Every week of the 2011 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.
SHOULD FRED COUPLES HAVE SELECTED HIMSELF FOR THE PRESIDENTS CUP TEAM?
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Let’s start with Fred Couples. He won the Champions Tour event in San Antonio this week by seven strokes . Honest-to-God, if they changed the rules and you could do it, would you fire Tiger from the team and make Fred your playing captain? I would in a heartbeat! I trust Jay Haas more with the lineup card anyhow, and I think Fred brings more game and comes with no baggage. How cool would that be?
Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: I’d agree, except I think there’s a big difference between the oldies tour and the PGA Tour. Could FC shine at Royal Melbourne? Maybe, but I’d still pick Tiger.
Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Thanks, but no thanks. Great guy, great player but history of coming up small when the pressure is on–although he’s done his share in the team events. Not much pressure in San Antonio.
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Fred: Very cool. There’s nobody I’d rather watch swing the club. Ever.
Herre: Interesting scenario, for sure, but a pipe dream. The fix was in for Woods from the get-go.
Gorant: Couples has always been great in the team events, but the Champions Tour is more like a Wednesday pro-am. I’ll pass.
Morfit: I think Tiger just needs to play tournaments, and he knows it. If he doesn’t, than all this work with Foley won’t amount to anything.
Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Love Fred, but he’s had his day.
Morfit: What if they had Ryder and Prez Cups for old guys? Might not even be safe. Better bring the defib paddles!
Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: There’d be a whole lot of yippin’ going on.
Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: I’ll give you this, Michael: if Freddy was somehow allowed to dump Tiger and put himself on the Prez Cup team, it would be the biggest golf story of the year — even bigger than “Hot Dog Guy.”
Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: As good as it looks, nothing on the Champions Tour carries over to the PGA Tour. Totally different worlds, mindsets, etc. Winning 10 times as a senior is no hint to how somebody will do on the big tour.
Morfit: Michael, your man DL3 is going to make a killing on that tour. Might be a good time to dust off your caddie skills and try and get that bag by any means necessary.
Bamberger: This whole question of Fred picking Tiger is not going away. Greg Norman, the International team’s captain, told a Florida newspaper the other day, “I can understand the name of a Tiger Woods and his history of what he’s done on the golf course,” Norman said. “But I pick the guys who I think are ready to get in there and play and have performed to the highest levels leading up to it.” This whole debate is one of the best things to ever happen to the Presidents Cup, don’t you think? I’ve never cared so much!
Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: The Shark is trying to get into Tiger’s head. Whatever happened to these things being friendly competitions? But it gives everyone one more reason to watch.
Morfit: When I interviewed Greg for Golf Magazine I sense that he was frustrated Tiger wasn’t reaching out to the right people, like people who’ve actually been No. 1 and in the public eye. Like Greg, in other words.
Herre: Of course Norman is right. Woods would never have been a captain’s pick if this was the Ryder Cup. I’ve always enjoyed the Presidents Cup, and think it really came of age in 2003 in South Africa, but putting Woods on the team for obvious commercial reasons is a travesty and a setback for the event.
Shipnuck: The best thing to happen to this Prez Cup is Norman’s yapping. It guarantees Tiger will come to play.
Lipsey: Tiger’s scenario is the only thing to make anybody give a hoot about a Presidents Cup on the other side of the world.
Bamberger: Oh, no, Rick–don’t agree. I’ve never been to Australia but I have to think Greg Norman captaining a team with Adam Scott–and Steve Williams!–will be a really big deal Down Under and in various Asian countries. What do you think, folks, are you feeling more P-Cup fever this time?
Lipsey: I’m talking stateside interest, and let’s face it, the majority of the golf TV audience is in the U.S.
Godich: I’ve got to admit that the time difference makes it tough.
Gorant: Well, I’d say that the majority of the U.S. TV audience is in the U.S. Lots of people in Australia, and they love sports. Then add in all the Asian countries….
John Garrity, contributing writer, Sports Illustrated: I like it BETTER when the World is the home team. The best P-Cup was the tie in South Africa, and the crowds were definitely into it when the Ints beat us Down Under.
Lipsey: Winning cures everything in sports. If, and it’s a big IF, Woods plays well, it’s the choice of the century.
Godich: No, it won’t be. We’re not going to learn a heck of a lot about the state of Tiger’s game based on what he does in an exhibition.
Lipsey: But Fred will look great because the world will see pix and hear stories about Tiger’s great play.
