Every week of the 2009 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.
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Martin Laird did something fellow Scot Colin Montgomerie never did — win a PGA Tour event. He won on the third playoff hole at Summerlin with a birdie. Laird has a very solid game tee to green, but he’s a little spotty with that long putter. His ballstriking should still earn him a nice career. Scotland has a new star. Could he possibly be a contender for a Ryder Cup spot on Monty’s team next year? Hmm.
Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: Europe has some hot young players coming up. Laird, Rory McIlroy, and Chris Wood — the tall dude with Muppet hair who was in the mix at the British Open the last few years and was the big revelation at this year’s Vivendi (formerly Seve) Trophy. It’s going to be tough for a lovable old warhorse like Miguel Angel Jimenez to make next year’s Ryder team.
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Maybe Monty would have won in the States had he played in more Las Vegas Opens. Still, you have to love the idea of coming from Scotland to Las Vegas to win a Tour event with a long wand. Good times.
Van Sickle: I really enjoyed the Vegas finish. It was a birdie-fest course, but the pressure of the finishing holes got to the leaders, most of whom dunked a shot into the water at 17 or 18. Then there was Scott Piercy, a local guy, who dunked a couple and finished with two straight doubles. He snapped an iron in half after messing up on 18.
Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: It was Tour golf at its best. No Tiger or Phil, but intense action nonetheless.
Van Sickle: Jim Furyk also made a nice final-round run, shooting 62 to just miss the three-way playoff. He’s gone 54 tourneys without winning. He’s 39. Will he get back to the winner’s circle? Does he still have another major in him?
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: He’ll backdoor a few more wins, but I’d be surprised if he won another major. His putting has slipped a bit, and that was the difference-maker for him.
Evans: Jim Furyk could win 20 more times before his career is over, including a few majors. This is just a rough patch.
Van Sickle: He’s been plagued by odd stretches of poor play — a bad nine here, a poor six holes there. His putting has run hot and cold, too. He’s too young to give up on, and too dedicated. I think he’ll win more, and I think he’ll swipe another major along the way.
Bamberger: If the new grooves make a difference, it will be good for Furyk and other control players. He could certainly win a major, especially a U.S. Open.
Van Sickle: Golf Channel talked about how it’s amazing that Chad Campbell has won only four times on tour. On Sunday night we just saw, again, why. Campbell missed a short par putt in the playoff in Vegas, just like he missed that short putt in the Masters playoff. He simply can’t give up strokes from inside four feet.
You may not have noticed, but the Grand Slam of Golf is in Bermuda this week. No Tiger Woods, but the four major winners will be there — Angel Cabrera, Lucas Glover, Stewart Cink and Y.E. Yang. They all rank outside the top 10 in the world. With the PGA Tour season ending earlier, we can probably look forward to more made-for-TV events like these. Will you watch this week? Are these events good for golf in the long run?
Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: The best Grand Slams are usually the ones with first-time participants, who are thrilled to be there and often bring family and friends. Don’t know if that will be the case with Yang and Cabrera, but I bet Cink and Glover will bring their posses.
Dick Friedman, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: I wouldn’t want this stuff as a steady diet, but this one seems eminently watchable. Wonder if they’ll let Cink tweet from the course?
Van Sickle: Cink has already tweeted about the Grand Slam. His latest — “Hello, Bermuda!” — may mean that he’s already there and excited to play. So I’m making him the favorite this week. Also, his tweets may provide more tournament coverage than any other media outlet.
Morfit: Sorry, PGA of America. These made-for-TV things all blur together. I’d be just as likely to watch the one with Hunter Mahan and whoever else in New Zealand. What’s the difference? The major winners were too random this year to settle any barroom arguments (Tiger vs. Phil, Phil vs. Vijay, Tiger vs. Paddy).
Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: If the PGA Tour could manufacture a Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf match between Tiger and Phil every week, it would. No matter who’s playing, the Grand Slam is always a boring event, but advertisers continue to support it, so it must get an adequate rating. Still, I won’t be watching. I’m going to try to play.
