PGA Tour Confidential: Masters Week

Tiger Woods hit a few shots on the driving range before playing a practice round on Sunday.
Charlie Riedel/AP

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.

David Dusek, deputy editor, Greetings from Augusta Ga., home of the 2010 Masters Toonamunt. The eyes of the world will be on Tiger Woods tomorrow when he gives his first press conference at 2 p.m. Eastern time. Let’s make a turn down Magnolia Lane. What are people most interested in this week?

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Tiger on Thursday, then the leaders after that. Bring on the real golf!

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: I want to see how all of the Euros do. Time for one of them to contend at Augusta.

Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Curious what the “yahoo” moment of the week will be for Tiger, whether on or off the grounds.

Shipnuck: I read that Tiger asked to stay in a cabin on the grounds. If true, that would indicate he’s nervous about being in the world at large. But there are no yahoos at the Masters — no one wants to lose that badge forever.

Lipsey: Something will happen in Augusta.

Dusek: I spoke with a local who said she turned down more than $5,000 from a tabloid for her Tuesday badge. She was afraid the reporter/snoop would get kicked out and she’d lose the badge forever. She also said there is a semi-organized movement down here not to assist or cooperate with tabloid media outlets. I strongly doubt Tiger is going to hear anything but polite, quiet applause as he plays … unless he makes a few birdies and eagles.

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: Woods will be harassed, but only off the course. He will be hounded by the uncredentialed media every moment he is not on the grounds of Augusta National. Could get ugly.

Shipnuck: I don’t think so. He’ll be at the course or in his house. It’s not like he’ll be in the queue at T-Bonz.

Godich: And he wonders why Elin won’t show up for at least one day?

Lipsey: Spending the week with my two toddlers at home sounds infinitely more fun than being hounded in Augusta.

Shipnuck: Especially if home is a yacht floating in the Caribbean!

Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Apparently Extra and Entertainment Tonight are already in Augusta. Tiger will be sleeping with one eye open.

Lipsey: Wouldn’t be at all surprised if some porn company or gossip rag does something zany, like bringing an ex-Tiger babe to Washington Road to sign autographs, do interviews, etc.

Dusek: The truck from the show “Cheaters” has been driving around Augusta for more than a week, I’m told, and one of Tiger’s alleged mistresses will be dancing at a strip club in Augusta. That the sort of thing you were thinking of Rick?

Shipnuck: But Tiger will just glide right by. The circus on Washington Road has no bearing on his week.

Dusek: I agree. How many majors did he win while juggling all the affairs we’ve learned about over the past five months? I think he knows how to block out distractions.

Lipsey: His major count has trailed off in recent years, compared to the early years. That could well be attributable to his off-course shenanigans

Dusek: Or his bum knee. Or his swing changes. Or his growing family. We can’t know that, and is it really fair to make that leap?

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: Living a double life couldn’t have helped his peace of mind.

Godich: Probably not fair to make that leap. I just don’t think players are as intimidated by him as they once were.

Herre: I agree. Some of them probably feel morally superior. The aura is gone.

Shipnuck: Morally superior doesn’t help you stop a 4-iron on the 15th green.

Godich: Just remember that the last memory we have of Tiger in a major is his getting chased down by Y.E. Yang at Hazeltine.

Morfit: No question the intimidation factor has been altered, but now I wonder if Tiger has unintentionally restored his aura by becoming even more famous than ever. O’Meara hit a crummy shot to start their practice round today and reportedly said he had not played with Woods for a while.

Godich: I want to see how Tiger behaves if he starts spraying shots and, of course, who he gets paired with. How about Tom Watson? That would be fun.

Morfit: Bubba Watson is Tiger’s playing partner of choice, but he’s not in the field. I still say Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker are the most likely candidates, but I wouldn’t rule out Mark O’Meara or even Lee Westwood.

Herre: O’Meara’s a good call. And maybe someone like Byeong-Hun An.

Godich: Will be interesting to see. And will Augusta officials feel players out to see if they’re willing? I don’t care what anybody says: Nobody is going to want to be paired with him. It will be a circus.

Shipnuck: It won’t be a circus at Augusta National. There will be the same number of fans and media as any other year. And TW has always had the biggest galleries. On the grounds it will feel like any other Masters.

Dusek: I agree. Extra tickets were not sold for this year’s tournament. A lot of people will still want to follow Phil Mickelson. Lots of patrons are going to set down their green chairs at Amen Corner and let the players come to them. Tiger’s gallery will be huge, but it can’t be bigger than the gallery he and Phil had last year on Sunday.

