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 by tweeting us your thoughts at @golf_com.
1. Patrick Reed needed a strong week at The Barclays to earn a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team, and he delivered just that: carding a fourth-round 70 to win by one over Sean O’Hair and Emiliano Grillo at burly Bethpage Black. Reed, 26, now has five PGA Tour wins, including a World Golf Championship and a victory in a FedEx Cup playoff event but not a single top-10 in the majors. Has he underachieved or overachieved?
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@GaryVanSickle): Reed has achieved, period. He had issues with his driving last year plus his tarnished public image, and he’s a bit like Phil Mickelson in that I think he gets more fired up for the big events. He wants to make history, he can’t wait to do it and that, perhaps, has held him back. I’m fine with his progress. He’s a mere lad of 26.
Josh Sens, contributing writer, GOLF Magazine (@JoshSens): Given the tarnished rep that Gary refers to, he’s made it a bit easier for the public to give him short shrift. But as he showed today, the guy is fierce when he sniffs the lead. And he’ll get there in the majors. Meanwhile, if you’re pulling for the U.S. in the Ryder Cup, you’ve got to love that he’s guaranteed a spot on the squad. As a Red Sox fan, I feel something similar about Reed that I used to feel about Derek Jeter. Yeah, the guy can be annoying, but who wouldn’t want him on their team?
Cam Morfit, senior writer, GOLF Magazine (@CameronMorfit): Good point, Josh. He’s really the American counterpart to Ian Poulter–the guy the other side loves to hate because he’s so annoyingly great. Very, very good news for DL3 and the Yanks’ chances to see P. Reed hitting his stride so close to the Cup.
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@AlanShipnuck): It used to be that young players learned to win at regular Tour events and then eased into contending at majors. Tiger warped perspectives, as did Spieth. Reed is on track for a very nice career. Clearly the next step is to become a regular presence at the majors. I think he will.
Jeff Ritter, digital development editor, Sports Illustrated Golf Group (@Jeff_Ritter): Sure, he lacks a major-championship top 10, but Reed does have top-15s in the last two this summer. Throw in the Tour titles and the Ryder Cup record and he’s right on track for a stellar career. And the fact that he’s peaking now is a great omen for the U.S. Ryder Cup team — it will need its chief European annoyer to be at his annoying best.
Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated (@MarkGodich): Five Tour wins, including a WGC for a guy who just turned 26? That’s a damn good career for most players. The major success will come soon enough.
Joe Passov, senior editor, GOLF Magazine (@joepassov): I like Josh’s point. I couldn’t stand Patrick Reed early on–the “Top 5” swagger, cloudy history and such–but he’s won me over, to some extent. He’s shown a desire to play all over the world, understands that he’s got some weaknesses to shore up and yet the fire is still there, and the wins are coming. Not as fast as he might have led us to believe they would come, but at least he wins.
2. Rickie Fowler held a one-stroke lead over Reed after 54 holes at Bethpage Black but played his final nine in four over to finish T-7, costing him an automatic bid onto Davis Love III’s U.S. Ryder Cup team. Was Fowler’s mostly stellar form throughout the week evidence that he deserves one of Love’s four captain’s picks, or was his loose play under Sunday-afternoon pressure a sign that his game’s not quite there and he should sit out this edition?
VAN SICKLE: Fowler is one of the guys who Love fought for to get on the team at Wales when he was maybe a controversial choice, and Fowler came through on the last four holes of that singles match. He’s got a match-play mentality and pedigree that means Love is going to pick him, pretty much no matter what. Rickie should play. He will play.
SENS: Everybody loves Raymond? Nah. Everybody loves Rickie. I agree that he’s a heavy favorite to get picked. Whether he deserves that spot is a murkier question. Yes, he fought back for a half in Wales. But that half was as well as he’s ever done in the Ryder Cup. He’s yet to win a match.
GODICH: Rickie’s public-relations folks aren’t getting paid enough. I continue to be amazed at the way people are gushing over his match-play success. He’s 0-3-5 in his two Ryder Cup appearances, and the way he played the last nine holes at The Barclays is exactly what Love didn’t need to see. Winning Ryder Cup points is all about closing out matches. Rickie did exactly the opposite at Bethpage.
MORFIT: I agree that Rickie will get picked. Everybody loves him, and for good reason. But here’s a thorny question: Do you invite a guy on your team who’s been so good at halving his matches in hopes that he’ll suddenly figure out how to win them? As strategies go, this seems pretty half-baked. If I’m Love, I’m taking a long look around at the other options before I automatically pick Fowler.
RITTER: He’s yet to win a match, but he’s going to get a few more cracks at it next month. No way Love leaves Fowler off the team — he’s gritty, fits well in the team room and has a natural partner in Jimmy Walker (and, not for nothing, he’s also a card-carrying member of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force). I agree Rickie’s match-play successes may be a bit overblown, but there aren’t four other guys down the list I can see slotting in ahead of him.
