seminole Pro-Member -- it embodies the worst of golf’s clubby, behind-the-hedges cult of us-versus-them. The Dinah Shore is probably the best non-Tour event of the year: it’s a big-time tournament, the finish is always dramatic and it is without a doubt the biggest party on the golf calendar.

LYNCH: Give me the Summer Solstice event at Bandon Dunes, where golfers walk all four terrific courses in one marathon day. I played two years ago. My first tee shot was (barely) airborne at 5:35 am, and the first cocktail went down right after the last putt, at 8:10pm.

SENS: The Walker Cup is good fun. Any high-quality match-play event where the players are competing for something other than lucre gets my vote.

RITTER: That's easy: it's the Golf.com World Amateur Handicap Championship in Myrtle Beach. If you listen closely, you can almost hear 3,000 golfers out there nodding in agreement at once.

PASSOV: Call me a homer, but that honor has to go to the Golf.com World Amateur in Myrtle Beach. It's amazing to see real golfers in an actual competition. I'm also a big fan of the World Club Championship, an event that Golf Magazine co-sponsors that pits the club champions of Top 100 clubs (and a partner) against one another. Awesome camaraderie and competition when you see, say Pine Valley in one semi against Royal Melbourne and Sunningdale in the other semi against Los Angeles Country Club. That said, when golf's top superstars show up for free, as they do at Seminole, it must be a pretty special event.

GODICH: The Stampede at the Club at Old Hawthorne in Columbia, Mo.

VAN SICKLE: The U.S. Amateur is the most important non-Tour event. The PGA club pro championship features some guys who can really play. But I'll give the edge to the Tommy Bahama Desert Marlin in Scottsdale, a pro-am featuring many Tour players and a post-round contest called The Dry Heave, which is a closest to the pin contest while Gary McCord heckles you with a microphone while you hit. Now that's pressure.

The Tour Confidential roundtable continues Monday on our new weekly show hosted by Jessica Marksbury. Tweet her your questions @Jess_Marksbury.

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