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.
TIGER'S STRONG SHOWING
Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: Although the Internationals staged a mini-rally in the singles, it wasn't enough to overcome a four-point deficit, or any deficit, as it turned out, and the U.S. won the Presidents Cup again. The singles matches are great because you get a real unfiltered look at every player, and Tiger Woods looked very, very good in his 4-and-3 win over Aaron Baddeley. Let's cut to the chase: Is Woods back for real this time?
Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I'm buying. Club twirls, over-dramatic knee bends, even a few holed putts. Tiger's drought is ending soon.
Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Last week's storyline was that he still wasn't putting well. He putted well in the singles. I think 2012 is going to be a lot of fun with all the new players who have emerged and Tiger most definitely back in good form.
Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: Again, I think we'll have a better idea in April. My one takeaway from the Presidents Cup is that Woods's head seemed to be in the right place. He looked like he was really into it and, at least outwardly, appeared to embrace the entire experience. Not sure that was always the case in team events.
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Don't forget how excited we were after Tiger kicked butt in Ryder Cup singles. He has to stay healthy, putt consistently and win a couple tourneys before he's back. But this was progress.
Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: I've been as hard on Tiger as anyone, so I have to admit that I was impressed by what I saw in singles. Now I have to see him do it for four days. I did get a little tired of hearing the analysts talk about how many lips he was burning the first three days. I saw a lot of guys doing that. It's no secret that it all comes down to putting.
Morfit: I kept seeing him hopping around on that knee, hopping out of bunkers, reacting to good shots. And he seemed like he wasn't playing swing anymore. And he made all those putts in the singles. It would be really, really good for the game if he storms back next year.
Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: Good point, Cam. It's been years since that knee let him hop out of a bunker like he did on 15. Tiger has turned the corner. Now we'll see if he can still step on the gas.
Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: Can't say he's back until he wins a major, or at the very least, a full-field tournament. But this week he looked like he'll get over that hump in 2012. He's on his way.
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Tiger's tee-to-green game is back. He was out there shaping shots like days of old. He was in control of the ball and his trajectory. His ballstriking was superb against Badds. His putting came around, too. I've said all along he'd recover his ballstriking. I still have to see him hole putts for four straight days, but I'm ready to be a believer. I think the 2012 Masters just got a new early favorite.
Morfit: Was it just me, or did the guy basically never miss a fairway yesterday? It didn't seem like he did much of anything wrong.
Van Sickle: More important than his return to shotmaking was the fact that Tiger's misses weren't all that bad. He's no longer on safari chasing tee shots. That says it all.
Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, Golf.com: Let's not forget that he didn't need his driver that much, but, yes, he's clearly turned a corner with his swing.
Van Sickle: When even Johnny Miller can't find a flaw, you're good.
Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: Johnny Miller has a new crush: Tiger Woods. When was the last time Johnny was so complimentary about Tiger? Or anyone, for that matter? He was waxing lyrical about Tiger's new swing and ballstriking.
David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: The pieces sure look to be there. Tiger's ball striking was solid in Sydney and in Melbourne, and while he didn't make a thing in several sessions or get a lot of help from his partners, he drained a lot of putts against Aaron Baddeley in singles. If he puts it all together for four rounds, he can compete and win in 2012.
Ritter: Tiger also finally brought out "the stinger." Don't know why it seemed to be missing from his bag the past couple years – maybe he had to re-learn it to fit his new swing – but that's only going help him in '12.
Van Sickle: The stinger's return? The seven-year statute of limitations ran out on Tiger hating Butch Harmon, who taught him the shot.
Mick Rouse, SI Golf+ intern: This was another big step forward for Tiger. He has improved steadily over his past few events. He started to get the putter going in his singles match, and he actually putted well the day before, too — a lot of misses, but no one else was making putts either. I definitely think he will win a tournament or two next year, and contend for at least one major.
Hack: And how happy did Tiger look post-tourney in that interview with Maltbie? I haven't seen him look that thrilled in a long time.
