Tour Confidential: Is Tiger Woods getting enough reps?
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 Tiger Woods’ preparation for The Open, the Rocket Mortgage Classic’s debut, Michelle Wie’s future, golf shows you’d tune in to watch and more.
1. Tiger Woods is not playing next week’s 3M Open, and while that’s not necessarily a surprise, it was the last foreseeable option for Woods to sneak in an event before the Open Championship. This means Woods will have no starts between Pebble and Portrush. It’s the second time this season he’s gone without a start between majors (the last was from the Masters to the PGA, where he missed the cut). Woods hinted this would probably happen after the U.S. Open. Like his strategy?
Dylan Dethier, associate editor (@Dylan_Dethier): Do I like it? Not really. But I’m sure he doesn’t, either. Historically, Woods has played top-tier golf by prepping for majors two weeks beforehand. But it’s clear that the day-to-day grind of getting his body ready for tournament golf is so taxing that he thinks this is his best bet. It’s far from the ideal prep, but it may be the best option available.
Jonathan Wall, equipment editor (@jonathanrwall): I’m not a fan of waiting a month to knock the competitive rust off between starts. I understand the reasoning behind the extended break — he needs to stay fresh — but that doesn’t mean I think the strategy is going to pay off. I really think it would’ve made sense to log at least four rounds of golf before heading to Portrush.
Josh Sens, contributor (@JoshSens): It’s like a reprise of an old sit-com. Tiger Knows Best. As Dylan says, not ideal but you’ve got to figure Woods feels this is his best option, and the man knows his body and his game better than anyone. Makes you wonder if the rejiggered schedule, with its more compressed timing on the majors, has made Tiger’s pursuit of 18 even tougher than it already was.
Jeff Ritter, digital development editor (@Jeff_Ritter): This playbook didn’t work so well for him at the PGA, so have to say I’m less bullish on him now for The Open. But Tiger’s playing the long game here, so no need to risk re-injury at a major-week tuneup. He’ll give it his best shot at Portrush.
John Wood, PGA Tour caddie for Matt Kuchar (@Johnwould): I’m reminded of Jim Nantz, working his first Masters in 1986 when he asked Tom Weiskopf after Jack stuffed it on 16, “Tom, what is going through his mind right now? It’s been a long time since he’s had a run like this.” Weiskopf, without missing a beat, answered, “If I knew how he thought I would’ve won this tournament.” None of us know how Tiger thinks. By my count all us Tour Confidentialers have won a combined zero majors. So like the other guys said above, ideal? Probably not, but Tiger’s played enough golf to know what is best for him.
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer (@Alan_Shipnuck): To quote one of our great philosophers, it is what it is. Tiger’s Masters victory is the signature moment of this season/decade. He seems happy to coast on it and he’s definitely earned that.
Michael Bamberger, senior writer: I don’t see it as a, quote, strategy. It’s just likely what the reality of his body, and the logistics of his family life, will support. I don’t think not playing between the U.S. and British Opens will effect his play in any measurable way.
2. Nate Lashley, an alternate and the last man in the Rocket Mortgage Classic field, overcame a tragic past and on-course struggles to notch his first PGA Tour win Sunday. He also became the first alternate to win on tour since Vaughn Taylor at the 2016 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Where does Lashley’s week rank among the most improbable wins in recent memory?
Dethier: This was an incredible, life-changing week for a guy who has more than paid his dues — not to mention endured true tragedy. It definitely felt out of nowhere for the World No. 353 to take home a Tour event, but then again Lashley has actually put together a solid season, quietly making 10 of 14 cuts since getting status on Tour. Still, his only top 10 came in Puerto Rico, so it’s not like a six-shot win was imminent. But let’s not forget Adam Long went MC-MC-MC-Win-MC-MC-MC-MC-MC earlier this year. Golf is weird.
Bamberger: I’ll see your incredible and raise you astonishing.
Wall: We’ve seen alternates come out of nowhere and make the most of their opportunity. John Daly comes to mind. It’s a special win for Nate, but not because he was No. 353 in the world. Anytime you can overcome the personal tragedy he endured and continue to chase the dream of becoming a PGA Tour winner, it makes a career-altering week that much sweeter.
Sens: Wall took the Daly reference right out of my mouth, though I was wondering, in this era of short memories, if that qualified as recent. Lashley’s is a great story. In terms of unlikeliness, though, I might put Ted Potter’s win at the AT&T ahead of it, given the strength of the field he was up against.
Ritter: Lashley is an awesome story and a goosebump moment for the debut in Detroit. Loved it. Funny enough, there was another shocking win in pro golf on Sunday — a South African named Christiaan Bezuidenhout won by six, and his story, while different from Lashley, is also heartbreaking and inspiring, and I think our readers should check it out.
