On Our Minds
GolfDigest.com assembles a collection of writers and editors to talk about a summer of surprise winners, where Tiger is headed, and where they'd like to bring a major championship
Sam Weinman, Senior Editor, GolfDigest.com Welcome everybody and thanks for joining us for our PGA Championship roundtable. Before we look ahead to Whistling Straits, let's first look back at what we saw at St. Andrews, where the runaway winner was a player most casual golf fans would have a hard time identifying. The U.S. Open winner, Graeme McDowell, may have been a bit more of a known entity, but I doubt he was on many of our picks list that week. Gentlemen, what's going on out there?
Jaime Diaz, Senior Writer, Golf Digest and Golf World: It certainly speaks to the depth in today's game. I think the uniformity in swing technique, the dedication to fitness that almost all the players have, the increased understanding of the mental side, and players maximizing their particular idiosyncrasies with super-customized equipment makes the difference between the very best and the rest smaller than ever. In a way, it's turned the top of the game into more of a putting contest than ever.
Ron Sirak, Executive Editor, Golf World: It probably also speaks to the fact that we in America are too quick to overlook the golf being played in the rest of the world, because both McDowell and Louis Oosthuizen weren't necessarily surprises to fans overseas.
E. Michael Johnson, Senior Editor, Golf World: Ron's right. Just because they weren't on our picks list doesn't mean they're not great players. The men's game is deep in talent.
Craig Bestrom, Senior Editor, Golf Digest: This isn't a recent trend. It's professional golf as we've known it most of our lives. Oosthuizen and McDowell are no different than Cink and Yang. Cabrera and Immelman. Weir and Zach Johnson. Charles Coody and Lou Graham. Hopefully the newest major champions last a little longer than Todd Hamilton and Michael Campbell, but if Tiger isn't dominating, there are 100 guys who can win at every major.
Tim Rosaforte, Senior Writer, Golf Digest and Golf World: We're going to see more of the Oosthuizens and McDowells as long as Tiger is in this holding pattern. If you know enough about global golf, these victories shouldn't be surprising. If you're a general sports fan, you rightfully say, "Who are these guys?" My wife couldn't watch the British Open and she loves watching majors on TV. She's a tennis fan and I said, "It's kind of like one of the grand slam events without Federer and Nadal. She came back saying she'd take the golf equivalent of a Djokovic.
Diaz: I think the big X factor these days is desire. Because so many players make such a comfortable living in today's game, it takes a special person to keep pushing like the old guys -- who weren't getting rich unless they were winning -- did.
Bestrom: There's the best point so far. Too many also-rans are making millions. During a Golf Digest meeting yesterday, I heard that Matt Kuchar and Jeff Overton are having GREAT years. Great? Since when is ZERO wins and a few top-10 finishes great?
Johnson: Kuchar isn't an also-ran. He might not have any wins this year, but since the end of last year he has the most top 10s of anyone on tour (10 in his last 21 events). Anytime you're top 10 nearly half the time, you're not an also-ran.
Rosaforte: Kuchar's an overachiever, not an also-ran.
Weinman: Granted, a lot of the parity on tour this season is a reflection of one guy in particular not being close to where he's been in the past. Tiger's ball-striking may have indeed been better at St. Andrews, but on the greens he appears lost. Where do we all see him by season's end?
Sirak: I've walked the majority of holes Tiger has played this year and while he is hitting it better, I don't think he is hitting it as well as he says he is. At least that's not what I am seeing. Combine that with all those the putts that aren't falling, and I think this is a long-term repair project. I say he doesn't win this year.
Johnson: Don't you guys think this week at Bridgestone might speak volumes? The man has won an awful lot there in the past (seven times). A lackluster finish there could indicate a lost season.
Bestrom: If he qualifies for the Tour Championship, Tiger probably only plays six more PGA Tour events this year. It's not at all far-fetched to say he won't win in 2010.
Rosaforte: I disagree. Bridgestone, TPC-Boston, Cog Hill, East Lake. He's a long way from the missed cut at Quail Hollow and the subsequent WD from the Players. He's trending toward a W.
Johnson: Ten bucks says he gets one.
Rosaforte: I should add that I don't see it happening at Whistling Straits. I played there on the Friday before St. Andrews and anything off the fairway is almost unplayable. Maybe he's not far off, but on a course as penal as this one, he'll be lucky to play on the weekend. Besides, I still think Tiger's knee is hurting almost as much as his head.
Sirak: I'm not sure I believe Tiger when he says he is 100 percent physically.
Diaz: I don't see Tiger limping in any way, or any hold back in his swing. I think he's fine physically. What I see hurting him more than anything are the momentum-killing mistakes -- putting and otherwise -- that he used to be the very best at avoiding. That all speaks to a lack of competitive toughness. I think that will come again, but it's going to take time. Probably beyond this year.
Bestrom: Whatever the problem, Tiger struggling isn't good for golf. Which brings up the question: How can golf get back into the first five minutes of SportsCenter?
Diaz: Except for majors, it shouldn't be on the first five minutes. It takes a genius doing genius stuff. Tiger is the only guy like that, and they only come around five times or so a century. Sorry, Phil isn't one of them.
Weinman: You need sustainable storylines. You can't have a guy win a major and then disappear for months. Whether it's Louis Oosthuizen or Tiger, people need context when they see golf. They need to know the guy in contention now is the same guy who tore apart St. Andrews last month. Otherwise it's just a bunch of names and good-looking swings.