Morfit: Tiger seemed genuinely human in that interview. I'm really thinking something has changed.
Gorant: Yes. He gave long, substantive answers to questions. The shell actually cracked for a few minutes there.
Wei: I think Tiger enjoys these team competitions more than we realize. Also, Australia is like his Prozac. Did you see him celebrating with the Australian fans?
Van Sickle: Well, if you're not in a good mood after scoring the clinching point to win for your team, making every putt you looked at and playing golf like a dominant player again for the first time in three years, when are you going to be happy?
Tell us what you think in the comments area below: Is Tiger's comeback really in motion?
BIGGEST SURPRISES FROM THE WEEK
Morfit: Let's talk about the biggest surprises from the Presidents Cup. You've got to start with Jim Furyk, who went 5-0. He's gone back to the short putter, and he holed everything and looked like vintage Furyk. What happened? He had been all but invisible in 2011, and then this?
Gorant: He gave a great interview after his final match. Said he hadn't played poorly last year but just wasn't getting the scores, was missing a lot of putts. He seemed to feel that playing with Mickelson really helped him.
Reiterman: He said Phil "took him under his wing," which was a bit of a surprise. Sounds like Phil's really embraced not only mentoring the young guys, but also the veterans.
Godich: I loved Furyk's comment about the role Mickelson played in his success. The guy was genuinely moved; he almost went Steve Sticker on us.
Van Sickle: Golf's ultimate truth is that if you can't putt, you can't beat anyone. Furyk putted miserably all year. Ditto for Phil and Ernie. Somehow Furyk turned it around, although even he seemed to be at a loss to explain how. Holing putts makes up for a lot.
Herre: Pairing Furyk and Mickelson may have been the key to the U.S. victory. Both players will captain U.S. teams someday. Interesting that the pairing was their idea, and smart of Couples to let it happen. Until recently, Furyk was one of the best clutch putters going. He was again last week, and he needed to be the way Mickelson was hockey-pucking it around.
Walker: Mickelson-Furyk was an inspired pairing. They complemented each other so well. For such a hands-off captain, Couples does seem to put the right people together more often than not.
Rouse: Furyk and Mickelson's success on the first day set the tone for the entire American team. A lot of people were talking about Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson, but I think Furyk and Mickelson charged the Americans up.
Dusek: Seeing some putts drop early goes a long way. Furyk has always been a rock mentally, and he hits a ton of fairways and greens, so he just rode the wave once he and Phil got it going Thursday. You could say the same thing about David Toms, who went 3-1-0.
Godich: Biggest surprise was David Toms. He can still roll it at 44 . Biggest disappointment was Ernie Els. You had to feel for him. He still has that gorgeous swing, but he is lost on the greens. Everything looks so mechanical. I doubt he ever gets it back. And was anybody really surprised by Allenby's showing? The guy has always been a disaster on the greens. If this event had been anywhere but Royal Melbourne, he would have been watching like the rest of us.
Morfit: Who was the biggest surprise on the International side? I'll go with K.T. Kim (2-2-0), whom I hadn't seen play much. He looked pretty solid in withstanding that late charge and beating Webb Simpson, who had been one of the stars of the U.S. side and who finished 3-2-0. The other shocker was how off Jason Day (1-3-1) was in the singles. That was hard to watch.
Van Sickle: Day's game got exposed, much like Dustin Johnson's did. That said, in these team events, it seems like there are always two guys per team who don't have their games in order. Looks like Day was one of them.
Dusek: I haven't been high on Johnson, so I wasn't expecting a lot, but Day's performance did surprise me. It was a chance for him to step forward, but he didn't make the key shots when he had to have them.
Wei: I was super impressed with K.T. Kim's short game, especially his putting. He drained several pressure-packed putts, like the one to clinch the match against Tiger and D.J. in Saturday's fourball session, not to mention the eight-footer to beat Webb in singles and keep an inkling of hope alive for an International comeback.
Reiterman: I don't think anyone expected Robert Allenby to lead the charge, but good grief, next to having the shanks he couldn't have had a worse week.
