PGA Championship Confidential: Do you believe in Tiger, and does he believe in himself?

PGA Championship Confidential: Do you believe in Tiger, and does he believe in himself?

Tiger Woods birdied No. 9, his last hole of the day, for a one-under 71.
John Biever/SI

Every day this week, writers and editors from Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine will address one pressing question about the PGA Championship in a daily version of PGA Tour Confidential, our weekly roundtable discussion.

Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Tiger played reasonably well on Thursday. Do you believe his taped-together swing (and psyche) can hold for three more days? Better yet, do you think he believes it?

Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: Yes, I do. Yes, he does. Yes.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: I think he can keep it together because he seems to be in a different place this week. He was even kind of funny in his press conference, in a self-deprecating way. I’ve done a 180-degree pivot from what I thought at the beginning of the week. I made the case that Whistling Straits was the wrong type of course for him to find his game, but I may have been completely wrong. (So far, so good.) Woods thrives on being counted out, and it seems like it helped him to have another set of eyes in Sean Foley, even though Tiger keeps insisting they aren’t working together. He looks better on the greens, and it’s helping him that there aren’t many trees to look at around here. I’ve seen Tiger play his way into a tournament too many times to think he can’t do it again.

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: Those who played practice rounds with Woods this week were struck by how upbeat and confident he seemed. They said he had his swagger back. So, yes, I think Tiger will be in the mix until the end.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I don’t think any player who was three under par after four holes is going to be thrilled about having to birdie the last to get back to one under. He played OK, but his swing didn’t hold together during the round. I’d call it progress, but it’s way, way too early to say what he believes, other than the fact that he’s trying to get the ball in the hole. He got by today, an acceptable first step, but he missed a chance to shoot five, six or seven under. At least he didn’t shoot three over like he did in Akron. Not bad.

Jeff Ritter, senior producer, I followed Tiger for his entire round, and while he doesn’t have his old aura, I did think he had his intensity back. He hit a few loose tee shots, but they all missed left, rather than his dreaded two-way miss. He also seemed really comfortable playing alongside Yang and Vijay. I think he’ll play well again in Round 2 and be right in the thick of it on Sunday.

David Dusek, deputy editor, Tiger has played 18 holes. After last week’s performance at Firestone, trying to guess how well his swing and mental outlook are going to hold up on a golf course like Whistling Straits, which is 7,500 yards and defended by more than 1,000 bunkers, seems almost impossible. Sure, he might keep it together and contend, but on Thursday evening I’m sticking with my original feeling that he’ll make the cut but not contend on Sunday.

Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I can’t imagine saying this a year ago, but I’m not sure Tiger’s swing will hold up under the gun. I think it will again — probably next year — but I’m dubious about this week. Nice round, though.

Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Tiger’s swing isn’t taped together. It’s not perfect, but it’s not as bad as everybody says. Armchair analysts always go way overboard blaming swing issues for bad scores because it’s easy to do. Remember, Woods used to blow away fields with what he felt were B and C level swings. Could Woods improve his action? Yes. But It’s his mind that is haywire and causing his problems. So if he gets in a good frame of mind and stays there through the weekend, he’ll do OK.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Tiger has already had some great single rounds in the majors. His problem has been consistency. I’m not sure he can do it three more days in a row. Friday is huge — if he turns up with the same form, look out.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: The significant thing about Tiger’s round is not what he shot but that red-blooded American men are rooting for him again.

Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated:Tiger is a work in-progress this week. He’s more mechanically-minded than ever about his golf swing. If he gets into contention, look out for the emotional ups and downs that he brings as the greatest dramatic act in the history of golf. Right now, though, he believes in himself more than he does his golf swing. That’s the way it should be, I think.