Godich: True, but there is still that distraction, the anticipation of his return. And I still wouldn’t put it past some fan — er, patron — in the gallery popping off.

Lipsey: It’ll be the most awkward sports event ever: All the people on the grounds will have questions on their minds, and Tiger will know they’re thinking about those questions, but the questions won’t come up, except in the very controlled press conference. It’s funny to read the comments from Tour players, like Fred Couples and Paul Casey, who say they’re only talking golf with Tiger. Those guys are as curious as we are, so it must kill them that they can play holes with Tiger without saying a word about you know what. Must be darn awkward.

Morfit: I’m curious how no-holds-barred the press conference will be. Seems like it has the potential for pain.

[Live Blog: Discuss Tiger’s 2 p.m. press conference with Golf Magazine’s Connell Barrett]

Godich: I know it has been said that there is no time limit on it, but I wonder how long he’ll sit up there and take questions.

Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Tiger will tell us nothing we don’t already know in his presser. He’ll talk about the condition of his game and the golf course and how great the new range is.

Lipsey: Somebody could be holding onto a bombshell news scoop and waiting to cash in this week. Anything’s possible and nothing would be too surprising.

Shipnuck: Only bombshell would be proof of PEDs. Another bimbo won’t register.

Dusek: I agree. At this point, I think the world has become numb/desensitized to the number of women Tiger has had affairs with.

Godich: Everybody has moved on to Jesse James.

Morfit: Right. The trail of mistresses doesn’t matter any more. It’ll go away slowly, since some have bigger appetites for that stuff, but I already sense a bimbo-fatigue.

Dusek: Vaughn Taylor was very close to making his trip back home to Augusta a business trip, but Anthony Kim was able to beat him in a playoff to win the Shell Houston Open. Is there anything to take away from Kim’s win other than he picked a good week to re-discover his putting stroke?

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: These are the kinds of events Kim needs to win to get his career where he wants to go. If he were to win the Masters, of course we’d say Houston proved to be the big stepping stone. The fact is, he had to par the 18th to win and he didn’t get it done. He did get it done in a playoff, and that still counts. The first step toward being a star is winning. Kim won. It’s a good sign for him and a good sign for the tour.

Godich: Sure, he botched the 18th, but he had some huge up-and-downs over the final 18 holes. Give him credit for that. Most of these tournaments are turning into short-game competitions. Kim was brilliant around the greens. Plain and simple, he was the best putter in the field this week.

Lipsey: There are only three players in the last several years who’ve had sustained excellence — Tiger, Phil, Vijay. The rest have had flashes of brilliance, but no more.

John Garrity, Contributing Writer, Sports Illustrated: But that’s what’s so good about Kim’s win. This wasn’t a flash of brilliance. This was mediocrity mixed with out-of-this-world scrambling. It’s Tigeresque when you can say you won with your B or C game.

Lipsey: The guy beat Vaughn Taylor in a playoff at a ho-hum Houston Open after bogeying 18 on Sunday. Tigeresque?

Shipnuck: Put it this way: how many guys can win when they’re hitting it sideways. It’s a very, very short list.

Godich: Lest we forget, Tiger bogeyed 17 and 18 after holing that ridiculous chip at the Masters. So maybe it was Tigeresque. And playing with a bum thumb makes it all the more impressive, especially when you consider how good his short game was.

Shipnuck: Kim had some of the best up-and-downs I’ve ever seen.

Hack: Seems to me that Anthony Kim will be as good as Anthony Kim wants to be. How good that is, only he knows. Right now, he’s in the Dustin Johnson, Hunter Mahan class, which isn’t a bad place to be.

Dusek: One of the interesting things that I heard discussed during the TV broadcast was that Brad Faxon gave A.K. a few putting tips on the practice green at Redstone. Nothing radical, but seems like it helped. I’m surprised more guys don’t seek him out regularly for putting help.

Shipnuck: A couple weeks ago I spent a day with A.K. and was impressed by how much he’s grown up. He doesn’t deny he was living in the fast lane, but he’s surrounded himself with old friends who are solid guys who want to see him succeed. Now that he’s figured out life away from the course, I think the wins will follow.

Van Sickle: I think Houston is continuing to build on its growing reputation as an interesting Tour stop. The supposed Masters-like conditions and the water hazards make it pretty attractive for TV. There’s some good drama there. It’s really revved up since landing the week-before-Augusta date that Atlanta used to own.

