Tour Confidential: Can Jason Day Pass Jordan Spieth as Player of the Year?

August 31, 2015
Jason Day Barclays.jpg

Every Sunday night, conducts an e-mail roundtable with writers from Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.

1. Jason Day followed an emotional PGA Championship victory by winning The Barclays to open the FedEx Cup Playoffs on Sunday. What else does Day have to do to top Jordan Spieth as Player of the Year? Or is it too little too late?

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@GaryVanSickle): If Jason Day wins all four legs of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, then he will be… nahhh. Spieth’s two majors and two near-misses still tops that. The Tour Championship has only 30 players—it’s hardly even a tournament. Spieth is your Player of the Year. Good on ya, mate, to Day for making us even think about Player of the Year.

Jeff Ritter, senior editor, SI Golf Group (@JeffRitter): Given that Spieth has turned in one of the most incredible major seasons ever, it’s astonishing that we can even have this debate. Day is an underdog, but let’s see…if he wins another playoff event and then bags the $10 million bonus…you know what? It’s still not enough. Spieth trumps it. He’s POY. Let’s move on.

Josh Sens, contributing writer, GOLF Magazine: (@JoshSens): If he can put a halt to global warming at some point in the next few weeks I’ll give him the nod. Otherwise too late, which is no slight on Day. Spieth’s season was the most dominant in the game since early vintage Tiger.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Oh, Spieth could miss every cut for the rest of the year and Day could win the 10 large and all the rest and Spieth is still my player of the year. Win, win, shot out of a playoff and solo second in the four events the sports world actually follows and remembers? This year belongs to Spieth.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@AlanShipnuck): Two majors versus one is probably the bottom line for most people, but if Day wins another playoff event—which seems inevitable, at this writing—and takes the Cup he’d have a *very* compelling case.

Eamon Lynch, managing editor, (@EamonLynch): Day is putting together a terrific season, and is a worthy champion, but winning a wheelbarrow cash grab masquerading as playoffs does not top Spieth’s record in the major events that matter.

Brendan Mohler, assistant editor, (@bmohler09): Jason Day has to win the FedEx Cup to even be considered for Player of the Year honors, which would likely require another playoff victory depending on what Jordan Spieth does the next few weeks. Another W would give Day one more win than Jordan (5-4) but does little besides make the competition a bit more interesting. Spieth’s two-major season still takes the cake.

2. Jordan Spieth missed the cut at The Barclays and will give the No. 1 spot in the OWGR back to Rory McIlroy. Does this reflect poorly on the rankings to have players move to No. 1 without playing the previous week?

VAN SICKLE: Players can move up the rankings fairly quickly but the rankings are far too slow to recognize poor play. The fact that Spieth had the year he had and fell out after one week says it all about the ranking’s flaws. Rory was No. 1 last year. Spieth is No. 1 this year, no matter what the stats say. The part I dislike is that these flawed rankings are used to determine spots in the field for majors, and other events.

RITTER: No matter how you calibrate it, the OWGR will never be spotless. It’s biggest flaw is the weight given to two-year-old results. The best player this season is Spieth. The best player right now is Day. And the top-ranked player is…Rory? The rankings have the correct top three, but in the wrong order.

SENS: The more closely you inspect the ranking system, the more flaws you find in it. A quick fluctuation like we just saw is only further evidence. The rankings make for good fodder for headlines and occasional debates around the bar, but better not to invest too much more in them than that.

BAMBERGER: I would say it does but I barely understand how the ranking system works and I am dubious of people who claim they do.

SHIPNUCK: It’s not a big deal, that’s just how the math works. The funny thing is right now Rory is only the third-best player in golf.

LYNCH: The world golf rankings are so byzantine in nature that the only possible surprise left would be finding out that Tommy Aaron isn’t ranked anymore.

MOHLER: The world ranking has always been flawed and this is just the latest evidence. That said, the top spot should have to be defended and a back-and-forth like what I hope we’re about to see between Rory and Jordan is something rare in golf. Let’s embrace it while we can.


3. U.S. captain Juli Inkster tabbed Paula Creamer and Brittany Lang to be her Solheim Cup wild card picks. What do you think of her choices?

VAN SICKLE: Inkster went the non-controversy route, picking the players who ranked in the next two spots on the points list. I can’t make a strong case that anyone else should’ve been picked instead. Inkster went with the chalk.

RITTER: Lang was an easy choice. Creamer has had a rocky season, but she’s 12-6-5 in five previous Solheims and always brings extra fire to the event. She’s earned one free pass onto a team, and this is it.

SENS: Great. Fiery competitors who really get into team events. What more could you ask?

BAMBERGER: Juli knows best.

SHIPNUCK: Lang is a solid choice and the Creamer pick is awesome because it’s brought a big buzz—can America’s Sweetheart right herself or will she drag down the U.S. side? The fact that we’re even debating this is good news for the Solheim.

LYNCH: Captains picks are often more about heart than form, which is clearly the case with Creamer. That can sometimes work out—witness Greg Norman’s pick of Adam Scott at the Presidents Cup in 2009—but often falls flat, like Tom Watson opting for Webb Simpson at last year’s Ryder Cup. Inkster will be second-guessed anyway, so she might as well go with her heart instead of her head.

MOHLER: Inkster has taken plenty slack for picking Creamer, but it’s conveniently gone unpublicized that Creamer and Lang were the next two players unpicked in the Solheim Cup standings. Creamer may not be playing her best golf as of late, but Inkster likely avoided even more unwanted attention had she left Paula off the list.

4. The week’s Donald-Ross designed Plainfield Country Club received lots of praise despite it being a short track that long hitters took advantage of. Should the Tour visit similar courses more often, or have power players rendered great old designs obsolete?

