Tour Confidential: What Does This Week Mean For Tiger Woods?
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) Did this week represent significant progress for Tiger Woods, to where you might see him win a tournament in the not-too-distant future, or does he remain much further away than the optimists would have you believe?
Cameron Morfit, senior writer, GOLF Magazine (@CameronMorfit): I am skeptical about the Tiger comeback. There's been way too much inconsistency. Ask me after he's managed to put four good rounds together.
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@AlanShipnuck): Tiger hit a lot of great shots across four days and at times attacked the course. That's an improvement from St. Andrews, where he played so defensively. But it remains alarming how quickly his game deserts him, not only day to day but even within one round. It's hard to imagine that right now he can sustain the effort physically and mentally across 72 holes that's required to win.
Jeff Ritter, senior editor, SI Golf Group (@JeffRitter): We just saw this with Tiger in the run-up to St. Andrews--an encouraging T32 at Greenbrier followed by a flameout at the Old Course. Tiger had a nice week in DC, but playing well is still a far cry from contending, and contending is a giant leap short of winning. I don't expect Tiger to contend at the PGA, but health permitting, he could win somewhere in 2016.
Josh Sens, contributing writer, GOLF Magazine: (@JoshSens): He's close. He's really close. He just need more reps. Sorry. Tiger's spokespeople just seized control of my computer. Hard to get overly excited about his showing, but it wasn't a step backwards, so let's call it progress.
Joe Passov, senior editor, GOLF Magazine (@JoePassov): Two good rounds, one very good round and one awful performance means progress--and in one regard, significant progress. That horrific performance resulted in a semi-respectable 74, thanks to a short game and recovery skills that recalled the Tiger of old. That's encouraging, if you're a Tiger fan. The trouble with such wayward tee shots is that he'll still get slaughtered on more demanding driving courses. Yet, to Tiger's credit, he fought it, battled it and fixed it the very next round. If he can figure out how to turn that kind of tournament-killing 74 into a 70, I can see him in the hunt before the year is out.
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@GaryVanSickle): It was a big week for Tiger. He looked like a player again, three of the four rounds. He was in contention after two rounds, a big step up. His putting and short game are solid. I don't know about winning but he is close to being able to contend.
2) Rory McIlroy announced he would not be able to defend his WGC-Bridgestone title next week and his status for the PGA Championship is still unknown. Do you expect to see him defend his PGA title? Do you think his season is over?
VAN SICKLE: Rory is done for this season. There is no reason to risk additional injury to play in a PGA that he's wholly unprepared for or in the FedEx Cup, which is a meaningless cash grab. I say this without knowing how serious the injury is but a bad ankle could cause him to change his swing and if he plays hurt, it may result in long-term swing issues. Give it a rest, lad.
RITTER: It's just a guess, but I don't expect to see Rory at Whistling Straits. And if he can't play the final major, there's no reason to risk re-injury by rushing back before next year.
PASSOV: I'm a golf writer, not a doctor. I don't have a clue. It isn't like Rory has spent a career keeping folks in suspense about his tournament commitments, a la Tiger Woods. It would be nice, though, to hear a little more from Rory and his camp about his recovery and progress. At the least, I'm guessing his many sponsors would like to know when we'll see him again.
SENS: Without speaking directly to Rory and his doctor, I'd just be speculating wildly. But since wild speculation is something of a specialty...we won't see him at the PGA Championship, and I suspect that this year's campaign is over for him. Damaged ligaments in an ankle take a long time to heal (when I tore mine, it was years before I could dunk a basketball again), and Rory is clearly aware of risks of coming back too early, so I don't expect to see him ruin them.
MORFIT: I'm not sure what to expect, but hilly, dunesy Whistling Straits is the absolute last place you want to be with a foot or ankle issue.
SHIPNUCK: I'm not a doctor but I play one on Twitter. Still, it's impossible to really know what's going on with Rory's wheel, though it's clearly not good. If he skips the PGA I'm sure he'll shut it down for another month or two, just to be cautious, but being number one means a lot to him and he'll certainly want to chase World Ranking points, and dollars, in China and the Middle East during the winter.
3) The PGA Tour released the 2015-16 schedule this week, and it’s jam-packed. The British Open, PGA Championship and Olympics are all in a five-week stretch, and the Ryder Cup immediately follows the end of the FedEx Cup playoffs where the top players will have played four tournaments in five weeks. Is this bunched schedule good or bad for the players and fans?
VAN SICKLE: I don't think the fans care when the tournaments are or what order they're in. The Olympics doesn't seem interesting as a golf event with only 60 players and probably only 20 of them in the top 100 in the world. One player gets hot in such a small field, he or she is liable to pull away to an eight-shot win. There is a much greater likelihood of a blowout. The schedule may inconvenience some players for a year but I don't see anything that will significantly increase or decrease fan interest.
RITTER: It's good for fans because there are so many compelling events packed together. But it'll be tough on players who qualify for the Olympics and cram the Games into their summer schedules. The new lineup might also sting a couple PGA Tour events, like the John Deere Classic, but overall I'm excited to see how this plays out next year.
