Every Sunday night, the editorial staff of the SI Golf Group conducts an e-mail roundtable. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in our all-new live Readers' Confidential or in the comments section below.
BUBBA BREAKS THROUGH AT AUGUSTA
David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: Well, that's exactly the way all of the experts, including us, thought the 2012 Masters would finish, right? Bubba Watson is the new owner of a green jacket. Let's start out this edition of PGA Tour Confidential with your reaction to Bubba's win. Be honest. Did you think Bubba had what it takes to win a Masters?
Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: Have to admit, I thought his short game would let him down. Didn't seem like he was special on the greens at Augusta, but he didn't make any big mistakes either.
John Garrity, contributing writer, Sports Illustrated: I did think Bubba had what it takes — I even said so in our panel discussion this morning — but I thought he might fall victim to his own shot-making creativity. I certainly got that wrong.
Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: I think it really helped Bubba that he was in the trees on 10. It enabled him to get into his imagination, where he does his best work. I remember noticing this when he was on the Nationwide tour. He got out of position on a par 5 and hit his second shot through a gap in the trees about the size of a hula-hoop.
Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: He did miss it well right at the 10th in regulation, Cam. Maybe that was the game plan.
Charlie Hanger, executive editor, Golf.com: His game can let him down one minute and save his ass the next, and that was what we saw on 10 in the playoff. He's like Phil, only wilder and more able to pull off freaky-hard recovery shots. That erratic (though often brilliant) game, plus his general skittishness, didn't seem to make him a great candidate for a green jacket. Shows what I know.
Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: He's way more jittery than Phil. Early in the round he was shouting in frustration, and I thought, oh boy, here it comes, game over. But obviously he held it together. Those four straight birdies were Schwarztel-esque.
Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I wasn't sure Bubba had the discipline or the nerve to navigate Augusta National, but he proved he had both. His power and imagination translated perfectly. His recent adoption of a baby boy also had him in a relaxed frame of mind. I think it inspired him.
Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: There was something different about Bubba today. Usually I get nervous just watching him near the lead on Sunday, but on the back nine he looked more in control of himself. I think Damon's right about fatherhood agreeing with Bubba.
Wei: He hasn't even changed a diaper yet! He hasn't really "experienced" fatherhood, but maybe the idea of it helped.
Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: I definitely thought he had the game to win at Augusta. Winning on Tour, in the Ryder Cup, and losing in a playoff in the PGA Championship — all that and his everyday shotmaking and swagger showed he had major talent.
Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: I love watching him, but I did not think he could pull it off. Good for him.
Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: I thought Bubba might win a major someday, but I didn't think his first would be a Masters. I just thought that free-wheeling style might come back to bite him at Augusta. It almost did, but he free-wheeled one of the great escape shots in Masters history on the 10th hole in the playoff. He won it his way.
Godich: I didn't expect it, but when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Bubba is a bomber, he's creative in the way he shapes shots, and he had been in a playoff at a major before, albeit not the Masters. And I also think he was aided by playing with Oosthuizen. Seeing another guy playing solid golf had to help.
Wei: It was awesome to watch them duel it out. I camped out in the sitting room by the locker room, where Oothuizen's wife, mom, kids and manager were watching, along with Schwartzel and his wife. (The Green Jacket had its own chair.) Bubba's agent was there, too. The atmosphere was intense — you could feel the nervous excitement.
Tell us what you think in the all-new readers' live Confidential or in the comments section below: Were you surprise to see Bubba win this Masters?
IS BUBBA A U.S. OPEN CONTENDER?
Dusek: Bubba's game revolves around a blend of power and shotmaking. When that's combined with good putting, it's a potent blend. Is there any reason to think it couldn't work at the Olympic Club too?
Godich: Well, there will be the issue of playing out of gnarly rough.
Hanger: Exactly. Augusta National is well suited to wild recovery shots, but that's tough when the rough is shin-high.
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Phil doesn't make sense as Open contender yet he has four seconds. If Phil can, Bubba can.
Hanger: And no firsts.
