PGA Tour Confidential: World Match Play Championship

PGA Tour Confidential: World Match Play Championship

Anthony Kim defeated Robert Allenby at the World Match Play Championship.
Manu Fernandez/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.

Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Welcome to this week’s Confidential. Plenty to talk about, but let’s start with the juiciest bit. What did everyone think of Anthony Kim’s 5-and-4 beatdown of Robert Allenby in the World Match Play Championship? Justice served or just another day on the course for AK?

David Dusek, deputy editor, Kim lost in the final to Ross Fisher, but getting to the final and beating Allenby in their grudge match was impressive. And I’m sure he enjoyed every minute of it. The whole thing reminded me of the beating that Tiger gave Stephen Ames after Ames spoke a few unflattering words about him.

Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Yeah, I have to think Kim was loving every minute of it, but good to see he didn’t get into it afterward. Ross Fisher is a pretty impressive player. He’s done well in a few majors and is still a young guy.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I was in a bar once with Anthony Kim. All he was talking about was boxing. He knew the different weights, the different ABCs, who was up, who was down. How many people in their mid-20s do you know who are that into boxing? I can almost assure you he took that approach to his Allenby smackdown. Kim’s a jock. It’s one of the things he has going for him.

Gorant: It does seem like he’s really into that head-to-head showdown kind of thing. Made for Ryder Cups, etc. Maybe he ends up having a career more like Sergio’s.

Dusek: As long as it’s not like Monty’s … majorless.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: The whole Anthony Kim/Robert Allenby almost-feud speaks to the golf media’s desperation in late October and November. What was so bad about calling Kim a loose canon? The guy is not exactly a practicing monk and everyone knows it. So what? Maybe there’s something to this rivalry that I’m not aware of?

Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I don’t know, Allenby also said he arrived “sideways” to the hotel in the wee small hours of the morning. That’s more than calling him a loose cannon. That’s questioning his professionalism. You’d better have the goods when you’re making such strong claims.

Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Bamberger, sorry to tell you, but boxing is still very popular in the urban areas. Kim is a product of that environment. But to your point, Kim carries himself like a champion fighter, complete with the entourage and the way he walks ahead of his stable mates in public.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Beatdown of the new millennium. AK is my favorite player this week. The fact that he lost to Fisher is irrelevant. The Allenby match was AK’s championship.

Ryan Reiterman, producer, Apparently Allenby didn’t take AK’s advice to practice more. He was chunking chips and missing short putts.

Dusek: Maybe Kim’s erratic play has as much to do with a lack of week-to-week motivation as his injuries? He certainly gets up for match play. He was on fire against Sergio Garcia at Valhalla, he got it going as the matches wore on at Harding Park, and he clearly wanted to make a point against Allenby.

Gorant: And it shouldn’t go unnoticed that the long-lost wonder boy Adam Scott emerged from the doldrums. After a birdie on the 36th hole to make the cut on the number in Singapore, he shot 65-68 on the weekend to finish T3. Could Scott finally be turning it around or was it just two good days strung together? The season’s just kicking off Down Under, and a little hot play and home cooking would be nice for him.

Dusek: I would have a lot more faith in those final two rounds if they had been preceded by two other high-quality showings. As you point out, he had to birdie the 36th hole just to make the weekend. Let’s see four good rounds or a series of top 5s before we say his comeback is on.

Shipnuck: His real comeback was hooking up with tennis player Ana Ivanovic after Kate Hudson moved on.

Gorant: Impressive rebound no doubt, but golfwise the guy has been dying.

Dusek: His play at the Presidents Cup was decent, and this result is also good. Both came after his departure from Butch Harmon. Coincidence?

Gorant: Oooh. Getting tough on Butch. I saw Haney took a shot this week from Charles Barkley. Sir Charles said Tiger was easy to coach because he’s Tiger. Just stay out of the way. But Charles was the real problem case and Haney couldn’t get it done.

Morfit: Adam looked like a guy who suddenly wasn’t sure why he was chasing a little white ball all over the world in 2009. That’s not a good place to be if you’re trying to beat Tiger. This stuff is 100 percent mental. Look at the guys like Tiger, Jim Furyk and Zach Johnson when they’re going good — the intensity is astounding. Once Adam gets back in the right frame of mind to play golf, he’ll see to it that he irons out whatever kinks he has in his non-Harmonized swing.

