Tour Confidential: A new major winner, surging Keegan and Tiger Woods’ silence
Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors as they break down the hottest topics in the sport, and join the conversation by tweeting us @golf_com. This week, we discuss Ruoning Yin’s KPMG Women’s PGA triumph, Keegan Bradley’s hot play and Tiger Woods’ silence on the PGA Tour-Saudi merger.
1. Ruoning Yin won the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship on Sunday at Baltusrol, holding off Yuka Saso and a charging Rose Zhang to win the women’s second major of the season. What most impressed you about Yin’s victory, and what were your thoughts on Baltusrol — which caught at least some criticism for its green edges — as a host venue?
Sean Zak, senior editor (@Sean_Zak): Look no further than the way she finished. Methodically working through missing the 18th fairway. Forced to lay up. Then absolutely attacking that back pin on 18 to set up her winning birdie putt. That was how Baltusrol played on Sunday. You had to take what it gave you and pick spots to attack. I think the course held up well as a host venue. It may not be the sexiest place to watch golf, but it’s still a bit of a beast. Tackling it for four straight days is a feat.
Josh Sens, senior writer (@joshsens): Funny game, golf. She rode her ball striking all day, with only the putter holding her back. But when everything was on the line, she had a rare miss with the driver and summoned a clutch putt. That showed a lot of steel. And she did when pretty much everyone else but Saso was stumbling toward the finish. As for the venue, the more we get to see the women at championship venues known for hosting the men, the better. Green edges? Pfft. Baltusrol was a good test, and its unusual back-to-back par 5 close left a lot of doors open to the very end.
Dylan Dethier, senior writer (@dylan_dethier): What impressed me was that we were focused on another 20-year-old on the leaderboard, Rose Zhang, but it was 20-year-old Yin who walked away with the title. I loved her fire down the stretch and the enjoyment she took from coming out on top of a jam-packed leaderboard. It was a great golf week to have two TV screens available, that’s for sure.
2. Keegan Bradley shot a final-round 68 to win a low-scoring Travelers Championship on Sunday. With two wins already this season, what’s been the key to Bradley’s resurgence this year and will be in Rome for the Ryder Cup?
Zak: There’s an oft-mentioned recipe to success on the PGA Tour: be one of the best ball-strikers and stay patient for the week when your putter gets hot. Well, Keegan is one of the best ball-strikers on the planet and, yes, his putter got hot. Bradley finished first in Strokes Gained: Approach and first in Strokes Gained: Putting. That’ll do it basically every single week. It’s exactly why he’s playing his way onto the Ryder Cup team at the moment.
Sens: Bradley answered this question for us by bowing repeatedly to his putter. He made everything, except for that rough patch down the stretch. I hope he’s on the team for the emotional fire he brings. But the potential roster is so deep— Bradley is one of a large handful of guys who could swap in or out and the team wouldn’t be losing or gaining enough for anyone to complain
Dethier: I sure hope so. The Ryder Cup is at its best when its rosters are composed of golfers who desperately want to be there, and Bradley certainly fits that description. But with Clark booking his ticket to Rome at last week’s U.S. Open and Bradley making a strong case this week, the selection process just got a whole lot spicier.
3. In an open letter that clocked in at more than 1,000 words, eight-time major winner Tom Watson had harsh words for the PGA Tour-Saudi merger. Watson is among a few legends of the game who have chimed in on golf’s mega-merger, so it begs the question: Why hasn’t Tiger Woods done so yet? Should he feel compelled to do so?
Zak: At first, I wondered the same thing. But now, no one looks smarter than Tiger for not talking. It’s mostly conjecture at this point. Even Jimmy Dunne looks a bit frantic for talking compared to, say, Ed Herlihy, who hasn’t muttered a word on the record. Tiger’s voice will come with plenty of weight when he does speak, but why speak when there’s still so much to be decided?
Sens: True that it’s too early for him to comment on the details of the merger, but not too early for him to ask pointed questions about it, or offer suggestions as to how he’d like to see it go. Also not too early for him to criticize the backroom nature of the negotiations. But his silence so far is also entirely on-brand. When it comes to weighing in on polemical issues, Woods has always been more of a follower than a bold-voiced leader. His voice carries weight when he does speak, but it’s rarely the first voice we hear.
Dethier: To Sens’ point, I don’t think Woods has ever really done much to suggest he’d speak out publicly on this issue from home right now. I know we’ve been eager to make sense of his role in the game once his playing career officially winds down, but he has never really said he wants to be involved in any public-facing day-to-day leadership of the PGA Tour. I have no doubt that he’d like the PGA Tour to survive, to strengthen, to remain the preeminent golf tour in the world. But until he sees clear value in speaking out I doubt he’ll feel any obligation to do so. Woods answers questions at press conferences when he’s playing or hosting golf tournaments. Outside of that, it’ll be interesting to see where he uses his voice going forward.
4. NBC announced it had the highest viewership for the U.S. Open since it took over the tournament coverage in 2020. And while a West Coast Open certainly didn’t hurt its viewership window, it did draw criticism from eventual champ Wyndham Clark, who said at the conclusion of the third round it was “ridiculous” they tee off so late and blamed late bogeys from himself and Rickie Fowler on the darkness. But was Clark right? Or do these numbers prove it doesn’t matter if the USGA and NBC have to deal with a little criticism?
Zak: Clark was right. But I’m not sure who to really give blame to, the USGA or NBC? Probably both? Either way, 30 to 45 minutes in the other direction would have been wise, he says, with all the hindsight in the world. I don’t think that would have changed the numbers in a significant enough way. A learning for the next west coast Open, four years from now.
Sens: Playing in waning light into a setting sun! The adversity Tour pros face is absolutely harrowing. Yeah. Not ideal timing, but a minor hiccup, easily corrected. Plus, I assume Clark would take a late-day pairing over going out early on the weekend.
Dethier: Blame the marine layer, too — but you should be ready for the marine layer! Clark was right, but all’s well that ends well, I suppose, and his Saturday round ended with a flagged iron and a short birdie putt, while his Sunday round ended with a trophy in hand. I’m guessing not every East Coast golf fan actually loves an 11 p.m. finish, but there’s no question that time slot helps ratings. Maybe we need some more Colorado-based majors just to get things dialed in around Mountain Time.
5. Rickie Fowler continued his strong play at the Travelers, following up his T5 finish at the U.S. Open by taking T13 this week (which included a third-round 60). This week was also a good bounce-back for Justin Thomas, who has been playing well but not great and previously missed the cut at the U.S. Open; he finished T9 at TPC River Highlands. What’s been the most surprising recent development: Fowler’s surge or Thomas’ slump? And which one will last longer?
Zak: I was more surprised at Thomas’ slump, if only because there seemed to be one thing missing a couple months ago — putting — and recently the issues seemed to trend into his long game. I think Thomas’ slump is bottoming out — get him on those country clubs of the FedEx Cup and he’ll right himself — but I also don’t see Fowler’s surge ending right now. So we’ll say Rickie’s surge lasts longer, hopefully, all the way through a visit to Rome in late September.
Sens: Even the greatest go through slumps. But Thomas’ T-153 in the U.S. Open was a shocker. Fowler’s return to form has been gradual, then sudden, and Butch Harmon promised us it was coming. Based on this week’s Travelers, it seems Thomas has already begun to right himself. Fowler’s surge is already more enduring.
Dethier: These guys have it right; Thomas’ final three rounds of 64-62-67 were enough to convince me that he can still play a little bit of golf. Rickie seems right. One thing’s for sure: each of ‘em will celebrate his next win with a little something extra.