SHIPNUCK: After the slippage at Bethpage Fowler is now oh-fer four in converting 54-hole leads on Tour. A spot on the team was there for the taking on Sunday and he stumbled badly. What to do with him will be Love’s biggest choice. Personally, I think Rickie has played his way off the team.
GODICH: I’d agree with that Alan, but here’s the problem: Love has to fill four slots, and the pickings are pretty slim. Bubba? I guess. I’d take Matt Kuchar, based solely on the moxie he showed in winning the bronze in Rio. But I don’t know how anyone can justify selecting 46-year-old Jim Furyk, whose Ryder Cup record is abysmal. J.B. Holmes? Scott Piercy? There just aren’t a lot of options. Rickie may get a spot by default.
PASSOV: I’m with you, Mark. Realistically, what (who) are the other options? As I said last week, the Ryder Cup is still an exhibition and Rickie moves the publicity needle. It’s also just 18 holes of match play at a time, and Rickie has found somewhat better form as of late, so why not Rickie?
3. Two-thirds of the U.S. Ryder Cup team has now been finalized; Reed joins Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson, Jimmy Walker, Brooks Koepka, Brandt Snedeker and Zach Johnson as the eight automatic qualifiers. Vegas has made the U.S. a heavy favorite to win back the Cup at Hazeltine. Do the oddsmakers have it right?
VAN SICKLE: Heavy favorite? Have these guys seen any of the last 10 Ryder Cups? C’mon! Three Americans don’t have a win this year. Phil hasn’t had one since mid-2013. Jordan Spieth of 2016 isn’t Jordan of 2015. I don’t see it being anything but another close nail-biter. The guys in Vegas, and everyone in America, have been underrating the Europeans for, oh, more than two decades.
RITTER: Vegas is just reacting to where the money is being bet, so apparently there’s a lot of enthusiasm around the idea that the U.S will finally turn the tide. They’re certainly due. I like the way the veteran-laden U.S. team is shaping up, but as long as Europe continues to play like the more relaxed team, they’re the squad to beat.
SENS: I’m shocked – SHOCKED – to hear that gambling is going on in this establishment. But as long as it is, I wouldn’t want to lay a ton of juice on the American team. Yeah, there’s a lot of excitement building around them, much of it generated by the idea that the growing youth movement is going to bring about a change. But let’s not forget that the Europeans have some great young talent as well. Danny Willett. Chris Wood. Matthew Fitzpatrick. Not to mention the same old guys who have killed the U.S. in recent Cups. This has happened before. We go in with sky-high hopes, and then the matches start and we here in the States say, “Oh, wait. They have HIM too?”
MORFIT: No Poulter, no Tiger, tons of rookies. Both sides are going to look really different, but what will determine this thing is whether Love’s side can find the killer instinct this time and carry it all the way to the finish. Rose and Stenson’s play in Rio seems like a bad omen for the U.S., but man, these young American guys like Reed want it so much. No predictions. All I know for sure, I think, is it’ll be a squeaker.
SHIPNUCK: Both teams look weaker than they have in a while. I don’t see how this won’t come down to the final few singles matches. Maybe the Americans pull out a squeaker, but it’s really hard to call them the favorite, let alone a heavy one.
GODICH: Vegas sets the odds with the intent of bringing in money on both sides. Those odds will move in the other direction soon enough. Just tell me which side is going to hole the most putts, and I’ll tell you which side is going to claim the cup.
PASSOV: I liked the way the late writer Dick Taylor used to predict the winner in major championships throughout the 1960s and 1970s: He’d pick Jack Nicklaus to win every one, every time. Safest pick, really. That’s Europe in the Ryder Cup, as Gary has reminded us. What difference is there as to who makes it or is chosen for captain Clarke’s team? Europe has figured out a way to win nearly every time in the past 30 years, even as the U.S. was favored nearly every time. Europe should be favored.
VAN SICKLE: Now the Hard Work Begins for U.S. Ryder Cup Team
4. Fueled by big, vocal galleries, Bethpage Black was its usual electric self during the Barclays. Is there any threat of Bethpage becoming untenably rowdy when the Ryder Cup visits in 2024?
VAN SICKLE: There’s always a chance of that in a few cities such as New York and Boston and Chicago, especially in the wake of the 2023 Food Riots. Oops, hope I haven’t given away too much!
SENS: Depends on what your standards for “untenably rowdy” are. Will there always be a lot of meatheads yelling moronic things? Sure. The new one I heard this year was an apparent Game of Thrones reference. Instead of “Mashed potatoes!” it was “Hold the door!” But will fans be storming the fairways with pitchforks and such? I think they’ll be able to stage a tournament just fine.
VAN SICKLE: Hey, I like that pitchfork idea. That would be compelling.
SHIPNUCK: The fans will be irritating and obnoxious, as always, but for once it will have a tactical advantage!
GODICH: It’s a disaster waiting to happen. Perhaps the task force can fly a few of the rowdies to Hazeltine for a dress rehearsal.
MORFIT: There are always a few chuckleheads who take it too far, whether you’re playing at Bethpage or anywhere else. But the atmosphere will be electric.