Bamberger: Well, I do feel it could be a big help to Tiger is he plays well, just as it was to Adam Scott two years ago. That’s part of what I object to here: it’s all good for Tiger, but what about the team?
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: You’re right about one thing: Absolutely no one was talking about the President’s Cup until Fred announced that the struggling Tiger was a lock. From a public relations standpoint, it was a slam dunk. Do you want the Prez Cup to be like the All-Star Game? The starting lineup is who the fans want, not necessarily the best players. As captain, I’d pick the hot hands, as Norman did. On the other hand, what happens if Tiger plays lousy and the U.S. loses? I’ll tell you what happens–nothing. We move on.
Bamberger: Well, I think you’re all correct about Fred. A 62 on the Champions Tour, short course, easy hole locations, is maybe a 67 or something on the regular tour. But the point is, he can still really play. By that I mean, when he’s playing well he’s a true force. Playing partner golf and team golf would only make things easier for him. If Fred played a full (for him) regular Tour schedule, do you think he could win? I say he could. I think he’s as good now as he was five years ago, and probably putts better. He’s really a strangely unique figure in the game, just because of his high, high skill level and how little it yielded.
Godich: “When he’s playing well, he’s a true force.” You could say that about a lot of guys.
Herre: The thing is, Michael, Couples’s back has been in and out for 20 years. I don’t think he’d last long if he had to play a 7,500-yard course every week.
Hack: A full PGA Tour schedule for Fred would yield a few exciting weeks. Contention in L.A. and Houston, a round or two of intrigue at Augusta. I just don’t think the putter will allow for much more.
Garrity: But that’s what’s so intriguing about Couples, Damon. He’s a better putter now than he was a decade ago, when he was very “jabby” on the greens. Maybe it’s the slower greens, but I don’t close my eyes anymore when he’s bent over a 4-footer.
Morfit: A full PGA Tour schedule for Fred would yield a few exciting weeks. Contention in L.A. and Houston, a round or two of intrigue at Augusta. I just don’t think the putter will allow for much more. If they held every tournament at Riviera and or Augusta, he’d be in business. Which reminds me, I got dibs on Fred for Masters pool.
Van Sickle: I think we’ve already seen that Fred can’t putt quite well enough to win on the PGA Tour anymore. Maybe he could catch lightning in a bottle one week. I’d love to see it but I don’t think he can keep his back healthy enough to practice long enough to get his game sharp enough again to win on the big tour.
CRANE WINS PLAYOFF OVER SIMPSON
Bamberger: Quick poll: when Ben Crane and Webb Simpson were in the playoff at the McGladrey Classic, who were you rooting for? I’m going underdog. I like ’em both, and Ben’s slow pace (though improving) really is a buzz kill, but I just find him super likable, a wry guy under all that Tourwear. Webb will be around for years. Crane, who knows?
Lipsey: Slow play is unforgivable and unforgettable. Simpson is my man.
Herre: Crane is maddening to watch. I can’t get past that.
Bamberger: Well, they’re pretty much all slow, with a very few exceptions. It’s a question of degree of slowness.
Herre: Crane is friggin’ glacial.
Lipsey: MB, you’ve railed against slow play for eons. How can you support Crane? Nice guy, sure, but he’s a poster boy for a major plague of the game.
Van Sickle: Crane was slow. On one iron shot in the playoff, I timed him at 1 minute 1 second to hit the shot but that was only after Golf Channel cameras switched over to him, probably 15 seconds or more after Simpson played. Crane took 30 seconds before he even set up to the ball and then, as soon as he did, he backed off. That said, Webb Simpson isn’t any speed merchant, either. I’ve been critical of LPGA players for their slow pace, and Crane and Simpson were turtles, too. If Crane had been on the clock because his group was out of position (standard tour procedure), I don’t think he played a single shot in the playoff within the 45-second allotted time.
Godich: Simpson. The U.S. is looking for young stars. Three wins in less than two months would have been quite the statement.
Gorant: Can I go back in time and continue rooting for Michael Thompson?
Mick Rous, SI Golf+ Interne: Some of Ben Crane’s YouTube videos were pretty hilarious, especially the one on him learning to play faster. Unfortunately, it is still miserable to watch him out there. I really like the guy, but I think Simpson domination is better for the sport all around. I’ve become a big fan of his.
Gorant: Really? Why? Don’t mean to beat on the guy. Cleary he’s a very good rising player, but the charisma level is like zero.
Rouse: I wouldn’t call him the most charismatic guy out there, but I don’t think he has zero charisma. He is well spoken and carries himself well. He obviously has some pretty strong morals…he is like the anti-Tiger.
