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.
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Raise your hand if you had Rocco in your fantasy league winning the Frys.com event this week in Northern California. Anybody? PGA Tour Confidential swami Rick Lipsey? I mean, come on. Was there a better event on Tour all year? Birdie, eagle, knee-knocker five-footer on the last for par and the win. Does it get better than that? It was golf! It wasn’t marketing crap. It was golf!
Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Rocco is the man! I think with this win he’s finally over the hangover from Torrey Pines in ’08.
Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: That’s some hangover.
Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Swami is on board, MB. Forgive the French, but screw the marketing golf season. Now it’s real golf when guys want it almost as bad as in the Ryder Cup. They’re all playing for careers now. Rock on Rocco.
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: As I said last week, watching the Fall Series and guys playing for a spot in golf is more compelling in some ways than watching the World Golf Snooze in Akron.
Lipsey: Back in 2008, who’d have predicted that in any future year Rocco would have more Ws than Tiger Woods?
Morfit: I’m calling Rocco Captain Hole-out from now on. Can’t believe he dunked shots from 100-plus four straight days.
Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Soft greens and a course set up to create some excitement help, too.
Lipsey: Setup is nice, but all the course stuff is way secondary to what’s at stake and driving the minds of the competitors. In the Fall Series, the world’s best golfers (well, most of them) are playing for their careers. That is cool.
Evans: Alan, do you sleep with a thesaurus? Kismet!
David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: Alan is the only golf writer who makes me reach for a dictionary.
Shipnuck: Words are my life.
Gorant: Hate to burst your populist bubble, but most of those guys in the hunt down the stretch were pretty comfortably inside the top 125. Also, I don’t think that holing out from the fairway is a matter of effort or desire.
Lipsey: Most were in the top 125, but not Rocco, not Chris Tidland, Troy Merritt, Dean Wilson, etc. And even those in the top 125 are grinding it out to improve their standing for major exemptions, invitational exemptions, and the like.
BEST FINISH OF 2010?
Bamberger: Maybe that’s why Tiger spent a decade telling us after wins, “I got a little lucky.” The winner is always a little lucky. I love how all three guys in the final group play ready golf. Improves things for the viewer so much. Seriously, was there an event this year with a more exciting finish? Not counting the majors or the Ryder Cup, just a Tour event with great golf down the stretch. Anything better?
Morfit: Quail. Rory 62.
Gorant: Nothing jumps out, but I can’t remember what I had for lunch, nevermind the finishes of every off-brand Tour event from the last year.
Shipnuck: The Masters was pretty epic! Otherwise, there weren’t many bang-bang finishes this year.
Van Sickle: Justin Rose’s flawless 66 in the final round at Memorial was impressive in its own way.
HARRINGTON ENDS DROUGHT
Bamberger: One of golf’s best talkers, Padraig Harrington, won in Asia this week, his first win in two years. Yes, the field was filled with obscure players, but a win is a win. Let’s do a little mind-reading here. Do you think the Ryder Cup helped Padraig find his game again? Could you see him becoming a dominant player again? I vote yes on both. Golf is such a confidence game. The confidence Monty showed in him I think had to really help. What say you all?
Lipsey: I’d like to think he’ll get it back, but the odds are against it. It’s the rare tour player who gets to the top, loses it and gets back to the top. Still, it would be awesome to have Paddy back in the mix. He’s a great personality.
Shipnuck: I think he has one more big run in him. And yes, winning the Ryder Cup was a big boost. That was the first good thing that had happened to Paddy on a golf course in ages.
Evans: Paddy is a worker and tinkerer who will grind it out until he ruins that progress. So he’ll always be up and down and never a guy that will play consistently until he lets go and just plays golf.
Morfit: No one is better at saying nothing to a room full of journalists than Tiger Woods. No one is better at really saying something to a room full of journos than Padraig Harrington. I’m glad he won today for purely selfish reasons.
Dusek: Getting selected obviously gave him confidence, and the level of play at Celtic Manor was pretty high. That should carry over into Padraig’s game for a while. He should be thankful that the 2011 European season actually starts in a couple weeks. I could see him winning more, and maybe another major. Congressional (U.S. Open) next year, or maybe Atlanta Athletic Club (PGA Championship)?
Van Sickle: Harrington loves to tinker. It’s why he’s so good, it’s also why his game gets off track for periods of time in his constant quest for improvement.
Lipsey: Paddy seems real smart, but he’ll have to use those smarts to somehow free up his mind so he can let it rip, like Farrell said.
Morfit: I think just as Greg Norman’s vote of confidence helped Adam Scott at the Presidents Cup and beyond, Monty’s vote of confidence helped Harrington.
