PGA Tour Confidential: FedEx without Tiger, Golf Channel experiment, more

January 4, 2010

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.


Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: Cameron Morfit had an interesting column last week in which he argued that the Tour should have exempted Tiger Woods into this week’s Tour Championship since he is the defending FedEx Cup champ (and multiple winner of the event). Do you agree?

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Couldn’t disagree more with Cam. The whole idea of playoffs is to eliminate someone. Tiger didn’t play his way in, simple as that. How would you put him in the field? How many points would you arbitrarily assign him? It doesn’t make any sense. And if it was Vijay Singh who was defending champ, would anyone have come up with this idea?

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Well, you couldn’t do it just for Tiger, of course. On the list of playoff rules problems, it’s way low, but, sure, why not bring back the defending champ?

Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: No. You have to earn it or it becomes meaningless. The fact that Tiger washed out this year actually loans the thing some credibility. Gotta play good to win, no matter who you are.

Herre: Yeah, the FedEx Cup playoffs are supposed to be PLAYOFFS, right? Would be like the Lakers being exempted into next year’s NBA finals.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: The Tour Championship is a meritocracy. Let’s keep it that way.

Click here to submit a question for Alan’s next mailbag.

Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: The Silly Season is for stuff where every star gets a spot. Otherwise, the Tour becomes like the Ice Capades.

Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Tiger didn’t make the Top 30 in the FedEx rankings. It’s the one field that you truly earn your way into based on how you played over the year.

Bamberger: You have all convinced me; let the defender earn his way in like everybody else. As we’ve learned, a lot can change in a year.

Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: I agree with the meritocracy argument on its, uh, merits. But since the whole point of the FedEx Cup playoffs is to get strong fields and generate interest in tournaments after the PGA Championship, weighting the criteria to favor past winners isn’t the worst idea.

Gorant: Even if the winner is Adam Scott or Bart Bryant or Kevin Streelman?

Walker: Hey, you merit people are on the side of the angels, but if you wanted to tweak the rules to help out former FedEx Cup winners (of which there are currently two), it wouldn’t threaten the integrity of the game.

Van Sickle: Had another system been used — cumulative score for the four weeks, as I’ve written in a column to be posted on on Monday — Tiger would, indeed, have qualified for the Tour Championship based on his scores. It all comes down to this: do you want a system that’s a reward for an entire season (which gets wiped out in the reset) or actual semi-playoffs?

John Garrity, contributing writer, Sports Illustrated: While we’re all dumping on Cameron’s idea, and I’m with the rest of you, let’s thank him for writing a lively, provocative column.


Herre: Cap’n Corey said this week that Woods might not go all five sessions at the Ryder Cup, which would be a first. You really think Pavin would sit Tiger?

Gorant: The whole point of the statement seemed to be making sure that everyone knew he’d already gotten Tiger’s sign off on just such a possibility.

Evans: Right. Why does Corey need to say it at all? Just do it.

Garrity: If Tiger looks bad in his first match, I think Corey would be crazy not to bench him. If Tiger looks good, though, he’ll have to stick with him.

Van Sickle: I don’t see Tiger sitting the first day. Maybe, if he played unbelievably poorly the first day, he might sit out the second day alternate shot. But he’s playing at least four times. I think he’ll play all five because I think Tiger is going to play his best golf of the year in Wales.

Shipnuck: Sure, if he’s playing poorly. But that’s an emotional boost for the Euros and could lead to some sulking in the U.S. team room. I think Tiger will go all five sessions unless he’s absolutely stinking up the joint.

Bamberger: Sure, why not sit him? This is not the same Tiger. I’m guessing Corey’s thinking the winner keeps the court. He wins, he keeps playing. He halves, he keeps playing. He loses either morning, he sits in the afternoon. What, you think Corey’s afraid? He is NOT AFRAID!

Evans: Pavin is talking too much. As I have said before, this is the first time in his career where people are forced to listen to him, and he’s salivating over it. Since when has a Ryder Cup captain taken so much bait from the media?

Bamberger: You’re going down, Farrell! Captain Corey does not take bait. He calls the shots! He’s the captain! Salute!


