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.
Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: Greetings, all: Lots to get to in this week’s Confidential, so we won’t have time to touch on Boise State’s horrific loss to Nevada. Martin Kaymer became Europe’s new No. 1 by finishing 13th in Dubai. First, though, Robert Karlsson won the Euro tour’s season-ender on the second extra hole when Ian Poulter lost control of his golf ball, which landed on his ball mark, causing said ball mark to flip over on the green. For this, Poulter was assessed a one-stroke penalty. Karlsson might have won anyway, having set himself up with a three-foot birdie putt, but now Poulter didn’t even have a chance. After a season of bunker/not bunker (Dustin Johnson, PGA Championship), plus other fiascos, do golf’s rules need rewriting?
Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Some rules need to be revisited, but is it asking too much to ask a guy to hold onto his golf ball?
Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: There are a few head-scratchers, but overall the rules seem to work. This year has seen more than its share of odd situations and tough rulings.
David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: The rules are the rules, so the penalties are what they are. At the same time, the spirit of the rules is the most important thing, and for that reason I think some rules could be re-examined.
Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: The rules have and will always stand the test of time. Some things always need revising, and that’s why the rules are periodically reviewed and revised.
Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Poulter was sloppy. And so was Dustin Johnson at the PGA. Leave the Rules of Golf alone.
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Some golf rules could use a rewrite, but probably not this one. By accidentally moving his marker, Poulter effectively moved his ball. That’s a correctable error on a green, so maybe the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. Elsewhere on the course, however, you can’t exactly re-create the ball’s lie, so it’s a necessary rule. As for D.J.’s episode, golf has been played forever without grounding a club in the bunker. I wouldn’t change that one, either. The O.B. rule? Wind moving a ball on the green at address? I’d change those, for starters.
Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: Yes! O.B. is the best place to start. While the arcane and mysterious Rules of Golf have a Hogwarts-like charm, they could use some streamlining.
Gorant: Yeah, the oscillating ball on the green thing seems unnecessarily punitive.
Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: Some of the penalties, like the one Poulter called on himself, seem silly. I know there is logic behind all the rules, but how about no harm, no foul?
Dusek: That’s my point Jim. The spirit of the rules was not broken, and in this case it would be easy to place the ball in exactly the spot where the marker had been. I get it, but I hate to see championships decided on technicalities instead of good play.
Lipsey: It wasn’t decided on a technicality. Everybody knew the rule, including Poulter. He broke the rule. Whether the rule should exist is another story.
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Nothing about D.J.’s situation, or Poulter’s, makes me think the rules need rewriting. But I’m with Gary and Walker: O.B. should be stroke, not distance. Just play it where it goes out.
Lipsey: How many of us could pass the USGA rules official exam? It’s easy to criticize from the outside looking in.
Van Sickle: Who said anything about passing a rules exam? But we all know a bad rule when we see it/experience it/get hosed by it.
John Garrity, contributing writer, Sports Illustrated: I attended a USGA Rules Workshop for a story in GOLF magazine, and I couldn’t pass the exam if you let Johnny Miller and Nick Faldo help me. The rules are truly mind-bending.
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I think it’s a cool little rule — you’re penalized for being clumsy!
Van Sickle: Good thing it’s not a penalty if your ball falls off the tee and you have to re-tee. Hey, what an idea!
THE RISE OF KAYMER
Morfit: Let’s talk about Kaymer. He didn’t play great, but he did what he needed to do and wound up winning the money title in Europe with just under $6 million. He’s the second German to be crowned European No. 1 after Bernhard Langer, and the youngest since Ronan Rafferty in 1989. Will Kaymer eclipse Langer’s two majors and nearly 60 other victories worldwide, or nearly 75 if you count the Champions tour? And what’s the over/under on how long it takes this kid to hit No. 1 in the world?
Gorant: He’s only 25, right? He’s got a shot, but you have to be great for a long time to catch Bernie. Dude has definite game though — long, short and he can putt. He is the real deal.
Van Sickle: Kaymer is already halfway to two majors. I like him to best Langer in that category. Sixty wins? That’s all about longevity, health and desire. Not sure he’ll get that. As I wrote in my SI Sportsman of the Year nomination, this guy is for real. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him barrel into No. 1 early in ’11, pull away and stay there for a couple of years.
Garrity: I think Kaymer will have a hard time overtaking Langer for career wins, but he could match his majors total almost before I’m done typing this. K should win several majors in the next decade.
