PGA Tour Confidential Extra: Steve Stricker wins Hyundai Tournament of Champions

January 10, 2012

Every week of the 2012 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 Tuesday's all-new readers' live Confidential, or in the comments section below.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Steve Stricker is a winner, in more ways than one. He'll be 45 next month. He might be the closest thing the Tour has today to a Byron Nelson. He's ranked fifth in the definitive SI Golf poll this week. Where do you have him and why? If they were playing for your house (win you stay, lose you're out), who would you rather have, going mano-a-mano, Stricker or T. Woods? How about in a Stricker-Luke Donald match, who do you want playing for your house? I'm taking Woods in Stricker-Woods and I'm taking Stricker in Stricker-Donald.

Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, I have him 5th, sandwiched between Charl Schwartzel (4th) and Lee Westwood (6th). I have him ahead of Westwood based on his strength of recent wins. And I have Charl ahead of Stricker because Charl won a major and had eight more top 10s than Stricker did last year.

Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I have Stricker at 5. Just as pleasant a person as it gets. Salt-of-the-earth fellow, simple, smooth swing. Starting to believe he will get that major, with some lasting health. Stricker or Tiger, I'm taking Tiger head-to-head. He lives for it.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: I'll take Woods over Stricker and Stricker over Donald. I would love to see Stricker win a major, but I'm not so sure the nerves would hold up. Even with a five-shot lead against a mostly no-name field at Kapalua, he looked shaky Monday. What happens the next time he gets in the hunt at a major, especially knowing his chances are fleeting?

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: I have Stricker fourth. And I think Donald at the moment would beat either Stricker or Woods.

David Dusek, deputy editor, I had Stricker at 10 on my ballot, mainly because while he had some decent results in the majors last season and won twice on the PGA Tour, Stricker never threatened to win one of those majors. He just didn't come through on the biggest stages. Head-to-head against Tiger, for my house, I'd take Stricker right now because his putting is more consistent, but I'd take Luke Donald in a match against Stricker.

Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: I have Steve Stricker fifth. Because he's consistent and because he wins regularly. However, I'm taking both Tiger and Donald in that match for my house. Stricker is on that tier just below those guys.

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: I put Stricker sixth. He played well, but there has to be a strength-of-field discount. As for match play, at this exact point in time, I'd take him over TW but not Donald, who is an assassin.

Hack: An assassin without with the License to Kill. Donald had a great 2011, but I even hesitate to use the word great without the major. Tiger, Phil, Vijay, Ernie and Goose spoiled me.

Dusek: This is why the Accenture Match Play is my favorite event outside of the majors.

Charlie Hanger, executive editor, I had him eighth, and I'd take him in match play against just about anyone but those two.

Jeff Ritter, senior producer, I had Stricker 10th. It was a nice win, but I want to see a little more before I bump him ahead of Scott and Haas, who each had bigger victories in 2011 and are ranked as my next two guys up the chain. With my house on the line I'll still take Tiger, but I'd want Tiger's house to be part of the stakes so I know he's fully committed.

Tell us what you think in the all-new readers' live Confidential or in the comments section below: Would you pick Stricker or Tiger in a match for your house? What about Stricker vs. Donald?

Jhonattan Vegas, Kapalua 2012

Eric Risberg / AP
Jhonattan Vegas finished 26 shots behind Steve Stricker at Kapalua.


Bamberger: Jhonattan Vegas shot 298 for his four rounds. Watching him play last year, I thought he was a huge natural talent and would be around for a long, long time. Did we get fooled by his hot golf or is there something special about his Angel Cabrera-like game?

Herre: Vegas is a lot like Gary Woodland – strong as a bull but not a finished product. I'm buying.

Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Nine of 10 winners are huge talents, but golf and the Tour are so dang hard, that in their careers they're likely to only be one- or two-time winners, although they'll still make lots of money. Vegas is likely one of these.

Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: So hard to tell this time of year. Some guys have been hitting the range hard and some guys haven't touched a club in weeks. He might be playing his way into shape.

Dusek: He's talented, and the PGA Tour would certainly be happy to get a player who can help it gain a better foothold in the South American and Spanish-speaking market, but after winning last season's Bob Hope and getting a T3 at Torrey Pines, he didn't have another top 10 in a regular season event until a T5 in October at the Justin Timberlake in Las Vegas. He's gotta show me more.

