Tour Confidential: The final word on the 2013 POY, Rory McIlroy’s engagement and the most beautiful hole in golf

January 22, 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. In 2013, Tiger Woods won a players’ vote for PGA Tour Player of the Year, Phil Mickelson won Golf Magazine's version and this past week, the Golf Writers Association of America (GWAA) selected Adam Scott as its POY, by a five-vote margin over Woods. Who was the most deserving POY?

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@GaryVanSickle): The split vote says it all. It was effectively a dead heat. As Billy Martin once said in a beer commercial, "I feel very strongly both ways."

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@AlanShipnuck): All of the above. Because of its publishing schedule, Golf Magazine had to make its decision after the majors, and Phil was the best choice then, coming off his incredible July. At the end of the Tour season, Tiger’s five domestic wins and season-long consistency made him a solid choice among his peers. But Adam Scott’s incredible run in December tipped the scales for the GWAA membership, which doesn’t vote until the end of the calendar year. Each pick makes sense to me.

Josh Sens, contributing writer, Golf Magazine (@JoshSens): Adam Scott finished stronger and Mickelson was a good sentimental choice for his long-last breakthrough at the British. But taken as a whole, Tiger's season, highlighted by five wins, still qualifies him as POY, IMHO.

Eamon Lynch, managing editor, (@eamonlynch): It's a coin toss between Mickelson and Scott. Both won a major, one other PGA Tour event, and had international success (in Scotland and Australia, respectively). Sure, Tiger wins the "PGA Tour" player of the year, but ask Mickelson or Scott if they'd swap their seasons for five non-major wins on the PGA Tour.

Joe Passov, senior editor, courses and travel, Golf Magazine (@joepassov): Such a close call. Scott's end-of-the-year Aussie conquest was really impressive, albeit against suspect competition. He did win the Masters, had two other top 5s in majors, and his come-from-behind Barclays win was special. However, Tiger's five wins came on the top tour, each with muscular fields, and he pretty much shut it down after the Tour Championship. I'll give it to Tiger, by a five-vote margin.

Jeff Ritter, senior editor, Sports Illustrated Golf Group (@Jeff_Ritter): Woods deserved PGA Tour Player of the Year for winning five times on that tour. The GWAA and Golf Magazine look at worldwide performance for its awards, so it comes down to Scott vs. Phil. I'd give it to Phil by a nose, because his Sunday at Muirfield was the single best round at a major last year, and it was such an improbable victory on the heels of what happened at Merion. Taking everything into account, Phil is the player we'll most remember from 2013.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated (@MarkGodich): Since we're talking the entire calendar year, it has to be Scott. He won a major, and those late wins in Australia capped off the best year in golf.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Inbee Park, of everybody. Of the trio offered, Adam Scott, because of his Australian run.

2. Johnny Miller predicted that Justin Rose will take over the No. 1 ranking from Tiger Woods in 2014. Who do you think will be No. 1 at the end of 2014 and why?

BAMBERGER: Tiger will be No. 1 by the computer's math, I think, and Adam Scott will be No. 1 in our minds. Steve Williams, allegedly in his final full year as a caddie, can't hit the shots for Scott, but he scares him into playing with intensity, and that seems to be something Scott needs. Plus, Scott can still anchor for now. Get it while you can. But Tiger's still the best player.

RITTER: It'll still be Tiger. The majors set up so well for him this year, and even if he doesn't win one you've gotta think he'll finish top 10 in three out of four. Toss in a few PGA Tour titles and the math just supports Woods staying on top all year long.

SENS: Adam Scott. After years of being this close (finger and thumb held up a small distance apart) his confidence has caught up with his raw talent. Until he's forced to go back to a conventional putter, I don't see anything slowing his ascent.

PASSOV: As long as the broomstick is still legal, Adam Scott gets my vote. His swing is better than ever, and he seems unflappable, especially now that the major monkey is off his back. Week to week, no matter what the course or the conditions, he seems most likely to rise to the top.

LYNCH: If Adam Scott continues playing beautifully and with the self-belief that seemed missing for so long, he could well be No. 1. But since even Tiger's poor weeks still usually result in a high finish, I expect he'll still top the rankings at year's end.

GODICH: Tiger Woods. He won't get his 15th major, but he'll win where he always does: Torrey, Doral, Bay Hill, Firestone — take your pick. A couple of wins will be enough to comfortably keep him No. 1.