Wood: In recent memory I can’t think of a more unlikely win. But as I’ve said a million times, it’s HARD to win on the PGA Tour. If you would have told Rickie Fowler or Kevin Kisner, to name just two, at the beginning of the week that if they beat Nate Lashay they’d win, I gotta believe they would have liked their chances. These guys, all of them, are so good that whenever anyone finds their game for four days, they’re gonna be there.
Shipnuck: There are certainly times when pro golf feels homogenous and predictable, but Lashley and Bezuidenhout are of a piece with Justin Lower, whose father and brother were killed in a car accident when he was a teen; Lower had a chance to win today on the Hogan Tour. Throw in Camarón and sundry others and this season has made it very clear that there are many incredible personal stories out there and these guys just need a sliver of an opportunity to shine.
3. Scoring came easy at the new-to-the-schedule Rocket Mortgage Classic, played on a leafy Donald Ross design at Detroit Golf Club. Lashley finished at 25 under and 41 other players finished at 10 under or better. Was the course too gettable? And overall, how would you grade the event on its debut?
Dethier: They made it clear at the beginning of the week that they wanted some birdies to be made. I’ve got no problem with 25 under winning if it were an outlier, but the traditionalist in me doesn’t think the cut line should be five under. I know that par is an arbitrary benchmark, but it’s still the way we keep score, so it’s fun to see these guys fight against it a little more. But golf back in Detroit? Hell yeah! I hope it continues.
Wall: I think the PGA Tour whiffed with the setup. I get fans like to see birdies, but this was beyond excessive. I was really hoping to see Detroit Country Club played under normal conditions. Instead, we were given an ultra-soft layout that was ripped to shreds. Not to mention, the grandstands were literally feet behind the green. I wish we were talking more about the fans who sold out the event on the weekend and reaffirmed the Midwest’s place as a golf hotbed. Instead, the discussion centers around some ridiculously easy conditions that could’ve been avoided with some semblance of rough and moderately firm greens. Not every Tour setup needs to be the equivalent of playing a video game on the easy setting.
Sens: I don’t mind the occasional deep-red scoreboard, and big-time golf back in Detroit was great to see. As for the setup, I agree that the grandstands were a bit, um, intimate. But it’s not always easy to predict how a course is going to stand up the first time around. I remember when the Tour showed up at Silverado a few years back. Lots of talk that the pros would obliterate it. But the greens and the rough wound up being enough of a defense to keep things within reason, and the scores weren’t as silly as many predicted. Point is, there’s something of a learning curve. I’ll look forward to Detroit GC getting another chance, and seeing what they might do to give it stouter defenses.
Ritter: Year 1 is a feeling-out period for the setup, and next time around I hope they bake it out a bit. But overall, high marks this week. The event landed some big names in the field, crowned a feel-good winner, and inspired the CBS broadcast to play Michigan-made music in and out of commercials, which — other than everything from Kid Rock — is always a nice touch.
Wood: I agree with Jeff. And a new tournament needs the players to have a good time and not have a course that kills them. They’ve got to have the guys who didn’t play hear from those who did about what a good week it was and how much they enjoyed it. Guys talk, and guys listen. So if they’re looking at the schedule next year and Detroit is 50/50 and someone hears from his friends that Detroit was a great, fun tournament, next year those that skipped it are more likely to add it. If you have a course/tournament with extremely difficult conditions and/or bad weather, your future fields will suffer.
Shipnuck: What’s to feel out? This was entirely predictable, just the latest example that quaint old golf courses stand no chance against the modern athletes on Tour, with their optimized equipment, diets, training regimens and sabermetrics. They reduced the course to nothing and the birdies were too cheaply bought. The rote driver-wedge game was boring to watch, as is increasingly the case on Tour.
Bamberger: Quaint old courses have no chance if you still think 280 is meaningful. This was at best a par-68 course for the pros, not the par-72 as it was listed. Viewed that way, second place was not 19 under but three under. The par-5 is dead. It had a nice run.
4. Michelle Wie announced she’s taking the rest of the year off to get healthy. The 29-year-old shot 84-82 at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship a week ago and has battled injuries for the majority of her career. What are the chances Wie can return to winning form, and how important, from a marketing and fan perspective, is her presence on the LPGA Tour?
Dethier: Winning form seems an awful long way away, but I’m glad Wie is taking an extended break from the game. That seems like the only move. From there she needs good luck with injury and recovery, which is something she hasn’t had — and then it’s a long road back to the top. Would be an incredible story if she could pull it off, though.
Sens: She’s too young and too talented to say that she won’t be back. But she’s also engaged and has said she wants to start a family, so add those factors to the others in weighing what might happen. It would be great to have her healthy, happy and at the top of her game. But the LPGA’s fate does not hinge on her one way or the other.