Van Sickle: Impressive that Garrity used K to describe someone other than his personal hero, Robert Karlsson, who in fact rose from obscurity to win the tourney this weekend.
Garrity: Is it a crime to like tall, intelligent golfers? Actually, after picking Karlsson to win the past 10 or 12 majors, I’d sort of cooled on him. At 41, this win might be his swan song.
Shipnuck: Kaymer’s golf will be as spectacular as anything Langer produced — it already is. But Bernie may never be matched for consistency and sustained excellence. Kaymer enjoys earthly pursuits way more than Langer, which is fine, but it means he may not be grinding so hard when he’s 40.
Lipsey: At 25, Ernie Els looked as good or better than Kaymer does now, and Ernie’s got, what, three majors? It’s the very, very rare player who can become a major and enduring star.
Dusek: Ernie and a host of other players were born in the wrong era. Kaymer won’t have to deal with a dominant player the way they did.
Godich: True, but you have to be good AND a little lucky to win majors these days. Kaymer at Whistling Straits is proof of that. I would argue that winning three or four majors would be quite the career for any player in this era.
Van Sickle: Maybe Kaymer is the dominant player everyone else will have to deal with.
Dusek: That’s certainly possible.
Herre: Kaymer probably has more majors in him, but Langer is a freak. Plus, with prize money what it is today, a guy like Kaymer might make his kazillions and decide to retire young.
Evans: Langer only won three times in the U.S. on the regular tour (two Masters and Hilton Head). Kaymer will certainly do better than that. His major count should also surpass Langer’s. But he probably won’t win as much as Langer over the course of his career because he won’t play as long, and the European Tour is a lot deeper now than it was in Langer’s prime. He’ll get to No. 1 this spring.
Bamberger: You could see Kaymer winning all four majors over the course of his career because his game is so complete. He’s so cool under pressure, and the swing is so sound, plus he has so many little shots. You might actually argue that the PGA would be the hardest for him, and he’s knocked that one off early. Sixty worldwide wins? This may sound heretical, but I actually think that’s more difficult.
Dusek: In a time with such parity, when players simply don’t compete as often, Kaymer will have to maintain a very high level of play for a very long time in order to catch Langer. Can he win multiple majors? Sure. Will he attain the No. 1 ranking? Yes, I think he’ll do that before the 2011 U.S. Open. Is he going to win 60-plus events? Ask me in a decade.
DUBAI VS. FEDEX CUP
Morfit: Correct me if I’m wrong, but it appears that the European Tour counts its Race to Dubai bonuses in its final money list, while the PGA Tour does not count FedEx Cup bonuses. As a result, you might think that Kaymer, with just under $6 million, had a better year than PGA Tour money leader Matt Kuchar (just under $5 million), and you would be right. But you would also think the German out-earned Jim Furyk, which is where you’d be wrong. (With his $10 million bonus for winning the FedEx Cup, Furyk banked nearly $15 million in 2010.) With the Euro tour holding the hammer at the moment, should the PGA Tour make FedEx bonuses count toward its final money list, thereby advertising the fact that it’s a more lucrative tour?
Herre: Makes sense, Cam. It’s not like winning the money title means anything anyway.
Bamberger: No. The FedEx money is a bonus, not what we normally think of as prize money. Plus, if it disappears, then suddenly you look like you’re in the poor house.
Dusek: I think the players know which tour suits them best, and where they want to play, but the fans don’t care if the American tour pays better than the European tour. The money is all so beyond the average person’s comprehension, what would be the point?
Van Sickle: No. For one, no one cares. For another, the PGA Tour is doing its best to make the money list irrelevant and replace it with its FedEx Cup points list, which is only the most irrelevant thing ever invented in golf next to shoe kilties. It’s kind of out of whack, no, if Furyk gets $10 million for the FedEx Cup, which is the equivalent of nine or 10 tour victories? It makes no sense to do that. Your money winner is going to be the FedEx Cup champ every year, no matter what.
Lipsey: I bet winning the money title earns you a nice bonus from your sponsors.
Gorant: The Euro tour is definitely trying to seize the moment. They’ve got a bunch of top players — Westwood, McIlroy, Kaymer, McDowell, etc. — and they’re making it harder for those guys to play both tours. At the same time, they’re trying to make their tour more attractive. Not sure pumping up the earnings numbers is the answer. Top U.S. players need to reclaim their position at the top of the game to turn things around.
Van Sickle: The Euro tour is getting the benefit of being a world tour and already holding events in Asia, for instance, where all the money is, and in the Middle East, where all the money was. Clever move by them to bump up the minimum number of events required to keep membership. It looks like it’s working to keep the big names home next year.