Van Sickle: One last thing on Paddy: I think he’s too smart and, despite three majors, still too motivated not to put together another run of some kind. With Tiger temporarily on the side (which may or may not last) as a major contender, major championships have never been so wide open. Paddy should be very keen on coming back strong, I agree with Dave.
Morfit: Not sure how high his level of play was at Celtic Manor. He read Ross Fisher’s putts nicely, so that counts for something.
Dusek: I think that if you are around enough guys who are playing well, your game can be lifted. Or, in my case, not.
TRANSGENDER GOLFER SUES LPGA
Bamberger: A transgender golfer named Lana Lawless is suing the LPGA because it is only open to women who were “female at birth.” Seems to me, once you’ve had the surgery(ies), you start as one thing and you finish as something else. I say let her play! What’s your take on it?
Shipnuck: I spent a lot of time with Mianne Bagger years ago. It’s a complicated issue, with a lot of misinformation. There is very little, if any, physical advantage. Let her play.
Evans: Alan, the policy has nothing to do with a player having a physical advantage. It’s there for the integrity of the sport as a women’s game.
Lipsey: I’m glad I don’t have to make that decision.
Dusek: If the law says she’s a woman, and her doctors say she’s a woman, then she’s a woman. The LPGA is the Ladies Professional Golf Association … let her play.
Evans: The rule is clear. Lana is in a no-man’s land on this issue, pardon the pun. She wasn’t born a woman. I don’t know all the gender reassignment labor cases, but I don’t think this one makes it very far.
Bamberger: Well, I think that’s correct, Farrell, but my point would be if you have a sex-change operation, you’ve changed your sex.
Gorant: I don’t know this for sure, but I believe she’s contending the LPGA changed the rule in expectation of her effort to qualify and is therefore discriminating against her. Either way it’s a losing battle that the LPGA shouldn’t want to fight. Let her play.
Van Sickle: If the late great Bullet Bob Hayes had a sex-change operation, would or should he have been allowed to compete in the Olympics as a woman? On the other hand, it might be one way for the LPGA to finally get some attention, sad to say.
Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: Lawless won the women’s long-drive championship at age 57 (!) so I think it’s safe to say she has a physical advantage. She should not be subject to discrimination in the workplace or anywhere else, but the LPGA can rightly ban her from competition on the grounds of that physical advantage.
HOW’S YOUR GAME?
Bamberger: Today was beautiful in the Northeast. With the Eagles-Falcons playing this afternoon and the Phillies-Giants playing tonight, there were a lot of reasons to stay home in front of the tube, but I headed to the links. The course was packed! Still, I had the time of my life out there. Let’s conclude with this: are you playing more or less or the same amount of golf this year than you did last year? TV ratings may be down, but to me the game feels healthy where it counts. Are you guys playing?
Lipsey: A bit more, but if diapers and bottles and refereeing soccer games weren’t in the mix, it would be a lot more.
Van Sickle: My home course seemed more crowded than in the last several years. Westinghouse opened a huge new office nearby, which didn’t hurt, so the club may have picked up some members. On the other hand, places like GolfNow.com are giving away discounted tee times at a rapid rate. The people who loved golf before still love it now. Are their numbers increasing, decreasing or staying the same? I’m not sure.
Dusek: I’m playing a lot less because I have fallen smack-dab into the demographic Black Hole that hurts golf. I turned 40 yesterday, have a 6-year-old and a 16-month-old and work 50-55 hours a week. My free time is filled with tennis lessons for my son, home improvement stuff and trying not to get in trouble with my wife. I just don’t have five hours, minimally, to play the public courses in the metropolitan New York area.
Van Sickle: Got to be tough to play golf if you live in NY and don’t own your own helicopter and heli-pad.
Walker: I played nine holes Saturday with my cousin and his 9-year-old son and the course had a pretty full tee sheet. Perfect fall weather and we finished in about two hours. I’ve been playing whenever I can, and I’m seeing a lot of golfers out there as well.
Van Sickle: I dunno, I was at this course in Wales a couple of weeks ago and yeah, it was kind of rainy, but there were never more than 24 golfers on the course at one time on any of four days straight.
Gorant: I played last week. Teed off at alone 8:15 am, played in 2:45 and didn’t catch up to anyone. If not for the guys blowing leaves out of the bunkers I wouldn’t have run into anyone.
Morfit: Played 18 a few days ago for the first time in a month, and had a great day. Got done in four hours and beat my handicap by a mile.
Shipnuck: You gotta want it. My theory is to wait until you get invited somewhere nice and then Wife can’t say no. Ergo, I just played two days in a row, at Spy and MPCC. But I might not play again for three weeks.