Tour Confidential: Tiger’s Potential Return, John Daly’s HOF Case

May 2, 2016

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. John Daly will start a new chapter in his career this week when he makes his Champions tour debut at the Insperity Invitational outside of Houston. Looking back at what Daly has accomplished—two major wins and an Everyman, grip-it-and-rip-it appeal that has brought untold new fans to the game—does JD deserve consideration for a bust in the World Golf Hall of Fame? 

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: For sure. Fred getting in really lowered the bar. Angel Cabrera is getting in, too. Zach Johnson, yes. (Dustin Johnson, show us something, would you?) Davis: no brainer. I’d wait on Daly. The senior career can have more weight if we use to measure a player’s achievements. The three senior majors are serious business. 

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated (@MarkGodich): Andy North says hello. Daly has only five PGA Tour victories, and the boorish behavior has to be taken into account, doesn’t it?

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@GaryVanSickle): The fact that John Daly never qualified for a Ryder Cup team, nor was chosen for one, says it all. Hall of Fame? Nope.


Joe Passov, senior editor, Golf Magazine (@joepassov): If the World Golf Hall of Fame creates a Novelty Wing, sort of a sideshow attraction, John Daly is a slam dunk. Otherwise, forget it. I loved watching JD gripping it and ripping it, both in his heyday and beyond. However, the same issues that kept him from making a single Ryder Cup team, despite two majors, will keep him out of the hall.

Jeff Ritter, digital development editor, Sports Illustrated Golf Group (@Jeff_Ritter): I think he’s close. Two major titles are obviously big. My hall of fame test is, “Is this golfer’s career important to the story of the game of golf?” Daly’s win at the ’91 PGA at Crooked Stick was seismic, and he backed it up at a St. Andrews Open. Of course he’s also a colorful character and hugely popular, and I believe that matters at least a little to the HOF (call it the “Freddie Effect”). I think with a senior career that’s even modestly successful, he’s in. 

Josh Sens, contributing writer, GOLF Magazine (@JoshSens): Strictly speaking, his record qualifies him, but induction at this point doesn’t feel quite right. That said, I like the idea of the Novelty Wing (weird swings, crazy nicknames, madcap antics). If they ever do build it, that’s where I’d spend the afternoon. 

Passov: Now that would be fun, Josh. Maybe that’s our next project: Nominations for the Novelty Wing.

Sens: Ok. I’ll start, Joe. Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey. Word has it he plays with two gloves. Or maybe Eamonn Darcy for a swing that makes Furyk’s look conventional. 

Passov: Josh, I’ll give you 10-time Tour winner Ky Laffoon (once took a pistol from his trunk and shot his putter three times) and Johnny Bulla (thrice a runner-up in majors, he played with a golf ball sold at Walgreens) and raise you a Moe Norman, the eccentric Canadian. When once told the hole was a “Drive and an 8-iron,” he hit 8-iron from the tee, then smoked a driver onto the green.

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2. Davis Love III told our Ryan Asselta last week that he would consider making Tiger Woods a playing-captain at the Ryder Cup in September if Woods returns this season and is “playing well.” If you’re in Love’s shoes, how well would Woods need to be playing for you to use one of your four picks on him? 

Bamberger: As Dan Rather used to say, the chances of Tiger playing in the RC this year are slim and none, and slim just left town. But Davis is giving the man a goal, and that’s what a friend does. 

Ritter: Slim just called to say that Tiger would need to stay healthy, win at least one event and show well in several others before being seriously considered. And then he hung up on me. 

Godich: Agree with Michael. I don’t know how Davis could be any more vague with the criteria. And are you really going to burn a pick on a guy whose back could go out at any moment? 

Passov: No matter how unlikely it might appear right now that Tiger will be in that kind of form by August, it can’t hurt to dangle that carrot. Having said that, the exhausting amount of speculating and second-guessing about captain’s picks should be extinguished as soon as possible. Yes, it gives us all something to talk about, but those picks have had zero positive effect on U.S. outcomes over the past decade. We’d be better off picking out of a hat.

Sens: Also, let’s remember the context: Love was asked the question. He didn’t bring it up out of the blue. Once faced with query, he gave the only possible answer he could. No upside to issuing a flat-out ‘no.’ 

Van Sickle: Tiger would have to win or string so many top-5 finishes together that his consistency was unmistakable. One mistake most of the older (and losing) American Ryder Cup captains has been picking players who were their contemporaries thinking they still played like the guy they remembered, not the guy they are now. So Tiger would have to prove plenty.

3. Whispers that Tiger Woods might return to the Tour at the Wells Fargo Championship next week proved to be just that. From what you’ve seen and heard from Woods over the past couple of weeks, when do you think we will see him back in action.

Godich: He’ll be back for a tournament at which he has ridiculous success: the Memorial. It will give him a gauge of where his game is heading into Oakmont. 

Bamberger: Players. 

Ritter: Barring a setback, Woods won’t stay on the sidelines for a second consecutive major championship. That means either Bamberger or Godich will soon be proven correct. And whichever event it is, it might as well go ahead and add Ringling Brothers as a title sponsor. 

Passov: I watched him up close at the Bluejack National opening this past Monday, playing his first holes since August. It was fun to see him swinging away, walking without a limp. Yet, he admitted to David Feherty that he was rusty, and that his speed and power needed to come back. He’s just about there, but a month sounds about right. I’ll go with Mark’s pick of Memorial, the first week of June.

Sens: The Players would be nice. He could keep the driver in the bag and the jet in the hangar. But given the rust and power issues he acknowledges, Jack’s place does seem about right. 

