Every week of the 2011 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.
Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: Good evening, Confidential comrades, and congratulations to Adam Scott, who cruised to victory at the Bridgestone, posting 17 under with five birdies in the final round for his biggest win since the 2004 Players. He still ranks near the bottom of most putting stats, but he’s a respectable 35th in putts from 5 to 10 feet with his long putter. Why is Scott only now, at 31 , with Stevie Williams on his bag, starting to fulfill his enormous potential?
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: You answered your own question, Mike — it’s the putting. And I think he’s also playing harder in an attempt to impress Stevie, who’s like the abusive older brother Scott never had.
Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Adam’s looked like a new golfer since the Masters. Maybe Steve Williams was the final piece.
Shipnuck: Yeah, the Masters was a huge thing for Scott. He always wanted to win a major. That Sunday at Augusta he proved to himself he can actually do it.
Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: I agree. Adam seems like a new person. He’s become a media darling this week. Who knew he was so charming and witty?
Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: It makes you wonder if things would’ve been different with Williams on the bag at Augusta. Scott has always been a great ball striker. He looks so comfortable with the long putter.
Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Scott’s got Tiger’s old swing, his old caddie, and now seemingly his old touch on the greens. If Tiger puts the Jupiter mansion up for sale, I bet I know who buys it.
Walker: What’s the ceiling for Scott now? He still says he can be the best Australian golfer ever. Is he deluding himself, or could he really start racking up wins in his 30s?
Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: He’s still pretty young, although no one looks very young next to Rickie, Ryo, Rory and the rest.
Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: The Shark will always be the No. 1 Australian, at least sentimentally, no matter how much Scott wins. And Scott is still several dozen worldwide wins behind the Shark.
Shipnuck: Scott could easily win two majors — Norman’s haul — and eclipse Shark’s 20 PGA Tour wins. But Scott will never spend as many weeks at No. 1 or be anywhere near the kind of global icon that Norman was.
John Garrity, contributing writer, Sports Illustrated: Scott can certainly rack up a lot more wins in his career, but he’ll need five or six majors to surpass Greg Norman or Peter Thompson.
Hack: No reason why Scott won’t win a bunch more. But to be truly great, he must win a major. He knows this.
Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: There’s no physical reason why Scott can’t soar, but he has never shown a killer instinct, and some have questioned his work ethic. Does he really want to be No. 1?
Wei: I think Scott, along with others, took a mental beating all those years when Tiger was winning everything. Now things are different. Plus, Stevie has filled Adam with confidence, which was also missing all those years (along with the putting).
THE STEVIE EFFECT
Walker: Stevie Williams, who was pretty emotional in CBS’s customary post-round caddie interview, is going to take more money away from this event than Tiger. Does he deserve any credit for Scott’s win this week? Also, for those of you at the event, is Williams more relaxed and approachable now that he’s with the easy-going Scott?
Godich: You bet he gets credit. Williams is also motivated. Neither he nor Scott may need a plane to get to Atlanta.
Morfit: This duo didn’t take long to produce a W. This is a good rebuttal to those who claim caddies are just well-paid pack mules.
Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: As an experiment, we should ask Stevie to carry Morfit’s laptop bag in and out of the press center in Atlanta. If Cameron has his best major ever, we’ll have our answer.
Morfit: I’d love to see it happen. Maybe Stevie could prevent some mixed metaphors and typos before they happen, and steer me away from the media tent salmon.
Charlie Hanger, executive editor, Golf.com: Sure, Williams has all kinds of Firestone knowledge to impart. As for relaxed and approachable, maybe, but that was some dig at Tiger in the post-round interview. His best week ever was this one? That’s a serious shot at the old boss.
Hack: I almost spilled a can of baby formula.
Godich: Careful, Damon. That stuff ain’t cheap.
Shipnuck: Deep down, what kind of person is Tiger? Who knows, but it’s startling to hear Steve Williams be so bitchy about his onetime best man.
Lipsey: Yes, shocking, and in such a public way. Williams is going out of his way to humiliate Woods.
Garrity: Tiger taught him well.
Gorant: He’s in danger of losing his invite to Tiger Jam.
Morfit: It is odd. How many millions did Tiger make him? And no gratitude?
