Tour Confidential: Should Tiger’s latest surgery concern us a little, or a lot?
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 value of major titles, Tiger Woods’ recent surgery, Solheim Cup picks, great golf gambling games and more.
1. Rory McIlroy, the recent $15 million FedEx Cup winner, said he’d like to see golf’s majors be more spread out like tennis. “If the narrative becomes that the majors are the only important thing in golf, then that’s dangerous because are fans not going to care for the other 48 weeks of the year?” he said. Given the new schedule paired with the intense emphasis several top players place on the majors (Brooks, Rory, Tiger, etc.), do they feel like they have more significance than ever?
Dylan Dethier, senior writer (@dylan_dethier): The thing about tennis, at least to a casual fan like myself, is that NOTHING matters besides the majors. Everything else is just connective tissue. Smarter tennis people can correct me, but there’s no real Players Championship equivalent. For the record, I like the current schedule January through August. But if anything, I think golf would be more exciting if there was slightly more scarcity, not less. If all these pros truly disappeared for 4-5 months, we’d be that much more excited to see them resurface in the new year.
John Wood, PGA Tour caddie for Matt Kuchar (@Johnwould): I’m with you, Dylan, on the need to disappear more. When I started in 1997, it felt like we had three months (Oct.-Dec.) off every year, unless you were Fred Couples and needed to go win another Skins Game. I don’t know what the answer is. You’re going to get arguments one way and agree, and then hear the exact opposite and agree with that too. I’m fine giving this a few years to see how this new schedule goes. I do think majors have more significance than ever. If you’re elite, it just doesn’t feel like a successful year, despite money and FedEx points, unless you’ve competed or won a major.
Josh Berhow, managing editor (@josh_berhow): You can do whatever you want to make the FedEx Cup Playoffs more meaningful, but no one’s tombstone will ever say how many times they won at East Lake with a weird scoring system. I love that we have a major in April-May-June-July, and the Players is March is a nice little appetizer, but what’s more of an issue than majors being too condensed is the fact that the PGA Tour starts right back up again in two weeks with the fall season. The NFL starts this week and I, like many others, am excited. Why? Because we haven’t seen meaningful NFL games since February. We don’t get that separation anxiety with pro golf.
Michael Bamberger, senior writer: It’s new, so it will take getting used to it. Nobody liked my idea of having the AT&T morph into the PGA Championship, played annually at Pebble Beach in late February, and yet I still cannot give it up. But there’s a lot to be said for March, April, May, June and July, and then a meaningful team competition as an exclamation mark. It felt intense this year, but is that bad? I think it’s good. Love Rory’s use of the word narrative.
2. Tiger Woods announced on Tuesday that he recently underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair minor cartilage damage in his left knee. The doctor who performed the surgery said he expects Woods to make a full recovery, while Woods said he hopes to resume practicing in the next few weeks and added he looks forward to playing in Japan in October. Should fans be more concerned than the press release seems to be?
Dethier: The reminder, as always, is just how little we ever really know about Woods’ health. He might not really understand it all, either, but he has never been forthcoming about what’s actually wrong. Injury descriptions shift pretty regularly, as recently as the Northern Trust (back to oblique to, now, knee). Mostly what we know is that it’s not perfect.
Wood: No I don’t think so. We used to never know what was going on with Tiger’s body. He held that close to his vest. Now, he’s letting us know. I wouldn’t be concerned with either. If he could win on a broken leg, I think he can win on one that’s not broken but has had its share of time under the knife.
Berhow: When any 43-year-old pro athlete has surgery, it’s notable. When Tiger Woods (at 43 and with his history) has surgery, it’s a little more of a concern. This might not be much of anything, but it’s not nothing. These last few years have showed us that Tiger playing dinged up is probably more the norm.
Bamberger: Tiger has always been extremely secretive about all health issues. The only meaningful thing left for him, as a player, is the majors. I don’t know who he turns to for these questions, but I can’t see why he would want to play between now and Honda, except to make money, and it would be odd if that’s a high priority at this point in his career. He looked mentally and physically tired from April 15th on.
3. Jordan Spieth completed his second straight winless season on Tour after winning 10 times from 2015 to 2017. Who is more likely to snatch their next win first — Tiger or Spieth? And will that come next season?
Dethier: I think the demises of both Woods and Spieth have been somewhat exaggerated. Spieth finished in the top eight in four of his last 10 starts of 2019. And before the playoffs, Woods had beaten the field average more consistently than any other player on Tour. I’d put the chances of each somewhere around 50/50 to win next season — I’ll take Spieth, just because he’s healthier and will play more.
Wood: I think it’ll be Jordan if for no other reason than he’s gonna have a hell of a lot more chances than Tiger with their respective schedules. I think Jordan will knock one off by the end of the West Coast (the old start to the season), and with Tiger I think it all depends on how much he plays. I’m not trying to say other tournaments don’t matter to him, but everything Tiger does right now is centered around four tournaments. The “regular” events he plays are more preparation for Harding Park and Augusta than all-out assaults like the Tiger of the 2000s.
Berhow: It should be Spieth simply based off health, starts and opportunities. Jordan is too good to continue this slump but he’s also been a victim of his own success. No way he could keep up that blistering pace he started in 2015.
