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Tour Confidential: What’s Tiger Woods’ most difficult Presidents Cup duty?

November 4, 2019

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 Sunday we discuss Tiger Woods’ Presidents Cup duties (including this week’s captain’s picks), a rules controversy in women’s golf, Rory McIlroy’s victory in China and more.

1. The Presidents Cup gets one step closer to becoming a reality when Tiger Woods and Ernie Els finalize their rosters by making their captain’s picks on Wednesday (International team) and Thursday (U.S.). What will Woods’ most difficult Presidents Cup duty be? Making the right captain’s picks? Managing how much he plays himself (if he’s picked)? The pairings? Motivating the squad? Something else?

Josh Sens, contributor (@JoshSens): Tiger could close his eyes and point randomly to a list of the top 10 captain’s picks candidates and come up with four great options, so that doesn’t seem too tough. Ditto managing himself. Motivation shouldn’t be an issue either. These guys have a record of dominance to defend. Pairings are the decisions that tend to get second-guessed most often, and they could get a little complicated. Say Tiger selects Reed as a captain’s pick. Who does he match him up with? But, like they say, first-world problems.

Dylan Dethier, senior writer (@dylan_dethier): Jet lag. As Sens lays out, the team stuff should take care of itself — these guys aren’t going to be looking to Woods for, like, swing tips. They’ll be fine. But this is a guy who looked exhausted during last year’s Ryder Cup (and was 0-4). For someone who struggles with sleeping, the trek to Australia right after playing the Hero World Challenge doesn’t sound ideal. Also, finding a teammate who will embrace Bryson’s peculiarities…

Michael Bamberger, senior writer: No question about it: jet lag. Long trip from Albany, The Bahamas, with a stop for fuel on some island-nation in the Pacific.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer (@AlanShipnuck): Not hurting his teammates’ feelings. All these guys idolize Tiger but only three will get to play with him; by definition, those are his favorites, and there will be some low-key hurt feelings among those who aren’t deemed the Cool Kids.

Luke Kerr-Dineen, instruction editor (@LukeKerrDineen): If the last Ryder Cup was any indication, it’ll be playing peacemaker (and at times, fight club referee) between the various egos within the U.S. team. It’s always been an issue in team competitions, especially when things aren’t going well, and recently it’s been bubbling over to the point of dysfunction.

Tiger Woods looks on at the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine, where he was an assistant captain. Come December he'll lead the U.S. Presidents Cup team in Australia.
Tiger Woods looks on at the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine, where he was an assistant captain. Come December he'll lead the U.S. Presidents Cup team in Australia.
Getty Images

2. Speaking of the captain’s picks, who should he select to round out his team?

Sens: Finau, Fowler, Woodland and himself.

Dethier: Himself, Finau, Woodland and Fowler. I’d love to say Reed over Rickie (who hasn’t played since the Tour Championship) but I think he forfeited his right to the benefit of the doubt after last year’s Ryder Cup.

Bamberger: And in this order: Tiger, Fowler, Woodland, Spieth. Yes, Spieth. And it will do for Spieth what Greg Norman’s selection of Adam Scott, in 2009, did for the future Masters champion.

Kerr-Dineen: Tiger (obviously), Woodland, Finau, Reed. Let’s give Patrick a chance to redeem himself.

Shipnuck: His own self and Woodland for sure. Tiger was on the Ryder Cup Task Force so if he’s using this Prez Cup to build for the other Cup, he should pick Reed and Spieth. The former needs to be reintegrated into the team room and the latter needs a spark and confidence boost, as Scott got in 2009. Or, think really long-term and pick Matt Wolff and Collin Morikawa.

That rule is so basic it boggles the mind that you could get that good at golf and not know it.

3. Pros Kendall Dye and Dewi Weber were each penalized two strokes for violating Rule 10.2, Advice and Other Help, during the sixth round of LPGA Q-Series when Dye asked Weber’s caddie what club she was hitting (and the caddie answered) on a par-3. Competitors can look into other bags to see what clubs players are using by the process of elimination, but they can not ask or gesture in that manner. Neither pro said they knew of this rule, and the violation was reported by the other player in the group, veteran Christina Kim. Kim, who went on a tweet storm discussing the incident, contacted a rules official immediately but waited 10 holes until their round was finished to inform her playing partners. She said on Twitter she waited because “I thought it would have gotten in their heads,” although both players told Golfweek they wished Kim would have told them right away. Did Kim do the right thing by waiting to tell them, or was it the players’ right to be told immediately and know a penalty was looming?

Sens: Kim was in an unenviable position; she was going to catch some flack no matter how she handled it. But rules issues should be called out on the spot. The strange part was that this came up at all. There are plenty of obscure rules in golf. This isn’t even close to being one of them. Back in the gritty old days, the grizzled vets used to cover their bags with towels so no one could even peek in (which is legal). Friendlier time, I guess.

Dethier: As a (clears throat) two-time PGA Tour caddie, I noticed for the first time that there was an expectation we’d flash the TV crews the number club we were hitting — but certainly never another player. I think Kim probably should have told them just to avoid the possibility that Dye would repeat the mistake and double the damage.

Bamberger: That rule is so basic it boggles the mind that you could get that good at golf and not know it. Kim was probably completely flummoxed. Still, she should have told them earlier.

