Tour Confidential: Adam Scott Wins Again, Tour’s Future at Doral, more

March 7, 2016

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. It was a wild Sunday at Doral. Adam Scott won for the second consecutive week but not without some nervy-looking shots down the stretch. Rory McIlroy blew the three-stroke lead he had to start the day. Dustin Johnson carded a back-nine 42 to plummet from contention. And 45-year-old Phil Mickelson continued his fine play with the Masters just five weeks away. What’s the single biggest takeaway from this week?

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, GOLF Magazine (@CameronMorfit): My biggest takeaway is ex-anchorer Scott winning back-to-back tournaments and looking better than he ever did with the broom-handle putter. I predicted that one or two anchorers would find they putt better with a conventional length putter, but I didn’t anticipate Scott doing what he’s doing.

Jeff Ritter, digital development editor, Sports Illustrated Golf Group (@Jeff_Ritter): Apparently Scott just needed the Tour to ban anchored putting to finally set him free and realize his full potential. I never saw it coming, but there’s no reason to think he’s done racking up wins this year. 

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Joe Passov, senior editor, Golf Magazine (@joepassov): Adam Scott. Adam Scott. Adam Scott. Apparently, we’ve had the wrong Aussie as part of golf’s new Big 3. Jason Day has gone into semi-hibernation and the man with the golden swing, Adam Scott, is picking up right where he left off in 2013. Cam, I’m frankly stunned at Scott’s putting prowess. I was lucky enough to play Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand with him in October 2008, in the pre-broom handle days. He couldn’t have been nicer–and that swing! But I was shocked at how poorly he putted for a player of his stature. Amazing that he fixed this so quickly and so successfully. Really good to have him back where he belongs.

Morfit: These guys are all freaks, and I mean that in the best way possible. They hit it farther, and more accurately, and make swing changes and grip changes and equipment changes more seamlessly.

Josh Sens, contributing writer, GOLF Magazine (@JoshSens): No doubt Scott is the lead story, but somewhere in the narrative we’d want to touch on how that early season trope, the Big Three, has expanded into something more like the Splendid Seven. Or the Excellent Eight. Whatever your number, if Claude Rains were asking us to round up the usual suspects, we’d have to corral more than just three.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@GaryVanSickle): Adam Scott is a ball-striking machine who, when he’s putting well, may be the best player in the world. Rory McIlroy doesn’t play well in the wind. Danny Willett is not the guy you want to face in singles at the Ryder Cup. And Phil Mickelson is worth watching.


2. The PGA Tour has said it will consider looking at other venues for the WGC-Cadillac after this year. If the tournament is relocated, will the players miss Doral, and will you?

Morfit: Bubba would certainly miss Doral, as well as he plays that course, as would Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson. So yes, the players would miss the place. I’m not sure how much I would really miss it, although I have fond memories of a Doral photo shoot with Rory Mac, Camilo Villegas, Anthony Kim and a classic car some years ago. It appeared in Golf Magazine’s 50th anniversary issue. 

Sens: No doubt the bombers would miss the place, but I don’t get the sense that some of the shorter hitters would feel terrible pangs of longing. A number of them griped last year that they thought the layout put them at a disadvantage, and even though some tweaks were made in response, one look at this week’s leaderboard tells you what sort of game the course still favors. From a fan’s perspective, I’d miss some of the punishment the course metes out. Not that I’m rooting for shots to find the water, but every now and then, it’s comforting to see the Tour pros playing a game with which the rest of us are more familiar.

Morfit: Good point, Josh. I’ve heard that complaint from the shorter to medium-length players for years. They point especially to the 18th hole, which has always favored the brawnier hitters.


Ritter: I like Doral because it’s fun to stay in the resort right on the course with the pros packed in all around you. A very comfortable and convenient place for media to work. The resort updates (Trumpdates?) are excellent — even if there’s now at least one too many fountains. It’s come a long way. I’d miss it. 

Passov: I think the players would miss Doral. With extra rough around the greens instead of shaved banks and more receptive greens than in years past, the Blue Monster was fairer than 2014 and 2015, even as it bared its fangs every five minutes. Maybe the choke factor is so high on 18 that the players wouldn’t miss it. I sure would, though. Many memories of sitting and watching golf as a kid, with my grandfather, in freezing, gloomy (in early March) Cleveland, Ohio, and watching Nicklaus and Trevino and Weiskopf duelling at Doral amid palm trees and white sand and lakes and sunshine. It was like a different universe. 

Morfit: I like watching the airplanes flying so low. For some reason I find that fun. And to your point, Joe, yes, I have some great memories of watching guys like Greg Norman win there. And of course the epic Tiger-Phil duel in 2005. And Craig Parry. Lot’s of tremendous history around that place.

Van Sickle: The PGA Tour has been playing here since 1962. The course is a staple and while the new version looks like a death march for 18-handicap resort guests, it’s a battle royale for the pros. It’s fun to walk, it’s got palm trees and it’s warm in early March. Except for getting here, Doral is a lot of fun. I’d miss it.

3. The Olympic golf test event scheduled for Tuesday failed to attract any top players (despite the PGA Tour offering to transport them to Rio on a chartered jet) and instead will be contested by a small field of Brazilians. Should the game’s marquee players be making more of an effort to show support for golf’s return to the Olympics?


Morfit: Olympic golf has always seemed destined to appeal less to established Tour pros and more to emerging players from countries that lack much golf infrastructure. Here again the Tour is almost a victim of its own success: Because there’s such a vast lineup of lucrative tournaments–the WGCs, the Players, to say nothing of the majors–Olympic golf naturally falls to the bottom of the list. I don’t blame the Tour’s marquee players for that at all. 

