PGA Tour Confidential: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson miss cut at Greenbrier

July 10, 2012

Every Sunday night, the editorial staff of the SI Golf Group conducts an e-mail roundtable. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.

Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Tiger and Phil both flamed out at the Greenbrier, and Phil immediately lobbied for (and received) a spot in the Scottish Open. What do we make of all that heading into the British?

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: Mickelson simply isn't playing well, and Tiger circa 2012 is, well, inconsistent. I don't see Mickelson as a factor in the British Open. Woods could contend if he putts well. I think he can manage the other bumps and bobs at Lytham.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Phil peaked at Pebble. I applaud him for trying to rediscover the magic in advance of the British. The new Tiger is the inconsistent Tiger.

David Dusek, deputy editor, Phil's game hasn't been solid since his disaster on Augusta's fourth on Sunday at the Masters. His putting is still better than it was last season, but his game seems loose. It's lacking accuracy, and his desire to add the Scottish Open has to tell us he doesn't feel good about it right now. Tiger's missed cut is a lot more surprising, but I'm much less concerned about him. What a difference six months makes.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: If Tiger had been serious about winning, he would've seen the course sooner than Wednesday. He had a Nike shoot on Monday. You can't learn the Greenbrier's secrets in one or two rounds. Tiger didn't have the local knowledge he needed. He misread putts and hit shots the wrong distance, unable to judge the effect of the heat and the altitude. We know better than to expect consistency from Phil.

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Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Not a great week for Woods, but I still think he deserves to be the betting favorite at Royal Lytham — although he won't be my pick. Phil's clearly hit a rough patch, and it's hard to see him contending at the British, where he doesn't have a great track record to begin with.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: The only thing Phil wants more in his golfing life than a U.S. Open is a British Open, and the U.S. Open has come and gone. He must be realizing what all athletes realize, sooner or later: time and chances are slipping away. He's giving himself every chance. I wouldn't read anything into Tiger's MC. His two rounds weren't awful — one under is such a low cut.

Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: Phil hasn't played well since he "overdid it" in the weeks leading up to his withdrawal at the Memorial. He just can't figure out the Old White, either. As for Tiger, who knows, but he never seems to play well at courses where he's making his first start.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Phil hasn't been the same since he struck out batting right-handed at Augusta. I wouldn't expect much from him at Lytham. And Tiger is turning into a mini-Phil with his inconsistency — great one week, shaky the next. I guess that means he's due for a good performance at the Open.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Will Tiger and Phil be factors at the British Open?

Gorant: CBS Sports published a story this week claiming that Tiger received $1.5 million and Phil $1 million in indirect payments or de facto appearance fees, which are supposed to be against the rules on the PGA Tour. The tournament allegedly skirts the rules by paying the players for "personal service" contracts, which usually involve showing up at a cocktail party or giving a clinic. Critics say these cash giveaways add to the "haves/have nots" division of Tour events. If it's true, what do we think of all this?

Herre: This sort of payment has always been in play — only the numbers have changed.

Godich: I've got no problem with appearance fees, as long as they're advertised as such. How much has the Tour made because of Tiger and Phil?

Van Sickle: It's been going on for years. The Greater Milwaukee Open lured Lee Trevino for several years, when it was the week before the British Open, with a similar deal. In Europe, they're open about it. On the PGA Tour, it's hidden. What's the point? There is no stopping it. Certainly, the sponsors don't want it stopped. That's the only way Jim Justice is going to land Tiger and Phil for his event.

Shipnuck: If this is what it takes to get big names to second-tier events, so be it. All those Zurich "ambassadors" did wonders for the New Orleans field.

Charlie Hanger, executive editor, It's hard to blame the tournament organizers who can afford it. Their obligation is to get the best field they can. And it's a good investment … as long as the stars make the cut.

Dusek: If that story is true, it sends a message to every tournament director and championship committee: "Unless you are hosting a major or one of a handful of elite events [Wells Fargo, etc.], you've got to buy buzz or be satisfied with being a run-of-the-mill event."

Van Sickle: That message is already sent, Dave, like it or not.

Wei: It is a little amusing if Justice spent all that money to bring the big stars and ended up with Ted Potter Jr. and Troy Kelly in a playoff. All due respect to both players, but I don't think that's what Justice had in mind.

Godich: Every sports league has stars, and the stars get paid more than others. The Tour just needs to be upfront about it.

Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, Jim Justice donated a healthy check to Phil's Birdies for the Brave foundation. If that convinced Phil to show up at the Greenbrier, I don't really have a problem with it. If Justice wrote a check to Phil's personal account, I'd have a bigger problem with it.

Van Sickle: Maybe the tour needs to have appearance fee rules. The fees could be made public and each player could receive only a set number per calendar year — say, three. Once Tiger and Phil have used their three, the price would go up for the guys next in line, like Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson, Web Simpson, Fred Couples and Ernie Els.

Godich: The biggest story here may be that Tiger is attracting seven-figure appearance fees. Two years ago, who thought we'd be writing that?

