GOLF.com conducts a weekly roundtable with writers from Sports Illustrated and GOLF Magazine. Check in every Sunday night for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation by tweeting us @golf_com.
1. Justin Rose started the final round of the WGC-HSBC Champions eight shots behind 54-hole leader Dustin Johnson, who led the closest competitor by six. Yet Johnson shot 77, tying the PGA Tour’s record for largest 54-hole lead lost, while Rose blitzed the course for a 67 and won by two to cap the third-largest comeback in Tour history. What’s more surprising, Rose’s rally or Johnson’s stumble?
John Wood, caddie for Matt Kuchar (@johnwould): I would definitely say DJ’s stumble. Rose is a world-class player and his great back nine to win a tournament shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Although conditions were by far the most difficult of the week on Sunday, I don’t think anyone could foresee DJ shooting 77.
Jeff Ritter, digital development editor, GOLF.com (@Jeff_Ritter): I certainly didn’t expect the World No. 1 to cough up a six-shot lead. It wasn’t a shock to see Rose make a Sunday charge, but the surprise of the weekend was his new goatee.
Josh Sens, contributing writer, GOLF Magazine (@JoshSens): Agreed, Jeff. For a second, I thought he was Justin Timberlake. DJ’s stumble was a big surprise, but that’s what’s so wonderfully mystifying about the game. No one is immune to the hiccups, and no one can predict exactly when or where they’ll come.
Joe Passov, senior editor, GOLF Magazine (@joepassov): Definitely, DJ’s stumble is the bigger surprise. I mean, it’s only happened twice before, right — where someone blew a six-shot lead — so this is pretty rare. Of course, this stuff has happened to DJ before, and it also seems to me that Rose has benefitted from many a back-door win and high finish. Rose never seems to dominate, he just shows up every so often on big occasions and plays better than everybody else, especially down the stretch. This is an easy comparison, with Norman losing his six-shot lead at the 1996 Masters: Yes, Norman played terrible, but credit Faldo for superior play in tough conditions. Same with Rose here. Tip your hat to him. Brooks Koepka and Henrik Stenson had their chances as well but hit lousy shots at just the wrong time.
2. Will this Sunday swoon scar DJ, or has he already forgotten about it?
Wood: He has already forgotten about it. I mean, this is a LONG flight home, and my mind has had time to bounce from slicker World Series baseballs to the Twin Peaks reboot to “gosh my neck hurts” to “I wonder if I have time to Uber to In-N-Out Burger during my layover in L.A.” I would expect DJ to be completely over this by the time wheels touch down for him.
Ritter: Totally agree. DJ survived several major-championship blunders earlier in his career before finally winning one and rising to No. 1. After all of that, no reason to think one bad round in China will have any lingering effects.
Sens: Without delving into too deep of a psychological study, let’s just say that DJ does not seem like the type to dwell.
Passov: DJ is somewhat legendary for forgetting about negative stuff very quickly. Sure, there’s inevitable scar tissue, but if this guy could overcome his blown big leads, his suspension and injury issues, his sand-filled rules mishap at the 2010 PGA and his bump-filled three-putt to lose the 2015 U.S. Open only to come back and rise to No. 1 in 2016-17, then I don’t think this hiccup will affect him at all.
3. Tiger Woods pleaded guilty to reckless driving on Friday stemming from his May 29 arrest, and he’ll now enter a diversion program and spend a year on probation. How much do you expect these off-the-course issues to weigh on Tiger as he (seemingly) works his way back into shape to rejoin the Tour?
Wood: Not at all. He’s focused on getting healthy and getting back into tournament shape. I don’t think any off-the-course issues will come into play.
Ritter: I think Tiger is a prideful and private person. The DUI is another embarrassment, though not as devastating to his reputation as the sex scandal (but it’s more dangerous to his health, and the health of other drivers). I think the DUI may distract slightly, but more than anything it could serve as fuel for this comeback attempt. That mugshot isn’t how he wants the public to remember him.
Sens: Hard to imagine the DUI and diversion program weighing too heavily on his conscious mind. But that’s also kind of irrelevant. The off-course damage has already been done, and the way that damage undermined his image (and, one suspects, his self-image) is hard to disentangle from many of the on-course struggles he has had.
Passov: Tiger is prideful and private, yes, and also smart. He’ll learn exactly what he should from this, and move on, with a minimum of fuss. This won’t affect his golf game and that’s his focus now. We’re so distracted and ADD-addled as a society that I don’t even know if this reckless driving issue will ever come up in casual conversation among fans or among sponsors or clients who hire him to design courses.
4. The USGA announced that Pebble Beach will host the 2027 U.S. Open, meaning a slew of classic Open courses — Shinnecock, Winged Foot, Torrey, The Country Club, LA CC, Pinehurst, Oakmont and Pebble — will host the national championship for at least the next decade. After two of the last three years saw rookie venues in Chambers Bay and Erin Hills (with mixed reviews), is it safe to say the “newcomer experiment” is over?
