Tour Confidential: Best and Worst Moments of 2013, Looking Forward to 2014 and Best Golf Book Stocking Stuffers
Every Sunday night, Golf.com 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. What was your favorite golf moment of 2013?
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@GaryVanSickle): Even non-Australians were happy when Adam Scott made the putt to win the Masters. He's a hero to his continent, a good guy, and he probably prevented the Masters from spilling over to a Monday morning finish. His thrill of victory was palpable.
Joe Passov, senior editor, courses and travel, Golf Magazine (@joepassov): Gotta be Phil Mickelson winning the Open Championship. It was so amazing to see him recover from the gut-punch of the U.S. Open at a tournament we really never expected him to win.
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Walking onto the National Golf Links for the Walker Cup without being frisked.
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@AlanShipnuck): The 72nd hole pyrotechnics by Cabrera and Scott at the Masters. Pure electricity.
Josh Sens, contributing writer, Golf Magazine (@JoshSens): The bemused look on Fred Couples' face when the Stricker Streaker flashed by him.
Eamon Lynch, managing editor, Golf.com (@eamonlynch): Mickelson winning the Open at Muirfield. He was 43, three years removed from his last major win (with just four top 10s in that stretch), suffering from arthritis, bearing more scar tissue than Cher, and yet somehow he finds a way to win the major that always seemed least likely for a high-ball hitter who loves flop shots. And it came just weeks after his sixth runner-up finish at the U.S. Open. It was a perfect story.
Jeff Ritter, senior editor, Sports Illustrated Golf Group (@Jeff_Ritter): Not necessarily my favorite, but most memorable: On Friday night of Masters week, I was relaxing after a long day in a corner booth a T-Bonez steakhouse in Augusta surrounded by beef, beer and a few media colleagues. After a couple rounds, Brandel Chamblee leans in and says: "I think Tiger Woods might be disqualified for an illegal drop tomorrow." I almost spit out my ribeye. It was the first I'd heard of a story that would arguably become the year's biggest.
2. What was your least favorite golf moment of 2013?
LYNCH: Pick any week: slow play. It is a cancer in the game. Props to the USGA for finally addressing it, and to the LPGA, the only body that seems willing to assess stroke penalties without fear or favor. Jeers to the PGA Tour, which hasn't handed out a slow play penalty in 20 years. Somewhere in between is the Masters rules committee, which handed out a richly deserved slow play penalty this year, but did so to a 14-year-old who simply didn't know how to game the system like the pros.
RITTER: The moment I returned from T-Bonez that same night and thought about how nutty the next 48 hours would be. Couldn't sleep for several hours.
PASSOV: Anytime some bonehead yelled "Mashed Potatoes," or whatever the current synonyms are these days for "Get in the Hole" or "You Da Man." I'm so protective of my favorite sport. Don't get me wrong, I prefer Ryder Cup/Waste Management Phoenix Open cheer to garden party yawns, but I just can't get over that there are so many yahoos at these events week in and week out.
SHIPNUCK: Any article about the USGA television deal. Yawn.
SENS: As the epitome of the sour side of sporting culture — the nastiness of fans, the odd insecurity and arrogance of athletes, the lowest common denominator quality of social media, and the way they all swirl together these days — it's hard to top Lee Westwood's post-PGA Championship Twitter meltdown.
VAN SICKLE: I didn't agree with the USGA and R&A's decision to ban anchored putting. The way they handled it didn't sit well, and their admission that they have no data or evidence regarding anchored putting versus conventional putting reeks of old-school, country-club blue bloods. Too many players had invested too many years in alternative putting methods for a decision to have been made without any testing whatsoever.
BAMBERGER: One of my four-putt greens but I can't remember which one.
3. What player, tournament or development are you most looking forward to in 2014?
SHIPNUCK: Tiger at the Masters and Phil at Pinehurst. Both have a date with destiny. Can they come through?
BAMBERGER: Tiger, late on a Sunday in a major, when he's in position to win No. 15.
LYNCH: Vijay Singh's lawsuit against the PGA Tour is one story that has the potential to entertain everyone except Tim Finchem in 2014. If Singh succeeds in shining a light on the Tour's drug testing policies and enforcement, the ramifications are enormous. I'll repeat what I said a few weeks ago: he is the Tour's worst nightmare as a litigant because he's pissed off and can't be bought off.