Dusek: I can’t think of any other event and venue that have embraced being a tune-up for the following week’s major. I think it’s a very smart move, from a marketing standpoint, and judging by the field, the players like the idea.

Herre: Any event the week before the Masters would get a good international field. I found myself following Lee Westwood last week. He could be someone to watch this week in Augusta.

Dusek: Yani Tseng won the LPGA Tour’s Kraft Nabisco Championship on Sunday at Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage, Calif. It’s her second career major and third victory overall. What did everyone think of her victory?

Shipnuck: A couple years ago Annika annointed Tseng a future no. 1. This could be the beginning of her ascent.

Morfit: Seems like she’s the real deal. I’ve been hearing raves for a while.

Evans: When SI Golf Plus polled our Top 100 teachers about who might rule the LPGA Tour this season, Yani Tseng got a bunch of votes. So I’m not surprised. She won the 2008 LPGA Championship, and she has one of the best swings on that tour — powerful with wonderful angles and great stability.

Hack: A natural progression. Tseng took Annika’s old house in Orlando. Might as well grab her old ranking, too.

Shipnuck: Yani has a well-deserved rep for partying hard, but if she buckles down she’ll dominate. She’s more explosive than any other player out there, Lorena included.

Van Sickle: Does that make her the Anthony Kim of the LPGA?

Dusek: What about the timing of this event? Unless you were already an LPGA Tour fan, you probably missed the tournament because of the Final Four and the Masters. It’s a major, but I wonder how many people actually saw it?

Van Sickle: Weird part is, you have a major championship and it’s only the second tournament in the U.S. this year.

Shipnuck: When it was a week earlier in the schedule, it had to compete with the Players. The LPGA would probably move it back if they could, but it would leave a huge hole in the early part of the schedule.

Dusek: So what is the answer for the LPGA Tour if it wants more attention for the season’s first major. Move the date again, re-think the whole schedule, or possibly play it outside the United States?

Shipnuck: There is a growing sentiment to play a major in Asia, but that’s years away. I say start the season later and move the Dinah to the dead time between the Masters and Players.

Godich: They should move it back. They have played more events overseas than on U.S. soil, then — boom! — the first major is upon us. They have absolutely no momentum heading into the Dinah.

Garrity: I love that we’re still calling it the Dinah. That tells me that it’s an event with genuine staying power and a marketable image. It just needs a better run-up. The current short schedule is the equivalent of having Leno as your prime-time warm-up.

Lipsey: That might help, but not much. Fact is, the LPGA’s real future is probably not in the U.S., at least not as a home base. Look at the Nabisco leaderboard. The bulk of the best players aren’t from the U.S. anymore, so why should the tour be based here? It makes no sense.

Hack: I get the feeling that the LPGA likes the designation of having the first major of the golf calendar. Seems to me that the later it’s held, the more lost it would get.

Van Sickle: The LPGA needs to get on the Golf Channel live, or somehow get on ESPN. Maybe the answer is finishing in the Monday-to-Wednesday window when Golf Channel has no other live golf to show, and no other tours are competing for TV time. It’s a far out idea, obviously, but most tour events are driven by TV and sponsors, not gate receipts.

Godich: ABC and ESPN don’t want the PGA Tour. What makes you think they’re going to want the LPGA?

Van Sickle: The TV golf business model is going to have to change. Networks aren’t willing to lose money on telecasts anymore no matter how good the demographics are. The networks are going to demand a better deal in the next round, and they’re probably not going to get conned again by another FedEx Cup gimmick. (Assuming FedEx is willing to drop another $300 million for six more years.)

Shipnuck: It would be pretty cool if the tourneys started on Mon and ended on Wed or Thurs. It would fill a big void.

Herre: Everyone wants the weekend, but Mon-Tue-Wed makes sense for the LPGA and the seniors.

Garrity: And having covered many Dinahs in my time, I’m pretty sure that the Kraft Nabisco spectators are spring-break types and retirees who don’t have to worry about office hours. A Tuesday finish probably wouldn’t hurt the gate.

Hack: I think a Tuesday finish would be the white flag of surrender for the LPGA. Sunday is the way to go. Seems to me Commissioner Michael Whan is doing everything in his power to reach out to sponsors, and the players are, too. But finishing on Tuesday would signal retreat.

Godich: Can’t hurt to try. The Monday-Tuesday schedule seems to be working for women’s college basketball.