Tour Confidential: How to Fix Tiger Woods, What Would You Tell Him? Plus, Rory’s Masters Prep and Our Dream Foursomes

November 4, 2014

Every Sunday night, conducts an e-mail roundtable with writers from Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.

1. 9-time major-winner Gary Player suggested this week that he could get Tiger Woods back on track in an hour. If you were Tiger’s coach for an hour, what would you tell him?

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine (@CameronMorfit): I would tell him to watch a ton of video — of himself. He should watch the guy who owned the game in 2000, or if he's no longer physically capable of making that swing, he could watch the guy who played at Stanford University for two years and won three-straight U.S. Amateurs and three-straight U.S. Juniors. Somewhere in all those iterations of Tiger Woods he should be able to develop a sort of composite Tiger to take out onto the PGA Tour for the next five or ten years.

Jeff Ritter, senior editor, Sports Illustrated Golf Group (@Jeff_Ritter): I'd tell Tiger to start having more fun on the course. Then I'd tell him to find a better coach.

Joe Passov, senior editor, Golf Magazine (@joepassov): I would tell him to run away as far and as fast as possible from anything I said. This guy is one of our prodigies — a true genius at hitting a golf ball since a tender young age. His course management skills over the years have convinced me he's one of our smartest golfers as well. He will figure it out. If I were Tiger, I would take realistic stock of what my body can and can't do, seize the "feel" elements of years gone by, and go back to being Tiger.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Fire me and hire Butch Harmon's kid brother, Billy. They can compare recovery notes. Billy has had some injuries, too.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@GaryVanSickle): Call Gary Player. Then listen.

Josh Sens, contributing writer, Golf Magazine (@JoshSens): I'd tell him what Jones told Nicklaus and Nicklaus told Watson and my grandmother told me: never cut the bagel toward your face.

2. Former Ryder Cup captain Bernard Gallacher said this week that Rory McIlroy’s Masters prep may be "badly affected" by an ongoing legal dispute with his former management company. Could a prolonged legal case have a negative effect on McIlroy's golf as he attempts to follow up his amazing 2014 season?

BAMBERGER: Certainly. Past performance does predict future results and when he was unsure of his impending marriage it seemed to affect his job performance. How could a lawsuit of this magnitude not be distracting?

VAN SICKLE: No. It's not as if Rory is going to be on the witness stand testifying for days on end. This is a case about money, and win or lose, Rory has ten times more of it than a Northern Ireland lad could or would ever spend in a lifetime. Nobody wants the lawyers to get rich, so this case will be settled before it gets very far in court.

PASSOV: I don't think you need to be a former Ryder Cup captain to surmise that Rory's Masters prep might be affected by his legal issues. Some people are better than others at compartmentalizing. Clearly, his relationship troubles had a deleterious effect on him — until they didn't. He won the very week of his out-of-nowhere split from Caroline, then was nearly unstoppable for the next five months. But "badly affected?" Rory's been through a lot already, including dealing with previous business management ills, equipment changes and a prolonged slump. He'll emerge just fine and be the Masters favorite.

MORFIT: I don't think the lawsuit, or what's left of it, will have much effect on his golf. Think about it: this thing has been hanging over him and everyone else involved since last year, and Rory has done nothing except win two majors, win the Vardon Trophy, win the money title, and crush it at the Ryder Cup in 2014. I'd say the bulk of his off-course distractions are well behind him now.

SENS: Nah. McIlroy has proven mentally tougher than that. And besides, he's got people to handle all that.

RITTER: Off-course distractions come in different shapes and sizes, and it's hard to say exactly how this legal dispute could affect McIlroy next year. We saw him struggle in 2013 shortly after reaching World No. 1, switching to Nike clubs and swapping management companies. But this summer that same lawsuit was swirling and it obviously had no impact. I think Rory's getting more comfortable with his fame and stature, which means the lawsuit is unlikely to slow him down in '15.

3. Inbee Park, Stacy Lewis and Lydia Ko, ranked 1-2-3 in the world, finished in exactly that order this week at the LPGA event in Taiwan. Why don't the men have more of these results, when the game's very best ascend at the same time?