Hack: And he's usually a great ball-striker. Allenby was lost.
Gorant: It almost seemed like Day was trying too hard. Maybe he felt the hometown pressure.
Morfit: Some of Day's shots and Phil's shots were exceptionally bad. I guess it underscores how hard that course was that it made two world-class golfers look so exposed.
Herre: Right. Love the "razor" edges on the bunkers. Scary.
Charlie Hanger, executive editor, Golf.com: Except for Ogilvy (3-1-1), all the Aussies pretty much laid an egg for the home fans. Scott was 2-3-0, Baddeley was 1-2-1, Day was 1-3-1, and Allenby was 0-4-0.
Gorant: I thought Scott played better than his record.
Van Sickle: Scott and Ogilvy should've been paired for four matches, but Norman had to try to shore up some of his weaker players by splitting them up. That didn't work out so well.
Morfit: I agree that Scott didn't seem to play that terrible. He beat Woods and Phil in the same week, which can't be bad.
Hanger: True, true. But the Aussies still had a disappointing showing in an event they'd been anticipating for a long time.
Herre: Ogilvy and Schwartzel were the International team's two big guns, but I thought Ishikawa was the biggest surprise. After a slow start in earlier matches, he was money in singles.
Rouse: I love watching Ryo. He played well in singles and pretty much single-handedly secured the Internationals' only point with his putting during Saturday's foursomes.
Dusek: Norman showed a lot of faith in Ernie Els by keeping Ryo with him after the first two sessions. Els played pretty well against Simpson and Watson; Norman must have thought he could lift Ishikawa's game and carry them to a W.
Tell us what you think in the comments area below: Who was your biggest surprise from the Presidents Cup?
INTERNATIONAL TEAM'S LOSING WAYS
Morfit: Let's talk big picture: Why can't the International team get it together and win already? This was supposed to be a year when they'd enjoy a big home-field advantage, but it really wasn't even all that close. Isn't the event in some trouble if only one side can win? And why is that? How can the U.S. not help but win the Presidents Cup, and not help but lose the Ryder Cup?
Dusek: With all due respect, the International team is international in name only. Ogilvy, Scott, Day, Allenby, K.J. Choi, Y.E. Yang … they're PGA Tour guys. The Americans see them every week, so unlike the European teams (until fairly recently), no one is going to surprise the Americans by being especially good. That, and our guys seem to make more putts in Presidents Cups than Ryder Cups.
Shipnuck: The Ryder Cup is a huge advantage for the U.S. Guys get to play more together, find successful partnerships and learn to deal with the pressures of team play. Then they go to the more mellow Presidents Cup and freewheel it.
Van Sickle: The Internationals don't have the camaraderie and the chance to play together. Due to the language barrier, captains are stuck with pairing guys by country. Just because Kim and Yang are from Korea doesn't necessarily mean they're a good duo. Same for Charl and Retief, although they do seem like the same guy. Playing a match-play team event every year, the Presidents Cup or the Ryder Cup, is a big advantage for the Americans, who figured out the formula for success because of Azinger.
Hanger: All good points, but the fact that the Yanks play team match play every year hasn't helped them much in the Ryder Cup. Or maybe it has and the U.S. record would be even worse if it weren't for the Presidents Cup reps.
Godich: It's no secret that the Internationals don't have the same camaraderie as the Euros, who travel their tour together, stay in the same hotels, dine together. The Presidents Cup is largely a PGA Tour exhibition. Look no further than the Ogilvy-Haas match. That was some lovefest. We never see that during the Ryder Cup.
Herre: You could make the argument against the Internationals that's used against the U.S. in the Ryder Cup — the Internationals are used to playing their own ball and have little experience in the team game. The Americans should be more experienced since they play cup matches every year.
Walker: The biggest threat to the Presidents Cup is the 2016 Olympics, but its future would look more promising if it had built up a history of dramatic showdowns. I think Greg Norman made those provocative pre-Cup remarks ("I wouldn't have picked Tiger") to add some missing fire to this year's Presidents Cup.
