Tour Confidential: Michelle Wie’s Future, Golf After Tiger and Our Golf Broadcast Dream Teams

April 22, 2014

Every Sunday night, 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.) Michelle Wie followed up her runner-up finish at the Kraft Nabisco Championship with a come-from-behind victory at the LPGA LOTTE Championship, ending a four-year victory drought. What is different about Wie this year and will she now be a consistent winner on the LPGA Tour?

Joe Passov, senior editor, Golf Magazine (@joepassov): The Big Wiesy is back because she has confidence that's based on fundamentals she believes in. This three-quarter punch stuff, even with her driver, doesn't come close to approximating that long, flowing, gorgeous swing she had 10 years ago as a 14-year-old, but it works. Her putting style is as bizarre as I've seen in a good while, but putting is, and always has been, about what succeeds, not what looks good. It’s unbelievable that she's beating Inbee Park, Stacy Lewis and Suzann Pettersen regularly, considering where she was a year ago. She's got more wins ahead. Good for Michelle, good for the LPGA, good for golf.

Jeff Ritter, senior editor, Sports Illustrated Golf Group (@Jeff_Ritter): She's always hit the ball as well anyone on the LPGA. It's all come down to putting. Still not sure I'm buying the goofy, broken robot putting stance, but it worked this week, and it was great to see her land a title. If she keeps putting, she'll continue to win.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: There are so many good LPGA players now, it is hard to say there's room for consistent winners right now. She's had such an erratic career to date, it's hard to imagine her becoming a consistent winner. But the whole point of golf, at every level, is improvement, so why not?

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@GaryVanSickle): I don't know what's different, other than her results. Consistent is one thing she's never been, but she could be a game-changer for the LPGA if she can keep it up.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@AlanShipnuck): People forget this is Wie's first full year as a touring pro. It's not easy to play the LPGA while getting a Stanford degree. She's more settled now and more independent, having moved to Florida and left her parents behind. Wie has slowly built her confidence up and has a new belief in her short game. So add all that together and this win wasn't a fluke — it's a new beginning.

2.) After tearing up the Harbour Town front nine with six birdies, Matt Kuchar squandered yet another final-round lead, three-putting No. 17 to open the door for Luke Donald, before holing his bunker shot on the final hole to win the RBC Heritage. Are you impressed that Kuchar is finally atop the leaderboard in 2014 or troubled that he seems to be having so much trouble closing?

RITTER: It's surprising to see Kuchar stumble so frequently on Sundays this season, but he's putting himself in the mix so often, he's bound to grab some wins like he did this week. I'd like to seem him nail down those titles when he has the chance, but as we stand now, he's one of the top 5 U.S. players in the world, squarely on the Ryder Cup team. It's hard to call him a disappointment.

PASSOV: Why don't we cut Mr. Kuchar some slack? Sure, it's been a recurring story that his final-round flubs have been maddeningly repetitive in 2014, but at least he's been in the hunt week after week. That's more than I can say for a bunch of 2013 stalwarts. Consider me impressed.

BAMBERGER: Nothing Matt Kuchar does on a golf course troubles me. I used to be troubled by his glacial pace, but it has improved — slightly. I like his demeanor, both on the course and with fans and reporters. But I have no emotional stake in his successes or, really, all those near-misses.

SHIPNUCK: It's not just Kuchar — everyone has trouble closing. Bottom line, he got it done and deserves to be celebrated. At least for a week.

VAN SICKLE: I'm impressed that Kooch played so well four straight weeks that he had four chances to win. Was it clutch that he holed a bunker shot to win at the last or was it a fortunate accident, much like Matt Jones' hole-out in Houston? It proves that if you put yourself in position to win often enough, you'll eventually win, even if by accident.

3.) The word from Notah Begay and Tim Finchem is that Tiger's timetable for return might force him to miss the U.S. Open as well.'s Josh Sens wrote this week that the golf industry could experience as much as a $15 billion "correction" if Tiger "lingers on the sidelines." What does it mean for golf that so many eggs are in the Tiger basket?

PASSOV: Is this "news" that golf is in trouble if Tiger's not in the picture? Have you checked television ratings for the past 15 years? Hey, golf was still awesome when Norman, Faldo, Seve and Price were going head-to-head in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The 1991 Ryder Cup was as intense as any golf event ever contested, and that was long before Tiger entered the picture. The game will prosper after Tiger's departure, period. That said, Tiger has proved to be a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon. He is the first player since perhaps Bobby Jones that grabs the attention of casual sports fans and makes them pay attention. People who say Tiger wasn't missed at the Masters are deluding themselves.

VAN SICKLE: The PGA Tour needs to wean itself from the Tiger factor just as the NBA had to adjust after Michael Jordan. I won't be surprised if Tiger plays no majors this year and doesn't come back until the 2015 season — nothing good can happen from coming back too soon after back surgery. That said, the $15 billion-dollar figure seems ludicrously high. I'm not buying it.