Bamberger: Spieth. Tiger is better at golf right now, but, as others have noted, Spieth will have more chances.
4. Morgan Pressel and Stacy Lewis were picked by captain Juli Inkster to round out the 2019 U.S. Solheim Cup roster, which takes on Europe at Gleneagles in Scotland in two weeks. Pressel and Lewis were picked over several worthy candidates, among them veterans Cristie Kerr and Paula Creamer. Kerr is the U.S. team’s all-time wins leader (18), had been on the last nine teams and is tied with Inkster for the most appearances. Creamer ranks second in Solheim Cup wins (17) and has been on the last seven teams. Do you agree with the picks?
Dethier: Unlike the men’s U.S. national teams, the U.S. women don’t dominate world rankings, so we’re making arguments for players ranked in the 40s, 50s or lower. As a result the question of captain’s picks becomes more open-ended. I’d still have taken Cristie Kerr even though she’s on a relatively poor stretch of form. And I’d have considered Jennifer Kupcho, who’s been electric (if inconsistent). And Ally McDonald was lingering right at the edge of the points list all season — if she had national team experience, I’m sure she’d be headed to Gleneagles.
Wood: I do. If only for the reason that captain Inkster is 2-0, and she’s earned the right to pick whomever she wants. Honestly between those four, to me, it’s a coin flip. Juli must have her reasons, and they may have nothing to do with golf. She’s picked players to round out her team, not necessarily the best two individual golfers.
Bamberger: Exactly, John. Inkster has the perfect make-up for being a captain — she’d be an excellent Ryder Cup captain. She’s weighed this out in ways I never could, and I trust the decisions she made. I’d like to know what she’d tell Tiger about his PC picks. I’m guessing she’d tell Tiger to sit, but few others will.
Berhow: None of those four, save Pressel’s run at the Women’s British Open, have been lighting it up every week, but I’m still surprised Kerr was passed. I would have given her one more shot. And plus, she went 2-1-0 with Lexi last year. Hard to break up a team like that. But I’ll take a wild guess and say Juli broke down this decision more thoroughly than I did.
5. World No. 1 Jin Young Ko bested Tiger Woods’ record last week when she went 114 consecutive holes without a bogey, snapping the record of 110 straight holes Woods set in 2000. Does this feat deserve more or less credit than what it’s been given?
Dethier: I’m not sure how to overrate or underrate this one, but it’s a big deal. Just recently J.T. Poston played a 72-hole tournament without a bogey, and this continued well beyond those boundaries. I thought it was telling how emotional Ko’s reaction was when she finally broke the streak — there was sadness there, but also relief. Really cool.
Wood: More. That’s a silly number, I don’t care where you’re playing. The difference: Jin Young Ko knew of the streak and obviously knew every hole was closer to the record. Tiger was probably pissed he didn’t make more birdies in that 110-hole stretch.
Berhow: More, more, more. What would your average pro, amateur or hacker pay to have a run like that?! I’ve always said that what makes pros so much better than all of us is the consistency. They rarely follow one bad shot with another and never make the ugly number, which is the key to posting a good number. Well done.
Bamberger: Bogey is a quaint term that has lost much of its luster in the era of the par-5 that plays like a medium-length par-4. Any round in which a pro on any tour makes nothing higher than 4, that’s remarkable. I’m afraid the day of the “clean card” is less meaningful now than it was in 2000, to say nothing of 1980 or 1890. There was once a phrase in golf called “standard scratch score.” But no longer (pretty much). But in conclusion, a shout-out to Ms. Ko: Nice playing!
6. Need a new betting game for you and your buddies? Our Alan Bastable just broke down a simple one you should try. What’s your go-to betting game on the course that not many people might know about but should definitely give a shot?
Dethier: We call this a scotch, but I’m not sure why: Two-man teams. Every hole, five points up for grabs. Two for low team score. Two for low individual score. One for closest to the pin. If a team gets all five of those points, they’re given a sixth bonus point. Birdies double a team’s points for the hole. The team that’s trailing can double the point values. Then the other team can re-double at any point after that, and so on. That’s where things get exciting; point values ramp up to the point where a birdie putt on 18 can be worth 96 points, easily. How you translate points to cash depends on your tax bracket.
Wood: I am the wrong person to ask. I can never keep track of what’s going on with presses and wolves and whatever else. I was always the guy who, at the end of the round, looked at the scorecard like it was the Rosetta Stone and dumbfoundedly asked, “What do I owe?” I could have shot 61 and if the scorer said I owed 50 bucks, I’d lay it down and leave.
Bamberger: On the practice green, an 18-hole putting match. Player with the honor calls (creates) the hole, as long or as short as she or he likes. Stakes are whatever; you might find a quarter a hole is plenty. Halves are carried over, so if the first three holes are halved, the fourth is played for (in this example) a dollar. An ace pays double. No tap-ins — every putt (that doesn’t go in) is drawn back a putter length. By the end of summer, you’ll be a better putter.
Berhow: As a simple man with simple tastes, I love Nassaus. Minimalistic and pure. Sorry to say I have little advice here. But on a side note I have long thought unlimited presses are dumb, a hot take not well received by my pals.