Hanger: I also think Norman's ideas for making Ryder Cup-type changes — let the home team's captain choose the format for the first session, and give the International team four captain's picks — might help as well. We've seen that it's all about getting the guys who are hot right now on the team, and the current selection process doesn't always do the best job of that.
Herre: The fact that Allenby was even on the team might also be construed as a red flag. Is there that little depth in the International talent pool?
Hanger: That could be true right now, but maybe the surge in golf in Asia will mean a brighter future for the Internationals.
Walker: Like Hanger said, the Asian players are starting to add some intrigue to the proceedings. I had never seen K.T. Kim play, and Ishikawa isn't here all that much. The depth of the International team should be increasing, but they have to be more competitive to make the Presidents Cup compelling for regular sports fans.
Morfit: The party line was that Allenby was a pick based on what he'd done at Royal Melbourne, just as Tiger was picked based on what he'd done pre-2009. Obviously only one of those hunches panned out.
Shipnuck: Allenby was always a suspect pick; dude is probably the worst putter of any top-200 player. Bad fit on a racetrack like Royal Melbourne.
Ritter: It's easy to second-guess those captain's picks, but I bet Vijay Singh would've done better than 0-4.
Walker: The Allenby pick shows that Greg Norman can't let go of the 1990s.
Reiterman: You look down the International Presidents Cup standings, and with the exception of a few guys (Jhonny Vegas, Camilo Villegas, Angel Cabrera, Louis Oosthuizen, Tim Clark), there are a lot of really obscure names.
Tell us what you think in the comments area below: Why is the International team's record so poor in this competition?
Morfit: After all the preamble — Norman questioning Tiger as a pick, Norman questioning whether Tiger's changed, Stevie's stupid remark at the caddie awards banquet — the four days seemed pretty devoid of rancor. In the end, the Presidents Cup looked about the same as it always does, like a bunch of guys from Orlando playing a bunch of other guys from Orlando, with a few Californians and Texans thrown in. There may have been razor edges on the course, but the event itself doesn't have much of an edge. Why is that?
Reiterman: It's hard to have drama when the U.S. has won six of eight. But I think the International team is due for a big win, like when the Europeans won the Ryder Cup at Jack's place, Muirfield Village, in 1987. Hey, the next Presidents Cup would be a good start — it's at Muirfield Village.
Shipnuck: It's an international goodwill exhibition; it's not supposed to have an edge. The Ryder Cup has jingoism and a long history of slights to turn up the intensity. The Presidents Cup is just pals playing golf. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Dusek: There hasn't been a player who broke the hearts and souls of the other team, thus creating a genuine rivalry. The Presidents Cup hasn't produced a Seve Ballesteros or a Colin Montgomerie figure for the Internationals. It's a mutual admiration society out there instead of a go-for-the-jugular affair.
Rouse: The biggest noise leading into the Presidents Cup came from a caddie, and any hopes of seeing fireworks out of Stevie and Tiger were squashed before the event even started. Golf has a great array of talent right now, but no one (with the exception of Tiger) who just grabs everyone's attention. With no foil on the International side, all we were left with were a couple of over-analyzed handshakes.
Van Sickle: The closest anybody came to matching Seve or Monty was Vijay Singh and his caddie's Tiger Who? cap. Tiger slammed Vijay down to answer that one.
Dusek: Right. Had Vijay won, and kept winning and breaking hearts, the Presidents Cup might have grown a little more.
Morfit: I agree that the International team has no center, really. The closest thing to a guy to rally around would have to be Ogilvy, I guess, but he barely made the team. I watched a tentative-looking fist-bump celebration between Ogilvy and Choi that might have said it all about the Internationals' built-in chemistry deficit.
Hanger: In general, it's tough to get passionate about something new. The Presidents Cup isn't that new anymore, but compared to the Ryder Cup, it just doesn't have the history. I'm going to have trouble getting as fired up about Missouri playing Kentucky in the SEC as I would about Missouri playing Kansas in the Big 12. In the same way, watching the U.S. play the Europeans just seems more like the real deal.