VAN SICKLE: I wouldn't be in a hurry to discount Tiger's current reign at No. 1. He's not the Tiger he was, but this just in, he did win five times in 2013. If he wins five more in 2014, even if they're not majors, he'll be tough to overtake. I'll stay with Tiger.

SHIPNUCK: Scott. He has found the formula for peaking at the majors and other big events, where you rack up the most points.

3. Ending months of speculation about their relationship, Rory McIlroy and Caroline Wozniacki announced their engagement on New Year’s Eve. Will this development help or hurt McIlroy’s play in 2014?

VAN SICKLE: Rory's marital status won't change a thing about how he plays this year. He's going to come roaring back after 2013, which amounted to an attention-getting kick in the pants for him.

LYNCH: As long as she doesn't start giving him swing advice or sue him, it won't matter much.

SHIPNUCK: Well, planning a splashy wedding is a big distraction, but overall Rory’s life seems to be way more settled than it has been in at least 15 months. And for a jet-setting bachelor to decide to settle down is a big deal and reflects a certain contentment, so I think this is another positive sign as Rory continues to piece his career back together.

GODICH: It can only help, because it will put to rest any rumors about his relationship status — that is, until someone catches Caroline without that rock on her finger.

PASSOV: Improved iron accuracy and more confident putting, as witnessed at the Australian Open, will help his play most in 2014. That said, he had SO many distractions in '13, relationship questions being one of them, not that it's any of our business. As he continues to eliminate these distractions, from legal issues to his equipment learning curve to his love life (answering questions about them, anyway), he'll reach his 2012 heights.

SENS: As long as he doesn't get distracted choosing china for the bridal registry, it will help. As for having fun off the course, as a married man I can confirm this: he's through.

RITTER: Rory struggled last year amid a myriad of changes (management, clubs, pressure to stay No. 1, dentistry). Anything that adds stability would be a positive, so I'd say this news helps. And congrats to him.

BAMBERGER: In the years before I was engaged and married, my spelling was off, I was mixing metaphors, I was reaching for semi-colons at all times of the day and night. Then came Christine. A positive career development for both these young athletes, and, one hopes, in other ways, too. Mazel tov, kids!

4. The Tour moved to Kapalua this week to continue its new wraparound 2013-14 schedule. No longer meaningful as the season-opener, and lacking a fistful of the Tour's winners, including main drawing cards Woods and Mickelson, has the event lost its luster?

VAN SICKLE: This event shows just how little money and ranking points matter to the game's top players. With the previous season stretching into November and even early December, January is prime vacation time for the game's elite. Sure, the tourney is in Hawaii — players and their families love that. But the course is on the side of a mountain, it's a bitch to walk, not much fun to play and it's usually blowing a gale, or worse. Nothing like starting the year by getting your swing screwed up in the wind. This event needs a different venue. Um, La Costa anyone?

GODICH: The T of C lost its luster many years back, but at least the Tour was wise enough to move the event to Hawaii. It certainly beats what seemed to be an annual slogfest in Southern California. I just wish they'd do away with the Monday finish. I wonder if Jason Dufner petitioned this year for a 36-hole Sunday finale.

SENS: Lost its luster? Nah. The luster of this event has always been the eye-candy of Hawaii, a swaying-palm salute to the start of another year. Yeah, officially, it's a wraparound season. But Kapalua still does what it was always meant to do: get us all in a golfing mood.

LYNCH: Once upon a time the Tour decreed that a winners-only event in Hawaii would have such elite status that every golfer should aspire to be there. But then the Tour decreed that the FedEx Cup was the reward for a great season, not a winter cash grab in Maui at the Tournament of Champions. The chance to pocket $1.14 million and have a Hawaiian vacation just isn't as appealing as it used to be. Lost against the NFL playoffs and miserable weather nationwide, the Hawaiian swing seems like a far-off exhibition that really only matters to those who are there.

PASSOV: I love Kapalua's Plantation course, partly because it's not a cookie-cutter PGA Tour layout and partly because its jungle-on-the-edge-of-the-Pacific setting is blessed relief for the shivering half of the U.S. population. The tournament itself feels like an exhibition, however. Its tiny field, with no Tiger, no Phil, few of the top Europeans — and with football playoffs garnering most of my attention — just doesn't grab me. After a legitimate break from the previous season, like it was in the old days, I was ready for Tour golf again. Now, not quite so.