Herre: The PGA Tour, LPGA and Champions were all dark this week. That put the Nationwide tour on center stage, and Golf Channel took advantage by going “announcer-less” on Saturday. What did you think? Are Johnny and Sir Nick’s jobs in jeopardy?

Bamberger: Nick yes, John no. I always learn something from Johnny. Despite everything.

Gorant: I don’t think so. It was cool and interesting, but it only worked because the players let the mikes get right next to them while they chatted with their caddies. I still think you need a few announcers, but there’s no way you need 12 of them talking over each other at every event.

Shipnuck: It was both boring and strangely entertaining. I don’t think this is the future of golf telecasts, but I give Golf Channel credit for being creative.

Garrity: I think all the announcers will take heart from this. At the end of the broadcast the cameras and mikes followed one golfer on the final hole, marking and remarking his ball, lining up the putt, backing off his putt, remarking, etc. The old test patterns were more interesting. There is absolutely no drama, no narrative flow, without the gabby guys in the tower.

Walker: The novelty of it was fun, but pro golf with its drama unfolding over 18 holes at different times needs a helping hand from announcers more than most sports. Since we all agree golf telecasts could be better, I admire the Golf Channel for trying, even though I couldn’t get through more than an hour of the Blair Witch Boise Open.

Lipsey: I have a good friend who’s blind and plays golf and watches golf on TV. Something like this ruins his viewing experience.

Shipnuck: The population of blind fans would be much better served by the PGA Tour channel on XM radio, which provides true play-by-play.

Herre: I thought it was interesting to hear what the players were saying in the fairway, figuring out their approach shots, but there was almost no conversation on the greens, so that was deadly. And the constant white noise was annoying. But I’m with you, Alan — why not give it a try?

Garrity: It just proved to me how much I rely on commentary to know what the situation is. I “watch” a golf tournament while I’m walking around the room, answering e-mail, clipping my fingernails. I don’t want to have to read those little graphic boxes to figure out who is in the lead and how many strokes he’s already taken on the hole. And I REALLY hate all that ambient noise. You know, like the port-a-potty doors slamming and the baby crying.

Bamberger: It’s interesting to see how few players use their caddies on the green, which shows that putting really is more art than science. Unless a caddie really knows how you want to hit the putt, speed-wise, there’s not much chance for him to be helpful, not at that level.

Evans: I don’t think it worked. It felt like watching a bad silent movie.

Shipnuck: They shoulda done a lot more with Twitter, tapping into a community of hard-core fans and a mix of reporters and players. About 20 minutes ago Randy Moss made his one-handed grab on Revis Island and Twitter exploded within nanoseconds. If you had a few thousand wags plugged into the broadcast, the repartee could be very amusing.

Herre: Right, Alan — Golf Channel failed to embrace the social media aspect of its experiment. I also thought the graphics were lacking. It was almost as if GC didn’t completely think through what it was trying to do. A missed opportunity.

Gorant: There were some occasional pop-ups, but they were sort of lame. I too noted the white noise. Wondered how it would be different at a Tour event, where there are larger galleries, etc.

Walker: Social media is where this is heading. More people are switching from cable TV to watching streaming video online, where you can watch a game, tweet about it and cyberstalk Megan Fox, all at the same time. This Nationwide broadcast was the opposite of the future of golf broadcasts, where we’ll be getting more and more commentary, not less.


Herre: Laura Davies won again on Sunday, for the 76th time worldwide. Sheesh, what does this woman have to do to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame? Do you think she gets into the World Golf Hall of Fame first?

Shipnuck: She’ll be voted into both eventually.

Lipsey: Yeah, it’s a quirk that voting will overcome, the quirk being that she got to the cusp of the fame and then forgot how to win in the U.S.

Van Sickle: At some point, some veterans committee has to vote her in. Besides, in a few more years, the only players left to vote into the Hall will be B-teamers. Just about everyone who deserves to be in is already in, since we started voting in four or five players a year. Davies can’t get in too soon.

Evans: Laura hasn’t won enough in the U.S. Winning 76 times, mostly in Europe, doesn’t make you an LPGA Hall of Famer.

Gorant: That is an interesting point. To get in the LPGA Hall, you have to win on the LPGA. Still, I think she’ll end up in both, as she should.

