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.
LORENA STEPS ASIDE. WHO WILL STEP UP?
Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Lorena Ochoa is leaving competitive golf after this week’s tournament in Mexico to ease into a life of family and charity. I can see her as a latter-day Byron Nelson — hosting a tournament, improving lives, maybe sitting beneath a parasol by the 18th green while the golfers tap in for par and say thank you. Lord Byron, Saint Lorena. There will soon be a new No. 1 on the LPGA. I think it’ll be Suzann Pettersen, the current No. 4. She’s long off the tee, always in the mix, aggressive, volatile, dedicated to the gym. Who will pick up the mantle from Annika and Lorena? Make your case for the next No. 1.
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Jiyai Shin. She’s already used to winning — what, something like 25 tournaments in the last three years? That gives her an edge that Michelle Wie, perhaps the obvious choice, doesn’t have. In the long term, it may be teenager Alexis Thompson. I’m going with Shin for now.
Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: I’ll vote for Jiyai Shin too. Six wins already, three top 10s in four starts so far in 2010. Seems to know how to close the deal. Lots of personality, too.
Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: I’ll go Yani Tseng. She’s long, has a solid short game and isn’t afraid of the big moment. She has three career wins and two are majors. She’s only 21, and allegedly likes to enjoy life, but as she settles down her game is really going to take off.
Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Agreed. Hard to argue against a young player who knows how to close the deal on the biggest stage.
Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Yani Tseng is my pick too. She has a great swing and she wants to be No. 1. To me Lorena was always a reluctant No.1. She never seemed to be enjoying herself.
Hack: I think Lorena enjoyed being No. 1 until the last year or so, when marriage and family changed her focus.
Gorant: Ochoa has nine years on tour and needs 10 to qualify for the Hall of Fame. Think there’s any chance she comes back for one year at some point down the road, or does she just not care about things like the Hall?
Hack: I don’t think she will. If she can’t be a fully focused and dedicated player, I just don’t see her doing it. Plus, she said her goal was to be the No. 1 golfer in the world, not a member of the Hall of Fame.
Godich: If it was that important to her, don’t you think she would have stuck around?
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Depends how you define a year. If she plays two tourneys a season for the next 12-15 years, does that count?
Van Sickle: Some committee will vote Lorena in. It’s a slam dunk.
CAN WIE BE NO. 1? HOW BAD DOES SHE WANT IT?
Shipnuck: Wie will take over as No. 1, when she’s done with Stanford in a year plus and playing a full schedule.
Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: I think Wie’s got too much scar tissue, like Sergio, to ever be that great.
Hack: At least Wie has a win recently. She seems on an upswing, while Sergio is going back and forth with grip changes. I actually expected a few more votes for Wie besides Mr. Shipnuck.
Shipnuck: She’ll be fine — unlike Sergio, she can putt.
Evans: Wie can putt! Are you serious? She’s a ball striker, maybe, but not a great putter. I don’t care what the stats tell you. Just look at the stroke and the number of solid putts she makes during a round.
Shipnuck: She’s not great on the greens, but she’s good. Good enough. Annika wasn’t a great putter either.
Godich: Plus, she will destroy most of the par-5s, turning a lot of par-72 courses in par-68s.
Lipsey: Rare the player who goes through so much turmoil as a youngster and then kicks it into high gear for a sustained period as a pro. Possible, but odds are against her, no matter what physical talents she has.
Evans: Wie has to learn the Rules of Golf before she can be the best player in the world.
Shipnuck: That would certainly help. If she can handle 20 units in one Stanford quarter, she ought to be able to figure out golf’s 34 rules.
Herre: I could see Wie simply walking away from golf, like Ochoa, at some point. She seems to be a person with multiple interests and could get bored with the game.
Hack: Does Michelle burn to be No. 1? I think Herre has a point. I wonder how important being the best in the world and the savior of the LPGA are to her. Alan, you were with Michelle at Stanford for your piece a while back. How would you rate her fire meter? How much does she burn in the belly to be great?
Shipnuck: She coulda walked away with tens of millions of dollars. After all the strife, who coulda blamed her? She wants to win every time she tees it up. Period.
Evans: You guys sound like Bush when he said that he could see into the soul of Putin. Michelle doesn’t even know what she knows.
Shipnuck: Did Faldo have fire? Did Watson? Nancy Lopez? There are different personality types that can get to No. 1.
Gorant: She looked like she had a lot of burn at the Solheim Cup last year.
Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: How can anyone know Wie at this point? It’s too easy to get thrown off by her past, her parents and all that.
BOHN’S WIN IN NEW ORLEANS
Hack: We have a new winner on the PGA Tour, Jason Bohn, who notched his second tour win by making birdie on 3 of his last 4 holes, and then all but jumping into Peter Kostis’s arms. What did everybody make of that ballsy finish by Bohner?
Shipnuck: Anybody who goes wire to wire is legit.
Lipsey: Who’d have known that Bohn is the most accurate player from 200-plus yards, as he showed with two super approaches at 15 and 17? Guy must have game.
Herre: Great finish by Bohner 18, where he hit it stiff.
Godich: Even better was the shot he hit into 15 when he was tied with Overton. Bohn had a long iron in, Overton hit eight-iron.
Evans: Bohn made it look easy. I was impressed with how relaxed he looked. You would have thought he was a regular tour winner the way he played down the stretch.
Morfit: He led from the start and brought it home, and I give credit for that. Also very pleased to see a big week from Q school winner Troy Merritt, former Boise State stud. He told me he’d been playing scared and had a long talk with BSU golf coach Kevin Burton early in the week. The takeaway was that he had to get back to his aggressive self. It seemed to work.
