PGA Tour Confidential: FedEx Cup favorites, golf's teenage invasion, and whether Tiger Woods is overcoached

PGA Tour Confidential: FedEx Cup favorites, golf’s teenage invasion, and whether Tiger Woods is overcoached

Stenson moved ahead of Woods atop the FedEx Cup standings with last week's win at the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston.
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Every Sunday night, conducts an email roundtable with writers from Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.

1. With two events left, Henrik Stenson leads Tiger Woods and Adam Scott in the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Who's your pick to win the Cup?

Joe Passov, senior editor, travel, Golf Magazine: Stenson can't seem to finish worse than second in any tournament these days. However, I pick Tiger every time out, and I'm not switching yet.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: I'll go with none of the above. I'll say Phil, for no good reason except that I think he really needed the bye week.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: The points don't matter because they're going to reset after the next event. So the player who wins at East Lake is the favorite. I'll take Tiger.

Mike Walker, senior editor, I’ll take Mickelson, who sounds like he really wants his first-ever Player of the Year award and knows he needs one more win to seal it.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: I'll take Jason Dufner. He's playing his best golf of the year, and because of his victory at the PGA, he's playing with house money.

Josh Sens, contributing writer, Golf Magazine: Scott. Both he and Stenson have been in better form than Tiger in recent weeks, and of the two of them, I give Scott the edge in the mental game.  

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Tim Finchem.

2. Is the FedEx Cup bye-week a necessary, recharge-the-batteries break, or a genuine momentum-killer as football takes center stage?

Passov: I understand that it's tough for the pros to go full-bore five straights weeks, when you toss in a Ryder Cup/Presidents Cup to the playoffs, but this dead week has been a real buzz-killer. There is an off week after the Tour Championship and before the Presidents Cup, so why did we need this off week? With college and pro football, U.S. Open tennis, baseball and other distractions, pro golf and the PGA Tour seem a distant memory.

Bamberger: The bye week is not necessary. The FedEx Cup is not necessary. But it's still a good time.

Morfit: I think it actually adds something. Builds anticipation. I found myself actually missing the FEC this weekend. 

Van Sickle: The FedEx Cup bye week is a function of the Deutsche Bank's Monday finish. That gives players a short week for the BMW, which they didn't like the last time it happened. OK, Phil didn't like it. I guess playing four weeks in a row for $35 million in prize money is too much to ask.

Godich: I think they put the break in there because they knew many of the big guns would not play four weeks in a row. Plus, let's be honest. If there's a week to schedule a bye, this is it. Nobody competes with the NFL, especially on opening weekend.

Walker: The bye week is minor buzz-kill that prevents the major buzz-kill of guys like Phil Mickelson skipping a “playoff” event.

Sens: Neither. Just a smart move by executives trying to draw as big of an audience as possible.

3. The FedEx playoffs move to Chicago, and Conway Farms, a 1991 Tom Fazio design. Would there be more interest if the venue were Medinah, Cog Hill or one of Chicago's other Tour-centric courses, or is the host sire irrelevant?

Passov: I've never been to Conway Farms, but I don't know that any of Chicago's more famous tournament courses are appreciably better. However, when your event has no real identity of its own (when it was the Western Open, for like, 100 years, it actually meant something), I would think pairing it with a more esteemed — or at least more distinctive — venue would be helpful. 

Bamberger: The host site is always relevant. Players are the best promoters of traditional golfing values, when given the chance. Bring the Chicago stop to Chicago G.C. A man can dream, right?

Morfit: It's all about who wins. Course takes distant second. 

Walker: The problem with changing venues so much is that fans watching on TV aren’t familiar with the courses, especially the key holes. The Tour has the same problem with the New York event. How can you build an event’s identity if you keep moving the location around?

Van Sickle: Medinah and Cog Hill don't blow anyone's skirt up, either. The BMW is, by necessity, the equivalent of The Empire Strikes Back in the Stars Wars trilogy. It's a necessary middle step without a true end. Well, except the year Vijay Singh clinched it … and no one knew until an hour later and he was already gone.

Godich: Ask me next week, after I've gotten a look at Conway Farms. That said, what's so wrong with moving the event around.

Sens: Irrelevant. This isn't the Masters. They could play on a tarmac and the interest would be pretty much the same.  

4. Miguel Angel Jimenez took exception this week to organizers of the European Tour's European Masters awarding a sponsor's exemption to 13-year-old Ye Wo-cheng of China, saying, "A 13-year-old should be playing alongside other 13-year-olds." Should we mandate age requirements, or should playing ability and gate attractiveness be the standards?  

Passov: I'm getting a little weary — numb, really — from younger and younger golfers being thrust into adult tournaments, with the accompanying spotlight glare. I'll admit the novelty value of precocious players swayed me for a while, but now I feel that if you aren't old enough to obtain a license to drive a courtesy car, you shouldn't be teeing it up on Tour that week.

Sens: We're not talking about drinking, voting or driving a car. Let the kid play. If he's not good enough to compete, we'll find out soon enough. Meantime, the tournament gets a good storyline.

Bamberger: Whatever M-A J says, I'm right there with him. The man's a genius.