Wood: For the time being I would say yes. It seems there was quite a bit of blowback—from the horrible course conditions at Chambers Bay to what didn’t quite look or feel like a U.S. Open at Erin Hills (soft conditions, 31 players under par and a 16-under winning score). I think both could host U.S. Opens in the future, but Chambers would have to redesign some holes and be in much better shape, and the setup at Erin Hills would need to change drastically (narrower fairways, deeper rough and firmer conditions). It felt that during those two tournaments, the U.S. Open had lost its identity. I think we will see a return to the proven formula. Narrow, firm fairways, hard greens and penal rough. I’m meandering off on a tangent now, but the length of a golf course these days is irrelevant. It is not a valid defense anymore. I mean, to have the longest guys hit mid-irons, all par-4s would have to be 550 yards, which would mean only 10 to 15 guys have a chance.
Ritter: The new venues added intrigue, but like Mr. Wood says, they were ultimately disappointing. I don’t think the USGA is done taking gambles on new sites, but they’re going back to tried and true. It’s hard to look at the lineup of venues for the next decade and not get excited.
Sens: The whole democratizing experiment was worth trying but it didn’t pan out as everyone hoped and I suspect we’ve seen the last of it. There’s still an opportunity to bring fresh courses into the mix with other USGA championships. But, in the end, there’s a reason the British Open has a rota. Only so many courses are suited to it. In my lifetime, at least, I expect the U.S. Open to play out on the tried and true.
Passov: Although I’m as rabid a fan of classic courses as anyone, I have to wince here. I just can’t believe that everyone wants to return to old fashioned, grind it out, bow-and-arrow golf, with dense rough and small rock-hard greens. It’s a superb test of one kind of golf, but it mostly takes thinking out of the equation. Erin Hills could have been a great modern U.S. Open test, but due to the nightmares of the previous two years it was set up too easy — especially the greens — and the weather didn’t quite cooperate. But I still liked it better than taking an incredible course like Merion and burying it in rough, with greens speeds and firmness too much for the contours. Too much luck involved. Give me golf holes like the 18th at Gil Hanse’s Olympic Course in Rio, where Justin Rose had to outthink Henrik Stenson to win Gold. Strategic golf is always more fun.
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5. Emily Nash, a high school junior, shot the low score at her district competition as a member of the boys golf team, and while her score counted toward her team’s total, rules prohibited it from counting as an individual. That means she didn’t receive the first-place trophy (the boy who was four strokes behind her did) and she didn’t earn a state tournament berth. Even pro golfers were infuriated. Can you see any legitimate reason why a high school girl golfer should not be permitted to compete against the boys at that level?
Wood: No. There are rules and there are Rules. Someone needed to step in and say, “Sorry, but this is stupid, and we are going to look stupid. Nobody will look or feel good about this. Let’s use some common sense here, do the right thing and change this rule immediately.” I know the boy who finished four behind offered her the trophy, which she declined, but maybe he should have left it sitting on the table. I don’t think he’ll ever feel great about that trophy, knowing he didn’t shoot the lowest score.
Ritter: If you allow a girl to compete in a boys tournament, she’s gotta be eligible to win the trophy. It was an embarrassing ruling, but at least there’s a bright side: Emily Nash is now a name in the golf world, and she’ll have a lot of fans pulling for her in the years ahead.
Sens: Awful decision. After a year blighted by questionable on-course rulings, the bad decision-making has spilled off the course as well.
Passov: Hey, credit the boy who finished runner-up, for at least showing some dignity in offering her the trophy. That’s more than we can say for the rules-makers and administrators who presided over this farce.
6. The Shot Clock Masters is coming to the European Tour this summer, where players are penalized if they don’t hit their shot in the time allotted. Dustin Johnson said a shot clock on the PGA Tour would lead to “a lot” of penalties. Could you foresee a day when the PGA Tour would introduce a shot clock?
Wood: As a novelty, a postseason event, I could see it. I doubt it would ever happen in a real tournament. Dustin is right. Some days it would be OK. Others, like Sunday at the HSBC with swirling winds, penalties would have run rampant. I think it will be a fun experiment and tournaments looking for a niche might want to try it, but I don’t think it’ll ever go on the PGA Tour.
Ritter: Probably not, but it would be great to see the Tour put more emphasis on enforcing slow-play penalties. I’m curious to see how this shot-clock event in Europe plays out.
Sens: Yes, I could envision that day, at least, if TV ratings dropped low enough. I’d love to see a shot-clock implemented tomorrow. Pick up the pace. Many past generations of golfers were able to do it. There’s no reason today’s players can’t. And no, the huge amounts of money they play for is not a good excuse for today’s glacial pace.
Passov: I’ll say it again. I don’t care where the scores come in, if you would cut back on the rough and the hazards and especially slow down the greens, the guys would cut a half hour off their rounds, if not more. That’s all we need—not a shot clock.