Evans: Charles is only telling the truth. Tiger’s swing coach is almost like a therapist, a specialist who can talk shop and help him run maintenance on his steadily evolving golf swing. Most pros on the tour know that Haney is a fine fella, but having Tiger as a client has certainly vaulted him into a different category of teacher, at least in prominence if not influence.

Bamberger: We put way too much emphasis on the swing coach. Tiger would be Tiger with Elin checking out his positions.

Morfit: I agree that the worst way to judge a coach is by setting him up with Tiger Woods and seeing what happens. It’s like being Scarlett Johansson’s beautician. You’d have to go pretty far in the wrong direction to mess up.

Reiterman: Plus Barkley’s problem is more mental. He needs a mental coach more than a swing coach.

Gorant: Here’s a question then. Who wins next, anywhere, among Scott, Aaron Baddeley and Geoff Ogilvy?

Reiterman: Aaron who? Ill take Ogilvy.

Morfit: I look for Baddeley to win somewhere early next year. He had a rough year in ’09, with his longtime caddie Pete Bender fighting health issues and missing several tournaments. Baddeley will pick up where he left off in winning the FBR a few years ago and win on the West Coast swing.

Dusek: I’ll also go with Ogilvy. He could win at any moment, anywhere.

Evans: Baddeley dumped stack and tilt, so he’s on a slow comeback. Ogilvy can win at will if he’s putting well. And Scott will win on the West Coast swing in 2010.

Gorant: If you could take any one of the three or Rory McIlroy, who would you take?

Dusek: Whether Rory is playing on the PGA Tour or the European Tour doesn’t matter. He’s clearly one of the elite players in the game, and as he sees courses for the second and third times, like Augusta National next April, I think he’ll start putting himself in contention in majors. He’ll win more than once in 2010.

Reiterman: I still take Ogilvy. He’s got a major and several WGC titles. Plus he beat Rory head-to-head at the Accenture match play.

Shipnuck: As Bamby knows better than anyone, Rory is a small-town kid. It’s not easy to make the jump to the U.S., thus the waffling. But he’ll play here full time soon enough because he wants to be the best, and the U.S. tour offers the most opportunity to test himself and his game.

Morfit: Probably McIlroy, because we don’t know how good he’ll be yet. We seem to have a pretty good idea about the other three.

Bamberger: McIlroy here, too. The swing’s the most dynamic in golf. The swagger in his walk. He’s won young and he’s showing up in majors. Plural. He’s here for the long haul.

Gorant: Does anyone think the Asian Amateur is a legit competition, or are the Lords of Augusta just attempting to ensure viewership in Asia and thus millions in TV rights?

Shipnuck: The green coats don’t need any more money. Masters Chairman Billy Payne has a missionary zeal, and I believe they’re truly trying to grow the game.

Dusek: Agreed. Giving a spot to Ryo Ishikawa last spring certainly looked questionable at the time, but he clearly has a lot of talent. Looks pretty savvy in hindsight.

Bamberger: The tournament may not be legit yet, but it will be someday. Billy Payne has gotten way ahead here and it will serve the Masters well.

Gorant: The event was won by Chang-Won Han, a South Korean teen. He’ll be at Augusta next April and now has a qualifying exemption for this year’s British Open, which will be played at St. Andrews. After his win he admitted he didn’t know anything about the Old Course and its history in the game. He was going to look it up on the Internet when he got home. Refreshing or frightening?

Bamberger: Frickin’ fantastic! The more people who get bitten by the golf bug the better. Reduces the chances of World War III.

Shipnuck: Kinda cool. Untold numbers of his fans will get educated along the way.

Evans: This ensures that the Masters will continue to have the worst field of the major championships. With the ex-champs, USGA champs and special invites, there are at least 20 ceremonial golfers in what is already the smallest field in the majors. I understand it as a business decision that looks to the future of golf, but PGA Tour pros can’t be happy about a spot going to a 17-year-old.

Shipnuck: The top players don’t care. That 17-year-old isn’t going to beat them anyway.

Gorant: I read today that this will be the first time there are three Koreans in the Masters (Han, Y.E. Yang, and the U.S. Amateur winner, Byeong-Hun An). I was surprised that was true, and maybe it highlights the need for more tournaments like the Asian Amateur.

Dusek: K.J. Choi may also win a PGA Tour event in January, February or March and get the automatic invite to become a fourth.

