PGA Tour Confidential: Zach Johnson wins John Deere Classic, British Open picks

Zach Johnson won the John Deere Classic on Sunday for his second title of 2012.
Carlos M. Saavedra/SI

Every Sunday night, the editorial staff of the SI Golf Group conducts an e-mail roundtable. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: What a week on the old sod: a thrilling Scottish Open finish at neo-classic Castle Stuart, and the opening of a new course on the Aberdeen coast, which may actually be as good as its owner, Donald Trump, says. So, what's your favorite course in Scotland and why?

Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Embarrassed to say I've never played over there, and while the photos of Donald's new place looked pretty sweet, my first stop would still be the Old Course.

Mick Rouse, contributor: Although I've never been, I would love to get on at Cruden Bay, just for the views alone.

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: The Old Course, for the enchanting setting as much as the holes. St. Andrews is a special place.

Shipnuck: You're fired, Gorant. I'll take Cruden Bay, which is quirky and beautiful and outrageously fun.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: We editors don't get out like the rest of you. I did see St. Andrews in 1995, and the place is awfully special.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Kingsbarns is also a blast and has better ocean views (but no town views) than the Old Course. Can't go wrong on either one. Dunbar is also a beauty on the east coast of Scotland. It has a par 3 named Jackson's Pennies because an old man named Jackson, who sat on a bench there, used to give a penny to any kid who made a birdie.

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Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: I believe there's a similar par 3 at the Neverland Ranch.

David Dusek, deputy editor, Not to be masochistic, but Carnoustie is my favorite course in Scotland. I played it in 2006 after the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, and like everything in the U.K. that year, it was dry, really fast and windswept, and way more than I could handle. Some people like it because of the Ben Hogan angle, but for me, its stoutness is its charm. As the captain of the club told me after we played, "St. Andrews may have the Auld Gray Toon, but at Carnoustie, we…WE have the golf course."

Walker: My favorite place in golf is the democratic Old Course, where anyone can play and people walk their dogs on Sundays. The course is the heart of St. Andrews the way Central Park is the heart of New York.

Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: I'm going to be super-boring and say the Old Course at St. Andrews. I'll never forget walking out to the first tee/18th green for the first time in '10.

Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Old Course. Is there another choice?

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: What is your favorite course in Scotland?

Shipnuck: OK, which tourney would you rather win, the Deere or Senior Open?

Herre: The Deere — you get one of those swell tractors. Perfect for my yard.

Godich: I'll take any PGA Tour victory over any of the dozen senior major championships.

Gorant: The Senior Open is the cream of the old guy crop but, I think any official Tour win carries more weight.

Wei: Depends how old I am. I guess at the end of the day, you'd rather have a PGA Tour victory under your belt.

Dusek: A PGA Tour win like the John Deere gets you a check for about a million dollars, a ticket to Augusta, and entry into other events filled with cash. Winning the Senior Open makes you the answer to a Trivial Pursuit question.

Walker: When in doubt, take the cash. John Deere's $828,000 first-place check > U.S. Senior Open's $500,000.

Rouse: I'd take the PGA Tour win, but it would be a great feeling to collect one last big win in my old age at a Senior Open (or a great redemption story for an oldie who was never able to notch one on Tour).

Van Sickle: The Deere gets you in the Masters; the Senior Open gets you in the U.S. Open. I'll take the Deere.

Shipnuck: I don't know, a national championship is pretty sweet.

Lipsey: A national championship sounds much sweeter than a Midwestern minor title.

Morfit: I'd take a Senior U.S. Open. It means you beat everyone in your age division, and you wouldn't have to explain anything about that.
Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Would you rather win the John Deere or the U.S. Senior Open?

Shipnuck: Roger Chapman made a great living on the European Tour but never won much. Now in 2012 he's won the Senior PGA Championship and the Senior Open. Does anything a guy does on the senior tour change your opinion of him?

Dusek: In a way, yes, because it means that a guy like Chapman still has talent and staying power. It's so easy to lose your game at some point and never really get it back. If you can win and contend consistently on the Champions Tour it means that you've still got it, while many of your contemporaries don't.

Rouse: That's like asking whether Antoine Walker's 10 ppg in the D-League redeems the end of his career. No.

Gorant: Yes, but it has to be massive. I think Trevino winning 29 times on the senior tour burnishes his resume. Hale Irwin's dominance changes the view of him as a player. Not much beyond that though.

Godich: There are a slew of guys who can't wait to turn 50. No cut, shorter courses, smaller fields. What's not to like about that? I think you will see a lot of guys cashing in. Next up: Jeff Maggert.

Lipsey: Sure. Nobody knows what Chi Chi did until he hit 50, and now he's one of the most beloved players in history.

Godich: Nobody knew about Chi Chi?

Herre: I was impressed with Mike Hill back in the early '90s. He did nothing on the regular Tour and was completely overshadowed by his brother Dave. But he was a tiger on the senior tour, a fighter and overachiever who appreciated his success. There were/are a lot of characters out there who are interesting.