Godich: I don’t think many people care about how much money these guys pocket in a season. In fact, it might turn a lot of people off. Wins are the most significant stat.
Dusek: People remember Pete Sampras’ Wimbledon titles, not the size of the checks he earned for winning them.
Evans: It’s not healthy to draw distinctions between the two tours, which sorely need to work together as the golf world grows smaller. The European tour will survive without a publicity campaign of this sort. And the best players will play on both tours.
Van Sickle: The majors and the big-money World Golf Championships will keep the players from both tours connected, but beyond that, it seems, we’re going back toward the old divide. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Shipnuck: I like the divide. It adds a little mystery to some of the Euros, and it definitely makes the Ryder Cup more interesting
Herre: I agree with Alan. The us-against-them thing will definitely add a little juice to the Ryder Cup, although it’s hard to imagine someone like McIlroy as a villain.
Evans: I don’t see the divide that characterized Seve’s European tour of the 1980s, primarily because the top Euros live partly in either Scottsdale or Orlando. You would have to be a fool to not want to play in the States if you were a top player. Everything is nice and cozy here compared to the rest of the world.
Dusek: Right. How big can the divide be when Ryder Cup caliber players compete against each other eight to 12 times per year?
Van Sickle: It’s going to be less than that this year.
Gorant: There’s absolutely a divide. Just as it’s still news when a Japanese baseball player comes to play here, or a European soccer player joins MLS. Basketball, hockey, all the major sports are fighting for talent now, and they’re constantly comparing competition and compensation. Golf is no different.
RORY SLAMS SAWGRASS
Morfit: Rory McIlroy said he may skip the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass because, “I don’t like the course.” He also said he wasn’t crazy about playing golf in America, period, while Westwood and Kaymer have essentially said the same thing with their decisions to play full-time in Europe. Meanwhile, British Open champ Louis Oosthuizen has said he’ll come over and play here, and Poulter, having taken to America like a warm bath, is in the process of building a pretty outstanding new home at Lake Nona. (He and his wife just had a new baby and have now got a sleeve of kids.) Padraig Harrington plays here. Should we care about the Euros who don’t like us? Should the PGA Tour be getting an inferiority complex? And who’s right?
Dusek: Guys should play where they want to play. Both tours have plenty of talent and interesting venues. Highly ranked players shouldn’t feel compelled or pressured to play one or the other.
Van Sickle: What a drag to try to play on two continents, especially with the Concorde dead and gone. Pick a continent and stay there. We don’t need the Euros, and they don’t need us. Each tour will develop its own stars, the way it’s always been.
Garrity: Good point, Gary, but you can’t say that the Euros are “picking a continent” by playing their tour. Their tour plays on at least four continents in a given year.
Van Sickle: Perhaps I should’ve said, pick a side of the Atlantic to play on. Right or left? You make the call, then stay there.
Dusek: From a fan’s standpoint, it’s never been easier to follow the action across the pond. Between Golf Channel coverage, the Internet and Euro players’ twittering, I feel like I know the top European players better than I know a lot of the Americans.
Van Sickle: The wild card, of course, is that Rory can pick up appearance money just about every time he plays his home tour. It’s the same reason Ernie Els has always been a globetrotter. Everyone likes free money — it pays for the jet fuel. In Rory’s case, staying in Europe is easier and friendlier.
Gorant: Plus, he needs to be close to his hairdresser.
Van Sickle: You mean Richard Simmons?
Bamberger: Rory should be encouraged to keep talking (it’s great for golf) and play wherever he wants to play. Harrington plays the world. Westwood is as British as Seve was Spanish, so no surprise to see him play his home tour. The PGA Tour should have an inferiority complex because the best players in the world are not all Americans.
Godich: Lest we forget, Rory was the guy who said he was having trouble getting excited about the Ryder Cup. Let’s see him win a couple of majors before we ponder the thought of the Players being played without him.
Evans: Who the hell cares if Rory McIlroy doesn’t like the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass? He has no standing to dis a course that has produced great champions. Kaymer and Westwood should support the European Tour. Why can’t both tours succeed?
Morfit: Switching gears, the final six rounds of Q-school begin at Orange County National in Orlando on Wednesday. All kinds of names to look at here, from can’t-miss Ty Tryon to Erik Compton, Stanford whiz kid Joseph Bramlett to Carlos Franco. I was a little surprised to see Jeff Quinney on the list of competitors, and Will MacKenzie. Who do you think is the best story of the bunch, and which Tour pros are you surprised to see having fallen back down into golf’s bar exam?