PASSOV: The bunched schedule is not ideal. Reminds me of the frenzied days of the 1960s, when the PGA Championship was played the week after the British Open. Or perhaps the crazy days of the 2010s, when they squeezed in four FedEx Cup playoff events and a Ryder Cup or two. Better to space these big events and let the momentum build. With the PGA Tour's new wraparound schedule, we'd be better off having the occasional PGA played in mid- to late February, post-Super Bowl. It would provide more oomph, and would take it to places that could never host an August major due to the heat.
SENS: From a fans' perspective, I like the idea of a golf gorge session. And the players can handle it. If they can't find the energy to get up for a couple of majors and the Ryder Cup (I'll leave the Olympics out, since neither fans nor players seem all that excited about them), then maybe they should take up macrame instead.
MORFIT: Great for fans! As for the players, it's great for them too. Big tournaments equal big money, and I have no doubt they'll pace themselves. They're smart.
SHIPNUCK: Who cares about the players? It's gonna be a blast for the rest of us.
4) Inbee Park won the Women’s British Open at Turnberry and now can claim wins at four different LPGA majors. But the LPGA designated the Evian Championship as the fifth major in 2013, one year after Park won the event that isn’t counted as a major victory. What's your take on Park’s career grand slam credentials?
SHIPNUCK: It's a confounding situation, to say the least. Don't forget the Women's British has been considered a major for barely a decade and two semi-recent majors, the du Maurier and LPGA Championship, are now kaput. And just because the CEO of Evian is a good negotiator now we're supposed to consider that a major, too? Pffffft. Career Slam is now a mostly meaningless term on the LPGA when talking about the past. Going forward there are now four really great majors: the Dinah, both Women's Opens and LPGA PGA Championship. Win those four and we'll call it a career Slam.
PASSOV: If this question/discussion/debate doesn't spur a conversation about the silliness of forced, designated "major" status on a tournament, nothing will. Tournaments evolve, and earn "major" status due to their prestige. The British Open almost lost its status in the late 1950s, when no Americans would play in it. We've encountered this mess too many times in women's golf through the years. Two of the five majors changed their names this year alone. Sorry, the entertainment factor and skill displayed in women's golf is better than ever, but golf fans revere their history, and women's golf has failed miserably in keeping the consistency required for folks to get excited about a historical achievement. If we can't even agree on whether Inbee Park has captured the career Grand Slam, the system is broken. As far as I'm concerned, she's a career Grand Slam winner.
MORFIT: Inbee is a spectacular player and still somehow very modest despite the immodest resume. As for her majors, I'm not bothered. As far as I'm concerned she's won them all, not that I count the Evian in the same category as the U.S. Women's Open.
RITTER: Well, the LPGA added a fifth major, so a Slam now entails winning all five. But it's really just semantics, and shouldn't diminish Inbee's remarkable run.
SENS: Park's credentials are pretty clear. She's the top player in the women's game right now. That she doesn't "officially" have the slam yet speaks only to the fragile status of the LPGA in recent years. Creating a fifth "major" felt like a forced grab for added gravitas on a Tour that didn't feel confident that it was a major deal in its own right.
VAN SICKLE: The LPGA Grand Slam has been broken up into three eras for historical purposes. So what is a Grand Slam when the events themselves keep changing? Look, Park has won every event designated as a Grand Slam event. She's got the career Grand Slam. Just calling the Evian's a fifth major doesn't make it so to me. But if you're going to count it as a major, then she's already won it, too.
5) Lydia Ko entered the final round tied with Inbee Park, but finished four shots back after shooting a Sunday 69. How has such a prodigious talent like Ko gone 0-for-16 in majors so far in her young career?
VAN SICKLE: Ko is young and the LPGA has some serious talent. It's just not that easy to win a major or dial up good play on a certain week. If she's 25 and hasn't won a major, then I'll start to wonder. I don't think I'm going to have to worry about that, though.
RITTER: Ko has accomplished more than any 18-year-old in LPGA history. She'll crack this major-championship thing soon enough.
PASSOV: C'mon. Are you serious? Ko has been a sensation since her amateur days, when she beat the pros twice to win LPGA events. She's only played in nine majors as a professional. I'm sure it's frustrating for her to have been blanked in majors so far, but I'm not going to knock her one bit. She's 18 years old. She's already been ranked Number 1 in the world. Phil Mickelson won 22 PGA Tour events until he finally won a major at age 33. I'm betting Lydia Ko will win many majors before she turns 33.
SHIPNUCK: Mostly because they're hard to win. Ko's greatest strength might be her consistency, which allows her to shine during the week-to-week grind of the LPGA season. But winning majors takes a certain special something. I have no doubt Ko will figure it out, and soon.
SENS: Winning a major doesn't just take great play. It often takes great timing. Let's cut her some slack. Sixteen is still a pretty small sampling. She will get hers soon enough, and they're likely to come in bunches.
MORFIT: Ko will be fine. Maybe some part of her thinks she should defer to her elders in the majors. Or maybe she just hasn't felt it yet on a Sunday in one of the biggies. Who knows? When she leaves the LPGA to become a psychologist, as I believe she plans to do, she can study her younger self.
The Tour Confidential roundtable continues Monday on our new weekly show hosted by Jessica Marksbury. Tweet her your questions @Jess_Marksbury.