SHIPNUCK: It's been like this for nearly two decades. Rory, Jordan, Bubba — all of them can be stars and help move the needle, but there's only one Tiger. When he's done, golf will go back to being a boutique sport, as it's always been.

RITTER: It's becoming more clear by the month that Tiger is on the back nine of his career, so this is not great news. I wasn't surprised TV ratings were down for this year's Masters, but it was jarring to see just how drastically they tanked (Phil and Rory out of contention also undoubtedly hurt). It's a pivotal time for the game, and the "Tiger Effect" is one more reason why golf needs to get creative in making itself more accessible and enjoyable for the masses.

BAMBERGER: It means that we will rediscover what we've known all along. Golf was a great game before the Tiger era. It was a great game during the Tiger era. It will be a great game after the Tiger era. But it's not for everybody. Not even close.

4.) Miguel Angel Jimenez followed up his fourth place finish at the Masters with a three-stroke victory in his Champions Tour debut. Given his continued success on the regular Tours, is The Mechanic a potentially dominant senior tour player?

BAMBERGER: He's a potentially dominant regular Tour player.

VAN SICKLE: The Mechanic could have a nice run as a senior, but it won't happen this year. He's trying to make the Ryder Cup team. I don't see him playing a lot in senior events next year in the U.S. either. The purses and endorsements are a fraction of what is available to him on the big tours.

PASSOV: Senor Jimenez has long been my favorite player. He'll give me extra reason to tune into Champions Tour telecasts. I don't think he'll dominate. He seems too well-rounded, too distracted by life's pleasantries, to grind to the point where he would dominate.

SHIPNUCK: Not this year. He wants to focus on the Euro Tour in an effort to make one last Ryder Cup team. And I don't think he'll want to spend 25 weeks a year eating at Chili's in the American suburbs. So, bottom line, enjoy these cameos because I think they'll be a rare pleasure.

RITTER: Anyone else think the Champions Tour just got a little more … interesting?

5.) Greg Norman and Joe Buck will team up to announce the U.S. Open when Fox Sports takes over the broadcast in 2015. What are your expectations for Norman in the booth and do you think he was the best choice for the job?

BAMBERGER: Norman will be good, but I would have preferred Trevino. About the smartest golf talker you could ever hope to hear.

PASSOV: I think Johnny Miller was the best choice for the job, and I resent the fact that it won't be the refreshingly opinionated Miller on the call. Let's give Mr. Norman a chance, however. He's pretty outspoken himself, and he knows the white-hot heat of down-the-stretch major championship play as well as anybody. If he can keep his gravitas, unlike the often silly, wandering Nick Faldo, he could be outstanding.

VAN SICKLE: Since Norman has almost no broadcast experience, it's too early to make a call on him. He is opinionated, but is he willing to tell it like it is and face blowback from players the way Johnny Miller and Brandel Chamblee (the only two regular analysts who let it fly) do? We'll see. If I was in charge at Fox, I would've gone after Chamblee.

SHIPNUCK: He'll be good at times because he had strong opinions, but this is just a lark for Norman. The best announcers prepare obsessively, and I can imagine The Shark rolling into the Open only knowing a few dozen guys in the field.

6.) Who is your golf broadcast dream team?

VAN SICKLE: Peter Alliss is a timeless treasure, but for spot-on analysis, I'd want some combination of Johnny Miller, Brandel Chamblee, Paul Azinger and a color man who lets them talk instead of thinking he's the expert, like at least two incredibly annoying current hosts do.

PASSOV: I can't get too snarky here, as I'm fond of many broadcasters right now. I'll go with Jim Nantz and Dan Hicks (tie) on play-by-play, Johnny Miller as analyst, Roger Maltbie, David Feherty and Peter Kostis as foot soldiers, Brandel Chamblee in the studio, Jimmy Roberts doing interviews. The always-underrated Judy Rankin would make my team somewhere. All-time, I might pick Jim McKay on play-by-play, Johnny Miller alongside, Jack Whitaker as essayist, Feherty doing everything else, including entertaining at the Volunteers banquet.

RITTER: The late Pat Summerall and John Madden, just to relive some great childhood Sundays.

SHIPNUCK: I'd like to see Azinger and Faldo get the band back together. Nasty Nick was way better when sparring with Zinger. And I'd add Christina Kim as an on-course voice. Also, how about Paulina Gretzky manning a hand-operated scoreboard? She'd be bigger than Vanna White.

BAMBERGER: Peter Alliss with Curtis Strange or any other intense American. Renton Laidlaw flying solo. But on my wish list, I would like to hear Tracy Morgan do some golf. He'd kill at a U.S. Open. Fox has likely already figured this out.

The Tour Confidential roundtable continues Monday on our new weekly show hosted by Jessica Marksbury. Tweet her your questions @Jess_Marksbury.