Herre: Depends on the course setup. Olympic is pretty tight. It's easy to hit it through the fairway on a lot of holes. He will probably be playing out of the rough quite a bit, although that wouldn't be anything unusual for him.
Lipsey: Bubba is so long that he can be in the rough and have a short shot, which is manageable from the hay.
Godich: I don't know about that, Rick. Spinning even a wedge out of deep rough into a U.S. Open green is a challenge.
Wei: His game doesn't scream "U.S. Open" to me. He's a little too erratic. You don't have to be perfect at Augusta to win, obviously.
Lipsey: Tiger Woods has long been hyper erratic with the driver, and he's done OK in the U.S. Open.
Wei: Bubba Watson is really good, but he's no Tiger Woods in his heyday.
Hack: Bubba's game should translate on Olympic's doglegs. He can move it both ways, which will be important on those funky-shaped fairways.
Van Sickle: Olympic's fairways have a lot of bends, so you need to work ball off the tees. Bubba can do that. He can contend.
Walker: I'm voting against the second leg of the Bubba Slam — too much, too soon — but those two drives on 18 were magnificent.
Tell us what you think in the all-new readers' live Confidential or in the comments section below: Do you think Bubba will contend at the U.S. Open this year?
BEST SHOT OF THE WEEK
Dusek: On the second hole of the playoff, Watson hit an amazing gap-wedge shot off the pine straw after hitting his driver seemingly right of the Earth. That shot set up his win. Earlier in the day, Louis Oosthuizen made a historic double-eagle on the second hole. On Saturday, Phil Mickelson hit a heroic flop shot from behind the 15th green to set up a birdie. Which shot was your favorite?
Hanger: Double eagle all the way. You just never see that. Granted, a ton of luck involved in that actually going in, but what a thing to see.
Godich: Bubba's shot set up his win — and was the most difficult of the three, to boot. I think Phil and Louie would gladly trade their fabulous shots for a green jacket.
Lipsey: Double eagle. Rarest shot in golf. I could watch replays of that forever.
Herre: I've seen the flop many times, but have never seen a greater escape in such a critical situation. It has always amazed me how much Watson can curve the modern ball, even with wedges.
Morfit: Exactly, Jim. He hit gap wedge on that shot on 10, which had to go under some branches before it started rising, while curving 40 yards in the air. That's pretty amazing. I don't know how many other guys on Tour could hit that shot, just as I don't think anyone but Phil would've hit the full-swing flop shot from behind 15 on Saturday.
Godich: I loved Bubba's comment about playing out of trouble: All I need is a swing.
Hack: Double eagle. And there's no close second.
Van Sickle: Double eagle. Only one ever at No. 2. It was mesmerizing watching it roll into the cup. I counted it down. From the time the ball hit the ground, it took 16 seconds before it dropped into the cup. Didn't even hit the flagstick as it disappeared.
Wei: The albatross. Loved his reaction and flipping the ball into the crowd. His wife said it was the most pumped up she'd ever seen Louis.
Tell us what you think in the all-new readers' live Confidential or in the comments section below: Phil's flop, or the double eagle — which shot did you enjoy the most?
GET READY FOR MORE LOUIS
Dusek: A win at St. Andrews in 2010 and now a runner-up performance at the Masters. Louis Oosthuizen knows how to show up at the famous tracks. I don't get the idea that the loss to Watson is going to haunt Louis, but do we under-appreciate him because he doesn't draw a lot of attention to himself with a booming "modern" game like Rory, Bubba or Phil?
Herre: I don't know how many people commented on his beautiful, consistent swing last week but never really felt that he would win.
Van Sickle: We under-appreciate King Louis because we haven't seen him win over here. Americans haven't seen him play. It would be easy to write him off as a one-hit wonder after St. Andrews, but he's got game. He's for real.
Wei: Exactly. What was it Geoff Ogilvy's said? "It's not amazing Louis Oosthuizen has won a major, it's amazing he hasn't won more because technically he has the best swing out there."
Gorant: He looked like a one-hitter because he hasn't done much, certainly not consistently. But it's hard to argue with his swing.