Gorant: And what about the Viking Classic? The Tour got rained out for the first time since the 1996 AT&T. Doesn’t seem like there was much they could do about it, but it sure makes it tough for those guys battling for their cards. Does this make Disney even more interesting?

Shipnuck: Sure. Fewer opportunities make for more desperation.

Morfit: I suppose it makes the Disney more compelling, marginally. The Viking had to be the most brutal event ever for guys who are on the bubble, and their caddies. What a major drag, like the U.S. Open at Bethpage, only worse. I hope there were some good shows at the local multiplex.

Dusek: Honestly, not for me. Essentially the scenario is the same, just one week shorter. Few fans genuinely follow the “Quest For the Card” storyline in November. I think this is a bigger deal to the players than it is for fans.

Reiterman: Plus it’s hard to feel bad for guys like Nicholas Thompson who’ve played 30 events and are still trying to crack the top 125.

Shipnuck: No one cares until the very end. Then it’s riveting, watching careers begin and end with every putt.

Bamberger: Disney is a major of the Fall Series now. Someone tell the commissioner.

Evans: Disney should be great, and I hope they set it up for low scores. It’s nice to see the working-class grunts on the tour fighting each other over a job for next season.

Gorant: The list of guys on the edge has some pretty interesting names. Who do we think makes it? The former major winners (Duval, Beem), the former phenoms (Barnes, Walker) or the reclamation project (Riley)?

120 Richard S. Johnson
121 Ricky Barnes

122 Steve Flesch

123 Robert Garrigus
124 Rich Beem
125 David Duval
126 Chris Riley
127 Jeff Maggert

128 Tim Herron

129 Matt Jones

130 Jimmy Walker

Bamberger: That list is where the action is. Can Maggert keep his card? I can hardly wait to find out — truly. This is what it’s all about.

Morfit: I like Chris Riley to make it back to the Tour next year. He seems to rise to the occasion when he gets the chance to play.

Hack: Amazing the fine line in golf. Duval was a swing or two away from winning his second major championship and securing his card into his 40s (not to mention
giving us scribes the second-greatest storyline of the year behind Tom Watson). Now he has to fight just to stick around. Great drama.

Dusek: I’ll watch, and genuinely be interested, but this event doesn’t exist for the average sports fan. Football season is in full swing and the NBA and NHL seasons have begun. Golf writers and serious golf fans in the United States keep thinking about golf in November, but general sports fans don’t.

Shipnuck: Agreed, but who cares about the knucklehead “general” sports fan? Anyone reading this is a golf fan, and therefore our people. They care.

Charlie Hanger, executive editor, I think there are plenty of golfers and more-devoted-than-most golf fans out there who tune out as soon as football starts. There is definitely something in between general sports fan and golf fanatic, and those people probably didn’t even notice that the Viking was canceled this week.

Hack: Not sure about the Viking, but the average sports fan would have known if Packers-Vikings was cancelled.

Gorant: Flavor of the week Rickie Fowler has amassed $533,700 and needs another $140,000 or so to get his card. The Viking debacle may have hurt him more than anyone, but he’s been given a spot at Disney. Does his game hold up long enough that he skips Q school?

Bamberger: No matter what happens, there’s no real point in him going to Q school. He’ll have enough status to play some events. He’ll get sponsors’ exemptions. Q school can beat you up and shake your confidence. Avoid it if you can, they all say.

Dusek: In two professional events he’s had a top-10 and a runner-up finish. Impressive stuff to be sure, but a lot of guys are going to be very, very motivated to play well. I say he continues to play well but doesn’t earn the $140,000.

Shipnuck: Pressure finally hits young Fowler. Q school here he comes!

Evans: Fowler is one of the hottest players on tour. There is no reason to think he can’t do it.

Gorant: What do we think of the new LPGA commish, Michael Whan, a marketing executive who loves golf and has done time at TaylorMade and Wilson. Is he the answer, or is he Carolyn Bivens in another package?

Bamberger: Everyone deserves a honeymoon. Let’s keep our eyes on him. The LPGA not only needs help, it deserves it.

Gorant: So true. Plus, he’s clearly different from Bivens. He’s a golfer, for one, and as we’ve all been told a listener. Those are two things Bivens was said not to be, and that caused a lot of friction.

Morfit: I love that Whan got right to work and said he’s in it for the long haul. He also has none of the imperiousness that his predecessor exuded.

Shipnuck: In only a few days he’s impressed many as a personable, energetic guy who’s passionate about improving the tour. That’s a start.