Ritter: My tune on Crane has sort of changed after those YouTube videos this year and I found myself pulling for him. (I guess the marketing ploy worked.) But throughout the playoff, I always thought Webb would somehow win it.
Shipnuck: Webb. It’s cool that he showed and even cooler that he played so hard.
WHO IS THE BEST AMERICAN PLAYER RIGHT NOW?
Bamberger: Fittingly, it took a long while to get there, but Ben Crane defeated Poster Child Webb Simpson, proving that the better golf does not always win. Which we knew. Simpson could have won New Orleans and he could have won Sea Island and he could have had a monster year, instead of an excellent one. Is he the best American golfer right now? Or is it Ben Crane? I’m voting for Fred. Not really. I really think the best American golfer right now is probably Keegan Bradley. Who is not on the Presidents Cup team.
Morfit: My guess is the best American player will soon end up being Fowler. It’s just taken him a few years of seasoning.
Shipnuck: The interesting thing is how much can change in a year. This time last season, who had even heard of Webb Simpson or Keegan Bradley?!
Gorant: Two wins, three seconds (losing twice in a playoff, the other on the 72nd hole), 11 top 10s and 20 top 25s in 25 events. I’ll take Simpson — hands down.
Morfit: For what it’s worth I would be surprised if Stricker doesn’t bail on the Presidents Cup because of his neck and make way for Keegan. Tiger is probably the only reason Steve hasn’t bailed already.
Lipsey: Webb, but not by much over Bradley and Haas. Amazing to think where American golf ends the year, certainly led by a crew nobody could have ever predicted.
Herre: Yes, it really feels as if the Tour turned the page in 2011, for better or for worse.
Rouse: Webb is probably playing the best right now, but Bradley is not far behind.
Godich: Yes, Bradley won a major, but he has had nowhere the year that Simpson has had. And Bradley has done nothing to build on his win at the PGA (including a couple of missed cuts). Simpson keeps showing up on leaderboards.
Van Sickle: Webb has to be No. 1 Yankee. He’s had a longer lead time to learn how to win on Tour than Bradley, who’s come out of the blocks a lot quicker than Webb or Rickie. Although I’d hate to overlook Steve Stricker, the Man of Cheese.
BATTLE FOR THE MONEY LIST TITLE
Bamberger: Luke Donald is going to play Disney next week, trying to become the first player to win the money title on both the PGA Tour and the European Tour. Webb Simpson has ideas of his own. This has been one of the most interesting golf autumns I can remember. Do you care about the money title? I do, a lot, and clearly the players do. The tour should use this as a wake-up call for its FedEx Cup point-counting problems. Or maybe you just don’t care.
Shipnuck: Money is the new points. I love it. Very old school. Someday soon FedEx and Dubai are gonna run out of dough and those cups will disappear, and once again the money list will reign supreme. Luke knows this, which is why he cares.
Herre: Fans can relate to the money title, and so can the players. I moved Simpson way up in my ranking this week.
Rouse: Playing well equals lots of money. The money race has been exciting not because of the money being made, but because of the high levels of golf being played.
Hack: I like that Luke cares, that he sees another mountain to climb, a goal to conquer. Professional golf is competition after all. This is good for the game.
Lipsey: Players like Donald and Simpson might well have big sponsor bonuses for winning the money title, so there could be many $$$$ motivated reasons to chase the money title, which is a very meaningful thing regardless of the money!
Van Sickle: I like it. PGA Tour pros showing a little pride in their jobs. The money title does mean something, unlike the FedEx Cup point ranking the tour keeps jamming down our throats. This is as close to a rivalry in golf as we’ve had for a while and yeah, it’s not very close. But it’s something. This is exactly why the tour shouldn’t kill off the fall series. Every tournament matters to somebody.
Gorant: I certainly think it’s interesting. I thought it was surprising when Simpson played this week for the express purpose of trying to get the title and it got even juicier that Luke decided to respond. I’ll definitely be paying attention last week. Always good when these guys show that they care.
Godich: Simpson or Donald can have the “money” title. I’m more impressed with the $14,088 ,637 that Bill Haas has banked, even if most of it is “unofficial.”
Lipsey: Yes, indeed, MG. That is A-Rod type of bank.
Morfit: I doubt the IRS or Mrs. Bill Haas care much that it’s unofficial either.