VAN SICKLE: It’s not just the old classics that today’s big hitters have rendered obsolete. Ditto for Whistling Straits. Look, 370 used to be a Happy Gilmore-length ridiculous drive and Jason Day and Bubba Watson and others are making it commonplace. Even 350 isn’t much of a big deal now. Plainfield’s old Ross greens kept the winner from shooting 30-under, but the ball and the game have gotten away from the USGA and R&A. It’s a shame.

SENS: Absolutely. It’s a refreshing change from the same old bomb and gouge. And nor was this event all about distance. Day nabbed it in large part because his putting was phenomenal.

BAMBERGER: I loved seeing Plainfield C.C. hosting a Tour event. It’s a long, long season—far too long—and the Tour does a good job of changing speeds and going to different types of courses. There will always be a place in golf for the Golden Age courses.


LYNCH: Many wonderful courses are obsolete for Tour events, but advances in equipment and the corresponding rise of more power players is only partially responsible. The Tour is focused more on logistics, the need to accommodate infrastructure and corporate hospitality, for which many older courses lack space. The quality of the venues we see on Tour would be mitigated if we weren’t subjected to the same tediously predictable course setup each week.

MOHLER: Plainfield isn’t a long course, but had Jason Day not won by six shots this probably wouldn’t even be a question. The Ross design dominated many of the world’s best players (i.e. Jordan Spieth) and certainly looked better on TV than, say, Firestone. Fans like seeing birdies.


5. Next week Golf Magazine will unveil the new Top 100 courses in the world and Top 100 in the USA. Pine Valley (above) has long topped both lists as the best. What is your No. 1 course in the U.S. and world?

VAN SICKLE: Augusta National should be the No. 1 course. It has kept up with the modern game, length-wise, and now puts a premium on every part of the game. It is, year in and year out, the best overall test of all the majors. Pine Valley is great but too short for tour pros. Pebble Beach is terrific, too, but the last redesign made it too difficult for resort guests, thus losing points in my eyes. My honorable mention vote goes to the muny course at Pacific Grove right up the road from Pebble, the most fun golf course per dollar in America.

RITTER: I rank courses based solely on one criteria: personal enjoyment. My favorite course in the world is the Old Course at St. Andrews, and I doubt anything will ever knock it off the pedestal. My favorite course in the U.S. is Manele GC on Hawaii’s tiny Lanai island. It runs high along Pacific cliffs, it has ocean views on all 18 holes, and I got engaged on the beach about a mile down the road. Its place atop my list is very secure.

SENS: It’s hard to imagine much upheaval ever taking place at the very top of the rankings. So how about we keep it to courses that the rest of us actually have a chance to play. In that category, I’ll go with Pacific Dunes in the U.S. And for the sheer fun of the experience, the charm of the locations and the quality of the designs combined, I’ll put Cruden Bay in Scotland and Barnbougle Dunes in a tie at the top internationally. You’ll find more prestigious courses and no doubt better designs, but hard to imagine having a better time anywhere.

BAMBERGER: I distinguish between inland and seaside, and I’m moody on the subject, but today I’m going with Pine Valley on the former and National Golf Links in the latter.

SHIPNUCK: I love and appreciate Pine Valley but it’s hard for me to get that excited about an inland course—any inland course. Pebble Beach is way more fun and spectacular than PV and will always be my domestic number one. World wide, it’s Cruden Bay.

LYNCH: The Old Course in St. Andrews remains my number one, and only becomes more intriguing with each playing. In the USA, I give Pine Valley the nod as the best course, but my personal favorite is Cypress Point Club.

MOHLER: I’ve played Pine Valley, but my nod goes to Riviera, having recently played it for the first time on a rare day of mostly good ball-striking. As far as international, I’m too inexperienced in that department to answer with any conviction.

6. Brian Harman recorded two holes-in-one during the final round of The Barclays, and they came in a 12-hole span. He’s only the third player in PGA Tour history to sink a pair of aces in the same round. So, how many holes-in-one do you have?

VAN SICKLE: I’ve been stuck on seven aces for a number of years. Probably because I’m too busy working to play golf. (Psst, think the boss bought that?) I’ve made aces with everything from 3-iron to pitching wedge except 7- and 8-iron. My first was at Brown Deer’s 11th hole (185 yards) in 1978. I made another at Hillside in England. I made one at some hideous new track in Massachusetts when my 5-iron shot missed the green right, kicked off a bank onto the green and the club manager, who was in my group, had time to say, “Hey, that could…” Go in? Too late. It was already in. I doubled the next hole, thus playing that two-hole stretch in even par. Aces are a function of hitting a good shot on target, luck and mostly quantity. Play 100 rounds a year and you’ve got a chance to get one over 40 years. Play 20 rounds a year, I don’t like your chances.

RITTER: Zero. But I did have a bit part in one of best hole-in-one pranks in golf history.

SENS: Two. The second I had only one witness: my wife, who doesn’t care a whiff about golf and knows zilch about it. When the ball went in I said, “hole-in-one.” And she said, without looking up, “Is that good?”

BAMBERGER: One real one. My caddie talked me into the club. I didn’t think I could get his proffered club there and swung hard with my man’s self-esteem in mind. In it went. Thank you, Cobra.

SHIPNUCK: This is a stupid question. And Harman can piss off. (Obviously, zero.)

LYNCH: As many as I’ve deserved, which is none.

MOHLER: One, on the second hole at Stonewall’s North Course outside of Philly in a junior golf event in 2007. But my college coach at Franklin and Marshall, Andy Tompos, had two in a competitive round at Hershey CC’s West Course in 2001, and for as many times as I’ve heard the story it feels like I accomplished the feat myself.

The Tour Confidential roundtable continues Monday on our new weekly show hosted by Jessica Marksbury. Tweet her your questions @Jess_Marksbury.