Saturday, June 30, 2012
Updated: July 2, 1:13 PM ET
Can tour W's become major wins?
Talk about a wacky week in golf.
Golf fans got to see (OK, maybe "see" isn't the best word) a round played on the PGA Tour without spectators, a journeyman take a senior major and some guy named Eldrick notch his third victory of the season by July 1.
So what are we to make of Tiger Woods' triumph at Congressional?
Our experts dive in head first in our latest edition of Monday Four-Ball.
1. He's still ranked No. 4 in the world, but after a win Sunday, is Tiger Woods the best player in the game right now?
Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: Heck no! Briny Baird dominates everyone. And I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I'm looking to sell really cheap, too. Let me get this straight: In his past seven starts he's got three PGA Tour wins, which is more than the top three in the OWGR combined, and there's still a question as to who the best is right now? Is Ashton Kutcher going to bust through my door and tell me I'm being punk'd?
Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: It's not fair based just on these three wins to say that Tiger is better than the three players ranked ahead of him. And for me, it's hard to call a guy the best in the world who hasn't had a top-10 in a major so far this year. Jason Dufner has two wins, a T-4 at the U.S. Open and a second on the year. Dufner wasn't in the field in two of the tournaments that Tiger won. He's got just as good a claim to best in the world right now as the former No. 1.
Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: This is the subject for a good argument, but Woods has won three of his past seven tournaments and nobody else worldwide has matched his three wins. Bo Van Pelt, who played the final 36 holes at Congressional, said it well when he noted that the three players ahead of him -- Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood -- have not accomplished what Tiger has in 2012.
Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Absolutely. Who would you put ahead of him? He's got the most wins on the PGA Tour in 2012 with three and he's got the confidence and swagger back that we used to see from the old Tiger. The only thing missing is a major, and that might be only a couple of weeks away when the Open Championship kicks off at Royal Lytham and St. Annes.
2. Which aspect of Tiger's game impressed you most at Congressional?
Michael Collins: One bogey over the weekend. He hit only 61 percent of his greens on Saturday but had 25 putts, so he was seriously grinding, but his putter was responding. Sunday he hit 83 percent and had 31 putts. He let all the others make mistakes, and apparently he needs a crowd!
Farrell Evans: Tiger's short game was brilliant throughout the week. He converted some key up-and-downs from within a hundred yards that in the end probably made the difference in his victory.
Bob Harig: Putting. Especially his lag putting. Woods' former coach, Hank Haney, noted on Twitter that there were no 3-putts during the event, always a point he stressed. There were some strong par-saves with tough putts, and Woods said he putted far better than he did during his victory last month at the Memorial.
Kevin Maguire: On Sunday, I'd have to say his lag putting. He left himself some lengthy birdie putts and on almost every one of them, he had kick-in pars. Can't understate how much that helps the rest of his game knowing he doesn't have to knock every iron shot stiff or have to sweat over many 5-footers for par. That piece of mind pays dividends later in the round.
3. What does Tiger need to do to turn his PGA Tour success into major championship trophies?
Michael Collins: Nothing different. He's trending in a direction where a major win could be inevitable. It's all about hitting greens and making big putts when it counts. This past week he was ninth in strokes gained-putting. When it comes to majors, just like regular events, first one good round, then two, then three, then win. So far, he's at two.
Farrell Evans: Tiger needs to put together four good rounds in a major. He hasn't done that since the 2008 U.S. Open.
Bob Harig: Keep doing what he's doing. Woods led the U.S. Open through two rounds, then struggled over the weekend. But that doesn't mean he was far off. Majors can do that to players, and in some major-like conditions at Congressional, Woods responded. His putting came around, too, which is always a key.
Kevin Maguire: Actually, he already did it at the U.S. Open. Just by getting back in contention at the Olympic Club, he got reminded of the weekend leader nerves at a major. That experience will be invaluable as he gets himself back in the hunt again as he prepares for the Open Championship in a little more than two weeks.
4. How do you think Tiger will play this coming week at the Greenbrier Classic?
Michael Collins: For three straight rounds he hit only 61 percent of his greens, so he's going to have to improve that at Greenbrier if he wants to win again. But I see him being in contention again this coming week. I will confidently say a top-5 for Tiger in his first appearance at the Greenbrier Classic.
Farrell Evans: I expect him to win despite the fact that this is his first appearance in the tournament.
Bob Harig: Tough call here. Tiger has never seen the Greenbrier's Old White TPC course, and he's had a big advantage at the three courses he's won on this year. And while the Old White has been toughened a bit since Stuart Appleby shot 59 two years ago, it is still a course that requires a lot of birdies. It will be interesting to see how Woods approaches the course and the tournament -- with the Open Championship looming.
Kevin Maguire: Hard to say, especially since he's never played the tournament before. But the way he's striking his irons and in complete control of his game, the worst-case scenario is probably a top-20. But I'd give even money on a back-to-back victory.