Tour Confidential: Can Tiger Fix His Swing Before the Masters, and Is Rory Back?

The Bear Trap
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The leaders made a mess of the infamous Jack Nicklaus-designed three-hole stretch at PGA National on Sunday.

5. We heard a lot about the Bear’s Trap at PGA National -- Nos. 15-17 -- this week. Is the Bear Trap an exciting wrinkle or an example of what's wrong with modern architecture?

ANONYMOUS PRO: There have been many poorly designed golf courses in the last 30 years, and unfortunately we play several of them on Tour. PGA National is not one of them. The Bear Trap gives a player “outs,” or safer plays but also gives a player room to “show off,” which is really all you could ask from a PGA Tour course.

VAN SICKLE: I'm not sure why any resort golfer would want to play the Bear Trap a second time. This is a no-fun resort course and an example of why players are leaving the game. Golf is too hard, too expensive and takes too long. This place hits for the Triple Crown.

PASSOV: For golf fans who enjoy train wrecks and car crashes, the Bear Trap is fantastic. However, it's not tough to build hard golf holes. There's really no bailout on any of these holes, and when you have water and wind in tandem, there's not a ton of strategy. It's kind of hit-and-hope. For me, this isn't a shining spot in modern design, but for the average fan, it's unquestionably must-see TV.

SENS: Both. It's an entertaining wrinkle, but only in the way that the slam-dunk contest is a diverting spectacle in basketball. Fun to watch the top guys execute aerial shots over daunting water hazards. But it's not great architecture, and it's not the best way for the game to be played. It is, in fact, an emblem of a badly misguided era in golf that made the game more costly, more difficult, less walker-friendly and helped drive away huge numbers of players. That said, the name itself -- the Bear Trap, oooh, scary, I wanna play it -- has to be one of the best marketing gimmicks around.

GODICH: I see nothing contrived about the Bear Trap. It requires the execution of quality golf shots. Isn't that what we want to see from the best players in the world?

RITTER: It's exciting to watch the Tour pros suffer through it, but would you want to face those holes yourself? It doesn't appeal to me, and if it doesn't appeal to most working, paying golfers, it probably isn't great for golf.

LYNCH: It's only an exciting wrinkle for the pros, not the rest of us. Great courses and holes offer options, different ways to play it, a variety of recovery options. The Bear Trap offers about as many recovery options as a plane crash.

6. PGA of America president Ted Bishop suggested that Kentucky’s Valhalla, site of the Team USA’s rousing 2008 Ryder Cup victory, could someday become a permanent Ryder Cup site. What do you think of the idea of a permanent Ryder Cup venue? Which course would you choose?

ANONYMOUS PRO: For a number of years, the Belfry was home to the European side, and even though that course isn't considered the best design, it offered fantastic drama. Not sure Valhalla has enough exciting risk-reward holes to be a permanent site. I would go to Kiawah Island, which is not a course I like for medal play, but a course I would love to see Ryder Cup return to over and over.

LYNCH: Ted Bishop's tenure as PGA president has been groundbreaking and entertaining. If he wants to further his reputation as a maverick going against the norm, he ought to demand that the Ryder Cup be played on decent golf courses, on either side of the pond.

SENS: Gong! Sorry, Chuck, I'm going to have to vote against. Part of the huge fun of the Cup is the shifting venues, the excitement of the new, the demands of fresh strategies, the opportunity to learn about sporting subcultures (as a Brookline native, I never realized the people I grew up with were such belligerent a-holes until '99), all of which was lost when they kept going back to the well at the Belfry. Let that be our cautionary tale.

RITTER: I like moving the Ryder Cup around because it adds to the event's unpredictability. But then again, if they want to stage it at Cypress Point and St. Andrews every time, it would be hard to argue against it.

VAN SICKLE: I'd agree that Valhalla is more interesting for match play than for stroke play. I'll take it as a permanent Ryder Cup home if they promise to quit taking PGA Championships there. But really, why tie down the Ryder Cup to any one course? Especially when it's not in a major market. Note the difference in atmosphere between Chicago (Medinah), Louisville and Boston (The Country Club). All three had vocal crowds, but Chicago and Boston were off the charts.

GODICH: I'd start by looking at Bethpage Black. But while we're dreaming, I'll nominate Augusta National. Imagine the shot-making possibilities in better-ball and alternate-shot. Valhalla? It wouldn't crack my top 25.

PASSOV: I've walked Valhalla for the 1996 PGA Championship and 2008 Ryder Cup and finally got to play it last fall. I like the course more and more as a tournament venue, and the good folks of Kentucky come out in full force to support events there. But please, please, please, do not make it a permanent venue. Fans in other parts of the country deserve this special event as well, and different styles of design, from classic to modern, deserve to be represented, as history is made.

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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