Tour Confidential: Jason Day Holds Off Bubba Watson For Canadian Open Win

Tour Confidential: Jason Day Holds Off Bubba Watson For Canadian Open Win

Jason Day celebrates his RBC Canadian Open victory with his wife, Ellie.
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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. Jason Day closed the final round of the RBC Canadian Open with three straight birdies to claim his second PGA Tour win of the season, one week after missing out on a British Open playoff by one stroke. How impressive was Day’s bounce-back and why do you think he hasn’t yet made a major breakthrough?

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Day is impressive, period. As a person, golfer, bounce-backer, press-tent visitor. There’s nothing holding him back in majors–he just needs to keep on knocking. When you are that good it is a numbers game and his number should eventually come up. It may or may not but it should.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@AlanShipnuck): Very impressive, given the time change and, more to the point, the emotional letdown of the Open. I love how aggressively Day swings the club and attacks a course but I wonder if he needs to dial it back a little at majors, where finesse and shotmaking are often more important than raw power. But I have to think Day is going to win a major soon, and more than one. That he’s contended at so many great tracks is proof of his talent.

Jeff Ritter, senior editor, SI Golf Group (@JeffRitter): Day has been a top-10 machine at the majors, but we don’t put him in the class of a Dustin Johnson or Sergio Garcia because he’s still just 27 and has never had a highlight-reel major meltdown. He just seems to have a knack for falling short to slightly sharper players. I think he’ll win one before the scar tissue starts to collect — maybe as soon as Whistling Straits.

Joe Passov, senior editor, GOLF Magazine (@JoePassov): Superb performance from Jason Day, in coming back not only from a disappointing near-miss at the British Open, but also after a scary near-miss at the U.S. Open. Pretty simple why he hasn’t had that major breakthrough yet: It’s hard to win majors. I’m hugely impressed that he gets himself in the hunt every time, in the hyper-pressurized atmosphere of a major. He’s got a ton of time left…and we don’t knock Jack Nicklaus because he had 19 runners-up in majors.   

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@GaryVanSickle): Day’s game is very impressive when he’s on. He doesn’t really have a hole in his game but I’d say the reason he hasn’t broken through yet is that his putting can be streaky, spotty, suspect–whatever you want to call it. Day can roll it well at times, like on the last green at Glen Abbey–that was a sweet birdie putt. And he can roll it not so well, tentatively.

2. Bubba Watson birdied his final four holes, but could not catch Day and finished in second. With three disappointing major appearances mixed in with a solid 2015 season otherwise, what do you expect from Bubba the rest of the year, particularly at Whistling Straits next month where he finished runner-up in 2010? 

VAN SICKLE: I expect Bubba Watson to play well at Whistling Straits. It’s a big, sweeping ballpark and he likes it. He will feel comfortable. If I was forced to pick a winner now, I’d probably pick him. With all due respect to Jordan Spieth, I think Watson should probably be the favorite going in.

BAMBERGER: Bubba’s game is ideal for Whistling Straits: high, curving irons, much opportunity to hit driver. I think he’ll play well there.

SHIPNUCK: It’s impossible to predict what Bubba will do at the Straits or anywhere else – when the stars and the moons align he can win anytime anywhere, but that’s rare indeed.

RITTER: Bubba has developed a reputation for flaming out in every major where he can’t eat nightly Bojangles and where caddies dress in something other than bleach-white. Whistling Straits, where he fell short to Martin Kaymer in 2010, is the scene of his biggest near-miss in the majors. With his game now clicking, the upcoming PGA is his biggest opportunity to win a road game and enter a new pantheon as a three-time major-winner.

PASSOV: Regardless of what you think of him personally, Bubba has a genius for hitting a golf ball. It’s a joy just watching him play, smashing the ball, curving the ball, inventing stuff. However, he’s an anti-grinder. When things start to go sideways for him, he loses focus. He’s so easily distracted and annoyed, he just doesn’t impress me as someone who will fight on every shot and salvage a bad hole or rough round. His overall inconsistency is a little Phil-like. When he’s on, he’s top 3 in the world. When he’s not, you’ll have to scroll down a ways to locate his final scores. That said, I’ll pick him in my pool at the PGA.  


3. Coming off a missed cut at the British Open, we’ll see Tiger Woods again this week when he tees it up at the Quicken Loans National. What are your expectations for the 258th player in the world, and if he plays poorly, is there a chance he skips out on the PGA Championship? 

VAN SICKLE: Tiger Woods isn’t going to skip a major championship until he quits golf. He will be there, no matter how he does at the Quicken. I always expect Tiger to play better than his last outing during this down period but so far, he has disappointed himself and everyone else. I’m not looking for a breakout, just some baby steps. Like making a cut, shooting in the 60s.

SHIPNUCK: Nah, if he hasn’t taken a sabbatical at this point, I see him soldiering on for the foreseeable future. I’m dubious that he will but I still hope Tiger plays well because it was downright depressing watching him in St. Andrews.

BAMBERGER: I cannot imagine him not playing Whistling Straits, although that will be a very difficult course for him, as it requires so much good driving. As for this week, I’m guessing he’ll make the cut and have another Greenbrier-type week.

RITTER: Hard to expect much of anything from Tiger for the rest of the year. St. Andrews was the perfect place to pull his season out of a tailspin, and instead it illustrated how far he’s fallen. It’s just a guess, but I think he’ll play Quicken Loans, struggle through Whistling Straits and then disappear until 2016.