Van Sickle: Bohn is a ball-strikin’ Jessie, as one tour player would call him. And a good guy. Don’t forget, as I’m sure CBS pointed out repeatedly, it all began with that $1 million hole-in-one contest in 1992 that enabled him to forego college golf. Hey, just like Michelle Wie.
Hack: Is Bohn legit enough to play his way onto the Ryder Cup team? Can he be the Ryder Cup version of Woody Austin at the Presidents Cup a few years back?
Evans: Bohn is as legit as the rest of the guys not named Tiger or Phil or Furyk. As long as those guys play it doesn’t matter who else is on the team.
Gorant: There’s nothing in this guy’s history to suggest he’s got anything more in him then a once-every-five-years win against a mid-level field.
Van Sickle: I think we’ve got to see him do it a few more times. Two wins in his career against not-so-good fields — the B.C. Open and here in New Orleans, where only two players from the top 50 in the world were playing. It’s possible, but he’s still got something to prove.
Gorant: There’s another strata of player that Bohn is not yet on par with. Wouldn’t you rather go to the Ryder Cup with Cink and O’Hair and Mahan and Kim? You don’t see a difference between them and guys like Bohn and Woody?
Hack: I think those matches are more fun with a guy like Woody or Bohn. Personally, I get a little tired of seeing the creme de la creme every year. More fun with a few everymen out there.
Van Sickle: I think we all like watching players who don’t have that air of entitlement. Like Austin, Stricker, Mahan and Boo. As for qualifying, however, it doesn’t matter who’s hot in April. It matters who’s making putts in August. That was Zinger’s secret.
Herre: Great excerpt from Zinger’s new book, Cracking the Code, in the June issue of Golf Magazine.
TIGER PLAYS AGAIN AND QUAIL HOLLOW PICKS
Shipnuck: Good thing Kostis got his love from Bohn — it’ll be the cold shoulder next week when Tiger wins in Charlotte.
Gorant: That was the old Tiger.
Hack: I want to find out how thick that rough is in Charlotte before I hand Tiger the trophy.
Herre: Agree, Damon. But Sawgrass should be more to TW’s liking, as will Pebble, if Shipnuck’s scouting report is correct.
Morfit: Tiger needs to show a lot more command off the tee to do well at Quail Hollow.
Hack: Quail Hollow has quickly become a must-play event. Great spot on the calendar, even better course. Who’s winning the sixth major this week?
Van Sickle: I’m not sure Quail Hollow isn’t the fifth major. But then again, the Memorial was the fifth major for a while when it started. I think the Jim Furyk Era will continue. He has played well there in the past. It requires some shotmaking and he’s got the putter working.
Evans: Tiger Woods.
Lipsey: Probably not Kim, who is now flying home from Asia where he was chasing an appearance fee this week. He’ll be zonked at Quail Hollow from the cash grab jaunt.
Hack: I’m going with AK, bad thumb, jet lag and all.
Morfit: I like Furyk. He’s won there before and he’s obviously playing with a ton of confidence.
Gorant: I’m gonna go dark horse, Bill Haas. Local boy who hits it straight and is playing well.
ARE WE SEEING A NEW TIGER WOODS?
Hack: So how about this new Tiger Woods? He’s warm and fuzzy on his blog, he’s committing to tournaments months in advance (see you at Torrey, 2011!). Who is this dude?
Van Sickle: Anybody think Tiger Woods is actually writing his own blog?
Godich: Um, no.
Gorant: No, but I’m sure he’s at least met the guy who is. May even call him by a cool nickname from time to time.
Lipsey: Tiger does text pretty eloquently…
Hack: Yeah, the blog is interesting. He talked about the letter from a 3-year-old
in the gallery at the Masters and all of the warmth from the patrons. I almost expected him to sign off. “Talk to you next week. Love, Tiger.”
Evans: Nothing from the Masters convinced me that Tiger has changed. And committing to events like everybody else a few weeks in advance just highlights how ridiculous and imperialist he has been for most of his career. Let’s not give a guy too much credit for doing the right thing by a Tour that makes it possible for him to have a place to play in the first place.
Godich: Right. I am as excited about the new Tiger as I am about Bohn’s win. So he’s committing earlier to the events he always plays in. Who cares? Commit to the Nelson or Colonial or Memphis — that will show me something.
Van Sickle: I second that emotion. Although Colonial is never going to be one of his stops. Ever.
Godich: Well, as crooked as he’s hitting that driver and as well as we’ve seen him strike the ball from everywhere else, maybe a short course like that wouldn’t be a bad idea. He would only have to hit two drivers a round.
Evans: There is no reason to play Colonial. It’s a weird little course with tiny greens.
Herre: What, exactly, does TW have against Colonial?
Shipnuck: MasterCard was the sponsor and he was an AmEx guy.
Van Sickle: That was just his cover story excuse. The course is way too short and confining for him. Also heard reports that he overheard some racial-related comments from some “good ol’ boys” in the clubhouse, and he was understandably unhappy about that. Also, David Ogrin might’ve even finished ahead of him.
Godich: Crowne Plaza’s the sponsor now. Think about the marketing possibilities.
Hack: I quietly thought he might play New Orleans this week. Would have been three in a row with Quail and the Players, but he needs the reps. Plus, that city would have loved seeing him.
Herre: You’re right, Damon. Woods missed an opportunity in New Orleans. He needs to break out of his old routine.