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.
MONTY’S PICKS AND SNUBS, AND EURO CHANCES
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Before we start, let me introduce a Hall of Famer to today’s golf chat, Mr. Mike Mills, a star of his rotisserie golf league, the bassist for REM and a friend to many on Tour, including Davis Love, Fred Couples and Jim “Bones” Mackay. Welcome Mike, who may be in and out owing to other tasks, like making a new album.
Confidential overload! Where to begin? Kuchar? Tiger? Monty? Michelle Wie? Martin Laird? His fiance? Let’s start with Colin Montgomerie. He took Luke Donald for his Euro team. Paul Casey is out. Justin Rose is out. My man, Bernhard Langer, is out. What do you think of his pick? What would you have done?
Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine and Golf.com: It’s a thrill to have Mike Mills here. I heard “Wendell Gee” on the radio in Philadelphia this morning. Must have been a sign.
Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Well, speaking of rotisserie golf leagues, Padraig Harrington is killing my team. I know he has won three majors, but he has struggled for much of the year and his Ryder Cup record is horrible. Why not Rose instead?
Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I’m surprised he didn’t pick Casey, but Monty was going to get crushed no matter which direction he went. Too much talent, not enough spots. It will all be forgotten if the lads are popping Champagne bottles on that Sunday evening in Wales. You better win, Monty.
Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: The British will have a field day with this, which could be a good thing for the U.S. A Monty meltdown is almost guaranteed.
Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: I’m really surprised that Monty left Justin Rose off the team. Here is a guy who won twice on the PGA Tour this season and should have won maybe two others. If I’m in Monty’s shoes, I might take Rose over Luke Donald. Langer has had his time. He didn’t play well enough or often enough on the regular tours to warrant playing on the biggest stage in golf this year. The Molinari brothers will make a good team and a great story in Wales.
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: If I’m Monty I cut the brakes on the courtesy cars of Ross Fisher and Peter Hanson. Those two guys bumped out much more accomplished players like Casey, Rose and Karlsson by playing Euro-centric schedules, which the best players in the world no longer do.
Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Jimenez hasn’t lit it up recently, either, but at least he has a good track record. I think I would’ve taken Casey over Harrington and justified it on performance this year plus Ryder Cup history. Casey has a much better record.
Walker: Donald is a strange, quirky pick by a strange, quirky captain. Rose or Casey appear to be better picks than Donald by most measures, but Monty thinks himself a Ryder Cup genius. He might outsmart himself a few more times before this is over.
Bamberger: Great call, Mike — Monty’s almost showing off.
Mills: I actually think Donald is a good pick. His upside is big.
David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: I was SHOCKED to see that he didn’t select Justin Rose. Honestly, what did the guy have to do, short of winning a major, in order to make the Ryder Cup team? Two wins and another near win. You could argue he had the best summer of any player on the PGA Tour, and yet he’s left off. I understand there is an embarrassment of riches across the pond, but not picking Rose was stunning.
Shipnuck: Rose missed the cut at the British Open and the PGA — that hurt his candidacy big-time.
Dusek: Okay, but Luke Donald wasn’t really a factor in either of those events. He had a backdoor tie for 11th at St. Andrews and MC’ed at Whistling Straits. The lone factor I see in picking him over Rose is that he finished third at Celtic Manor in June at the Wales Open.
Gorant: Rose was also a little shaky in his wins and very shaky in the one he fumbled away. That didn’t inspire confidence in his game under pressure
Shipnuck: And Donald is 5-1-1 in two previous Ryder Cups, and undefeated in foursomes, which is an awkward format.
Mills: Casey I get, recent injury and all. Donald and Rose was a tossup, but I might have taken Justin myself.
Shipnuck: Casey’s injury kept him from amassing a lot of points and he still almost qualified. In some ways he’s done more with less time.
Godich: The only thing I can figure is that with six rookies on the team, Monty was hesitant to take another, making Rose the odd man out. Naming Sergio an assistant captain was interesting as well. What, Monty thinks he needs somebody to get his team motivated? At least Sergio will be able to say he’s the youngest assistant captain in Ryder Cup history.