VAN SICKLE: It's easy to expect a lot from Jordan Spieth after his breakthrough rookie season, and obviously we'll all be watching to see Rory McIlroy's rebound. How about Henrik Stenson? Did the Swede just have a nice run, or is he now poised to start racking up majors? Also, the back-to-back men's and women's Opens at Pinehurst is an experiment that will be interesting no matter how well or how badly it turns out.
RITTER: The Masters and British will always be interesting, but this year the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, and Phil's quest for a career slam, will be golf's main event.
PASSOV: I'm pretty pumped to see what Donald Trump and Gil Hanse did to Doral's Blue Monster, and to see Tiger's first completed course at Mexico's Diamante, but I most eager to see how Pinehurst No. 2 compares for men versus women, when they play back-to-back National Opens in June. I'm most excited though to have the Ryder Cup back on Scottish soil, at Gleneagles. That will be cool. Cold, wet and cool.
SENS: Forgive me for taking the gimme, but the back nine on Sunday at Augusta, with Ryder Cup singles matches coming in just behind.
4. What's the best book to give a golfer for Christmas?
SHIPNUCK: “The Swinger” or “Bud, Sweat & Tees.” I kid. I'd say Bobby Jones's “Down the Fairway.” So much wisdom and history is contained in those pages.
PASSOV: Until Tom Doak's new Confidential Guide comes out, it's worth the big bucks to find a copy of the old one. It's the best cut-to-the-chase book of golf course reviews ever written. For something similar, but with spectacular photos, Darius Oliver's Planet Golf and Planet Golf USA is my pick. Finally, he's a rival, but a longtime pal, but Brad Klein is an impressive scholar. Buy one of his books — and learn.
SENS: Leslie Nielson's “Stupid Little Golf Book.” Filled with indispensable tips, including the "Brush-aroo," which teaches you how to rattle your opponent by driving so close to hedges that you almost knock him from the cart.
BAMBERGER: "Out of the Bunker and into the Trees," by Rex Lardner. Actually, it's on my own wish-list. It comes highly recommended by my friend John Garrity, and I trust John.
LYNCH: For fans: “Maybe It Should Have Been a Three-Iron” by Lawrence Donegan. Fifteen years later, it's still among the funniest books about the Tour life that you can read. For Tour pros: “God is Not Great,” by my late friend Christopher Hitchens. Golf could use more free thinkers and fewer predictable proselytizers.
VAN SICKLE: The collection of Dan Jenkins pieces, "The Dogged Victims of Inexorable Fate," is the best read in golf. It's Jenkins in his prime. Two recent efforts that didn't get the attention they deserve are "The King of Clubs" by Jim Ducibella, about the coast-to-coast 1938 golf marathon that inexplicably hasn't already been made into a Disney flick, and "Danny Mo" by John Haines, a rare golf novel that feels authentic and, by the way, includes a fictional magazine piece written by me and my first appearance as a fictional-nonfictional person.
RITTER: For something breezy and fun, you can't go wrong with "Who's Your Caddy?" by former SI staffer Rick Reilly.
5. It's time for New Year's resolutions. What will you be doing differently as a golfer in 2014?
SHIPNUCK: Inspired by Kuchar, I'm working on a more compact backswing. Beyond that, I'm gonna search for some new irons and wedges. Mine are practically prehistoric, dating to 2006 or so. If you can believe all the ads, I'll be hitting my 7-iron 200 yards in no time!
LYNCH: I just filled out Golf.com's digital pegboard for the Top 100 Courses and realized I've played 47 of the World Top 100. I intend to add to that figure, starting with No. 1 on my target list, National Golf Links. I'm also finally going to remain faithful to one set of clubs and stop experimenting. I have 12 months to do that and still have it count as a 2014 resolution, right?
PASSOV: For the first time in years, I vow to practice. I'm coming off two years of shoulder injuries, and things aren't quite meshing yet, but I'm truly psyched up to hit balls with some purpose. That and a new fitness program — and chances are good I'll switch back to tennis by year's end.
BAMBERGER: I hope to play more and putt less.
SENS: Pronate prior to supination. Or, wait. Is it the other way around?
RITTER: I make the same golf resolution every year: to play more rounds. This is the year, I just know it.
VAN SICKLE: I'm going modest on resolutions. There are great golf courses that I should have played and haven't (everything in Bandon Dunes, Sand Hills and National Golf Links, for starters) but I'm not going to pin myself down there. I'll settle for not leaving any putts short in 2014. I mean, I hate that.
The PGA Tour Confidential debate continues Monday on our new weekly show hosted by Jessica Marksbury. Tweet her your questions @Jess_Marksbury.