Wall: Selfishly, I’d love to see Wie back on top. She’s easy to like and always draws the casual golf fan to the television when in contention. But at this point in her career, I think the most important thing is getting fully healthy and not worrying about living life with nagging injuries. I’d just love for her to return to the course pain-free. It’s sort of like Tiger when he returned after the last back surgery. I think attainable benchmarks are way more important. Even with young talents like Maria Fassi waiting in the wings, you always want your stars on the course. No doubt Wie is in that category.
Ritter: I hope Wie makes it back. She certainly has the talent. Motivation and health are the wild cards. She lived a career’s worth of pressure before she even turned 21. I wouldn’t blame her if she decides to make this the end of the line.
Wood: Boy, if I had a time machine, I’d love to talk to 15-year-old Michelle Wie after she missed the cut by a shot in Hawaii and tell her: “Keep doing exactly what you’re doing. Play golf. Keep your teacher. Grow into yourself and make your own decisions.” I could be totally wrong, but it felt like it became a job and a business way too early for her. The talent has always been off the charts, so if she comes back hungry and healthy, there’s no reason she can’t become elite again.
Bamberger: Exactly, John. What a game and swing she had even at 12 and 13, so long and flowing. Tiger’s path, staying amateur to at least 20, might have been perfect for her. Everything changes when you click that pen and sign.
Shipnuck: After talking to a few LPGA folks this week, I have the sinking feeling that she’s done. Wie has played under incredible scrutiny since she was a tween. She has to feel like she’s 29 going on 40. She’s so smart and has so many interests, does she really want to keep beating her head against the wall like this?
5. Our Josh Sens recently reviewed — well, blew up — the Steph Curry-produced miniature golf show Holey Moley. Give us your pitch for a primetime golf-themed game show that would be a smash hit.
Dethier: I’m worried that review is going to single-handedly torpedo our Steph Curry relationship! But it seemed merited. For my show I’m bringing back the World Mini-Golf Championships from the ’80s and ’90s. A+ mustaches. No bells and whistles. Commentators playing it dead straight. Truly a chance for the sport in its truest form.
Sens: Steph is too smart a guy to not know what a terrible show that is. As for one that would be slightly less terrible, hmmm… PGA Tour Jeopardy? I’ll take Stupid Things Fans Say for a thousand, Alex.
Wall: As a gear guy, I want to see the pros go head-to-head in a Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf format on an exclusive course with balata balls and equipment from the ‘60s. What would DJ or Rory shoot at Pine Valley with inferior equipment? Sign me up.
Ritter: I like this hickory idea. If we’re ripping other game shows, Family Feud could mayyybe work with pros and their wives and kids.
Wood: A scriptless caddie roundtable. Maybe even with their images blocked and their voices disguised, like an FBI informant on a mob show. You wouldn’t be able to change the channel OR believe the stories.
Shipnuck: I love J-Wall’s idea.
Bamberger: Golf-themed Jeopardy with categories like Watson, Famous Mid-Mashies, NLE Ross Courses, Shark Attack and Arnold Blows the Open.
6. Happy Fourth of July week. We’re gifting you a 10-day road-trip to any ONE state in the union, including access to any and all courses within its borders. Where you headed?
Dethier: I mean, it has to be California, right?! Cypress Point and Pebble Beach are the obvious headliners but there’s endless top-tier golf paired with top-tier scenery up and down the length of the state. Plus, if we’re talking road-trips then the drive down the NorCal coast all the way through Big Sur should be on everyone’s bucket list. Build in time for sunset golf when the mood strikes.
Sens: Despite the reputation for near-insufferable snobbery at a number of its top clubs, for outrageous quality within a concentrated area, can you beat NY? I don’t think so.
Wall: I’ll be the contrarian and go with North Carolina. There’s Wade Hampton, Pinehurst, Dormie Club, Tobacco Road, Pine Needles. Want me to continue? I’ll take that lineup any day of the week. Not to mention you get some southern hospitality for the entire trip.
Ritter: Have fun in Carolina, J-Wall! I’ll be renting a ragtop convertible — which I’m assuming is expensable in this scenario — dropping the clubs in the backseat and spending my time rolling up and down the Pacific Coast Highway.
Wood: Alaska. Golf courses are golf courses, even the greats. I’d love to spend 10 days up there playing snow golf in the Bering Sea Ice Classic (yes, that’s a real thing) and play a round or two of ice golf on Wasilla Lake, or the PAR-70 HOLE in Kodiak. If I’m gifted that trip I want to go off the beaten path.
Shipnuck: Cali is unquestionably the best but I’ve been lucky to touch them all, so NY is the logical choice, because there are so many epic courses there. But Wood is onto something here — sign me up for Hawaii! I might not even bring my clubs.