Lipsey: Anybody who wins back-to-back majors is AWESOME. Even if he never did or will do anything else in his career.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Do senior tour wins change your opinion of a player?

Steve Stricker

Carlos M. Saavedra/SI
Do you think Steve Stricker is the best putter on Tour?

Shipnuck: Now that we've seen the details what's your take on the reconfigured Q-school?

Morfit: I agree with Bamberger's take. I'm not sure why we needed to redo the whole thing. The new system reminds me a bit of the FedEx Cup when it first came out–a bit hard to envision.

Van Sickle: It didn't need changing, but they could've avoided the closed-shop issue by giving top 20 Nationwide winners their cards and allotting five to the new Nationwide Q-school, just to say that anybody off the street or out of college could still play their way directly onto the tour the way John Huh did last year and many others have done. But they did what I said they had to do–a standing start for all three events. Only fair way to do it.

Lipsey: Once they work out the inevitable kinks, it will work well and have drama, though different from the old format.

Wei: I'm a diehard Q-school romantic, but I think the new system is a decent compromise. I was expecting the worst, so I was pleasantly surprised by the Tour's announcement. The biggest winners are the guys who finish 151-200 in FedEx Cup points. The biggest loser is No. 126 on the money list. Glad that the top 25 on the Tour will automatically receive cards, but too bad they have to fight for position in the three-tourney series (with the exception of the top money-list finisher). But that makes it have a Q-school component to it. Obviously, as we expected, internationals are the most royally screwed and college kids/amateurs have decent opportunities if they turn pro early enough to earn enough points to get into the three-tourney series. Basically, this all protects the mediocre veterans.

Shipnuck: The old Q-school was riveting if you were on-site, but otherwise no one really cared. This system may actually generate some fan interest, which, I think, was the whole point.

Lipsey: One word: Plastics, um, SPONSORS. It's all about the folks who pay the bills.

Van Sickle: I don't see how it's going to have compelling drama. Some of our panelists here are among those who complain about how boring tournaments are because the finalists are Ted Potter and Troy Kelly. At this Q-school, you're pretty much guaranteed to have nobody you've heard of playing. So they're playing for their careers, but you've got no rooting interest in them. Just like now, Q-school isn't compelling for similar reasons except to real golf fans.

Herre: The changes are all about optimization for sponsors of the Fall Series events. They were on life support. Now they could be fun and interesting. They will be meaningful events, and we'll be exposed to a lot of fresh new talent.

Rouse: To go off Stephanie's and Gary's point: How much do I really care about these changes? If anything, they are protecting the mediocre, middling Tour pro. If they wanted to revamp the system, would have much rather it placed more emphasis on getting young prospects a chance. Overall, it seems like a compromise for the sake of compromise.

Van Sickle: I like what Mick said. A riveting event would be opening the Q-school series doors to more than just the guys already inside the front gates. Does anybody not want to see Patrick Cantlay on the Tour right away? Or Rickie Fowler when he went to Q-school? Some careers will be delayed. Stricker needed several tries just to get past the second stage (not the final stage), and Duval got sentenced to an extra year of Nationwide (or Hogan) Tour when he glitched. For the guys who get there, at least it's a meritocracy. Shoot the best scores, you get rewarded.

Dusek: People who were into Q-school before will be into the new system and follow the event, while those who were never interested in Q-school won't. Personally, and I know I'm in the minority, I'm not riveted by Q-school, but as others have noted, the best players are going to get onto the PGA Tour one way or another.

Morfit: You need an advanced degree to keep track of people's status as they finish up the year. Since it would have been Woody Guthrie's 100th birthday on Saturday, and this may be the only time we can slip Woody Guthrie into Confidential, I quote: "Any fool can make something complicated. It takes a genius to make it simple." Neither a genius nor Woody Guthrie has designed the end of the PGA Tour season.

Godich: How long you been saving that one up, Cam?

Morfit: Since his 90th birthday.

Herre: It'll take a few years for many fans to catch on to the specifics, just as took a while for fans to understand the FedEx Cup, but I think this is an upgrade. And Alan's right – there really isn't much outside interest in Q-school.

Godich: And, sadly, the most riveting stories out of Q-school almost always involved the crash-and-burns on hole No. 108.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Are the changes to Q-school good for the game?

Shipnuck: Rousing finish at the Deere. Zach Johnson continues to pile up victories in what could wind up as a Hall of Fame career. Ten-footer to save your life, which active player do you pick? (Can't be Tiger.) I'm taking Zach.

Dusek: I'll put my neck in the hands of Luke Donald.

Morfit: I'd take Poults, but only if I was allowed the time to hypnotize him into thinking it was the Ryder Cup.

Herre: David Toms or Steve Stricker

Gorant: Oddly, Stricker.

Godich: Me too. Nothing odd about it, either.