Morfit: I actually underestimated Oosty because I saw him get quite down on himself at the Honda, but I later found out he was sick. Maybe that was it.
Wei: Louis is massively underrated. He was injured for a while after his win at St. Andrews, and we kind of forgot about him. As Louis was in between 15 and 16, Schwartzel told me: "I don't think people realized really how good he was, and he didn't get enough credit for his win at the Open, but I think he'll be rid of that now." Just look at how many clutch putts he made under pressure.
Lipsey: I appreciate his demeanor, his swing, his British win and Masters second, but we don't see much of him Stateside, so it's hard to know him too well.
Hack: Gorgeous golf swing, perfect demeanor. I don't think we've heard the last of Louis.
Godich: Say what you want, but the guy is sneaky long. He was reaching or getting near the eighth green in the first two rounds when other big hitters were falling short. It was interesting to hear that he switched to cross-handed putting. That stroke looked silky smooth, especially considering the pressure.
Morfit: You said it, Mark. For all the attention on Oosty's double-eagle, the guy was absolutely clutch with the putter. He really didn't do too much wrong today.
Godich: His only problem was that after making the double-eagle at the second, he didn't make a birdie until the 13th. Yes, he strung a bunch of pars together, but he never separated himself from the field.
Hanger: It seemed like he made every 10 footer he looked at Sunday. That was some serious pressure putting.
Lipsey: Yes, but he did miss the putt at 18 in the playoff.
Godich: That was as good a putt as he hit all day. Everyone has seen a putt on that line break to the left. His ball never moved.
Morfit: I think we appreciate Oostheizen the correct amount. He hasn't had the consistent success of those other guys.
Van Sickle: Oosty also has a rep for not pushing himself, dedication-wise. But he's playing well this year, he's got length and the power high-ball, and he can putt. That's a winning combination.
Tell us what you think in the all-new readers' live Confidential or in the comments section below: Do you think Louis will win another major sometime soon?
WESTWOOD COMES UP SHORT AGAIN
Dusek: Lee Westwood. Ugh, again so close to winning a major. He has never been more fit, is one of the best drivers of the ball and hits great irons, but his putting is erratic. Do you think it is just the flat stick, or is there more to his inability to get it done on the biggest stages?
Morfit: I think at this point it's in his head. He's very clearly good enough to win one of these things.
Herre: It's mainly the putting holding him back, but his chipping is only OK too. He simply doesn't seem to have a feel for the little shots, although he is an amazing ballstriker.
Godich: It wasn't just that the flat stick let him down; it was that his nerves got the best of him on what should have been a couple of kick-ins. Start with the double at the 18th on Friday, where he three-putted from inside 10 feet. A lot of world-class players would have made the putt for par. All of them would have made the next. Westy missed another really short one when he was in the hunt on Saturday. Not a good sign.
Gorant: Gotta think it's more. He wasn't even that close. Back door top five after he'd already shot himself out of it.
Godich: Good point, Jim. The putts started falling on Sunday when it looked like he was out of it. Then when it looked like he might get back in the chase, he missed the short eagle putt at 15. Even when he holed the one at 18, his chances were pretty much shot.
Hack: I love how Westwood keeps placing himself in the mix. He doesn't seemed fazed by the near-misses, though most others would be. I think he'll nab a big trophy eventually.
Wei: I disagree, Damon. He has a huge chip on his shoulder. For a guy who shot 68 and tied for third at a major, Lee sure didn't look happy, and he left the golf course in a hurry.
Hack: I'm not ready to close shop on Lee, and I'm sure he's not either. I really think his body and mind are strong. The Masters isn't his best chance at a major anyway.
Wei: I definitely agree that his body and mind are strong, and I'm not doubting his ability to win a major, but I can tell it eats at him. I think he's frustrated with all the close calls and having to answer our "daft" questions.
Lipsey: He is Greg Norman, Mr. Close But No Cigar, but without the calamitous finishes.
Morfit: I think Westy can win an Open of the British variety.