Garrity: I love the re-emphasis on the money title, and I’m pulling for Simpson. On the other hand, I don’t like the idea that Webb could get Player of the Year based upon his Fall Series finishes. If you haven’t even been mentioned for that honor by the end of August, you shouldn’t be a candidate.
Godich: He didn’t just start playing well after the PGA, John.
Garrity: I know that, but was anybody calling him Player of the Year? You can still make a case for Simpson, but I wouldn’t be influenced by an October win.
Godich: He won in August too. And quite frankly, nobody was being called Player of the Year in the late summer, either.
TRUMP BUYS DORAL; TIGER’S AGENT SIGNS KUCHAR
Bamberger: Let’s address two pieces of business news in golf this week: Donald Trump buying Doral and Mark Steinberg signing Matt Kuchar. First, Trump. He’s been betting on golf for a while here, which is amazing given where the U.S. golf numbers are going. What do you think his real motivation is? Is it the golf? Does he want the land? He’s crazy like a fox and I wouldn’t bet against him. Jim Herre, you played with recently. Any insight into where Don’s head is?
Herre: In the case of Doral, I think Trump’s attracted to the land–there aren’t a lot of 700-acre parcels available in Miami. Plus, if what he told me is accurate, and I have no reason to believe it isn’t, he’s getting the place at a deep discount. Overall, Trump simply loves golf. He plays a couple times a week and is a big, strong player, especially off the tee. The guy never misses a fairway and he’s long.
Lipsey: Seems like Trump’s always and only wanted $$$$$, publicity and women. Maybe Doral gives him all three? It also gets him a Tour event and a spot, or two, in the pro-am!
Godich: Speaking of money titles, hasn’t it always been about the money with Trump?
Shipnuck: Per Trump, Doral is a good fit. The resort is old and tired and badly needs an infusion of glitz. But if Trump ever buys Pebble Beach you’ll find me on the bottom of Stillwater Cove.
Gorant: Seems like ego is pretty big for him. More things he can put his name on seems important, too. Money is strictly a way to keep score and therefore feed the ego. At the same time, I’ve heard he’s a very down-to-earth and winning guy in person.
Herre: Right, Jim. Trump’s fun to play with. Full of chatter, likes to compete, easy to be around.
Godich: Did you hit it past Trump … like you hit it past Tiger?
Herre: A couple times, but overall Trump was far superior off the tee. Like I said, he never missed the fairway. Very impressive. Not to drop names, but while playing with Trump a couple weeks ago, Anthony Kim and his girlfriend pulled up in a cart and followed us for a few holes. Nice guy. He had spent a couple days at Bedminster and wanted to thank Trump. Then, a few holes later, a guy with a phone comes running out from the clubhouse and tells Trump that Mitt Romney was on the line. Later, Trump tells us Romney is looking for his endorsement. Never a dull moment, that’s for sure.
Van Sickle: Trump likes a high profile. Good for business. He can’t get any attention or any major championships for his assorted Trump courses, but Doral comes with a built-in marquee name. It could prove to be a good buy. I just hope he doesn’t rename it Do-rump.
Bamberger: Well, I agree, Trump keeps score with money, and celebrity, but I wonder how he figures he’s going to make money with golf. Maybe he sees where this is all going, that golf in the Webb Simpson era will soar as never before. One other business note: How about Matt Kuchar joining Tiger Woods at Mark Steinberg’s company, Excel Sports? Kooch is one of the nicest people in professional golf, and Steinberg is maybe very effective but he seems to be all business all the time. I find it a strange case of opposites attracting. Probably a good move for Matt. I hope he’ll keep talking to writers.
Garrity: The flag at Golf Writers Association of America headquarters is at half-mast.
Hack: Does this mean Kooch’s Wilhelmina gig is up? I remember he was looking to be a kind of crossover star back in the day. Maybe Steinberg puts him over the top.
Herre: Makes me wonder how many more players Steiny plans to take on. Maybe he wants to go big with Excel.
Godich: If you’re building a business, Kuchar is a nice addition. He is always around the lead and is just a genuine good guy.
Lipsey: Steinberg might be looking to make up the lost income from Woods’s endorsement decline, which may, or may not, return to stratospheric levels.
Shipnuck: Kooch might as well give it a shot. You can make the case he’s been the best American for two years but his profile is still pretty low.
Rouse: Isn’t Steinberg’s job to be all business all the time? Steinberg just helped Tiger land a deal with Rolex and the man hasn’t even won in the past two years (not even mentioning all his other personal issues). I think that will convince a lot of players to make their way over to Excel. I’mma tell you, like Wu told me, cash rules everything around me.