PGA Tour Confidential: The Travelers Championship

PGA Tour Confidential: The Travelers Championship

Kenny Perry has seven top 10s this season, including two wins.
Fred Beckham/AP

Every week of the 2009 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.

Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Another week of golf in the books, led by Kenny Perry’s impressive win at the Travelers Championship and Jiyai Shin’s continued assault on Lorena Ochoa’s No. 1 ranking, thanks to her seven-stroke win at the Wegman’s. Let’s start with KP, who two months ago coughed up a green jacket in Augusta but responded nicely in Cromwell, Conn. This is 14 PGA Tour wins for 48-year-old Kenny. On the over/under of 20, I’m thinking hard about the over.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Oh, no question in my mind that he gets to 22 or more. He should keep winning into his early 50s. He doesn’t need the gym to be super long, his swing has no glitchy anything in it, and Tour courses are made for his game. He can play on any type of grass and he’ll play fall events with weak fields. He should be good for one or two a year for the next three or four years.

Jim Herre, editor, Sports Illustrated Golf Plus: Kenny certainly is showing no signs of age, particularly with the putter, usually the first thing to go.

Hack: I like 20, too, one of them a major, maybe a PGA. In this era, that would put him in the Hall.

Herre: Not sure that one major would make him HOF-worthy.

Hack: He needs to be in the 20-wins, one-major, Davis-Lanny ballpark.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I’m not sure how many wins he’d have to pile up to get in the Hall of Fame without a major. Monty won the Euro money title eight times, a record, and isn’t in. Davis Love has 20 wins, including a major, and he hasn’t gotten in yet, although he probably will. Is Kenny Perry a Hall of Famer? Not yet, I’d say.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: It’s hard not to enjoy a Kenny Perry victory. At the Masters this year I was watching him play, and one of my favorite Tour wives, Sandy Perry, introduced me to Steve and Martha Kirsche, the couple that has hosted the Perrys in Hartford every year since Kenny’s rookie year. Martha told me some hilarious stories about Kenny, my favorite being from a recent GHO, when she returned to her house and Kenny was out front mowing her lawn. “That’s just Kenny,” she said.

Van Sickle: Wonder if Tiger has ever mowed a lawn? I’d like to know.

Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: For years I thought Raymond Floyd was the best 48-year-old Tour player I had ever seen, but Floyd is no match for Perry, who has the length and the putting touch to play another five years on the regular tour.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: Why would Perry hit his prime now? The only thing I can think of is he’s peaked with his kids growing up and becoming pretty much independent. Golf’s such an odd, unpredictable game. I only hope I peak at 48.

Hack: Kenny’s talked about feeling freer in his game with his kids grown up. He doesn’t exactly remind me of (limber) Sam Snead, but I guess he can win into his 50s just the same.

Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated Golf Plus: What about the chip yips he admitted to after the Augusta meltdown? That can’t bode well. Quite a finish though — it’s been a while since David Toms was the young hotshot coming down the stretch.

Herre: Everybody has the chip yips at Augusta.

Bamberger: The chip yips won’t kill him at ordinary Tour events, where you can putt from off the green and the pressure is off anyhow.

Hack: You can make the argument that beyond Tiger, Phil, Vijay, Ernie, Retief, Furyk and Paddy, Kenny Perry has been the best player, week to week, over the last five years or so. Not bad for a guy who re-routes his club at the top. Says something for sticking with what you do, and not changing it up.

Bamberger: Some of the best Tour players have been in that tradition of stick-with-what-works swings: Raymond Floyd, Mark McCumber, Bruce Lietzke, Scott Hoch, Craig Stadler — and Perry.

Gorant: Guess the only question left is, Will Kenny go to the British? Seems like he’s already a lock for the Presidents Cup team, so he can’t use that as an excuse.

Bamberger: ANYBODY who gets into the British Open at Turnberry and doesn’t play is out of his mind. It’s one of the most beautiful places in all of golf, no matter what you shoot.

Herre: Don’t mean to threadjack, but in case you’re all not aware, Mike Van Sickle has received sponsors’ exemptions into Quad Cities and Milwaukee. Go Mike!

Bamberger: Will he have Sports Illustrated senior writer Gary Van Sickle (his father) caddie for him, or will he get good help?

Gorant: Michael, I heard he was going to try to lure you out of retirement.

Herre: Not sure Dad can go 72.

