Every week of the 2010 PGA Tour season, the editorial staff of the SI Golf Group will conduct an e-mail roundtable. Check in on Mondays for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.
JOHNSON’S VICTORY AFTER A TOUGH SUMMER
David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: Welcome to another PGA Tour Confidential. After imploding on Sunday at the U.S. Open, then missing a playoff at the PGA Championship after grounding his club in a bunker on the 72nd hole, Dustin Johnson was the last man standing at Cog Hill, defeating Paul Casey by one shot. Impressive fortitude was shown by a guy who’s had plenty of tough luck this season. I open the floor to thoughts and observations.
Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I think he just won Player of the Year.
Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: Johnson has been playing well for the entire second half of the season. If he tacks on a solid Tour Championship and shows well in the Ryder Cup, I think he’s the POY.
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Huge win for D.J. Now he can truly say he’s over those rough Sundays. Forget this year, he’s my pick for POY next year.
Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, Golf.com: And Augusta.
Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Johnson is a wonderful player in a savant kind of way. He hits it a mile and gets on with it. He’s my early Masters favorite.
Herre: I also like Johnson’s pace of play; he doesn’t waste any time.
Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Which killed him at the PGA.
Herre: Thought Johnny did a good job of analyzing Johnson’s game. D.J. is simply sooo long. If he ever dials in his short irons, he could be a monster.
Reiterman: After being told all week how poor his wedge game was, it was great to see him step up on 17 and knock one close.
Lipsey: Poor is relative on Tour. The worst wedge player out there is still hitting lots of tight shots.
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Johnson is a super stud. Could be No. 1 in the world in three years, maybe less depending on what Phil and Tiger do.
Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: You have to love Johnson’s resolve. He’ll be one of the stars at the Ryder Cup.
Van Sickle: If I had one pick to be my partner in a Ryder Cup match this year (sorry Phil and Tiger), I’m taking Dustin Johnson.
Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Johnson seems like Styrofoam under water. Whatever happens to this guy, there’s no way to keep him down. He’s got a lot of game and a great demeanor. Could definitely see him winning a lot over the next 10 years. With him and Moore and Casey in the spotlight, and the Woods-Mickelson-Harrington crowd fading, it was another one of those weeks that felt like “the new PGA Tour.”
Dusek: I got that feeling as well. Mickelson had a backdoor top-eight finish, but Kevin Na and Matt Kuchar (again) also notched top-three finishes.
Van Sickle: If arthritis seriously curtails Phil’s game, and Tiger doesn’t climb back up the mountain, the game’s two best players and biggest stars would be out of the picture. That leaves it wide open for the next wave to start rushing in. Whoever they end up being, Johnson will be one of them.
Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: I agree with Gorant that the more you look for an overall theme for 2010, the more you keep coming back to the 20-somethings like Johnson, Day, McIlroy, Fowler and others. Very big transition year.
Evans: I don’t know if it was a transition year as much as it was a year when the proven stars like Phil and Tiger didn’t shine much after the Masters.
Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: Tiger and Phil aren’t done. This has been more of a fallow year on the PGA Tour than a transitional one, with Dustin Johnson as the only breakout star.
RYDER CUP IMPLICATIONS
Morfit: It was nice to see Johnson’s hard work pay off, but I don’t think many doubted that it would. Too much talent. Also good to see a member of the U.S. Ryder Cup team win, with Kaymer and other Euros cleaning up over there.
Godich: I don’t know that Captain Pavin could’ve had a better day. Johnson wins, Matt Kuchar shows what kind of heart he has, Phil and Tiger show some life. Meanwhile, Poulter and McIlory struggle, and Monty will be second-guessed for passing on Casey.
Shipnuck: It’s harder to second-guess the Casey snub after he was so shaky down the stretch.
Godich: True, but did you hear the comment during the telecast today about Poulter’s amazement that Casey was passed over, based on the way he was hitting it this weekend?
Dusek: Before making bogeys on Nos. 13, 14 and 15, Casey was making Colin Montgomerie look silly. He’s going to East Lake in fifth position in the FedEx Cup points race, so if he wins there, he wins the FedEx Cup. Does his performance put more pressure on the guys Monty did pick?
Morfit: Every pick on both sides will feel pressure to justify.