Evans: Joseph Bramlett would be a great story. Adrian Stills in 1986 was the last African-American to get his card through Q-school.
Herre: Franco is somewhat of a surprise. He seemed like a natural, and his Tour wins looked almost effortless.
Morfit: His nickname among caddies has always been “Me No Practice.” If that’s true, then perhaps it explains why he’s back at Q-school.
Van Sickle: Nice to see long-time tourist Skip Kendall, a Wisconsin native, still hanging on. Best story may be Billy Hurley, a Naval Academy man. Surprised to see Shell Houston Open champ Johnson Wagner already back in Q-school. Seems like he just won, but that two-year exemption sure went fast.
Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, Golf.com: It’s always crazy to see guys like Wagner, who won a Tour event two years ago, back in Q-school. Heck, Daniel Chopra, your 2008 Kapalua champion, didn’t even make it to the finals!
Morfit: Wow, I didn’t realize that. Wonder what happened there? I’ll never forget watching Chopra hitting full 3-woods off the lip of a bunker, about 200 yards straight up into the air.
Bamberger: I’m not surprised by any name that shows up at Q-school. There are thousands of players who can break 70 seven times out of 10. If you lose one little thing — chipping goes bad, marriage goes bad, you crack your favorite driver and never like another one — an army of guys will blow right by, and there you are, at OC Nat’l, trying to get back to the show.
Morfit: Yeah, and Wagner’s not the only one who won pretty recently. Marc Turnesa and George McNeill won on Tour within the last few years; Jason Gore just won on the Nationwide; and just a week ago John Mallinger won the Pebble Beach Invitational. Best story may be Brett Waldman, given that he’s Villegas’s caddie.
Morfit: A USA Today report notes that Tiger no longer appears to be wearing his Buddhism bracelet. First of all, after everything that’s happened since Black Friday, 2009, does anybody care? And, more to the point, when’s the guy going to win again? This week’s Chevron Challenge would seem like a good place to start. He’s only got to beat like 17 other players.
Van Sickle: So sad. We nearly went a week without discussing Tiger. I suppose if Tiger wins his little outing, he’ll count that as keeping his win streak alive. Enjoy your TV show, Tiger.
Herre: Wouldn’t be surprised to see TW win his own event. Even though doing so would be trumpeted in the media, it wouldn’t mean a darn thing.
Godich: The better question might be: What if he doesn’t?
Dusek: Tiger hasn’t shown us any reason to think he’s going to win soon. There’s a huge difference between shooting a good round here and there and winning. Right now, I don’t think a lot of people care, but as soon as he wins ANYTHING, people will start to care again.
Bamberger: He told Kelly Tilghman of Golf Channel that he’d be wearing it forever. Note to self: do not believe everything Tiger Woods says. Or USA Today, for that matter. I think Tiger will have a huge year, meaning he’ll win once or twice, and contend in others.
Evans: Golf fans want to see Tiger succeed. Winning at Chevron would be a good first step, but hardly an indication that he’s back.
Morfit: Finally, the LPGA wraps things up with its Tour Championship at Orlando’s Grand Cypress Golf Club. (Good week to be a golf geek in O-town.) There’s not much on the line, other than the No. 1 ranking (Jiyai Shin, Suzann Pettersen, Cristie Kerr, Yani Tseng, N.Y. Choi, Ai Miyazato); the Rolex Player of the Year (Tseng is considered the frontrunner); the Vare Trophy race (Choi is leading by a hair over Kerr, followed closely by Pettersen and Shin); and the money title. Has this been a good year for the LPGA, or is the circuit being hurt by so much parity?
Godich: The LPGA Tour Championship is this week?
Dusek: Shhhhhhhh. It’s a secret.
Bamberger: It was not a good year for the LPGA. The ordinary golf fan couldn’t pick most of those world-class players you just named out of a lineup; the ordinary, devoted sports fan has no chance. Every individual sport needs one bigger-than-life figure to draw you in. Who among the LPGA players is that?
Herre: The LPGA’s race for No. 1 is a little confusing, but overall a good thing. We could see the same thing happening in the men’s ranking in 2011, which will only add to the PGA Tour vs. Euro tour debate.
Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I think it’s been a competitive and interesting year on the LPGA, but the schedule is all over the place. It really is tough to follow, even for the dimpleheads in this forum. Not much Mike Whan can do about it in the short run. He needs to get tournaments by hook or by crook. Then he can work on finding some rhythm to the schedule, if that’s even possible.