Van Sickle: I’d rate the Grand Slam as one of the more watchable Silly Season events. I like it better than the Skins Game, which lost all reason for being. One of the better ones used to be the Skills Challenge, until they started inviting John Elway and Roger Clemens instead of tour pros.
Morfit: I spoke to Bermudian Michael Douglas for Golf Magazine’s 50th anniversary issue earlier this year, and he’s pretty high on the course down there. Perhaps the possibility of a Catherine Zeta-Jones sighting would help ratings.
Shipnuck: Is there a Grand Slam this year? Let me know how it goes!
Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I kinda dug the old Tiger/Annika vs. Duval/Webb duel several years back. And also the Tiger/Sergio match under the lights, though I doubt we’ll see that kind of star power in prime time again. That one was memorable more for Sergio’s post-match celebrating than any shot that was hit. Tiger wasn’t too pleased if I recall.
Bamberger: The Grand Slam of Golf is like those old Super Groups from the ’70s. You can put George Harrison and Eric Clapton in a room together, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to come up with “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Not to compare Cink and Glover with two guitar gods, but you get the idea. Made-for-TV is made-for-TV. It’s just something to pass the time.
Van Sickle: I’ve actually covered a couple of Grand Slams. Got a nice trip to Hawaii out of it once. Also a trip to Palm Springs. The one thing they had in common was that none of the players seemed especially pleased to be there, despite playing for $1 million.
Herre: Rich Beem was happy to be there the year I attended, in 2002 at Poipu Bay. Beem and Charles Barkley bonded at the bar, and Tiger won by a kazillion shots.
Van Sickle: On to the European tour: Lee Westwood finally won, ending a 25-month drought. I know he’s had a few good finishes — he just missed the epic Tiger-Rocco playoff at the 2008 U.S. Open — but it’s amazing to me that he can still be No. 11 in the world rankings without winning in two years. I’m not sure if that says something about the world rankings or about the lack of production among the players outside the top five.
Herre: He’s had several close calls the last couple of years and has quietly climbed the world ranking.
Evans: After Tiger and Phil, the ranking is a joke. You made the point earlier that none of this year’s major winners are in the top 10. That says it all. The world ranking folks and their math seem to credit players for not completely tanking. How is Sergio still a top-10 player?
Bamberger: I agree with Farrell. The rankings are not only arbitrary but meaningless, except that we have become so dependent on them. A computer decides who gets to play and who doesn’t. I’d rather see it done by a committee, much like the NCAA tournament.
Morfit: Rankings aside, Westwood is a great player, but I wonder how many more chances he’ll get in the majors. There’s no way he should have missed both the 2008 U.S. Open playoff AND the 2009 British Open playoff. He says this means he’s getting closer, but I don’t know.
Van Sickle: You can’t call him an underachiever because he won so much early in his career. He just peaked too soon. That elusive major, as you said, is slipping away from him.
Bamberger: Westwood closed for the first time in forever. He’ll use it at Augusta, at the Open, and on the Ryder Cup team he’s certain to be on.
Shipnuck: I agree Westwood’s win is potentially a big deal. Torrey and Turnberry showed he’s ready to be big-time player. All that’s been missing is belief. Presumably he has that now.
Hack: Lee’s only 36 years old. I think he has a good six, seven years of majors left. And the way he has gotten himself in shape, maybe more than that.
Herre: I agree. Westwood still has time to get his major.
Van Sickle: Yeah, but now he’s got to try to win one in the Glover-Yang-Cink era.
Van Sickle: I’m now taking nominations for the 2012 Ryder Cup captain. (Corey Pavin is in charge for 2010.) If the PGA of America doesn’t let Paul Azinger come back for an encore, my next choice would be Fred Couples. I wasn’t sure if Fred could keep track of all the details, but his Presidents Cup performance proved that he can.
Herre: Not sure Couples is right for the Ryder Cup. His laid-back approach was perfect for the Prez Cup, but the Ryder is a different animal. Zinger kept his players loose, but focused as well. I could see the Ryder Cup getting away from Fred somehow.
Friedman: Jay Haas, anyone?
Shipnuck: No thank you.
Morfit: My question after San Francisco is the same question we used to ask about the Bush administration. Who was really making the decisions there? Was Jay Haas Freddy’s Cheney?