Van Sickle: Let me know when Tiger plays 18 holes of golf, anywhere, four days in a row. Then he can think about coming back. Will that happen in the next week in time for the Players? I don’t know. I’ll go with The Memorial. It gives him a big test before the U.S. Open to see if he’s ready.

4. Kevin Kisner was suspended from his home club, Palmetto Golf Club in Aiken, S.C., for filming a Vice Sports video that showed him and his buddies racing golf carts and guzzling beers at the club. Did the punishment fit the crime?

Bamberger: I don’t know, but it hurts. Palmetto is about as pure as it gets. But I’m sure he can get on the public Aiken Golf Club course, also a gem. 

Godich: Absolutely. It wasn’t exactly Mr. Kisner’s finest moment.

Passov: I’m completely confused as to how this “video” was greenlighted in the first place. I mean, the club had to know about it, right? After watching the video, I wasn’t appalled with anything, even as I’ll defend any club’s rights to enforce its rules. Sure, it was boys acting like boys, but they didn’t do anything that isn’t done at any other club I know of. Maybe the cart race at the beginning was foolish, as somebody really could get hurt, or property damaged … but drinking beer? Gambling? At Bushwood? In Casablanca? I’m shocked, shocked!

Sens: As John Daly once said, “I hate them rules and crap.” But the club has every right to have them and to enforce them. Kisner being a Tour pro gives him no special exemption. Guys in his salary bracket already get enough of them around tax time. 

Ritter: Right, Josh. It’s totally up to the club. And doesn’t Aiken have a go-kart track?

Van Sickle: I’m not sure what was dumber: doing what Kisner and his pals did or posting it online. I think the punishment fit the crime for doing it. For posting it online, I’d kick his butt out of the club.

5. Golf stats whiz Mark Broadie computed the win probability for a hypothetical golfer with a fixed skill at most of the PGA Tour stroke-play events from 2011-15. His conclusion: The PGA Championship is the toughest tournament to win. Do you agree?

Bamberger: I like Mark Broadie’s initials. I am bored by the effort to turn golf into a game played on paper. What does the phrase even mean? Not much to me. 

Godich: It’s tough to answer a question that you can’t comprehend, but logic tells me that any event that includes 20 club professionals can’t be the toughest to win. I’ll take the Players Championship, only because the World Golf Ranking (flawed as it might be) tells us it features the strongest field in golf.

Passov: My middle name is Mark. Does that count for something? Anyway, I’m with the two old guys here, MB and MG, that are a bit mystified by the conclusion. My problem comes with defining the terms. “Toughest to win,” may have one conclusion by Mr. Brodie’s measures, but we don’t have to buy it. I’ll argue the Players has the best field, which would fit one definition of “toughest,” but my pick is the U.S. Open. Even with all of those qualifiers and regional amateurs and such, a typical U.S. Open serves up the most demanding test. Combine that with the implications from winning–you would be the U.S. Open champion–makes it the “toughest” for me.

Ritter: No other event punishes the field like the U.S. Open, so I like Joe’s pick. I’d also single out the Masters, which may not boast the same strength of field, but I seem to recall that Augusta’s intense Sunday pressure can occasionally produce some surprising finishes.

Sens: I’m with Joe. You combine the magnitude of the event with the difficulty of the setup and the quality of the field and, well, I’m not crunching any numbers here, but that’s a sum total that I can pretty much eyeball. U.S. Open gets my nod. 

Van Sickle: I could not disagree more with Mr. Broadie. Due to the usual summer heat, the PGA’s greens are usually watered to keep them alive. Thus the greens are receptive. You saw Jason Day get to 20 under par last summer at Whistling Straits, a record score, and he needed it to beat Jordan Spieth. I don’t know how you define toughest to win but since the PGA often has the easiest scoring conditions, it’s definitely not the toughest. The U.S. Open is more difficult, the Masters has more pressure and risky holes and the British Open carries the weight of history. I don’t get it.

6. We’re four months through the calendar year. What’s been the biggest surprise on the PGA Tour in 2016?

Bamberger: Jim Herman’s win (positive). Jordan’s seven on 12 at Augusta (negative).

Ritter: Jordan’s swing after taking the drop on 12, and the resulting welcome-mat-sized divot.

Godich: Raise your hand if you didn’t concede the Masters to Jordan Spieth after he holed the birdie putt at the 9th hole on Sunday.

Passov: Raise your other hand if you thought Adam Scott would be leading the FedEx Cup point standings, by a wide margin, heading into May. By the way, I had to look that up. I just knew that Scott was enjoying a superb season, much to my surprise. I figured without his anchored putter, he was as good as done. Instead, he’s resembled the guy we saw in 2013. We just won’t see him in the Olympics.

Sens: For shock on the Richter scale, nothing matches Spieth’s disaster at 12 on Sunday, though Ernie’s six-putt on the opening hole was a very sad stunner. Not an earth-shattering surprise, but seeing both Fowler and Mickelson miss the cut at Augusta was unexpected, as was Rory’s fade to black on the weekend. 

Ritter: Good point on Ernie, Josh. “Six-putting” was a concept I had never previously considered. Now I think about it often while standing over my own 40-footers. Good times. 

Van Sickle: I agree with Joe. I didn’t think Scott would be competitive once he gave up the long stick. His wins were remarkable and proved me wrong. I haven’t seen many other ex-belly putters rise up, though, so I guess we will see. Scott stands as the pleasant surprise of the year.

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