Godich: If not for the three-putt at the 72nd hole, he might have won the British Open that Stewart Cink stole from Tom Watson. I know it looked like Westwood needed to make birdie, but that was atrocious. Maybe it's just not meant to be. Give him credit, though, for continuing to get off the mat.
Van Sickle: Lee Westwood proves you can't win a major on ballstriking alone. You've got to have a great putting week. I don't think Westwood can have one of those on Augusta's greens. He could definitely win an Open or a U.S. Open, though, where there is less of a premium on putting.
Tell us what you think in the all-new readers' live Confidential or in the comments section below: Why hasn't Westwood won a major? Do you think he ever will?
PHIL STUMBLES ON SUNDAY
Dusek: You cannot make two triple bogeys and expect to win a major championship, but Phil Mickelson came pretty darn close. Should Phil look back on this year's Masters as another strong performance in a major championship or a missed opportunity?
Gorant: Missed opportunity because he's way past moral victories. With the youth rising, he's got to grab the majors when he has the chance.
Herre: You have to look for positives. Phil played well. He really had no options on the fourth hole on Sunday. Bad shot, bad break. But otherwise he had a strong week.
Morfit: Missed opportunity. This tournament was his for the taking the moment he made eagle on 13 on Saturday, and everyone knew it. I actually saw him hit that same crazy-left miss on four on Thursday, too — also with a long iron. The only difference was he didn't hit the railing of the grandstands Thursday. Paging Jean Van de Velde!
Hack: Hard not to see it as a missed opportunity with the pair of triples, especially the second one, which was a combo of a bad swing, bad luck and a bad decision. That said, I loved watching him play Saturday and Sunday. Win or lose, he thrills.
Van Sickle: Two right-handed shots out of the bamboo, then he dumps the flop shot into the bunker like an amateur? He never, ever should've tried to play that righty shot. He probably should've gone back to the tee. That said, he was making 5 at best after that tee shot. So he made 6, only wasted one shot, really. Shades of Winged Foot.
Gorant: Was it me, or did he seem to rush through that sequence?
Lipsey: Surprising that Bones didn't try to slow him down.
Morfit: You could definitely sense he was a bit rushed and/or panicky, and for good reason.
Hack: Usually they go over every detail. they needed to hit the slo-mo button.
Godich: For all of the time that Bones talks him through shots from 200 yards in the middle of the fairway, that was a surprise. And mark it down as a missed opportunity. Phil doesn't play majors for moral victories. He was dead set on winning after making the big rally on Thursday. By Saturday night, I don't think there was any doubt in his mind he was going to win.
Lipsey: Yeah, this has to be a big bummer for Phil. A fourth W at Augusta would've tied him with Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods, and then he could've come back next year looking to do something even Tiger has never done — win a fifth.
Hack: Exactly. Had Phil tied Arnie and Tiger with four green jackets, he would have become a golfing immortal. He's pretty close now, but not there yet. It would have been some appetizer before his Hall of Fame induction next month.
Wei: I think Bones and Phil were both kind of in shock, and it was actually a part of the course they'd never seen before.
Gorant: He needs the U.S. Open more than another Masters. It's his great white whale.
Tell us what you think in the all-new readers' live Confidential or in the comments section below: Do you think Phil will view this week as a strong showing or missed opportunity.
RORY'S ROUGH WEEK
Dusek: Coming into this week, a lot of us, myself included, thought Rory McIlroy was the player to beat. Agree or disagree (and defend your answer): I don't care what happened last week at Augusta, Rory is going to be my pick to win the U.S. Open.
Herre: Disagree. Olympic and Congressional are very different courses. If Olympic is as firm and fast as it was in 1998, a precise small-baller could very well win. A lot of players will have a chance.
Van Sickle: Two bad swings at Augusta can turn a good round into a 74, and the greens can get you. No biggie for Rory. I seem to recall he bounced back from a Masters disappointment pretty well last year.
Godich: Sorry, but until he proves otherwise, he falls into the category of players who have won one major. After the win at Congressional, he didn't exactly light it up at the British, the PGA or the Masters. Sure, he'll be one of the favorites, but not the favorite.