Van Sickle: Barring a better offer, Dad will be on the bag at John Deere, and a college teammate on the bag in Milwaukee. Undecided on who’s looping at the Nationwide event in Columbus.

Shipnuck: In that case, I like Mike’s odds a lot more in Milwaukee!

Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Where you gonna eat: Players’ family dining room, caddie dining or media dining?

Hack: Gary, I’ve got some raw almonds and protein shakes if you need ’em.

Evans: Is Van Sickle the first golf writer with a kid in a tour event?

Dick Friedman, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Vans joins at least one that I know of: longtime L.A. baseball writer Ross Newhan, whose son, David, was an eight-season major leaguer before being released by the Astros this spring. In 2004, Newhan finished seventh in the AL in triples. Let’s hope we don’t say the same thing some year about Mike!

Hack: Speaking of famous relatives, did anybody take a peek at Tiger’s niece at Wegmans this week? Nice to see she’s continuing in the family business. At the same time, that’s a tough name to carry. Would she be better off changing it? Maybe Cheyenne Smith? Lot to live up to. She seems to have a pretty good attitude about it.

Evans: Listening to her talk, she reminds me of the early Tiger Woods, before he won his first Masters in ’97 — a normal kid.

Morfit: I agree she’d be better off with a different last name or a different sport. My hat is off to her for following her passion, since I’m sure she was first to know how unfair the expectations would be.

Bamberger: She’ll have to be very careful not to take too many anythings — sponsors’ invitations, endorsements, whatever — because of her surname. It’s a way to get yourself frozen-out by your LPGA colleagues.

Herre: And she’ll need to have some success. A bunch of missed cuts could be damaging.

Evans: Who cares about getting frozen out? If she can raise the profile of the LPGA Tour, I’m sure the other girls will let her act like Uncle Tiger.

Hack: Yeah, but she doesn’t want to go the Michelle Wie route, does she? Cart before horse?

Lipsey: The LPGA players haven’t been so warm to the Michelle Wie circus, so they might not like the Woods circus either. Pro athletes have big egos and want the spotlight to themselves.

Hack: Any buzz — Cheyenne Woods, Gulbis on “The Apprentice,” Christina Kim Tweeting, Michelle Wie doing anything — is good for the LPGA.

Van Sickle: Cash your checks any way you can. Use your name to get in the door.

Shipnuck: I don’t think there’s any pressure on Cheyenne. I think most golf fans know she wasn’t raised by Earl and Tida, and therefore she has none of Tiger’s magic mojo. As for how she’ll be received on tour, golfers are in general a selfish breed, but the women of the LPGA know their tour needs eyeballs. Cheyenne will be warmly received if she proves she can play.

Bamberger: Tiger earned his sponsors exemptions, as did Mike Van Sickle. If you get them for other reasons, and then make lousy scores or play in a league for which you are not ready, it can really hurt you.

Gorant: Speaking of Wie. Watched her a bit today. She was five under through 12 to get to T6, but dropped two shots coming in to finish just outside the top 10. It’s a little bit one-step-up, one-step-back with her these days, but she’s good enough to contend, and I have to think that with a little more time she’s going to get there.

Hack: Me, too, Jim. That darn putter. Again. Seems like she just freezes over the short ones. No rhythm.

Lipsey: Sadly, I think that no matter what Wie does now, it won’t have nearly the oomph it would’ve had she not been so messed up the last couple of years.

Hack: It’s a new landscape now. Ochoa, Shin, Lincicome, Pettersen, Creamer. Wie is just one of many faces instead of the female Tiger she was supposed (packaged?) to be.

Shipnuck: I disagree. A couple of wins, maybe a major, and once again Wie will be one of golf’s most-watched and talked-about players.

Gorant: I’m with Alan’s line of thinking. Carolyn Bivens visited us in the office recently and said Wie still generated the most interest for the tour.

Van Sickle: Alan is right. Wie is just one win, maybe even a couple of 64s, away from reigniting Wie Fever. She’s a media blitz waiting to happen.

Evans: Wie’s parents have to be out of the picture for their daughter to ever win golf tournaments on a regular basis.

Shipnuck: Kinda harsh, but true. The way Wie’s parents hover around her at all times creeps me out. I could sorta understand it when she was 13. Now that she’s a woman, they need to back off. I bet her first victory will happen when her parents miss a flight and she has to fend for herself.

Lipsey: Impossible. If Mom and Dad miss the flight, so does Michelle. She’s with them.