Lipsey: Nah. Water under the bridge.
Gorant: Not sure. His most suspect pick, Edoardo Molinari, won two weeks ago in Europe and finished second last week. That’s not too shabby.
Evans: No. There will be second-guessing of Monty, but the players have enough pressure on them as it is. Casey’s absence won’t add more.
WOODS AND MICKELSON: DREAM PAIRING, OR NIGHTMARE?
Morfit: Feels more and more like Phil conjures his best golf when playing with Woods. Mickelson has now beaten Woods six of the last eight times they’ve been paired together. Good to see Phil play reasonably well again.
Hack: It is amazing how Phil relishes facing Tiger now. He used to have that deer-in-the-headlights look. No longer.
Herre: Phil said as much — he’s energized by playing with Woods. Do you think Pavin has the nerve to pair them in Wales?
Evans: He would be smart not to pair them. As experienced Ryder Cuppers, they need to be with rookies.
Morfit: No way. Ghosts of Hal Sutton are still way too spooky.
Gorant: Exactly, that’s the debt of gratitude we all owe Hal. We no longer have to entertain that question.
Hack: “They might shoot 58 — if they get that far!” — Hal Sutton, 2004 Ryder Cup, on Tiger-Phil pairing
Van Sickle: Makes no sense to pair Phil and Tiger now, just like it made no sense then. Tiger with Stricker, Phil with D.J. Obvious teams.
Dusek: It was interesting to hear Phil say that the PGA Tour should pair them together more often on Thursdays and Fridays. I think it would be great to see them together for the first two rounds in week-to-week events … the few they both play.
Evans: Phil might be coming to the realization that their star power is in decline.
Lipsey: As always, it was jarring to see the chasm between Tiger ad Phil. In the post-round interviews with Maltbie, Phil was gracious and relaxed. Tiger was uptight and curt.
Godich: I think Tiger is trying in those interviews, but I am getting tired of hearing him say he is making progress. How long is this swing change going to take?
Evans: You can’t make a swing change work during the season. Tiger will get the new swing and Foley methods down by the end of the year.
Morfit: Actually, I think Tiger is scoring well for a guy making a swing change. There’s going to be a lot riding on his practice sessions the next two weeks, which isn’t ideal. He needs game reps.
Van Sickle: Best thing to happen to Tiger is that he gets two weeks off and can work on his new swing. Phil said Tiger is inches away from playing really well. He may be right. Tiger does look better at times.
FEDEX FINALE, WITHOUT WOODS
Dusek: Before prognosticating on the Tour Championship itself, I suppose we have to acknowledge that Tiger will not be at East Lake. The bottom line is that the guy didn’t earn a spot — much to NBC and the Tour’s chagrin. Does anyone else think it’s going to be weird to not have Tiger competing in the season-closing tournament?
Hack: Not really. Tiger’s whole year has been weird since Thanksgiving.
Morfit: Let’s not forget that he used to not bother showing up to that one.
Herre: We’re getting used to not having Tiger around. NBC will miss him for ratings reasons — if TW even moves that needle any more — but the Tour Championship is wide open and could be a heck of a show.
Evans: The only thing weird is hearing Tiger say after the second round that he was only five shots out of being in the top 5 to make it into the Tour Championship. Since when did Tiger Woods articulate such lame goals?
Godich: It’s the new Tiger: He’s making progress.
Walker: At least Tiger’s futile attempt to qualify for the Tour Championship clearly explained the FedEx Cup format to formerly mystified sports fans (including me).
Van Sickle: The biggest travesty is about to be revealed regarding the FedEx Cup: The top 30 on the FedEx Cup points list make it to Atlanta and into the first three majors next year. That means guys who had awful years but one good playoff week — like Kevin Streelman — are now in the Masters while players who had better seasons are not.
Godich: Good point, Gary. We hear how important the regular season is in the FedEx Cup, then guys vault into the top 30 without even winning in the playoffs. Look no farther than Martin Laird. He was 99th at the start of the playoffs, and after the runner-up at the Barclays, he was 25th at the Deutsch Bank and 50th (in a 70-man field) at the BMW. Yet he sits ninth heading into the finale.