Lipsey: Lately, he's shown too much talent, too much drive, too much time in the winner's circle to be anything but the man to beat every week.
Morfit: I disagree. This week was a great reminder that there are so many great players out there, it's foolish to get hung up on two or three, especially with Rory still so young, and Tiger such a huge question mark week to week.
Gorant: I think Olympic brings too many guys into it for him to be the outright favorite, but one of the favorites, yes.
Walker: Nothing that happened this week changes my mind that McIlroy is the best young player by a mile, but that hugging and mugging with Sergio Garcia on Saturday was weird. I hope McIlroy didn't catch anything.
Hack: I didn't like that hug with Sergio either. That was a bad pairing for young and impressionable Rory. He got caught beneath Sergio's dark cloud.
Morfit: Ooh, well said, Damon. I think you're absolutely right. Sergio's bad energy has to be somewhat palpable out there.
Herre: Yes, when Sergio says he's not good enough to win a major, you know he has big issues. Steer clear, Rory.
Godich: That was amazing. I think Seve would've slapped him if he were still alive.
Hanger: I can relate to Sergio's self-loathing on the golf course. That's how I handle my many, many setbacks on the course.
Godich: If I am Jose Maria Olazabal, I am thinking long and hard before I even consider picking Sergio for the Ryder Cup team at Medinah. Maybe he can be an assistant captain again.
Wei: What impresses me most about Rory is that his demeanor doesn't change much whether he had a good day or a bad one. I had no idea he shot 76 when I spoke with him in the locker room. His ability to shake off a bad round or two is impressive — and something that would benefit Sergio, who just sounds defeated and beaten down.
Tell us what you think in the all-new readers' live Confidential or in the comments section below: Is McIlroy your pick to win this year's U.S. Open?
TIGER ENDURES MISERABLE WEEK
Dusek: Finally, after winning at Bay Hill last week, Tiger Woods seemed to have everything going for him heading into the Masters. What a difference two weeks make! Where does Tiger go from here, and how damaging do you think his performance at Augusta was to his game and his psyche?
Gorant: No damage. You don't become Tiger Woods if you can't let go of bad shots. Thought it was interesting how open he was all week, relatively speaking.
Van Sickle: Back to the range. He says he needs more reps. Same thing he's said for 18 months. Well, he got 293 reps this week. That oughta help.
Hack: Tiger has won one of the last 10 Masters. It's amazing to even type that. The course changes have eliminated his advantages and welcomed an array of styles.
Morfit: I have absolutely no idea what Tiger will do. He could go to the doctor's office. He could go run 20 miles in army boots. He could go sell his clubs at Play it Again Sports. Tiger has become the biggest question mark in all of sports.
Herre: I think Tiger's play was a major setback. Watching him go through those extreme pre-shot gyrations made me sad. He's been swallowed up by mechanics, which happens to a lot of struggling players. Some find their way out, others never do. His confidence had to have been destroyed on Friday. He is a fragile player, something I never thought I'd say about Tiger Woods.
Godich: Exactly. He has become too mechanical. Just hit the damn ball! Bubba is living proof that there is something to be said for feel and creativity. And another thing: The one area in which Tiger has not struggled involves his shots around the green. Those shots are all about feel. He needs to take that to the rest of his game. Enough with the mechanics. Play golf.
Morfit: My enduring image of Tiger at the 2012 Masters will be him kicking his 9-iron, slamming his driver, and practicing in the dark. Shocking to see a guy who just won two weeks ago look so lost.
Walker: Tiger's game is still trending in the right direction. He's just not as comfortable at Augusta National as he used to be. He'll be in good form for the U.S. Open.
Wei: He'll never be the player he once was, and he obviously hasn't accepted that. I think he put too much pressure on himself this week, and he realizes he is getting older and running out of opportunities to catch Jack. It was sad (and kind of embarrassing) to see him act like a spoiled kid throwing a tantrum.
Tell us what you think in the all-new readers' live Confidential or in the comments section below: Will Tiger's terrible week affect his confidence going forward?