Dusek: Don't get me started about Syracuse playing a conference game against North Carolina State soon.
Gorant: It doesn't feel like there's as much at stake. Less history, less natural rivalry. The Eurpoeans are a focused group that you can be for or against. The Internationals as a team are vague and diffuse. And other than the South Africans, they haven't made much of an impact at the majors, which could stir some sort of rivalry.
Herre: The Presidents Cup is what the Ryder Cup used to be, and that's not a negative. The Ryder Cup is my favorite event in golf, but the more civil tone at the Presidents Cup is very appealing, as is the more relevant worldwide aspect of the International team.
Hack: I think the friendliness would change if any of the Internationals really became a dominant or transcendent player. None of them has. Nice guys, decent winners, but not real threats to U.S. hegemony. (Unlike Rory, Luke, Padraig, Lee, etc.)
Walker: Charl Schwartzel might take offense to that, if he wasn't such a nice guy.
Hack: That's it, too — they're sweethearts, those Internationals. Charl is a major winner, but neither dominant nor transcendent.
Hanger: Part of the problem might also be plain old marketing. It's chicken and egg, but I think the majority of casual sports fans couldn't tell you what the Presidents Cup is. Maybe that changed after the amped-up coverage surrounding Tiger this year, but the event is still battling for its place in the sporting landscape.
Dusek: Golf fans will watch the Presidents Cup, especially in two years when it's at Muirfield Village, but one cup is enough for sports fans.
Hanger: I don't know. The team match play format is always compelling, and as the game grows internationally, I could see the Presidents Cup becoming a bigger and bigger deal. In 30 years, who knows? Maybe the Presidents Cup will be the main event.
Tell us what you think in the comments area below: Why was there so little animosity between the two sides?
IF THE SKIPPERS HAD SWITCHED SIDES…
Morfit: Let's say Greg Norman had captained the U.S. team, and Fred Couples had captained the Internationals. What would the score have been?
Dusek: About the same. Captains don't hit the shots, the players do.
Herre: Interesting question. Would Fred's roll-out-the-ball style work with such a disparate group? Norman said going in that he planned to be more hands-on this time around, which might have been a mistake with the veteran Americans, like Mickelson and Furyk, who don't need coaching. Maybe switching captains would have evened the playing field, and we would've had a closer match.
Van Sickle: Well, Norman wouldn't have picked Tiger, and Fred wouldn't have picked Allenby, for starters. If Jason Day is going to play rubbish and Ernie isn't going to make any putts, I'm not sure how much difference the captains can ultimately make.
Hanger: I agree with Gary and Dave. Captains might make a few decisions that swing a couple points one way or the other, but I think their impact is generally overstated. Maybe not Azinger, who had some creative practice ideas and helped change the team-selection process, but overall.
Shipnuck: Tiger would have gone 0-5 because he hates Norman so much. He would have tanked his matches just to spite the Shark.
Wei: Fred Couples may not be the most eloquent or sharpest captain in American golfing history, but perhaps that's why he's been so effective — he doesn't over think things. Another sign of a good leader? He surrounds himself with people who complement his weaknesses, like Jay Haas. They've formed an effective partnership.
Godich: The result likely would have been the same, but I will say this: I believe Norman was so bent on winning in his homeland that his players felt a little pressure. You didn't get any sense of that on the American side, which is a credit to Couples. Who would not love to play for Freddie?
Tell us what you think in the comments area below: If the captains switch teams, do we get a different result?
BATTLE-TESTED AND READY FOR 2012
Morfit: Seems like every year, one guy parlays his courage-under-fire experience at the Ryder or Presidents Cup into a major or another level of play the following year. Zach Johnson winning the 2007 Masters, for example. Who is your pick to be that player in 2012? Tiger's the obvious choice, but I'd say Hunter Mahan (4-1-0) may have earned a lot more self-belief from his week at Royal Melbourne.