Morfit: I think 13 is too young. It's silly. 

Van Sickle: Sponsor's exemptions are the choice of the sponsor. As long as tournament sponsors are allowed to invite anyone, there's no controlling who gets them. It's about generating interest. If that means inviting Michelle Wie or Mark Rypien or Michael Jordan or a 13-year-old kid or a juggling clown, that's the way it goes. Personally, I wouldn't invite any amateur that wasn't at least in college or college age.

Walker: I appreciate the traveling carnival element of a professional golf tour, but 13 is way too young.

Godich: We heard the same rumblings about Guan Tianlang leading into the Masters, and I was among those who said the kid would be lucky to break 80. Then he made the cut. Let the kids play. Besides, who's going to decide what age is too young?

5. Brandel Chamblee made waves (again) by stating that "Tiger Woods is overcoached." Is Sean Foley fair game, given Tiger's performances in the majors this year, or is this a non-issue, given Tiger's 5 wins? Where's the debate over Rory McIlroy's mentors, given his miserable results this year?  

Passov: Chamblee's candor is refreshing and appreciated, whether or not I agree. Perhaps Tiger could — and would — be better served with someone other than Foley. It's always a fertile topic, but jeez — he's got five wins in '13. No one else is even close to that. Why aren't we spending more time discussing the free-falls of plunge artists such as Rory, Yani Tseng, or Luke Donald, among many, many others?

Bamberger: Whatever Brandel Chamblee says, I'm pretty much right there with him. The man's a genius. Although I didn't agree with him when he was critical, earlier this year, with the angle of Tiger's right foot in his follow-through. Tiger's the best in the game, by a mile, but a shorter mile than it used to be. He doesn't look like he owns his own swing.

Morfit: Exactly. It's time we start to take a closer look at what in the world happened to our Rory. Tiger's habits have been parsed to death. 

Van Sickle: Brandel makes a convincing argument. Since I don't know what Tiger and Sean are working on or how it’s swirling around in Tiger's head, I don't feel qualified to judge. Weighing Tiger's five wins with his performances in the majors, however, lends credence to Brandel. It is funny how much more commentary is directed toward him — well, he is Tiger — than Rory, who is temporarily almost an afterthought.

Walker: If Sean Foley is overcoaching Tiger, the rest of the Tour should ask for six-hour range sessions with Foley, especially McIlroy. For all the talk about his pressing at majors, he’s also had some bad luck in 2013: the infamous flagstick shot at Augusta, the elbow at Merion.

Godich: What exactly is wrong with Tiger's ball-striking? I'm seeing a player who has absolutely no confidence on the greens, a player who is putting ridiculous pressure on himself at every major and a player who is showing wear and tear after almost two decades in the spotlight. Is that Sean Foley's fault?

Sens: Anything involving Tiger's on-course performance is fair game. And whether Chamblee's right or wrong is beside the point. It's his job to have an opinion. No doubt many enraged viewers and readers will take his comment as a personal affront or as further evidence of the media's myopia and misuse of power (see the inevitable angry comments at the end of this thread). BUT I SUPPOSE THAT'S THE JOB OF THE PASSIONATE FAN. As for Rory, his slump was widely attributed to 1) young love and 2) new equipment. Can't blame his mentors for the former. And if they could do it over, I'm sure Rory and his team would still take that endorsement deal.

6. The PGA Championship will likely be played in July in 2016 to avoid conflict with golf's return to the Olympics. PGA of America CEO Pete Bevacqua sounded pleased with the move, saying, "It’s a better time to host a major championship." What if anything would you change about the current major championship schedule?

Passov: Move the U.S. Open by one week up or back, so as to spare us from the endless parade of overly schmaltzy Father's Day references. Return the Players back to March, and move the PGA Championship to May, where we can visit Northern, Southern and Midwestern venues without suffering from August heat prostration.  

Bamberger: I love things as they are. The four majors have a beautiful rhythm to them. Golf should change slowly, if at all.

Morfit: I'm not sure the Players isn't better in March. Wait. Is that a major? Oh, never mind.

Van Sickle: The two Opens and the PGA often come a bit too quickly, one after another. I'd like a bit more of a breather after the Open Championship before the PGA. But if I was the PGA and I wanted to enhance my tournament's stature, I'd move to February or March and steal the limelight as Glory's First Shot. What's that, the weather is too lousy then? Not in Australia or South Africa or possibly China or Korea. Maybe it's time to think outside the bottle, PGA.

Walker: The major schedule needs more balance. We wait all year for the Masters, have a decent wait for the U.S. Open, and then try to squeeze the Open Championship and the PGA in a single month. The U.S. Open needs to move to earlier in June or late May to give the Open Championship and the PGA time to breathe. The only sacred date is the Masters in April

Godich: The major schedule is fine as is, but backing up the British Open with the PGA might be good news for Tiger. That means he wouldn't have three or four weeks of reps on the range between the two events. Just go play.  

Sens: Revenues and TV ratings aside, I don't see any real reason to change the current schedule. A "better time to host a major championship"? Right. That's just spin and marketing-speak. It's not in Bevacqua's interest to sound anything but pleased with the move.