Evans: I’m surprised that Sergio would take such a mediocre role.
Bamberger: I think bringing in Sergio was a genius move. He’s a great Ryder Cup presence. Luke Donald I’m not so sure about. Monty went for a putter as other captains have. Example: Scott Verplank. But I think any American player would rather face Luke head-on than Paul Casey OR Justin Rose OR Bernhard Langer. OK, maybe not Langer.
Mills: I don’t think Bernhard scares anyone anymore.
Bamberger: His kids, maybe.
Shipnuck: I hate to pick on you, Mike, but I like Langer over Paddy to fill the role of an older player with a long resume and lots of Cup experience. Bernhard has been the hottest player in golf all summer.
Hack: Amazing that Paddy and Paul were paired today and received the news at the same time. Then throw in the wrinkle of Paul’s caddy, Christian, being Luke Donald’s brother. Fascinating day.
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: It really should be a concern with Paddy that he hasn’t played his best golf all year and he hasn’t played very well in the last two Ryder Cups.
Dusek: Interesting to read Ian Poulter’s Tweets right now. He just cracked a million followers and wrote the following: “The picks are the picks they can’t be changed, I’m not talking about should have, could have, would have, Let’s now win the Ryder cup” and “I’m devastated for Paul and Justin, great mates and friends, I feel for them they’re great players, let’s get behind the side please.”
Walker: I like what Martin Kaymer said about Europe as the favorite in his interview with Farrell this week. Basically, Kaymer said that if the Ryder Cup was stroke play and you took the average of everyone’s scores, Europe would win, but that match play was a different animal. All signs point to a European rout, but I don’t think many would be comfortable betting their house on it. Unless it was Tiger, and it was one of his houses he’s not so crazy about.
Bamberger: Let’s stay on the Ryder Cup for a minute. Kuchar wins the Barclays and he’s on the team. Dustin played well again. Steve Stricker, too. The Euros are loaded with talent. You’re a betting man. Even odds, right now, before Corey Pavin makes his picks. Who do you take to win the Cup and why?
Shipnuck: I’m taking the U.S., which has won the last two Prez Cups and the ’08 Ryder. Europe has a ton of pressure as prohibitive favorites playing at home, but six rookies are worrisome and Westwood is a question mark. Mickelson and Stricker were monsters at Harding Park and could carry the team again. Tiger has a month to work on his swing. If he comes strong, that could turn the tide. And, as Bamby points out, a lot of U.S. players are in form.
Bamberger: Loose will always make you putt better, and it always comes down to putting.
Van Sickle: I’m still wondering how they got that gong on the lake. And where was Jamie Farr?
Hack: I’m picking Europe. The U.S. hasn’t won across the pond in eons.
Don’t see it happening this year.
Evans: The U.S., because they have the best players from top to bottom.
Dusek: A month ago I would have taken the Euros in a heartbeat, and I think they will still win, but the way players are trending I think the United States is going to make it close. If the European team’s rookies get off to a shaky start, it could snowball into a disaster for Monty.
Van Sickle: That rookies stuff is way overrated. Give me somebody who’s playing well at the moment — like a Molinari — over an experienced player who’s not on his game (like Paddy). Plenty of rookies do well at the Ryder Cup.
Herre: I take Europe in a rout. Pavin is in a pickle for his picks (say that real fast three times). He almost has to take a player who is making swing changes (Woods). The ninth guy on the points list (Kim) is super rusty. I see Pavin taking Stewart Cink because he has some RC experience. But the other two? They really are wild cards.
Van Sickle: Great point on Woods. He’s making changes. Phil has arthritis — is that why he’s playing poorly? Kim is a question mark. Are Kuchar, Mahan, Stricker, Furyk and Overton going to carry the team? Anything is possible. But for me it seems like the Europeans have a better collection of putters at the moment.
WHO SHOULD PAVIN PICK?