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Do you have a problem with pros receiving money as incentive to play in a PGA Tour event?

Gorant: There's no other way to describe what happened to Webb Simpson on the back nine except "meltdown." Are there long term concerns here, particularly with his putting?

Godich: Nah. The guy just won the U.S. Open. I'd say that's a good measure of a player's game, particularly his putting.

Herre: Simpson is a nice player, but you look at his game, especially his short game, and maybe even his mindset (skipping the British) and you don't see the next Tiger. He'll have a successful career, but he's no world-beater.

Dusek: None. Webb is going to be on the sidelines for a few weeks, staying home with his wife and their about-to-be-born child. His year is already made, and he'll be fine.

Wei: I think Webb just felt the pressure of backing up his major win so quickly.

Van Sickle: The guy wins the U.S. Open, plays a couple more events in its wake, and has a baby on the way. My guess is that he finally hit the wall mentally. He played like a tired golfer. I dismiss this finish completely.

Bamberger: I think there are 100 guys on Tour, or more, who would pay to have Webb's putting game.

Wei: Take away that belly putter and see what happens.

Shipnuck: He'll be fine. It happens to everyone once in a while. Dude's been going hard since Saturday morning at Olympic. All he needs is some rest.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Does Simpson's meltdown concern you?

Gorant: After watching the playoff, we know why these guys haven't won before, but Ted Potter, the 28-year-old rookie, finally prevailed. Do you like seeing the nobody-from-nowhere Cinderella have his day in the glass slipper, or would you rather see more of a marquee player win? In other words, were you rooting for Webb today?

Bamberger: Underdogs all the way.

Godich: I loved watching two nobodies grind for their first Tour win.

Herre: Loved Potter. Haven't seen a swing like that on Tour since Furyk broke in. His grip makes Fiori's look weak.

Dusek: This week, I'd rather see two guys battle for a two-year exemption and a trip to Augusta than watch Webb waltz to another big paycheck.

Van Sickle: A great finish. Webb Simpson, the favorite, melted down badly, and then Troy Kelly, who is way too young for a hip replacement but had to have one anyway, made a nice run and appeared to have won it. Then Potter came out of nowhere with a stunning eagle-birdie finish. He blew a short winning putt on the second extra hole but then stiffed it at the par-3 18th for the win. What's not to like? That was one exciting finish.

Hanger: I'd rather have been watching Tiger and Phil than Troy and Ted, but it's still fun to watch an unknown guy get a win. Always interesting to see a player for whom the million bucks and exemption really mean something.

Reiterman: I don't mind a Joe Schmoe every now and then. We've certainly been spoiled this year with a lot of Tiger, Phil, Bubba, Rickie, etc.

Van Sickle: Watching tournaments is about the golf, not the golfers, for real golf fans. If you didn't like the Potter-Kelly finish, you probably don't actually like golf.

Wei: I am a sucker for the underdog, so I'm happy for Ted Potter, but I wish the Cinderella had been Troy Kelly because he's a fellow Washington native. (He's from Tacoma.)

Herre: Also loved how Potter sat there on the veranda with girlfriend and pals — no range for this guy — then got up and went straight to the 18th tee. Faldo was horrified.

Godich: He's no Kenny Perry.

Van Sickle: I like that Potter has a funky swing. He sort of chases after his follow through with a lunge, and he swings hard. I'm looking forward to that magazine swing sequence.

Herre: And his stance appears to be wide open. I can't see how gets the ball on line. I'm eager to see one of the Top 100 Teachers analyze his action.

Shipnuck: I was rooting for Webb. In this age of parity, I'd like to see some guys separate themselves.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Would you rather see little-known players or big stars battle it out on Sunday?

Gorant: It was a week for long shots. What did you take away from this week about Troy Kelly Ted Potter Jr. and Charlie Beljan? (By the way, could Nantz work in another mention of Kelly's restaurant? Jeez.)

Van Sickle: The CBS guys probably only knew two things to say about either one of them. So they kept saying them.

Dusek: Nothing. The PGA Tour is full of guys who are capable of getting hot for a week. In the absence of big name players, the Troy Kellys, Charlie Beljans and Ken Dukes of the world get a chance to shine.

Shipnuck: This week was the latest testament to the tremendous depth on Tour. Few golf fans have ever heard of these guys, but they put on a tremendous show.

Godich: Spectacular play, unbelievable shots (to borrow from Ian Baker-Finch). In the end, almost famous, nothing more.

Herre: Lot of IBF today. Too much.

Van Sickle: Note to TV announcers with nothing to say (and you know who you are): If your only comment is to follow a colleague's remark with "does it ever" or "will it ever," you should simply remain silent.

Godich: What was that nonsense from IBF about Potter's ball being close to the divot on the chip shot and how it would've been easier to play if he were right-handed?

Van Sickle: He totally got that call wrong. And then on the slow-mo replay he talked about how cleanly Potter hit the chip. Cleanly? He stuck the wedge into the ground, which was why it ran out so nicely. A good miss. He was oh-for-two there.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Do any of this week's Cinderella stories have staying power?