Evans: Good observation, Cameron. Couples is in the Ronald Reagan school of leadership. Haas seemed to be taking things seriously, Nixon’s H.R. Haldeman.
Van Sickle: I like Haas, and I think Fred is clearly in the running now, but Davis Love may be the frontrunner.
Herre: I like Haas too — sort of grandfatherly, yet he clearly knows his stuff and is a good decision-maker.
Evans: Azinger had his turn, and we should move on with someone else for ’12. I still would like to see Larry Nelson get a shot. He’s a Hall of Famer, a three-time major winner and was a great Ryder Cup player in his day.
Shipnuck: Today’s players have no idea who Larry Nelson is.
Van Sickle: I’m a big Larry Nelson backer, but the PGA of America has long since passed him over. It’s not gonna happen now. He’s too far removed from the Tour.
Friedman: Why are the powers-that-be disinclined to give Zinger another run? I’m sure USA Basketball would love to have Coach K for life if he’d do it.
Van Sickle: The PGA views the captaincy as a one-time honor. They haven’t had an encore in two decades, not since Nicklaus lost a home game at Muirfield Village.
Herre: The PGA of America feels that there are lots of good candidates and that they all deserve a chance. Can’t say I disagree; the Ryder Cup is only an exhibition after all. On the other hand, the Euros often stick with a winner, which is probably better strategically.
Morfit: If winning were the No. 1 priority, Azinger would have been made captain until he got tired of it. That’s what made it so odd that he didn’t come back. The U.S. team had been barbecued for years for its ineptitude, and then when they finally got it right, the PGA of America changed skippers. It’s like Padraig Harrington revamping his swing after winning two majors. Maybe it’s a golf thing.
Bamberger: I like Tiger as Ryder Cup captain. The best way to assure he’s into it. Raises the stakes. Let’s him “give back” to the game in a big way. They’d never ask, I’m guessing, and he’d never do it. But it would be cool.
Shipnuck: You never know. Tiger already runs two tournaments of his own.
Friedman: If you’re going in that direction . . . how about Phil? He did some coaching at the Presidents Cup.
Herre: Phil will definitely get his shot.
Hack: What about the Mark O’Meara ship. Has that sailed, too? Bunch of wins and two majors. He really wanted the K Club. I wonder if he gets another crack.
Van Sickle: Now that O’Meara’s on the senior circuit, being captain would cut into his play-for-pay opportunities. He was a better fit before he turned 50.
Van Sickle: Jeff Sluman, a former PGA champ, all but ran a couple of Presidents Cup teams for Nicklaus. He’s a smart guy, very popular and current with today’s players. He’d be a pretty good choice.
Herre: Like it, Gary. Slu would be an inspired choice.
Bamberger: I think Gary’s right that Davis Love III is the front-runner. A PGA winner, the son of a PGA pro, beloved by the organization, detail-oriented when he needs to be, a good Ryder Cup record and eager for a punctuation mark to a very solid career.
Van Sickle: Annika Sorenstam’s new perfume is out. Anyone considering buying some as a Christmas gift for a loved one? An early report says it has a strong aroma of vanilla.
Friedman: Ah, you spoiled it! We were thinking of getting it for YOU!!
Bamberger: Eau de new-born baby.
Shipnuck: I know that smell! Rather piquant….
Evans: I don’t understand the branding of Annika. I would like to see the market research for her consumer. Does she share Martha Stewart’s demo?
Van Sickle: The perfume does seem like a reach for Annika. It might’ve had more marketing heft if Annika was still playing, but now she’s a retired player and a mom who’s out of the headlines. It’ll take some savvy marketing to get the public to take notice of her new product.
Shipnuck: Vans, you’re the one who brought up the perfume! Someone’s paying attention.
Bamberger: What I liked best about Annika when she played was that she was all about the golf. Taking stock, working hard, getting better. The Colonial thing was totally rooted in taking stock. At Doral this year, Annika was there, selling perfume. It didn’t seem like her.
Lipsey: I loved hearing her say how she changed her kid’s diaper in a hotel lobby bathroom, and how good that felt — to be a regular person.