Bamberger: I have no inside anything, but here’s my guess for Pavin’s four captain’s picks, and you can pick at ’em all you like: Tiger, Sean O’Hair, Zach Johnson, Cink. What do you all think?
Van Sickle: I think those are the likely picks unless Anthony Kim somehow shows that he’s got his game back. Cink really hasn’t played up to his usual standard this year, but he’s got a history in the Cup.
Evans: Tiger Woods, Lucas Glover, Stewart Cink, Zach Johnson.
Shipnuck: I take Tiger, Zach and Cink, for sure. If AK finds some form next week he’s on, too. If he continues to struggle, it’s either O’Hair or Fowler in a toss-up.
Godich: Here’s my concern if I’m Corey Pavin: Tiger is a slam-dunk pick, but where to go with the other three picks? Nobody else is jumping out at me.
Hack: I think Tiger, Stewart Cink and Zach Johnson are locks. To me, it’s one pick to use on the player who comes out of the FedEx Cup the hottest.
Gorant: I know why everyone’s picking Cink, but he hasn’t done much lately. Talk about a guy who’s not on his game.
Godich: Agreed. One top 10 in the last six months.
Dusek: At the K Club, when nothing went right for the United States, Cink routed a red-hot Sergio Garcia in singles on Sunday. It was one of very few highlights for the Americans that weekend.
Van Sickle: That was a great moment, David. And that was four years ago. It has no bearing on whether Cink should be a pick. It’s ancient history. But it might be the third tie-breaker on the captain’s chart when it comes to taking that fourth guy.
Shipnuck: Cink also has an excellent record at the Match Play Championship.
Dusek: I would love to see Rickie Fowler on the team. His maturity as a player is amazing, and I think he’d play well beyond his years. Pair him with his good buddy Bubba Watson and tell ’em to take dead aim. They’d be the most entertaining and potentially lethal combination out there.
Gorant: I like Rickie, too. He can be this year’s Anthony Kim. I’d take him, Tiger, Zach and maybe O’Hair. Get Azinger on the phone. Do those personalities match up?
KUCHAR WINS, BUT IS HE A CUP KILLER?
Bamberger: Let’s give Matt Kuchar the nod he well deserves. I don’t know him, but I’ve watched him for years. I can’t watch the swing, but his manner is so old-world, not of this era. It’s lovely to see, but it’s hard to imagine him just stepping on throats in majors and in the Ryder Cup. What do you all think?
Van Sickle: Who thought the Stewart Cink-Kirk Triplett pairing would be a killer combo at the Prez Cup a few years back? And Woody (Aquaman) Austin? If a guy is winning tournaments, he can kick butt in the Ryder Cup. It’s not so different.
Godich: That’s the best news for Pavin: Kuchar had done everything but win this year. Then he shoots a bogey-free 66 today and birdies the first hole in sudden death.
Dusek: He is becoming his generation’s Jim Furyk; you can pen him down for a top 10 just about every week. That approach to 17 today and the iron shot to less than three feet in the playoff were clutch.
Van Sickle: It’s a little early to call him his generation’s anything, but I agree with David’s analysis on Kuchar. Has anyone else on the PGA Tour been more consistent? I don’t think so.
Herre: Kuchar’s a genuinely good guy, open and accommodating. The experts say he has the flattest swing on Tour. So did a guy named Hogan.
Bamberger: Hogan was a foot shorter than Kuchar, but it works.
Evans: There have been other flat swings, but no one has done it with that tempo. Hogan was as fast as lightning.
IS WIE’S TIME NOW?
Bamberger: Let’s look at Michelle Wie’s dominating performance in Canada this week. When she’s got it all going, as she did last week, she’s way ahead of everyone else on that tour. But her play is erratic and she is still, let’s remember, a kid in college. What do you think, Confidentialists: does she ever become THE dominant LPGA player of her generation?
Gorant: I think yes. She’s just beginning to realize what it takes, and over the next few years she’ll make that transition from talented kid with a desire to explore the world to young pro on a mission.