Gorant: Na Yeon Choi lapped the field at Blackwolf Run, 14 years after Se Ri Pak set off the Korean revolution by winning the Open on the same course. Now Choi's victory is only noteworthy for her score. What did you think of Choi this week, and has the globalization of women's golf helped the game?

Herre: You know, aside from the 40+ Korean players, the LPGA hasn't really changed that much. Interesting to hear Dottie Pepper and Annika Sorenstam — remember, these two have had their moments — in total agreement as to why the Koreans are doing so well. They are outworking the Americans and the Europeans.

Godich: I enjoyed it. That was some great TV on the back nine today, between Choi's roller-coaster ride and the work of her caddie. He certainly earned his keep. Loved how he lobbied for a more favorable drop after Choi tugged her tee shot on 10. And the most interesting comment of the week, courtesy of Dottie Pepper: The Americans are being outworked.

Van Sickle: What's different now? Before the Koreans, it was Annika (Swede) and Karrie Webb (Aussie) dominating. In case you haven't noticed, the rest of the world combined is a lot bigger than the U.S. If golf keeps on its present expansion, Americans will likely lose their prominent role in men's golf, too. It's the way of the world.

Wei: Good point. Nothing has changed. It's just that Annika and Karrie looked American, so people felt like they could relate to them better.

Bamberger: I had never watched Choi closely before, but what a swing.

Herre: To NBC/Golf Channel's credit, they did do a nice up-close-and-personal on Choi. It was kind of funny, actually. She only recently made the big effort to learn English (would any American player make a big effort to learn Korean?), and her speech was full of "you knows" and other All-American space fillers.

Wei: Yes, she spoke almost perfect English, with hardly a hint of an accent. Better than many Americans. I was impressed.

Shipnuck: Pak's victory changed everything. This was merely a personal triumph for a superstar-in-waiting.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: What did you take away for Na Yeon Choi's victory?

Gorant: Speaking of Dottie Pepper, the Golf + contributor was named an assistant captain for the Solheim Cup. This after being blackballed from the team for a few off-the-cuff comments that were caught on camera a few years back. I know we're all happy for her, but do we think Dottie, who was the Cristina Kim of her day, will bring the U.S. team what it needs?

Bamberger: Do assistant captains hit shots now?

Godich: I want to see how it goes over when she tells the players they need to work harder.

Dusek: Genuine passion for competition and a desire to win can't be anything but positives in the locker room.

Herre: Dottie was never as glib as Kim. She was a smoldering volcano on the course. I think she'll do well as captain, if that should happen, which is not a given. There's already an attractive, full buy-in to the Cup by the U.S. players. They'll get a kick out of, and appreciate, Dottie's passion.

Van Sickle: In addition to passion, which the team already seems to have plenty of, Dottie brings knowledge and experience. I can't think of anyone who should've been appointed instead of her. I like the pick.

Shipnuck: Dottie is the Danny Ainge of golf: if she's on your team, you absolutely love her passion and feistiness. If those qualities bug the other team, all the better.

Wei: The more fire, the better. She's someone I'd want as a captain to get me fired up, and I wouldn't want to be on the other side.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Is Dottie a good addition to the Solheim locker room?

Gorant: The old Michelle Wie made a brief appearance in Wisconsin. Is she rounding back into form, or was it simply one good day with the putter? And earlier in the week Lorena Ochoa announced that she'll play twice this fall. Do you think it's the first step in a comeback for her?

Herre: Can't see Ochoa making a full-time return. Wie is just another player now.

Godich: Wie caught lightning in a bottle. Nothing more. And I wouldn't read too much into Lorena's announcement.

Bamberger: I would read nothing into one low round.

Van Sickle: Even if Ochoa did come back, I don't see her dominating or even being a top-five player. Wie is an enigma. She can shoot 66 in the Open, and she can shoot a million over the next two days. You saw the formula for winning with Choi: putt great. It's the essence of golf. Wie doesn't putt great. Too often, she putts poorly. She has to correct that, if she can, to reach her old potential, which is starting to feel more distant than ever.

Wei: Michelle sounded like she was in a really good place, and I was impressed with her positive outlook when I spoke with her earlier this week. She said she'd been stroking it well the last couple of weeks and felt like nothing was going in, but they sure did on Friday. It's a step in the right direction. She's also been talking a lot with Meg Mallon about putting and really believing that she's a good putter.

Shipnuck: It was great to see Michelle have some fun out there. That's the key for her, and hopefully this week propels her to more good finishes she can build on. Lorena wants to be a mom and a wife foremost, but I could see her cherry-picking a half dozen events a year. That'd be awesome for the sport.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Is Michelle Wie turning the corner, or did she simply have one hot round this week?

Correction: An earlier version of this article said that Se Ri Pak won the U.S. Open at Blackwolf Run 10 years ago. It was 14 years ago, in 1998.