PASSOV: Simple. The depth of the men's game exceeds that of the women's. Margins on full shots, chips and putts are that much thinner, scoring averages closer in the men's game. Week in, week out, separation is just tougher for the top five or ten male stars. Mind you, this is pure guesswork. The women's situation reminds me of the men's game in the '60s and '70s, when Nicklaus, Palmer, Player, Casper, Trevino, Watson and so forth seemed to be up there every week. On any given course, in any given conditions, they were just measurably better than the rest of the tour.

BAMBERGER: Much more depth in men's golf. The 50th player is nearly as good as the first.

RITTER: When was the last time the LPGA had this kind of finish? I'll give you that Park, Lewis and Ko look like the class of women's golf at the moment, but there's a ton of parity on both tours. Any 1-2-3 finish for the world's top three on either tour seems a little fluky.

VAN SICKLE: There is far less depth on women's golf than in men's golf. The 25th best player in the men's world rankings is interchangeable with the guy who's No. 4 or No. 6. Not so in women's golf. There's a quicker drop-off in the level of play. Way more men are employed in tournament golf than women, thanks to the Tour, Omega Tour and assorted mini-tours. The women have one small developmental tour. And with the LPGA being a world tour, even some exempt and most partially exempt players may not be able to afford to tee it up when almost half of the tour's events are out of the country, so the attrition rate is higher.

SENS: The women's game more closely resembles where the men's game was a few decades back, when there was a smaller group of players capable of dominating. On the PGA Tour today, there is just too big a pool of talent for the same small group to cluster on top time after time in the big events.

MORFIT: There's quite a bit more depth on the men's tour. The only time I can remember golf being predictable was when Tiger was still Tiger.

4. The best golf played on American soil this week was the Champions Tour's Charles Schwab Cup at Desert Mountain in Scottsdale. Bernhard Langer, Fred Couples and Kenny Perry all were in contention, as usual. How do you think these three — and the other top senior stars — would fare if they competed full-time on the PGA Tour?

VAN SICKLE: I'd love to have seen what Langer, Irwin, Fred and even Trevino might have done on the PGA Tour if there had been no senior circuit and they'd kept playing. Irwin saved his best putting for his 40s and 50s. Had he played a full PGA Tour schedule, he may have won more tournaments, maybe even another major. They certainly would have been very motivated at least through their mid-50s.

SENS: I'd expect them to make a lot of cuts and a whole ton of money, but if they got a win among them I would be surprised.

PASSOV: All three senior players have the length to compete — as they show at the Masters year after year. And Tom Watson should have won the British Open at age 59. It's all doable, though the steady diet of extra-long courses, thicker rough and firmer, faster greens would ultimately take their toll. I could see Langer, Couples and Perry finishing 76-125 on the money/FedEx points lists for the year, but no higher. Very cool when the old-timers enter the mix on the weekend, but anyone who watched Rory bomb his 335-yard drives down the middle at the Open and PGA and then convert birdies and eagles would know that those guys would be no match on a regular basis.

RITTER: We've seen all three guys hang around a little in the majors. I think Langer might crack the FedEx top 50, while Couples and Perry could maybe land in the 75-100 range. Hey, that's pretty good, but lengthy courses would probably prevent them from finishing much higher than that.

MORFIT: Couples can't really compete full-time anywhere because of his back, and Perry is streaky and always has been. Langer, though — I said all year he should've been on the European Ryder Cup team. He's good on any type of course with 18 holes.

BAMBERGER: Fred and Kenny would make most cuts on most courses, but Bernhard would miss the most cuts — no power — but have the best chance of winning at certain courses, like Hilton Head, Colonial, Hawaii, because he would putt better than the other two down the stretch.

5. Asked to identify his dream foursome, Michael Jordan knocked President Barack Obama off his list, calling the golfer-in-chief a “hack” and a “sh—-y golfer.” Would POTUS make your dream foursome? Who else would get your invitation?

PASSOV: I'm not unhappy that President Obama is a "sh—y golfer," given what else he's supposed to be doing, but that's no reason Jordan should knock him off his dream foursome list. How cool would it be to fill out your foursome with the George H.W. Bush, his son, and Obama? That said, I'll take Jack, Arnie and Tiger. Hey, I like golf more than I like politics.