Godich: I'm not sold on Vegas yet. He won the Hope and was close at Torrey Pines but did next to nothing after that. Woodland was strong all season, with a win and 14 other top 25 finishes. You can read all about Woodland in this week's Golf Plus.

Hack: I didn't like how Vegas finished the year, and I'm not liking his start. Maybe the good vibes will return in California, but I'd like to see him validate that PGA Tour win.

Ritter: I agree, Damon. Vegas is about to hit the stretch of the schedule where he had his greatest (and only) success in 2011. If he's a non-factor during the next six weeks, it's probably time to sound the alarm.

Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: I wouldn't put too much weight on Vegas's DFL finish. First-timers at Kapalua have trouble reading the greens and it turns into three-putt city. Of course, Webb Simpson seems to be an exception.

Godich: Harrison Frazar didn't seem to have any problems either. Let's hope that Vegas hasn't gotten too comfortable knowing he has a two-year Tour exemption.

Hack: I just remember he was so accommodating with the media — English, Spanish, et al — that I wonder if he burned out a bit. Also he seemed to enjoy the quick stardom a little.

Wei: I agree with Damon on the burn-out part. I think he got an especially hard time in Venezuela because they didn't understand golf and expected him to win or be in contention every week after his first victory.

Morfit: I think once it starts going bad here, guys don't have much incentive to grind out scores. David Toms got around in like two hours and twenty minutes by himself.

Hack: He had a certain college football game on his mind.

Morfit: Bingo. His caddie, Scott Gneiser, could be the MVP of the week for getting around this brawny course so quickly.

Wei: Actually two hours, 31 minutes! He was sure in a rush to get out of here. I was riding in a golf cart when a car leaving the clubhouse parking lot almost ran us over! Turned out it was Toms, who got a good laugh over the near crash. Then I remembered he's an LSU alum. Maybe he needed four hours to pregame?

Tell us what you think in the all-new readers' live Confidential or in the comments section below: Does Jhonny Vegas have a bright future on the PGA Tour?

Bamberger: One of my favorite players on Tour, Lucas Glover, was a DNS after spraining his ankle paddleboarding. Paul Casey is on the DL, too, after a snowboarding injury. What do you think about golfers doing these semi-risky extracurricular activities? I think it's great, and shows something I've long thought, that underneath their cautious exteriors, there's a lot of cowboy — or at least an independent streak — in a lot of these guys. They are not as cautious as we might think.

Lipsey: As much as we build them up, professional golfers are much like the Wizard of Oz, normal guys who do normal things.

Hanger: They should take the risks if they want. Not like they're letting teammates down, but I'd guess it's not something their caddies are crazy about.

Reiterman: Guys have to live a little. But Casey was puzzling since he was recovering from a toe injury. And he goes snowboarding?

Wei: Yeah, gotta live life, but exactly, snowboarding? As a junior golfer, my parents made me stop skiing/snowboarding because of the high risk for injury.

Dusek: A lot of guys have interests outside of golf like skiing, snowboarding and mountain biking. This week's winner, Stricker, likes to bow hunt for deer. What if he fell out of a tree? These guys are athletes and they've got money to go to places like Vail (where Casey fell and hurt his shoulder). Accidents happen, and it's unfortunate that both Glover and Casey got hurt, but they should enjoy life outside the ropes … carefully.

Walker: Surfing, skiing and snowboarding are fine, but if Rickie Fowler was still racing dirt bikes, that would be insane. These guys have a window to make a lot of money playing golf. Glad they're having fun with these sports, but they should have some common sense too.

Hanger: Great point about the motorbikes. I don't think accountants should be allowed to ride those things.

Godich: Seeing as how they have no obligation to a team, these guys can do as they please. And for many of them, if they got hurt and could never swing a club again, they would still be set for life. That said, I don't know why somebody would risk injury when there is so much money at stake.

Morfit: I'm guessing Lucas got on some water he wasn't comfortable with. Whether it was choppy or there was coral below, I don't know, but he'd paddleboarded before and it's not exactly hang-gliding as far as the danger.

Mick Rouse, editorial assistant, SI Golf Group: I'm glad these guys aren't just locked in a padded room all day long, but it's hard for me to do anything but shake my head when these guys drop off events while guys like Kobe and Big Ben are playing through worse injuries.

Tell us what you think in the all-new readers' live Confidential or in the comments section below: If you made millions playing golf, would you take part in risky activities like snowboarding and surfing?