Gorant: It does feel sometimes like she’s an E True Hollywood Story waiting to happen, but I still think she pulls it off. Then again I’ve been pushing the David Duval comeback for years.

Hack: I walked a few holes with the Wies in Springfield, and they were pleasant, as always. While they are not the only parents rooting audibly, shadowing their progeny’s every step, it does seem over-the-top and unhealthy. But Morgan Pressel’s grandparents are ever-present, and so are Creamer’s folks. The Wies haven’t found a middle ground, it seems, and I’m sure it has affected Michelle in ways none of us really know.

Shipnuck: Since we’re on the topic of my favorite tour, the LPGA, Jiyai Shin won again, strengthening her case as the new No. 1. It’s a little weird to me that Shin has won all around the world, including last year’s British Open, and she’s still considered an LPGA rookie. One of the players who finished a very distant second to her this week was another rookie, Stacy Lewis, her best performance of the year and a nice follow-up to a top-10 at the LPGA Championship. There’s no doubt Shin is going to win rookie of the year honors, but it’s still an open question as to who will be runner-up. Michelle Wie has the edge so far, and she had another solid finish (11th) at the Wegmans, but it looks like Lewis is going to make things interesting over the second half of the year.

Lipsey: That was exactly what everybody in the Westchester C.C. grill room was talking about yesterday.

Van Sickle: I’ll play my Damon-Hack-told-you-so card now. In our season preview, I (and I’m sure many others) predicted that Shin was the real thing and that she would get to No. 1, maybe even this year. I had no idea Ochoa was going to fall back so suddenly, but I knew Shin was good. She’s been the Golf Plus Dominator of the Year two years running.

Hack: Gary was on the Shin train early. After seeing her swing the clubs in Springfield,
I am a believer. Ball, tee, fairway, green, a putt or two at most. Simple, effortless, beautiful.

Gorant: Damon, that was like a Haiku.

Lipsey: I hope the LPGA is scouting office space in Seoul for their new HQ, because that’s where their future is. Check that, their present. This fall’s Solheim Cup will be absurd because it’ll be missing most of the LPGA’s best players.

Van Sickle: Exactly, Rick. See my Golf Plus column from earlier this year. The Solheim Cup needs to be totally reconfigured to include the rest of the world, whether that means adding a third international squad or making it North America versus Asia. (We get Ochoa then. Clever, no?) The United States vs. Europe is kind of a non-starter at this point.

Herre: That call is out of Bivens’s hands. The Solheim family is in charge.

Hack: Should Michelle Wie be a captain’s pick? Talk about buzz!

Herre: Yes, definitely. Some controversy and debate would be a good thing for the SC.

Shipnuck: She does make a ton of birdies, but I think she has to win first.

Hack: Wie at the Solheim Cup would be a big deal. If she isn’t high in the rankings, though, I wonder if it would only create more whispers/haters.

Lipsey: That could infuriate her teammates and seriously detract from their chemistry. Or, it could be the greatest decision in Cup history.

Hack: I’m sure captain Daniel has already been thinking about all of the ramifications, good and bad.

Lipsey: Does Annika take a break from motherhood to play?

Hack: I don’t see that one. She just tweeted that she and hubby Mike are already shopping, getting ready for baby. But Annika and Wie in singles? Might outdo Glover-Barnes.

Herre: No way on Annika. She is not the type to bigfoot a deserving player.

Hack: It’s too bad. Would have been fun seeing Annika v. the new generation,
as we saw Nicklaus v. Norman, etc.

Hack: Vijay Singh is still sporting the Stanford logo. The message? Innocent until proven guilty, I guess. What’s everybody’s take on Singh’s sartorial choice?

Herre: I didn’t know that because he’s not a U.S. citizen, Singh could not post bail for Stanford.

Bamberger: A free shirt is a hard thing for a Tour golfer to give up, no matter how much he has made.

Hack: I guess it speaks for Vijay’s loyalty, but I don’t think it’ll earn him any new fans outside the ropes. Can’t help but wonder what Finchem thinks of Singh’s duds.

Evans: What you can probably deduct from Vijay’ support of Stanford is that Vijay didn’t have much of his own money with the firm.

Herre: Good call, Farrell.

Gorant: Either that or he has a lot of money with Stanford and is doing his best to support the theory that this is all a needless witch hunt.

Shipnuck: You really gotta wonder about Vijay’s loyalty. Last year he made all those warm-and-fuzzy commercials with the St. Jude’s kids, and this year he skipped the tournament.