BAMBERGER: I'd rather play with Clinton than Obama, but just to limit this question to golfing presidents, I'm going with William Howard Taft, Jerry Ford (nice man!) and — stretching my own definition here — Robert Todd Lincoln, son of Abe and a founding member of the National Golf Links of America. I'm hopeful he'd invite us to his place.

RITTER: I wouldn't turn down an invitation from Obama, but not sure if I want to play with armed Secret Service lurking in the bushes unless they're searching for my stray tee shots. My dream foursome is comprised of all of my great-grandfathers, none of whom I met. Doubt any of them ever played, but I'd just tag along in a cart and listen.

MORFIT: Dang, what got M.J. all riled up? Usually he reserves such venomous ire for Sports Illustrated. Since I'd like to actually improve one of these days, I'd build my foursome around four guys with similar builds and much, much better golf games: Ben Hogan, Rickie Fowler, Jeff Sluman, Ian Woosnam.

VAN SICKLE: I'm not interested in hanging out with any politicians, especially if they're going to blame everyone else for their bad play. As interesting as it seems to tee it up with a young Arnold Palmer or a Bobby Jones or Sam Snead, do you really want to play with golfers who are way better than you? A chance to play with deceased parents, for instance, or with siblings, would beat any celebrity draw. Although I would enjoy watching Genghis Khan play through a slow foursome, after having forewarned the beverage cart girl.

SENS: Almost anyone who plays quickly and doesn't whine is OK with me. Obama wouldn't be my first choice, but I would take him a million times over ahead of Michael Jordan. Unless Jordan wanted to play me straight up for money, my salary against his.

6. With Halloween barely in our rearview mirrors, this week's BMW Masters in Shanghai yielded a nightmare for Miguel Angel Jimenez. On a windy Sunday, the most interesting golfer in the world hit four balls into the water at the 9th hole and made a 13 en route to a closing-round 88. What's the worst score/meltdown you've experienced on the course?

BAMBERGER: Last hole at the Leatherstocking course at Cooperstown. Island tee out in Lake Otsego. Hit a long series of hooks, each one wetter than the next, until I had no more ammo.

MORFIT: There are too many terrible scores to choose from — I suspect any self-respecting golf writer would say the same — but my most disappointing single hole was the "X" I made at the par-5 13th at Augusta National. I'd won the media lottery in 2006, and after starting on the back nine, I was so jacked up to play the 13th with my natural draw that I snap-hooked my tee shot into the woods. I never did finish the hole. What a waste. It still bothers me to this day.

PASSOV: My first time at Pebble Beach, as an 18-year-old in 1980, I was all full of bravado — and relief — after making par at 17 to the difficult left hole location. Choosing the conservative route at 18, I tapped a 4-wood off the tee, and heeled it into the Pacific. I managed to reach the front greenside bunker in 5. After two swipes, I remained in the bunker. I then decided to defer to my best friend Brad, who escaped that same bunker with one swing — and he would shoot a 113 that day. I grimly resumed my task, and left three more shots at my feet. On my sixth sand attempt, I extricated the ball from the bunker and reached the green. People gathered on the balcony at the Lodge at Pebble Beach clapped and cheered. Mercifully, I two-putted for a 13. Memories of being humiliated at Pebble Beach should fade away in another 35 years or so.

VAN SICKLE: Jack Nicklaus made a 10 on Troon's Railway Hole the first time he played it in 1962, and I vaguely recall that I matched his score the first time I played that hole in the mid-'80s. I'm sure I have posted worse scores on holes, or would have if I'd finished them instead of picking up.

SENS: Mine are too many and too boring to mention. But I did once see a scratch golfer whiff on the first tee in a local tournament. Golf under pressure. Not many of us were born to play it.

RITTER: I've had my share, but I once witnessed something that stands out. About eight years ago, I was playing in Malaysia, and the group in front of us included a Taiwanese journalist who was new to the game but knew all the rules. I watched him flub seven straight shots into a pond on a par 3 and take a perfectly choreographed legal drop after each one (he eventually let us play through). When we finished, I slid over and asked him what he shot. "One hundred forty-one," he said happily, in perfect English. He was thrilled to break 150. I'll never forget that.

The Tour Confidential roundtable continues Monday on our weekly show hosted by Jessica Marksbury. Tweet her your questions @Jess_Marksbury.