RITTER: When did it have luster? It's a nice event, and it's fantastic in HD, but it needs a lot of help to create much of a blip beyond the pretty pictures.

BAMBERGER: The event has lost its luster because of the wraparound schedule, because marquee players don't play, because there is no PGA Tour anymore. There's a world tour and Kapalua is just another limited-field event on it, among many others.

SHIPNUCK: The venue is the star this week, not the players, and it’s been that way for years. I gotta think with most of the country snowed-in, the sun-drenched telecast is a welcome respite. If you like golf, you tune in because the course is a blast and because it’s the first meaningful action in a while. There are plenty of players here to root for. Or against.

5. In person or at home in HD, the 18th at Kapalua in Maui looks spectacular. What’s the most beautiful hole you’ve ever played?

PASSOV: I cannot imagine a prettier picture than Cypress Point's par-3 15th. That's the short one. Its equally spectacular sibling, the 230-yard, par-3 16th, is even more dramatic, but I rarely consider double-bogeys to be beautiful.

SENS: I'll take the 18th at Barnbougle Dunes in Tasmania, wallabies bounding in the fairway, ocean roiling to the right.

RITTER: Kapalua's 18th is close, but my all-time favorite is on Lanai, a short ferry from Maui. That's where I played the posh Challenge at Manele and its obscenely gorgeous par-3 12th hole, which sits atop a cliff overlooking the Pacific. Bill Gates married his wife Melinda on that tee box, and you know what I always say: if it's good enough for Bill Gates, it's good enough for me.

VAN SICKLE: The par-5 sixth hole at Pebble Beach, where the green at the tip of the headland makes you feel like you're standing on top of the world, is my favorite place in golf… so far. Hoping to do additional research, however.

GODICH: The eighth at Pebble Beach. The tee was backed up three or four groups. We had an hour-long wait. Glorious!

BAMBERGER: Mmmm. So many holes come to mind. On different days I'm sure I would answer differently, but today I'm going with the par-3 15th at the Cypress Point Club. Tomorrow it could be the par-3 16th there. Or the par-4 17th. They look beautiful and smell good, too.

SHIPNUCK: Ooof, that’s a tough one. My favorite view in golf is from the sixth green at Pebble, but the rest of that hole doesn’t have the same kind of sweeping vistas. No. 18 at the Old Course is magical in its own way. But I’d have to say the 13th hole at L.A. North. The green abuts the Playboy Mansion, and when I played there years ago, I scaled the hedge and spied a handful of Bunnies sunbathing topless by the pool.

LYNCH: The 15th at Cypress Point. The aesthetics crammed into its 143 yards are breathtaking. If I can ever concentrate on its strategic demands, I even hope to par the little b*****d one day.

6. Much of the country is dealing with snow and freezing temperatures this week. How do you satisfy your golf itch during the winter months?

GODICH: I'm taking suggestions.

LYNCH: Chase the sun at every opportunity. I fled NYC before the storm and spent the weekend in West Palm Beach, playing the Floridian, Trump International and the underrated Emerald Dunes, where the short-game practice area alone is worth the journey. Otherwise I beat the winter blues by focusing on equipment, figuring out what gear promises to elevate my game and alleviate my woes. With the help of the club doctors at Hot Stix, I have a new prescription for the season. Hope springs eternal.

PASSOV: I live on the Phoenix/Scottsdale border. During the winter months, I point my car in any direction and within five minutes, I arrive at a beautiful, challenging course. Come on out, everybody! Just go back home before June, when you need oven mitts to touch your club shafts.

BAMBERGER: I close my eyes and shoot even par. A man can dream, can't he?

SENS: I step out my front door into a warm, if alarmingly dry, California winter, and drive five minutes to the golf course, wondering why I spent the first half of my life in the Northeast.

RITTER: Office putting tournament. Who's in?

VAN SICKLE: Hitting balls at an indoor golf dome at the Robert Morris Sports Center in Coraopolis, Pa. It's part of a sports complex, with a couple of hockey rinks, on an island in the Ohio River. It's 100 yards across to the far wall of the dome, which I believe makes it the largest golf dome in North America. It also has a small practice putting green. But seriously, you've gotta go to the airport and head for Florida or Scottsdale or San Diego.

SHIPNUCK: By living in Cali. Anyone wanna be my fourth tomorrow?

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