RITTER: He’s eight years away from qualifying, and I already feel bad for Sergio.
PASSOV: It will be lunacy, definitely, but I’m not sure how much worse it will be than at other venues. I mean, they nearly had to outfit Monty in armor in Boston back in ‘99, to deflect the darts being hurled his way. What might dampen the craziness by then, however, is if the chippiness between players vanishes. Most of the top Euros reside here in the U.S. now, and they all seem to be pals with our top players. Thank goodness Patrick Reed is only 26. We’ll need his fire.
5. Tiger Woods turned pro 20 years ago this week (Hello, world!) at the Tour event formerly known as the Greater Milwaukee Open. Fourteen major wins and 79 Tour wins later, has Woods lived up to the outsize expectations placed upon him at the onset of his career?
VAN SICKLE: Even Earl Woods, the ultimate Tiger booster, predicted his son would win “only” 14 majors when Tiger was still just an amateur. No one was really sure just how good he’d become until 2000. The great expectations snowballed after that. Let’s see, a Hall of Fame career from the 1970s on was winning 18 to 25 times. Tiger tripled that. Even more, he played the best total golf we’d ever seen, better even than Jack, but he didn’t beat Jack’s major mark. That’s OK. Tiger did more than enough. His career is an A-plus-plus.
SENS: Ditto. Tiger dominated like no one we’ve ever seen, and like no one we’ll likely ever see again. Tiger’s career has obviously stalled out. But this idea of whether he’s lived up–that only really came into the conversation after his personal life went aflame in a scandal. Then the revisionism on his place in history began, in the way that it often does for athletes, but in a manner that was more intense for Tiger than for anyone I’d ever seen. People started conflating his off-course and on-course behavior. It became fashionable to say that Tiger wasn’t all that not just because he wasn’t winning majors anymore, but because he had upset a moralizing public and press.
RITTER: Tiger turned in the most dominant decade the sport has ever seen, and he’s either the greatest or second-greatest player in history on any credible list. He also elevated the entire sport to a new level of popularity. It’s a shame he’s so significantly derailed at age 40 — look at what Henrik Stenson is doing now at the same age — but even if we’ve seen Woods’s final act, he delivered on the hype.
SHIPNUCK: Tiger is clearly the most dominant golfer of all time, even though I think Jack is the greatest champion. But given what might have been had his life not blown up, it’s impossible not to feel like Woods left a lot of wins and great moments on the table.
MORFIT: Tiger overachieved in every way you can overachieve, on and off the course, hence the piece I wrote earlier this year that he actually aged a year and a half for every calendar year for the last two decades. By that math he’s actually 50, not 40, which would make so much more sense.
GODICH: Without a doubt, he surpassed our wildest expectations. Sadly, we’re left to wonder how much more he could have accomplished.
PASSOV: ‘Nuff said, Mark. We’ll never see the likes of him again. How insanely great would it have been to be in attendance covering that major that would tie him with Jack? He’s always thrived on proving people wrong, so he may not be done, but wow–the injuries have indeed left us to wonder.
6. A slow-play dispute on a Utah golf course resulted in one golfer stabbing another in the group ahead of him. What’s the most outrageous act of rage you’ve witnessed on a course?
VAN SICKLE: I’d have to say it was that greenskeeper blowing up the course all because he was trying to eradicate some gophers. I saw it in a little-known documentary called “Caddyshack.”
SHIPNUCK: Lol, Gary. I once saw on a short par-3 a guy tee off while the foursome in front was putting. I think it was a beginner who felt he had no chance to carry the ball 125 yards over bunkers, but he pured it into the middle of the green. The guys who were putting picked up the ball and threw it into some trees and then javelined the flag back toward the tee box, shouting invective all the while. It was pretty juicy.
SENS: I once saw a brawl break out among two groups ahead of me at a Boston area muni. I’m not sure what started it or how it ended, because I used the opportunity to play through.
MORFIT: Atta boy, Josh — I love that you prioritized pace of play over MMA. I never saw a brawl or near brawl, as far as I can remember, but I sure saw a lot of people aiming for me when I drove the tractor on the Stanford range.
RITTER: I once played a watery Florida course with a buddy who, after shanking one, chucked his iron into the pond. Apparently it was therapeutic, because after each ensuing bad shot over the closing 9, he slung the offending club into a water hazard. He finished the round with only his putter. During one enraged club-toss, he held on too long and missed the pond from point-blank range. As my friends and I often remind him, he couldn’t hit anything that day.
PASSOV: I was flailing away at the TPC Sawgrass Players Stadium course in 1998, paired with a Towering Inferno-type, who simply couldn’t cope with various injustices being foist upon him. In the middle of the back nine, he misses yet another iron shot from the right side rough, tosses out another f-bomb and snaps his club in two over his knee. All the while I’m thinking of this 14-handicapper, “you aren’t anywhere near good enough a player to have this kind of temper, and what on earth were you thinking when you signed up to play here?” What a jerk.