Eyeballing Fowler's win, Tiger's MC
And is Mickelson's Hall call, while deserved, a bit premature?
Rickie Fowler claimed his maiden victory at the Wells Fargo Championship on Sunday, but what does that mean for the 23-year-old going forward?
And what of Tiger Woods' missed cut at Quail Hollow? Will he return this week at the Players Championship as a man on a mission?
Our experts analyze all that and more in our latest edition of Monday Four-Ball.
1. How important was it for Rickie Fowler to get that first victory off the bucket list?
Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: Huge monkey off the back. For him getting that first win with all the commercial endorsement deals he had, the pressure of not becoming golf's Anna Kournikova was big. But now he's beaten the world's No. 1 golfer twice. Expect win No. 2 to come sooner rather than later.
Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: With the win at Quail Hollow, Rickie Fowler has to feel a great sense of relief. He beat a world-class field that included most of his 2010 Ryder Cup teammates. It should also help his confidence that Rory McIlroy was one of the players he beat in the playoff. Because if Fowler's going to be reach his full potential, he's going to have to regularly beat McIlroy over the next 20 years.
Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: It was huge. Now he doesn't have to answer those questions anymore, and it relieves a burden that he might not have acknowledged but was clearly there. That doesn't mean the pressure will subside, but at least he's got one victory and can use the confidence to build toward more.
Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Enormously important. Every great player has fond memories of his first victory and Fowler can now look back with fond memories of Quail Hollow. He knows that he stuffed a pressure shot in tight on the first playoff hole to win with a birdie, holding off two players, including arguably the superstar of his generation, Rory McIlroy. That confidence will do wonders for Fowler going forward, especially winning on such a major-caliber golf course.
Plus, you can't get your second victory until you've notched your first.
2. More likely at TPC Sawgrass this week -- a Tiger victory or a Tiger missed cut?
Michael Collins: Missed cut much more likely than a win, especially the way he's played his last two tournaments. He is so inconsistent now. It's been so long since he's had any kind of success at TPC Sawgrass that I can't think of anyone who'd be shocked if he missed the cut -- other than Tiger himself.
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Farrell Evans: Tiger is going to be inconsistent as long as he plays golf swing, instead of golf. Right now everything has to go perfect for him to win and that rarely ever happens in golf. He'll finish somewhere in the middle of the pack.
Bob Harig: Neither, although if pressed, I'd lean toward a missed cut. It has nothing to do with Tiger's recent woes, but simply his inability to play very well at Sawgrass over the years. He won in 2001 and since then has a single top-10 -- eighth in 2009, when he was in the final group. Last year he made it through just nine holes due to injury and he was well out of it two years ago when he withdrew during the final round.
Kevin Maguire: Tough call. I actually don't think either will happen, but if forced to pick one, I'd say missed cut even if he's only done that eight times in his career. Yes, he only MC'd by a shot at Quail Hollow, but that likely would have been more if he hadn't gotten such a favorable ruling from a PGA Tour official in Round 2. Woods did nothing wrong to get the ruling, mind you, but the situation could have turned out much worse for him.
3. Where does the Players Championship rank -- after the majors -- in terms of top worldwide golf tournaments?
Michael Collins: Right behind the Wells Fargo Championship. As much as the tour wants it to be the fifth major, it's not. Raise the purse as high as you want, it's not a better course. I've never heard one bad word about Quail Hollow, but I've heard plenty of guys that don't like TPC Sawgrass. And if it's truly the "PGA Tour Players Championship," then why do you allow non-members to play?
Farrell Evans: The Players is special. It has the island green at TPC Sawgrass' 17th and it's the PGA Tour's baby. The field is usually stronger than all but one of the majors -- the PGA Championship. But it's not a fifth major as some would like to brand it. It's just a little more prestigious than the WGCs.
Bob Harig: It is unquestionably next after the four majors. Some might argue the World Golf Championships, but those fields are not as deep, and not having a cut takes away the pressure and incentive that comes with a full-field Players on a tough venue. The Players typically has more of the top 100 players in the world than any tournament, and it is played on an iconic if not controversial golf course, too.
Kevin Maguire: I'll call it No. 5, but definitely not the fifth major. The WGCs are close, but since they aren't full-field events like the Players, they fall a hair short.
I've never been one to say the media or fans determine what a major is. The golfers do that. As classy as Bubba Watson's move to stay home this week to spend time with his wife and newly adopted son was, I wonder if he'd do that if this was the U.S. Open? I'd bet Bubba would still stay home, but I'm not sure many others would.
4. With Phil Mickelson going into the Hall of Fame this week, the starting age for entry (40) becomes a hot topic. Is that too young, too old or just right?
Michael Collins: Way too young. Especially now with so many guys playing great golf well into their early 50s. If a guy retires from golf completely at 40 and is qualified to get in, then sure. But if the player isn't dead, then wait until they're at least 60 to do the ceremony.
Farrell Evans: That's way too young. Phil Mickelson has another decade on the PGA Tour. The HOF age eligibility should come at least three years after a player has retired from the regular tour. Hall of Fame inductions should reward a player's whole career, and nowadays a guy at 40 on the PGA Tour should be a long way from cashing in his chips.
Bob Harig: Way too young. It makes no sense to have a player who is still an integral competitor going into the Hall of Fame when his career is far from complete. Mickelson nearly won the Masters last month and he'll be among the favorites at the U.S. Open next month. He could win five, 10, 15 more PGA Tour events, perhaps more majors. And he's going into the Hall now? Of course he is deserving, but it's way too early. Voters vote him in because he was there to be voted on. But the Hall should make the minimum age 50, and might even help promote the Champions Tour in the process.
Kevin Maguire: What's the rush? Why such an arbitrary number as 40? Thirty years ago maybe golfers were on the downside of their careers, but guys like Vijay Singh and Steve Stricker clearly showed that players in their 40s can still win at a good clip on the PGA Tour.
Why not make it part of joining the Champions Tour so when guys turn 50 it's a big soiree and a greater celebration of the senior circuit?
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