SI Vault
PGA Tour Confidential
Michael Bamberger
December 14, 2009
SI convened a meeting of its golf experts—senior writers Michael Bamberger, Damon Hack, Alan Shipnuck and Gary Van Sickle—and a PGA Tour pro (who participated on the condition of anonymity) to address the new grooves rule, Tiger's fall from grace, the Great Recession's impact on professional golf and other issues
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December 14, 2009

Pga Tour Confidential

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Anonymous Pro: I think he's a lock to win the British Open at St. Andrews. He's 2 for 2 there, and I don't care which holes they've lengthened: He doesn't have to hit driver, his weakest club, and if he does, he's got a couple of football fields to land his ball in. He can also buzz that low two-iron around the course and avoid all the bunkers.

Shipnuck: There is more variability in Tiger's game. He seems to lose his swing for a round. He has more Phil in him now. I guess it's possible Tiger could go to Whistling Straits with three majors in his hip pocket. Pebble Beach [the U.S. Open venue] and St. Andrews are his houses, and he's up there in practically every Masters. But it's also possible that he could get skunked again in the majors.

Hack: I wrote about how everything set up perfectly for him last year too. Well, the landscape is changing. I think Tiger wins five, six or seven tournaments next year and gets a fourth claret jug at St. Andrews, but I'm not sure about a Masters or a U.S. Open. I'm becoming more convinced that Augusta doesn't set up as well for him as it once did.

Anonymous Pro: Until Tiger gets his driving under control, the majors will be the hardest events for him to win. He's gone awry since he went to the 45-inch graphite shaft. You can't believe how much of a difference an inch makes on your driver. He could lose an inch and still hit it 305 or 310, and start hitting fairways too. Publicly, Tiger falls back on, "Oh, that's the worst I've putted in my life." But his putting is still better than most of ours. He's hiding his bad driving behind his putting. Once he concedes that his driving stinks, he'll fix it and go back to winning by 10. Not that I'm rooting for that. He's simply that good.


Anonymous Pro: Phil Mickelson is back. I've always been a big Butch Harmon fan, and Phil's work with Butch has really paid off. Phil's misses with his driver are playable now. You didn't notice his swing improvements because they were overshadowed by his abysmal putting. Now that Dave Stockton helped his stroke, Phil has so much confidence, he doesn't care where he drives it. Yeah, that's the old Phil we know and love. He has his swagger back.

Bamberger: Phil will have a great year, but it will be a weird year because he always has weird years. He looks like Nicklaus, then he misses putts and starts switching clubs. At the end of the day, he never looks as ready to win every time out as Tiger does.

Van Sickle: Is Phil ever going to get that U.S. Open?

Bamberger: He had a beautiful chance this year, didn't he?

Anonymous Pro: I see Phil contending at the Masters and the PGA. In fact, I think Tiger will have a tough time beating Phil in Augusta. Phil has to be the favorite.

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