Sens: I’m with you, Cam. Unrealistic to expect the world’s top players to wing off to Rio when there are huge payouts in the offing elsewhere, some of them without a weekend cut. And I don’t feel like we fans are shortchanged either. Did the fact that Jordan, Rory, Mickelson et al weren’t in Brazil for a symbolic competition leave a huge hole in anyone’s life? As Jeff says, they’ll have their chance to get into the Olympic spirit this summer, though I still think it would be more exciting to see some sleeper Olympic star emerge, like the golf-world’s version of a great Jamaican bobsledder. 

Van Sickle: It’s not the pros’ job to promote the Olympics. Brazil doesn’t look all that attractive right now with ocean-front sewage and zika virus floating around. Don’t worry, NBC will do all the promoting the Olympics needs. In fact, it already started Sunday by showing a graphic with each player of where they stand in their country’s Olympic lineup.

Ritter: The pros will have their chance to support the Games in August when it really counts. This is a busy time for both tours, and I don’t fault the big names for taking a pass on a taxing trip just to play an exhibition. 

Passov: Miami’s not too different from Rio. The Olympics test event was more appropriate for Trump Doral–even if Adam Scott isn’t too interested in the thing with the five rings. I’m guessing that once it’s established who has actually qualified for the Olympic golf teams, the qualifiers will find there way there for a visit.   


4. The WGC at Doral reflected a common trend this season: superstars chasing other superstars. With fields seemingly deeper than ever and loaded leaderboards abounding, has the Tour hit a new golden age in the post-Tiger era?

Morfit: I’m not sure about a new golden age. At the moment it seems like an age that’s hard to get your head around. You can feel people wanting to define the post-Tiger era, first as the Big Three and then as the Big Four. But at this exact moment in time, with Adam Scott winning two straight, it’s neither of those things. What is it, then? I’ll say this: It’s an age where it’s very, very hard to win. 

Ritter: Well, the Big Three aren’t exactly delivering so far, but as we know, there’s no way three guys can win everything. Cam is right: it’s hard to win. But the leaderboards in 2016 have been stuffed with big names, making this a fun time for the Tour, even if we don’t exactly know how to define it. 

[tile:2407109]Passov: Jeff, I couldn’t agree more. When Mickelson climbed to within one today, I got really interested. It didn’t matter much at that point that Rory was stalled and that Jordan and Jason were well down the leaderboard. Wow, it was Phil and Rory and Adam and Dustin and Bubba–and even a solid upstart like Danny Willett–this was compelling stuff. Almost every event has bubbled with marquee names, which has been great, even if it’s been (slightly) disappointing not to see Rory or Rickie (at Phoenix) finish, and not to have seen a few exciting head-to-head clashes between Rory, Jason and Jordan yet.

Van Sickle: We all want to proclaim whatever is happening during our lives as the best ever. It validates us and reaffirms our own everlasting importance. This is why any MTV list of the best bands or best albums never has the Beatles No. 1. You had to be there. The Nicklaus-Palmer-Player time, followed by Trevino and Miller and Watson, was a golden age, too. But let’s reign in the hyperbole. Pro golf looks like it’s having a damned fine decade. Keep it up.

Sens: Well, it’s definitely the gilded age, given the amount of money they’re playing for. And for that, of course, they can thank Tiger. Speaking of Eldrick, as exciting as the action has been of late, how great would it be if he were back in the mix?

5. The ever-colorful John Daly, who turns 50 on April 28, confirmed that he will make his PGA Tour Champions debut at the Insperity Invitational, near Houston, in early May. Do you foresee a fruitful second act for Long John? And how much buzz do you suppose he can generate for the publicity-hungry senior circuit?

Morfit: Daly is just what the oldies circuit needs: something new, and an established name. The Principal Charity Classic in Des Moines, Iowa, is already running a John Daly ticket promotion called the Daly Deal. So there’s your answer right there. 


Ritter: A Daly Deal? Does that mean free Marlboros and Diet Coke with the purchase of tickets? Does the fan with the ugliest pants get in for free? This further proves that Daly will add buzz initially just by showing up. He is still hugely popular. And if he takes it seriously and actually starts winning — and having fun along the way — it could be the biggest thing the senior tour has seen in several years, and possibly ever.

Passov: Maybe the Daly Deal also includes a free WD–maybe a withdrawal at the bank of your choice. I’m with you guys on this one. Daly has burned through so much goodwill and gone on so many head-scratching side trips, literally living a country music song with his addictions and divorces, yet fans still love this guy. He’ll bring some much-needed buzz factor to the PGA Tour Champions.

Morfit: The hole is the same size, but I really, really hope he goes out there and just crushes it. That would be so fun to watch. He is such a massive talent, it always felt to me like he had unfinished business as a professional golfer.

Sens: The bathroom scale isn’t the only place where Daly moves the needle. I expect him to be a great senior circuit draw. What’s interesting to me is that if just about any other two-time major winner were turning 50, we’d all be expecting him to run the tables in his rookie year on the Champions Tour. But Daly isn’t just any other two-time major champion. I’d love to see him come out and dominate, but there’s no guarantee of that. And that very unpredictability is part of what has always made him so appealing. He’s a kind of tragic hero, epically talented but deeply flawed. Throw in the fact that he seems kind to other people, even if he isn’t always kind to himself, and how can you not root for a guy like that?

Van Sickle: I’m sure Daly will attract fans who are already at the course. He’s always done that. Will he sell any more tickets for the senior circuit? I don’t know but he couldn’t hurt. The tour is built to be a star vehicle and hasn’t had one since Watson and Hale Irwin was winning. If he doesn’t win, however, and I’m not sure Daly will practice enough to get his game sharp enough to win (because those older guys are good, too), his novelty may wear off. We’ll see.