Check in every Sunday night for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors as they break down the hottest topics in the sport, and join the conversation by tweeting us @golf_com. This week we discuss the aftermath of Tiger Woods’ Masters victory and the role of his caddie, Joe LaCava, plus Zurich Classic tweaks and more.
1. Now that we’ve had time to adjust after the craziness of Tiger Woods winning his 15th major title, let’s take one final look back at Masters week to cover some things we might have missed. TV ratings were off the charts, and Woods’ sponsors like TaylorMade and Bridgestone had plenty to smile about, too, but who most stands to benefit from Woods’ win?
Michael Bamberger, senior writer: Sam and Charlie, because they’re in good shape for show-and tell, plus some other things. I’m not pretending to understand the family dynamics, but in some sense Tiger’s work since April/May 2017 (the win was a byproduct) had to be at least in part for them.
Josh Sens, contributor (@JoshSens): Anyone watching the majors. The most historic hunt in golf is back on.
Sean Zak, associate editor (@sean_zak): I’m with Bamberger. It was fun watching Charlie Woods watch his Superman a week ago.
Dylan Dethier, associate editor (@Dylan_Dethier): Nike had a killer week of ad campaigns, starting with the Frank the Headcover mayhem at the start and finishing with that hair-raising commercial post-win. Make that five major champions in a row who have won wearing the swoosh on their shirt.
2. With a week to reflect on Woods’ victory, what’s one nugget that stands out to you that you initially missed (or didn’t fully appreciate) at the time?
Bamberger: That the winner, with no experience at winning majors while coming from behind, could go bogey-bogey on 4 and 5 and never look for a minute like he was out of it.
Sens: Tiger’s seemingly ordinary 9-iron to the 12th on Sunday, which, of course, was anything but.
Zak: It happens every year, but I continue to be amazed by how Augusta National requires such a phenomenal FOUR rounds from the Masters champion. Bryson DeChambeau made it look simple on Thursday. Ha! Cantlay made the course look easy on Saturday, but down the stretch under pressure? Ha! It’s an incredible championship.
Dethier: Tiger Woods’ very favorite club, per our Jonathan Wall, is his 8-iron. On Masters Sunday, he hit nine (9!) 8-irons. That’s wild. He seems to hit the 7 and the 9 quite well, too, but maybe that friendly 8 popped up at just the right times.
3. “We did it!” Woods screamed to his caddie, Joe LaCava, on the 18th green. How much credit should LaCava get for Woods’ win? Could Woods have won his fifth green jacket with a different looper?
Bamberger: What Joe does goes beyond carrying the bag for those four rounds. When everything was dark, he stayed at Tiger’s side. Tiger takes many of his life cues from his father’s military career, and Joe was with Tiger like they were in battle together. There’s no way to quantify Joe’s role, of course, but Tiger needs people who are 100 percent committed to his ambitions. That sounds easier to fulfill than it is. Joe was always there.
Sens: Tiger could win with a lot of guys on his bag. But Michael’s right about everything above. What also stands out is the “We.” The old Tiger was more of a “I/me” guy.
Zak: Do I think Tiger could win some Masters with someone else? Yes. Does he win in 2019 with, say, Brandt Snedeker’s caddie? (I don’t even know who that is.) I’m gonna go with no.
Dethier: I’ve cited this quote like, four times since his win, but I keep coming back to it, from last year: “If I could live another 100 years, I’d wait another 100 years,” LaCava said at the time. “I was never not going to work for Tiger as long as he was going to have me. I just wanted to work for him and no one else. And I think that helped a little bit, knowing that he had a friend that thought that much of him, as a person and with his game.” Being someone as famous as Tiger Woods means it would be hard to tell who was truly loyal, who was truly your friend. LaCava always made it clear: he was there for Woods. That counts for a lot.
4. What was the biggest non-Tiger development that came out of the week at Augusta National?
Bamberger: Broadly, the mystery of golf. Specifically, how did the moment and the promise it represented becoming get bigger than Frankie Molinari’s big, beautiful brain? The tee shot on 12. The first three shots on 15. If someone who has all the best words can enlighten me, I would be most grateful. Yes, his golf was shaky-ish from the start. But he was getting it done. The Masters was his, until it wasn’t.
Sens: We’ve poked some cheeky fun here at the chip on Brooks Koepka’s shoulder. Augusta was further evidence that it might be justified. In this space, and in many other places where predictions were made, Koepka was all but overlooked. Despite his three major wins, there was still the unspoken assumption, I think, that his brute power game lacked the subtly for a place like Augusta. Once again, doubter proved wrong.
Zak: I’m with Bamberger again! Smart guy. It felt like Molinari of all people knew how to fend off the aura of Tiger. His results don’t serve as guaranteed evidence that he crumbled because of the guy in his group, but it sure makes you think.
Dethier: The list of contenders who just seem to keep winding up atop major leaderboards, at least the last four: Tiger Woods. Francesco Molinari. Dustin Johnson. Brooks Koepka. And Xander Schauffele. That’s your big-game crew right now, with apologies to plenty others.
5. The Zurich Classic two-man team event begins on Thursday in New Orleans. It’s four-balls in Rounds 1 and 3 and foursomes in Rounds 2 and 4. What’s a change you would suggest to make it even better?
Bamberger: I like it as is, but I’d expand it. Two more team events. I’d love to see a mixed-team event return, and an event where a Tour player picks a partner who must be 60 or over. Also, these events could be played anywhere. Myopia Hunt, Cypress Point, the West Palm Beach muni (when it is renovated and reopened), Bandon, on it goes, would all be good venues.
Sens: Mixed teams, for sure. And yes, give us a glimpse of more courses we so rarely see. Chicago Golf Club. Pine Valley. Seminole. And on. Or go the opposite route and stick purely with the best munis coast to coast.
Zak: Make it match play.
Dethier: It should all be foursomes, aka alternate shot. (Did the USGA not address this naming horror?) The highs and lows of alternate shot make for better drama, period.
6. Tiger rocked his green jacket — complete with a casual pair of gym shorts, T-shirt and hat — at his restaurant in Jupiter, Fla., on Friday night. Congratulations, you just won your first Masters green jacket. Where and how are you making your first public appearance with it?
Bamberger: Waffle House, 2951 Washington Road, Augusta, on the Sunday night, in my course clothes. Also, I’m picking up the tab for the whole house.
Sens: Putterham Golf Course, the Boston-area muni where I learned to play. Though nowadays they call it Robert T. Lynch. Two dollar greens fees back in the day.
Zak: Courtside at Madison Squ- … JK! I’m still very moved by this, so I’d be tempted to take it to Ikeja Golf Club in Nigeria. Those folks seem like they love some golf.
Dethier: I’d take it over to the GOLF Mag Masters house, where we’d play late-night H-O-R-S-E for jacket rights. Some things should never change. Then it’s back to my Williamstown, Massachusetts, roots, like Sens, where we’d swing by Stamford Valley, Waubeeka and Taconic, my middle, high school and college stomping grounds. But I’d eventually work a trip to The Woods into the rounds.