Shipnuck: Yes, Mahan is long overdue to be a big-time player. Hopefully this gets him over the hump.
Dusek: After his 2011 season and now a solid Presidents Cup, I could easily see Webb Simpson winning the U.S. Open at Olympic or the PGA Championship at Kiawah next year.
Herre: Webb Simpson looks like the real deal. I could definitely see him winning a major next year.
Gorant: Agree. Webb seems to be a NASA project.
Wei: I know Ishikawa already has tons of pro wins and performed well at the '09 Presidents Cup, but he seemed so much more grown up and comfortable than he did two years ago. It was also heartwarming to see his partnership with Ernie Els. When Ryo drained important, pressure-packed putts, Ernie looked like a proud father.
Reiterman: Adam Scott is still looking pretty strong with the long putter. Hard to believe he's only been wielding that thing for a year.
Godich: I'll go with Mahan. What a difference a year makes. Jason Day must be having nightmares. First there was the putt Mahan rolled in on top of the Aussie during Saturday's four-ball, then the obliteration in the singles. I would also keep an eye on Bill Haas. His record wasn't great, but his play was solid and he got to the 18th hole in four of five matches. And we've already seen how he responds with $10 million on the line.
Rouse: Mahan finished strong this year with great play at the Presidents Cup and nearly winning the FedEx Cup and $10 million. I think he'll continue to play well into 2012. I'm looking at Webb Simpson, though, to be the guy who seems to be in the top 10 at every tournament he plays. Unless something drastic changes in his game, he has set himself up for an even bigger year in 2012.
Van Sickle: I think Simpson is already at that level. I really believe K.T. Kim is the guy. He quietly had a few high finishes last year, including a tie for sixth at Akron. He's got the game, and now he knows his game is as good as the big names. He'll be unleashed in '12.
Walker: Agree with Simpson on the American side. Ishikawa played better every day for the Internationals. He looks like he's ready, and I can't wait to see Bubba at the Ryder Cup at Medinah.
Ritter: I'm not sure about 2012, but Ishikawa seems on track to be a star someday soon.
Tell us what you think in the comments area below: Which Presidents Cup player is most likely to build on this week's success and have a big 2012?
WHAT'S LEFT FOR 2011?
Morfit: With the Presidents Cup in the books, what else will you be looking for as we close up 2011? Tiger will try to actually win a tournament at the Chevron Challenge, the week after Thanksgiving. We've got the Omega Mission Hills World Cup, as the Golf Channel kept reminding us. And Luke Donald will try to become the first player to win the money title on both sides of the Atlantic at the Dubai World Championship in early December. Do any of these storylines catch your attention?
Dusek: I will be curious to see how well Tiger plays, like everyone else. Luke's attempt to double up on money titles is impressive, but the World Cup does nothing for me.
Walker: If Tiger were a Euro Tour member, he would have topped both money lists seven times. Evidence of a remarkable season for Donald? Yes. Historic? No.
Herre: Hard to call the 18-man Chevron anything more than an exhibition, but interest will be high, especially after last year's highly entertaining Graeme McDowell takedown of Woods. Will Tiger ride his Presidents Cup momentum to victory in a four-round event, even one with a tiny field? Doing so would be another step in the right direction.
Hanger: A win for Tiger wouldn't mean much in his 18-man tournament. It'll get interesting again in 2012.
Wei: I'm looking forward to the best tournament of the year — Q-School finals.
Morfit: I agree that the Chevron has some sizzle, only because of Tiger. The guy is getting to be must-see TV again. It didn't feel like the Presidents Cup singles really started until he teed off a couple of hours into it.
Godich: All the buzz was about Tiger last year after his performance at the Chevron. How did that work out?
Van Sickle: The golf year is over, although now I suppose there will be eyes on Tiger to see if he can continue his renewed form in his own event. Are you ready for some basketball… er, football?
Tell us what you think in the comments area below: What storylines are you most interested to follow for the rest of 2011?