Shipnuck: Parity is fun for a year or two; it introduces fresh faces. But sports like golf and tennis need dominant players to drive the narrative. For the LPGA, if it’s Wie or Creamer or Lexi Thompson, all the better.
Evans: The LPGA Tour’s new commissioner, Mike Whan, brought some needed energy. The golf was excellent, and the tour added a few events during the year. Michelle Wie had a good year. A couple of Americans (Creamer and Kerr) won majors. It was probably as good as it could have been.
Herre: This isn’t breaking new ground, but I think the LPGA has a TV problem. There is very little network coverage, and the tape-delays and second-rate production values on Golf Channel make the LPGA tour tough to find and watch. I’ve heard that Whan is not happy.
Walker: True, with the sparse crowds and non-HD broadcasts, the LPGA on TV isn’t as engaging as it should be considering its appealing stars and this year’s competitive finishes. BTW, the lack of fans and excitement at Dubai this weekend made the Tour Championship look like the NFC Championship Game.
Herre: Good point about the Dubai event, Mike. What a disaster. One of the British writers went over to take a look at TW’s golf course project there. Place has reverted to desert.
Morfit: Seems like this would have been a great year for the LPGA to really shine, what with the PGA Tour’s sudden lack of sizzle/Tiger. The trouble is, the scenario that most people seem to believe is best for the LPGA (dominance by a telegenic American like Wie) seems unlikely at best.
Evans: There is not one truly successful women’s sports franchise in the world. It’s tough. Cut the LPGA some slack for having a problem that it was born with.
Lipsey: Right on, except the WTA is at least modestly successful.
Dusek: The Golf Channel’s PR people also told me that because the LPGA took so long to finalize its 2010 schedule, there wasn’t a lot of space left for live coverage. Time slots had already been sold before the schedule was complete.
Gorant: My understanding is that the LPGA does better if it’s not on at the same time as the PGA Tour, even if that means tape delays. There’s a selection of hardcore golf fans who will watch, but if the PGA Tour is on, they’ll watch that. If it’s not, they’ll watch the LPGA. But head to head, the LPGA can’t draw.
Morfit: I’m going to throw this out there because only Mr. Herre, I believe, is on record. (Jim says no.) Will Tiger Woods, who turns 35 next month, break the majors record that has been his whole reason for being? I’ll agree with Jim and say no, but I think he will win a few more.
Lipsey: A few more is 17. Not the record, but darn close.
Godich: He’ll win two more. What’ll be interesting to see is how long he continues to chase the record.
Gorant: I say yes. And he’ll do it before 40.
Evans: Based on his past record and his young age, Tiger will win five more majors before he retires. That’s just going by the statistical probability of a guy who will play at least 40 more majors in decent physical shape with some advances in club and ball technology.
Hack: I don’t see Tiger as young. In fact, I think he’s an old 34 (about to be 35) considering how long he’s been in the spotlight. Throw in the knee surgeries and the scandal, and you have a man whose body and mind have taken a beating. My instinct tells me he breaks the record. But then I keep picturing Rory and D.J. and Martin and all the rest, and I picture Tiger hitting first into greens. It’s going to be one fascinating chase, I know that much.
Lipsey: I would love to see him get a lot more, but not sure he can. By mid-summer 2011, we’ll have a much firmer outlook. If he’s not back in form by then, the rest of his career could be lean. If he gets going, he could be off to the races.
Walker: Mid-to-late 30s are prime years for golfers, and it’s hard to imagine Tiger will lose his competitive fire. One upside to his injury-shortened 2008 and scandal-shortened 2010 is that he hasn’t played too much golf the last three years, so he won’t be dealing with burnout. It’s not a slam dunk, but I think he gets to 19 by age 40.
Bamberger: I think it’s going to very, very difficult. The PGA is his best shot. Can he win two of the next 10? That’s asking a lot. The Masters is next. Could he win two of the next 10? That’s asking a lot. British is very, very, very difficult. Could he win one of the next 10? Maybe. For some reason, I don’t see him winning another U.S. Open. As the courses get longer and the greens get faster, it’s just going to be so, so hard. I can’t imagine him ever being the driver and the putter he was as an amateur and young pro. Still, I think he gets to 18.
Godich: He has proven that he is human. He has to start feeling the pressure at some point. And with every missed opportunity, that pressure will only mount. That’s why I say he doesn’t get to 18.