Godich: It’s no secret that Tiger threw Stevie under the bus. Who knows what the rest of the story is. I was stunned to hear Ian Baker-Finch take Tiger to task and come to Stevie’s defense. Ian Baker-Finch!
Herre: Working for Woods must have been a velvet coffin for Williams. He probably feels liberated now.
Wei: Williams also said on Sunday night that he was fired over the phone. “I was told on the phone that we need to take a break, and in caddie lingo, that means you’re fired, simple as that,” Williams said. He said they didn’t talk face to face until the AT&T.
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: In the media scrum, Stevie was funny, engaging, honest, humble and admitted that yes, this was his most satisfying week ever. It was better than probably any interview Tiger gave in his career. I think I like the guy.
Wei: I saw Williams smile and laugh more in the last four days than he did in 12+ years with Tiger.
Garrity: Bodyguards aren’t supposed to smile. Caddies, it’s okay.
Gorant: What was interesting is that I found myself watching what Steve was saying and doing with Scott and wondering if it was different from the kind of talk Scott got in the past. Is Williams making a difference? Can the right caddie impact confidence? Scott definitely said he helped technically, with a few reads and some lines off the tee.
Lipsey: Golf at the Tour level is a mind-game. A lot of the guys have comparable skill, so anything that gets you in the right frame of mind is priceless. Williams probably did that for Scott this week.
Van Sickle: A caddie helps, but there’s only one way to win on the PGA Tour: make putts. Scott was never great at that. In the last few years, in fact, he’s been awful at it. This week, he was outstanding. His putting made the difference Sunday when he rolled them in from all over. At the elite level, golf is about putting, putting and more putting.
Walker: After another middling performance (one over, tied for 37th), it’s safe to say that Tiger Woods has lost his AAA rating as a golfer. What was most telling about Tiger’s performance this week, and what do you think of his prospects short-term and long-term?
Hack: For some reason I thought Tiger would have a surprise for us this week, as in contention and maybe more. This song is getting old.
Godich: Tiger is getting old.
Garrity: I was amused by Tiger’s insistence that he was flying greens because he’d never hit it so good, and he was missing fairways because he’d never hit it so straight. (For the record, he was dead last in fairways.) Positive thinking is great, but he’d be better off saving the spin for his wedge shots.
Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, Golf.com: I can’t believe he’s still going back and forth between putters. He’s lost on the greens.
Garrity: It’s not the hardware, it’s his inconsistent stroke. Tiger’s putter “freezes” before the forward stroke on some of his putts.
Van Sickle: I didn’t spot the freeze, but I’ve also said for a year that Tiger’s got an issue with the putter. I don’t know if he’s got an inner flinch, or if he gets stuck inside or what. But the fact that he’s changing putters is a red flag; he doesn’t feel right and he’s searching. This is kind of how it started for Ernie and Retief and a few others.
Godich: And those guys were how old when their problems started? Don’t discount the age. Tiger is an old 35.
Lipsey: Forget Tiger’s empty blabbering about how close he is. Fact is, Woods is just a pretty good Tour player right now. Score is all that matters in golf, and Woods’s scores are mediocre.
Wei: I thought his swing really was “closer.” It looked much better than it has in a long time. He needs to work on his putting (and part of that is mental).
Godich: He was four under on the par-3s (five birdies and a bogey), and yet he was five over on the other 56 holes he played. That pretty much sums it up. He’s still driving it crooked, with misses both ways. Not much is going to change until he gets his driver straightened out. The putting woes should be a major concern as well.
Shipnuck: He can’t hit fairways and he can’t putt consistently. That’s a very problematic combination.
Gorant: I’m still on the bandwagon. Lots of room, by the way. He may not win this year, but he will. And at least he was more open in his post-round interviews this week.
Van Sickle: There were promising signs for Tiger and not-so-promising signs. As Tiger himself said, “I had it in spurts this week.” He’s got a reason for hope. The biggest red flag remains his putting. It was terrific Thursday, poor the last three rounds.
Godich: Everybody at this level has it in spurts. The difference is how players hold it together when the spurtability stops.
Morfit: Without his putting and his health, Woods will remain average.
Herre: Putting was a problem, of course. And he once again struggled some with his tee ball. The way he talked about not being able to work the ball was a new one. Now he’s hitting it too straight? I didn’t see anything this week to make me think he will be a factor at the PGA. He has a ways to go.