Van Sickle: Did we expect Tiger Woods to dominate the PGA Tour while he was still in college? No. There are some unfair expectations on her, some of her own making. But Michael makes a great point — she’s still just getting started, even though it seems like she’s been around forever. I’m not convinced that she’s going to dominate women’s golf. It still looks like Jiyai Shin and Ai Miyazato and Cristie Kerr know a lot more about winning than Wie does. But Wie has lots of time. Let’s give her some.
Dusek: I agree with Gary. What’s encouraging to me is that she’s won twice now and has some positive experience to draw upon — including the Solheim Cup. And to echo you both, she’s just 20!
Godich: She was genuinely excited today, looked like she was having a lot of fun. That could be a great motivator.
Herre: It’s a joy to watch Wie play. I can’t say that about a lot of LPGA players.
Van Sickle: She does have the chance to raise the bar, somewhat as Tiger Woods did for the PGA Tour, with her length. It would be great to see her hit the gym and the short game area like Tiger did with tenacity for a couple of years. Tiger made himself into the best short-game guy on tour (with the help of some others) through hard work.
Shipnuck: She’s already a gym rat. I watched her sweat through a brutal workout at Stanford, which she does pretty much every day. Once she’s out of Stanford, which she takes very seriously, she will have some monster years. But I sense she has too many interests to grind out there on tour forever. Ochoa will be the template: go out young and on top.
Walker: Alan’s right. Sometimes Wie’s main problem is that she’s just not that into golf. Maybe winning will change that.
Van Sickle: Interesting about the template, Alan. That may be even more true if the LPGA schedule shifts more overseas than it already has. Imagine 8 or 10 events here and another 15 to 18 in Asia, Europe and Australia. That might dampen the interests of some American players, or the travel costs might. Maybe it will lead to shorter careers for the ladies.
WALLY’S BOY WINS THE AMATEUR
Bamberger: Peter Uihlein (son of Wally, CEO of Achusnet) won the U.S. Amateur today. Last year, he was a captain’s pick for the U.S. Walker Cup team and played great, and it’s been onward and upward for him ever since. It’s not something you see often, where the child of a big-name golf figure really accomplishes something in the game. I’d put Peter now in the same category as Nathaniel Crosby, Bing’s son, who also won a U.S. Am. Peter’s a way better player, but you get the idea. A box of ProV1s for your thoughts on young Peter.
Herre: Peter looks like the real deal to me — powerful, good short game, seems to be having fun, a little bit of attitude, which is a good thing.
Godich: I was impressed with the kid. He kept his emotions in check on the course and was very gracious in victory. That is some way to celebrate your 21st birthday.
Walker: I was impressed with Uihlein’s clutch play at the Walker Cup in 2009, especially since he had to deal with nepotism murmurs as a captain’s pick there. He won’t have to deal with that anymore. Fowler played on that Walker Cup team too. It was a good one. They routed the Euros, even though it was two-team match play.
Herre: What was everyone’s impression of Chambers Bay? I bet the pros hate it — it’ll be such a radical change from what they are used to — but it looked like the amateurs were having fun figuring out all the crazy angles and twists and turns. I’d look for some modifications before the 2015 U.S. Open. The course is a roller-coaster and close to goofy golf. I like firm and fast, but with all the undulation, especially on the greens, Chambers Bay seemed almost unplayable at times last week.
Bamberger: I thought Chambers Bay looked great on TV, beautiful and fun, but Dottie Pepper, whose opinion I respect hugely, was on the ground and does not like it at all for a U.S. Open.
Godich: I find it hard to believe that they are going to play a U.S. Open there. I can hear the pros complaining already. It doesn’t look like the most gallery-friendly venue, either.
Herre: Right, Mark. If you think Whistling Straits is an ankle-breaker …
Bamberger: What a week, and we didn’t even get to Carol Mann and Bernhard Langer! Thanks to Mike Mills for joining the fun. See you at the Golf.com World Amateur Handicap Championship in Myrtle Beach, the center of the golfing universe.