Shipnuck: That's not odd-he'd be my third choice. Phil's second, still dining out on his 72nd hole putt circa April 2004.

Gorant: Just meant in the sense that he choked it away today.

Van Sickle: Oddly, Stricker admits he's in a bit of a putting slump this year. If he'd putted here like he has the last few years, he'd have run away with the Deere. I'd take the 2010 or '11 Stricker, for sure. In 2012, I don't know, how about Na Yeon Choi? She can flat-out roll it.

Herre: That's a good call, Gary. Choi was brilliant at the Women's Open. I was also impressed by her lovely tempo.

Morfit: Know who's got a sweet putting stroke? Erik Compton.

Shipnuck: Kid's got a lot of heart, too, Cam.

Wei: Snedeker…if he didn't know it was to save someone's life.

Walker: I always think Graeme McDowell is going to make the putt in a big moment.

Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, Phil Mickelson.

Dusek: Bastille Day is being celebrated in my neighborhood in Brooklyn, complete with a 10-foot high guillotine. Phil's putting is better these days, but if my head's under that blade and Phil's got a 10-footer to save me, I'm more than a little scared.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Who would you want to make a 10-footer with your life on the line?

Luke Donald

Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Will this be the week Luke Donald captures his first major?

Shipnuck: Lotsa caddie news this week: Last Call Lance made a run at the Senior Open, slumping Yani Tseng sacked her guy, and Zach won with a moonlighting swing coach. So how important are caddies to a Tour player's success (or failure)?

Lipsey: Crucial and meaningless. The right person on the bag can mean everything, but you can also win with your wife on the bag. Anybody who makes the player feel comfortable is the key.

Gorant: Think it varies by player. By the way, Zach's caddie also played pretty well in the Senior Open.

Herre: Never put a lot of stock in the importance of caddies. Many of them are good guys and sources, but at the risk of stating the obvious, they don't hit the shots.

Shipnuck: I think they help on the margins. Which in golf can mean a ton.

Godich: It all comes down to players hitting shots. You think Tiger wouldn't have won three times this year without Joe LaCava on the bag? Me either. I liked what Tiger said about reading putts: Do you really want somebody in your ear putting a different thought in your head?

Wei: A good caddie reinforces what you're thinking.

Van Sickle: A good player needs a caddie who's not going to mess him up. A bad player can't find a caddie who can possibly help him enough. If you're a player whose caddie is going to make a big difference in your results, then you've got problems.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: The tour caddie is more important than the swing coach but less important than the lucky bounce.

Dusek: Someone is in week-before-a-major form tonight.

Rouse: Just like in the NBA, the talent comes first. If a player isn't performing, you're not going to axe the player, you're going to axe the person telling the player what to do.

Lipsey: Agreed, but Tour players pay 10 percent for a win, meaning they pay caddies $100,000 or more for a win. Paying that much dough means the caddies have some value.

Rouse: And the average salary of an NBA coach is nearly $4 million now if I'm not mistaken. They clearly have a lot of value. That didn't save Jerry Sloan when Deron Williams got a little moody. It's no different in the world of golf. Winning = job security.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: How important are caddies to a player's success?

Shipnuck: Who's gonna win the Open, and why? I'm taking Luke. Lytham does not favor bombers. More than that, it's his time.

Herre: Gonna have to be a mudder – the forecast is awful, maybe one decent day (Friday). Otherwise rain, wind, high in the low 60s. I like Woods in the weather.

Gorant: Branden Grace.

Lipsey: Geoff Ogilvy. He'll suddenly reappear with a vengeance.

Godich: I'll take Hunter Mahan, a solid ball-striker who can string together a lot of pars.

Dusek: I want to type "Lee Westw…" but I can't finish the name. The short game still scares me. I thought Luke Donald was perfect for Olympic, and he got trounced, so I'm going with Tiger. He's not back, but the "comeback" story would be epic.

Shipnuck: I love a strong short game if the weather's bad. So, Luke. Again.

Wei: Hunter Mahan and Ben Curtis. I walked the course one-and-a-half times today and, boy, is it hard! Accuracy and positioning are at a premium there. I'm taking whoever is hitting it the straightest. Miss the fairway and you're either in hay up to your knees or in a pot bunker. Length isn't important and you have to putt well, obviously, but you can putt your face off and it doesn't matter if you're missing fairways and greens.

Rouse: Rickie Fowler gets his first major win at an event he has played well at in the past. And he'll do so in a playoff, similar to his first Tour win in Charlotte.

Van Sickle: Adam Scott. I had a dream, no other reason. And with weather, why not?

Shipnuck: Vans, you should be dreaming about Aza Munoz, not Adam Scott!

Bamberger: Duval. He's due.

Dusek: So is the Titanic.

Van Sickle: Duval was out Saturday morning working hard on his putting here at the Deere. He missed the cut, but he hung around to catch the free charter flight Sunday night to Lytham. He's working at it.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Who will win the British Open?