PASSOV: I’m not even sure why we ask this question every week. I’m hoping against hope that Tiger regains his form, because as a golf fan, I miss seeing him be a part of the mix on important Sundays. Yet, right now, there’s nothing to suggest that he has any kind of competitive chance at a gut-check obstacle course like Whistling Straits, let alone at the watery Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, venue for this year’s Quicken Loans event. Still, if he’s healthy, he’ll play the PGA. You can’t win that 15th major unless you’re entered. It would be awfully fun for him to catch lightning in a bottle, as he did for three rounds at the Masters.  

4. Marco Dawson birdied the 18th hole to win the Senior British Open by a stroke over Bernhard Langer and Colin Montgomerie. Dawson played 400 PGA Tour events without a win and before this season, he hadn’t won a professional event since 2002. Is this one of the charms of the Champions Tour or do you enjoy seeing legends winning big events?

VAN SICKLE: It’s always hard for the public to relate or get excited about a winner with whom they’re not familiar. That’s true for senior golf and for the PGA Tour. The senior circuit was started to be an encore show for the game’s legends and superstars but since legends are in short supply these days, it’s a place for familiar faces and names to have a second act, take another bow and for rank-and-file guys like Dawson to secure their retirement plans. The best you can hope for in senior golf is an exciting finish, which is always enjoyable to watch. If you’re waiting for Arnie or Jack to win again, you’ve got a long wait.

BAMBERGER: It is absolutely amazing what Marco Dawson just did, and other players have done the same. Sunningdale is a big-time course, he’s trying to beat a couple of Hall of Famers, he’s never been there. His win is a huge positive for the Champions Tour, as hope is the spine of all golf, at every level.

PASSOV: Because the Champions Tour gets zero love, it needs some stories. Maybe it would have been cool to see Langer and Monty emerge at the end in a flurry of birdies on a classic track like Sunningdale (Old), but it seems like those two win every senior major, so I can’t say it would have been too newsworthy. Dawson, who broke through in March with a huge win at the Tucson Conquistadores Classic, won’t inspire me to watch more Champions Tour golf, but this is an “Open,” after all, and the fact that he held it together–and then some–against the current gods of senior golf made for appealing viewing. 

SHIPNUCK: I like it both ways. It’s fun to have some starpower on the board but Dawson is a very charming story and it’s cool that he finally has a place in the sun.


5. In an interview with Golf Magazine, Steve Elkington confirmed he was fined and suspended by the Tour for his Michael Sam tweet last year. Should more players be open about their disciplinary proceedings since the Tour itself refuses to be more transparent?

VAN SICKLE: Nobody likes to be embarrassed so I’m not surprised players don’t reveal fines. That said, it’s interesting how the PGA Tour can trample a player’s right to free speech the way it did with Elkington. If the tour is going to release any fine information, it should start with the players who draw fines for slow play. Publicizing those might force the offenders to quit being so selfish and speed up, which would help the pro product and the game.

BAMBERGER: Of course they should, but they likely get fined for it.

PASSOV: Given today’s news-gathering climate, it’s hard to keep anything hidden anymore. If not for that, it would make no sense for players to be more forthcoming, and risk endorsement loss and other embarrassments. Since the Tour refuses to be more transparent, the deterrence effects of public punishments are missing, so why should any affected player admit to anything? I’ll tell you why. Because there are media stars out there–I work with a number of them–who will eventually find out via their reporting skills and let us know exactly what transpired. Then the subsequent denials make the cover-ups look that much more pathetic. Fess up, guys. We’re going to find out eventually. By admitting and apologizing early, chances are, you’ll be forgiven and we’ll all move on. 

SHIPNUCK: Yes, if more Tour players were honest about this stuff the Tour might be persuaded to end this whole charade. Kudos to Elkington but, alas, I doubt he is going to stimulate a wave of confessions from the naughty boys on Tour.

6. The USGA announced the U.S. Open will return to Pinehurst No. 2 in 2024 after visiting landmark venues like Oakmont, Pebble Beach and Winged Foot in the coming years. If you had your pick, where would you take the 2025 U.S. Open and why? 

VAN SICKLE: I would take it to a run-down public course where the bunkers have differing mixes of sand, dirt and gravel; some tee boxes are bare ground; the greens run at about 5 on the Stimp; and the fairways are shaggy. In other words, municipal golf as most of us know it. Fill in the name of your favorite muny course here. Ponky. Currie Park. Pacific Grove. Van Cortland Park. Rackham. Also, I wouldn’t have tee times. The players would have to put a ball in the rack on the first tee and take their turn. If they want to be off first, they’d better sleep in their car in the parking lot. I’d love to hear the player reactions to enduring the daily conditions that the average recreational golfer faces. The Muny Open would be a blast to watch.

BAMBERGER: Chambers Bay. To see what the brain trust can do given 10 years and (I’m guessing) $100 million to improve a course that looks beautiful but (often) makes no sense. I loved being there, but I didn’t have to play it.

SHIPNUCK: Pine Valley. Because it would be awesome.

PASSOV: Cypress Point Club in Pebble Beach, California. It’s the greatest walk in golf and it’s also the sport’s most photogenic layout, so whether I was covering the event or watching on TV, I’ll be a happy guy. Of course, Trump National Los Angeles offers powerful enticements as well. It’s right in FOX’s L.A. backyard and it would be nice to see Donald Trump presiding, after finishing up his second four-year term as President in January. 

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