Van Sickle: Davies won 20 times on the LPGA, including four majors: 1987 U.S. Women’s Open, ’94 McDonald’s LPGA, ’96 McDonald’s LPGA, ’06 du Maurier. She also won the JC Penney Classic in the all-time great pairing with John Daly.

How many other four-time major winners aren’t in the Hall?

Garrity: Laura has won everywhere, on every style of golf course. She’s won young, she’s won old, and she’s been a dominant figure in almost every Solheim Cup. She’s one of the game’s absolute greats.

Herre: She should have been in both years ago. She is the single-most overlooked great golfer in history.

Bamberger: Can you get into the World Golf Hall of Fame and not the LPGA Hall of Fame? She certainly should be in both. For her length. For her long run. For her prodigious gambling. For her Solheim play. For her 76 wins. Absolutely.

Herre: Marilynn Smith is a member of the WGHOF but not the LPGA HOF.

Garrity: I love the LPGA’s Hall of Fame criteria, the way they go to such lengths to keep out genuinely famous golfers. It’s a consequence of their trying to use objective criteria and to be truly selective — which I admire — but they have to keep changing the rules to let in truly deserving players. Laura should have been a lock 10 years ago.

Van Sickle: I think the LPGA has the best idea: establish actual requirements to be met. If the WGHOF had that, Chi Chi Rodriguez and his seven wins wouldn’t be in. The problem is, the LPGA doesn’t recognize most of Laura’s wins (and for a long time, some of her majors).

Lipsey: A hall of fame is meant to be something for fans and the game to honor the greats. Hopefully, the new LPGA brass will add this to the list of things to improve.


Herre: Course designer Rees Jones was vilified last week for his renovation of Cog Hill. This week the Tour plays at East Lake, another Jones job that the players have raved about in the past. The criticism of Jones seems arbitrary and selective. What gives?

Lipsey: Anybody who complains about anything at a no-cut golf tournament with a $7.5 million purse and a chance to qualify for another tournament where you can win a $10 million bonus needs a lobotomy.

Bamberger: People are mean, and architects are an easy target. I know Rees. Rees is a friend of mine. And let me tell you something: these people dissing Rees, they couldn’t build better greens if you spotted them two tons of St. Andrews sand. East Lake is one of the gems of the South — nay, the entire golf-speaking world!

Herre: I agree, Michael. It’s easy to take shots at people who really can’t defend themselves. I think that’s why the USGA, PGA, R&A and even the Masters, to some extent, routinely get hammered. They are easy targets because they can’t fight back in any meaningful way.

Evans: A course doesn’t take a poll of tour players before it makes changes to its layout. Players seldom like changes. Get over it.

Gorant: I think, actually I know from speaking to him, that he truly seeks to build courses that will be a challenge to the pros. I don’t think some of those guys are used to it or like it very much. The feeling is, if there’s no way to shoot a 63 out here, there must be something wrong with it.

Van Sickle: There were two big problems at Cog Hill. The redesigned greens weren’t in great shape. Not many greens in the Midwest are after a summer of record heat and flooding. (They weren’t nearly as bad as the crybaby pros made them out to be, however.) But the real problem was their short week. The players were crabby about finishing in Boston on Monday, traveling to Chicago on Tuesday, pro-am duties on Wednesday and then right into another tournament.


Herre: OK, one more, then over and out. Let’s get your picks for the Tour Championship. I’m sticking with Dustin Johnson.

Gorant: Yeah, I’m all about D.J., too.

Evans: Matt Kuchar. Most consistent player on tour this year.

Van Sickle: East Lake is an iron player’s delight. Good putting never hurt, either. It’s right up the alley of Steve Stricker, two-time winner in 2010. He finished sixth there last year, and the other members of the top five in the points list have little or no recent history at East Lake. For $10 million, free beer and cheese for everyone!

Bamberger: I like Kuchar, too, but it might be my rooting interest.

Evans: I spoke to Kuchar at length on Friday, and he’s rested and ready to go.

Shipnuck: It’s been such a weird year, I expect a random winner to further muddle things. Might as well be Streelman.

Lipsey: In the year of the “I never would’ve picked him” winners, Streelman will be a perfect final winner.

Van Sickle: Streelman already has one PGA Tour major title — The Kodak Challenge!

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