SITTING TIGER WOODS
Dusek: Early on Sunday, Corey Pavin was quoted by the AP as saying, “Tiger told me he will do whatever is necessary to help the team win, and that is going to be my call, and I will probably be making that decision a little bit on the fly. But I’m not afraid to not play him every match, that’s for sure.” Do you think Pavin will really let Tiger sit out a session or two at Celtic Manor?
Lipsey: Not such a big deal, really. If Tiger’s not playing well, nobody will care if he sits out. Ditto for anybody else.
Gorant: It might be a very easy call.
Herre: I don’t know about Pavin. He has seemed a little off-key to me from the get go. Why does he say he’s not “afraid” to sit Tiger? Sounds defensive.
Evans: Tiger plays all five matches unless he just looks horrible. Pavin is no fool. He’s talking too much.
Walker: Team USA isn’t exactly the 1927 Yankees. If Tiger is playing poorly enough to justify sitting him, then the Americans will be in a lot of trouble.
Hack: Tiger’s a captain’s pick, not the world-beating No. 1 of yesteryear. He can definitely sit out a match or two.
Van Sickle: Is Pavin all talk? I don’t know, but I’ll predict Tiger plays all five matches.
FEDEX FINAL FIVE: WHO WINS THE $10 MILLION
Dusek: Matt Kuchar, Dustin Johnson, Charley Hoffman, Steve Stricker and Paul Casey are the top five players on the FedEx Cup points list. (Raise your hand it you had that fivesome in your office pool.) Who is most likely to win in Atlanta and take home the $10 million? And do you think it’s a good idea to have an off-week now?
Godich: The FedEx Cup will get just what it wants: I’m taking Johnson, who holds off Kuchar and Stricker in a back-nine nail-biter.
Morfit: I’d put Stricker and Johnson as the co-favorites. The week off is probably a good idea, especially for the Ryder Cup guys.
Godich: Would think the Ryder Cuppers would prefer to have the week off between the finale and the trip to Wales.
Lipsey: Kuchar wins, and the off week is bad. Players have three months to relax; the FedEx playoffs need to sustain momentum.
Gorant: I’ll go with D.J. for the very simple reason that I’d like to see him win.
Evans: Matt Kuchar has played East Lake more than any of the players in the field with the exception of Stewart Cink. He’s the most consistent player on tour right now. He’s the winner. To the other question: There is no reason to have the week off other than to try to set the stage for something that will certainly go quietly without Tiger in the field.
Hack: The East Lake gallery will be chock full of Kucharites. He wins the FedEx Cup and, to Finchem’s delight, kisses the trophy.
Herre: Hoffman should have a chip on his shoulder, Stricker is there lurking. Kuchar might be out of gas, and Casey doesn’t look like much of a closer. I say Johnson is the favorite, followed by Stricker, with Hoffman as the why-didn’t-Pavin-take-me wild card. As for the off week, I have no problem with it. The top 30 are probably tired, and with the Ryder Cup the following week it’s only fair to give the guys a break.
Walker: I like Mickelson over any of the Top 5 guys at the Tour Championship. The off-week is a small price to pay for good fields in four consecutive events.
Van Sickle: I’ll take D.J. to overpower East Lake. The week off should’ve come after Boston’s Monday finish, not next week.
TSENG EDGES WIE
Dusek: Let’s not neglect the ladies. Yani Tseng shot 65 today, including a birdie on 18, to come back and beat Michelle Wie by a shot in the LPGA’s P&G NW Arkansas Championship. It’s her third win of the year. (She won the Kraft Nabisco and the Woman’s British Open titles.) Did she seal the deal on the LPGA’s POY Award?
Hack: Tseng was already player of the year with her double major haul, but it was a great win. She has gotten the better of Wie a few times now. Those two could battle for a long time. Great time for the LPGA.
Lipsey: Tseng is POY. Also, it’s nice to see Wie routinely contending, though I think the buzz is greatly diminished for her and will never be what it could’ve been.
Herre: Wie can catch fire again. All it will take is a string of Ws.
Hack: Wie’s got the game, but she’s also got some big names standing in her way. Yani is 21.
Gorant: They have potential for a nice rivalry, but right now it’s one-sided. Tseng has schooled Wie every time it mattered, starting with when they were in their early teens.