Kerr-Dineen: This was clearly either a misunderstanding, or, at worst, a violation of a rule so pointless that you wonder why it exists at all. Regardless, we should all agree it was handled really poorly by Kim. Yes, she should have told them earlier. She didn’t, and to make matters worse, she aired all that laundry in a strange, cryptic, back-handed way on Twitter.

Shipnuck: She did the right thing. I talked to CK on Sunday night about this kerfuffle. She said that when she glimpsed the actions in question she was “99 percent” sure it was an infraction, but, given all the recent rules revisions, she needed to double-check that a new interpretation hadn’t gone into effect this year. Kim summoned a rules official for confirmation. But the Q-Series is not the big-time, so various local rules wonks were brought in to help with this sprawling event. The official who responded to Kim was not affiliated with the LPGA or Symetra tour. They didn’t speak with certainty about the situation so Kim decided on the spot it would be best to huddle after the round with a more seasoned rules official. Like every other player there, Kim was playing for her livelihood. There is enough stress already built into this event. A contentious summit in the middle of the fairway with an inexperienced rules official was not the way to go.

4. Rory McIlroy birdied the first playoff hole to beat Xander Schauffele and win the WGC-HSBC Champions on Sunday in Shanghai, China. McIlroy, the reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year, has made two starts since Brooks Koepka said he doesn’t see anyone else as his rival in the sport, and in those he’s tied for third and won. Afterwards, Schauffele said that “when [Rory’s] on, I’d say he’s arguably the best player in the world.” True?

Sens: Yes, though you could say that about a small handful of players “when they’re on,” Koepka and DJ among them.

Dethier: Let’s suss out that list, shall we? If you look at guys whose best seems like it’s THE best, it’s just Rory and Koepka at the moment. Dustin Johnson hasn’t played well in six months, though he could easily re-join this list. Justin Thomas has a style of play that’s relentless and occasionally dominant, though rarely as spectacular. Tiger still sort of fits this criteria under specific conditions. That’s the complete list right now, five-deep, with some version of Jon Rahm knocking on the door. I’d give Rory the current edge given his lack of recent knee procedures.

Bamberger: If Koepka is at his best and Rory is at his best, I’d give a slight edge to Koepka. Slight. And I can’t even tell you why I think that, except maybe his attitude. I’d rather play with Rory.

Kerr-Dineen: I’ll take it one step further. Dare I say, when Rory is “on,” he might be the best player — ever. The problem with Rory has never been how good he is at his best. For Rory, it’s always been about maintaining those patches of form not just for a few weeks, but for months and seasons.

Shipnuck: Rory is deadly when he’s freewheeling it on a semi-easy course at a non-major. But those are not the ultimate test. Brooks has shown he can summon his best golf on the toughest courses when it matters the most. Rory seems to have lost that ability. Until he finds it, Brooks is the answer.

5. Just days after the news surfaced that CBS Sports would not renew the contracts of long-time analysts Gary McCord and Peter Kostis (and said coverage was becoming “stale”), the network announced Davis Love III was coming on as a full-time analyst, with his debut coming at the Farmers Insurance Open in January. Like the hire?

Sens: Hate to hedge, but too early to tell. He could be the Tour’s version of Tony Romo, bringing all sorts of frank, refreshing and insightful commentary by laying bare all his insider knowledge. But the experience Love has can cut both ways, as he’s friendly with so many of the players. Chumminess can lead to some really boring announcing, so let’s hope Love lets it fly.

Dethier: Nothing I’ve seen from Love’s playing career or captaincy would lead me to believe we’re going to get unfiltered fresh takes. That’s not a knock on the guy! Just the nature of the biz. But despite their desire to freshen things up, I don’t think CBS actually wants to take too big a risk. The people are used to the golf just so.

Bamberger: Davis can be terrific on TV IF his bosses can help him find his voice. I know Davis to be one of the most insightful people about the game around, but that’s because I have a meal with him now and again. CBS has to find a way to bring that side of him out.

Kerr-Dineen: It seems like a bit of an uninspiring hire from the onset, but the powers-that-be clearly saw something in him. I’ll need some convincing that it’ll be some game-changer for the network; I’d have loved to see them take a swing at someone slightly more surprising. Michelle Wie springs to mind.

Shipnuck: Davis has long been a good interview for guys like us but it seems like an overly safe hire. He’ll be…fine. CBS needed to swing for the fences and that’s not Davis.

6. GOLF.com released its annual Anonymous Tour Pro Survey last week, in which 52 pros spoke candidly about cheating, driver testing, Tiger, and more. What was the most interesting nugget you took away from it?

Sens: That 90 percent said they would beat Tiger Woods in a 36-hole match. I guess we in the media aren’t the only ones still prone to underestimating the guy.

Dethier: I was surprised to see Martin Laird’s name come up repeatedly in the “least favorite playing partner” category. Bryson’s an easy target and Rory Sabbatini is notoriously abrasive, but I didn’t know Laird would fit either description…

Bamberger: That 52 Tour players still had enough faith to fill out our ATPS. Well done, Adam Schupak!

Shipnuck: Haha, seriously. They always stopped for Jessica Marksbury but I thought it was only because she’s the nicest person on the planet.

Kerr-Dineen: That half of the respondents would rather have fewer events on the schedule. And they’re right. Between injuries, fatigue, and generally patchy form, I really think this is going to be a growing issue over the next few seasons. If the governing bodies aren’t careful, they’ll risk diluting the product and burning out their best players in the process.

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