RYO AND THE YOUNG GUNS
Walker: Ryo Ishikawa made the most of his controversial invite to the Bridgestone, finishing tied for fourth. Rank the following under-25 players in order, starting with the best: Ishikawa, McIlroy, Fowler, Day, Manassero.
Reiterman: McIlroy, Day, Fowler, Manassero, Ishikawa.
Lipsey: McIlroy is first by a mile. Everybody else is tied for second.
Shipnuck: Rory, Ryo, J.D., Matteo, Rickie. Followed by John, Paul, George and Ringo.
Godich: McIlroy, Day, Ishikawa, Manassero, Fowler.
Herre: A. McIlroy; B. Day; C1. Fowler; C2. Ishikawa.
Garrity: I rank Manny and Ishy right behind McIlroy because they’re actually winning tournaments.
Hack: Rory, Matteo, Jason, Ryo, Rickie.
Wei: McIlroy, Day, Manassero, Ishikawa, Fowler.
COMING TO AMERICA: RORY?
Walker: He’s dating celebrities, and now Rory McIlroy is talking about re-joining the PGA Tour. Last year, McIlroy thought the PGA Tour was lonely and dull. Why the change of heart? And in this day of worldwide golf, does it really matter which tour McIlroy calls home?
Wei: He also probably wanted to move from the town where his ex-girlfriend lives. He said last year that one of the factors for staying home was being close to her.
Godich: Plain and simple: Rory loves target golf.
Lipsey: It’s probably all about the money. Plain and simple.
Reiterman: A U.S. Open trophy has a way of changing things.
Shipnuck: Rory is coming to the U.S. because he likes the courses and weather and, surely, the women. But it’s also economic — the U.S. has way more endorsement and prize money.
Godich: Chubby (World Tour) Chandler has to just love that one of his top clients is even considering this.
Herre: It would be good for the PGA Tour if he played more here, but I don’t think it really matters. He’ll play 10 or 12 times in the U.S. regardless.
Shipnuck: Yeah, but he’ll play 15-17 if he’s a member. That’s a lot better than 10 for U.S. fans.
Wei: G-Mac told me he thinks it’s a good move by Rory because “his game is very well-suited for this part of the world, so it makes total sense.” And Rory says he prefers sun and warm temperatures.
PICKS FOR PGA CHAMPIONSHIP
Walker: The PGA Championship starts Thursday. Who do you like to win it and why? And tell us where Tiger’s going to finish as well.
Ritter: I like the trend of first-time major-winners to continue, so give me the other Aussie who stood out at Firestone: Jason Day. Tiger will linger around the top 20, but not seriously threaten.
Godich: Adam Scott. This is like the Triple Crown. There’s a reason the Derby winner is almost always the favorite in the Preakness. It’s because he’s in form. Scott is playing well, putting well and riding a ton of momentum. And did anyone mention Steve Williams? Tiger finishes 28th and talks about how he played well in spurts.
Herre: I’m gonna go with the hot hand, Scott. Tiger’s a grinder, so he’ll make the cut, but I don’t see him contending.
Morfit: K.J. Choi because he’s such a strong driver. I’m with Herre on Tiger. He’ll make the cut but do little else.
Hanger: Luke Donald finally gets his major. Tiger makes the weekend but is not a threat.
Reiterman: I’ll jinx/pick Jason Day. He’s been knocking on the door all year (eight top 10s, two in majors), and I like his swagger. Tiger will miss the cut.
Shipnuck: Rory to win. He loves a long, soft setup, and he played well this week. Tiger is T32.
Gorant: I’ll take Rory, who played well this week and burned the edge on a few putts. Tiger makes the cut easily and then drifts back.
Walker: Orange is the new red. Rickie Fowler looked great at the British Open, and he’s got a hot hand right now, finishing T2 with four birdies on Sunday. It’s just a matter of time before he breaks through with a big win. I also like Tiger sneaking into a top-10 finish and saving the FedEx Cup playoffs.
Hack: Phil wins his second PGA by laying up on 18 and getting up and down to defeat David Toms by a shot. Tiger is T18.
Lipsey: Bubba Watson wins. Tiger is 42nd.
Wei: Jason Day all the way. He’s due.