PGA Tour Confidential: The Dubai World Championship
Editors Note: PGA Tour Confidential will be on hiatus for the next two weeks. We will resume our weekly roundtable with a preview of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and the 2012 season on Jan. 2.
DONALD’S BIG YEAR
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Welcome back, Tour Confidentialists. Hats off to Luke Donald for clinching the European tour’s money title to go along with the PGA Tour money title. He’s the first player to officially top both lists. Tiger Woods would have done it several times with his winnings from the majors and the WGC events, but he wasn’t an official European tour member. How historic is Luke’s double dip?
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Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: The fact that he’s the first guy to officially do it says it all. The fact that he had to win the PGA Tour finale — and did so in spectacular fashion, going head to head with the guy he was chasing — makes it all the more impressive.
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Interesting. Incredible, really. But not at all historic. Money, over time, diminishes in importance. Titles mean everything. Majors mean more. How many majors for Luke? How many times has he even contended?
Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: Pretty cool effort by Luke, but I think you answered the question, Gary, by pointing out that Woods could have done it multiple times.
Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Luke is the first on the books, but he’ll never be mistaken for Tiger.
Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Luke needs to a win major — yesterday.
Van Sickle: I don’t think Donald has anything to prove because he’s majorless. His consistent play, plus that clutch win at Disney and two money titles, makes a convincing argument that he’s the true No. 1. I don’t think it’s debatable anymore.
Bamberger: Oh, I disagree. Donald’s had a remarkable year. But I would pour Gatorade on any computer that said he should be ranked higher than Rory. My own is safe.
Godich: Don’t start that again. Rory has won, what, five times in his career? Will you also rank Luke behind Charl Schwartzel, Darren Clarke and Keegan Bradley?
Van Sickle: Michael, did you want grape or lemon-lime Gatorade? Luke has four wins this year and won both money titles. Rory faded after his U.S. Open before winning twice in Asia later in the year. I’d agree that his upside is unlimited, but the stats from this year say it’s no contest. Would you seriously pick Rory as Player of the Year over Luke? I wouldn’t.
Bamberger: One U.S. Open is worth three lesser events. When you lap the field, make it four. Lou Graham, Jack Fleck and Scott Simpson are golfing legends because they won U.S. Opens.
Van Sickle: Lou Graham is, indeed, a U.S. Open champion, but he’s not a legend, even though he looked swell in that Amana hat. With two U.S. Opens, then, surely Andy North should already be enshrined as a double legend in the Hall of Fame?
Bamberger: The U.S. Open is sui generis. North is in the pantheon. He should be in the Hall of Fame. Janzen, too.
Van Sickle: Somebody get Bamberger a translator.
Bamberger: I treat Player of the Year like Time Magazine’s Man of the Year. Who had the biggest impact on the game? To me, it’s Rory.
Godich: The most impressive thing about Rory’s victory was that it came in the first major after his collapse at the Masters. Unfortunately, he did nothing to build on his four spectacular days. Even using the Time Magazine theory, I would argue that Darren Clarke’s victory at the British had a bigger impact. That was totally out of left field. And who didn’t get a little teary-eyed after seeing that?
Bamberger: I believe Phil Mickelson did not get a little teary-eyed.
Van Sickle: Good point by Mr. Godich. I could even argue (though I won’t) that Keegan Bradley’s PGA victory might have had the most impact. It cemented the belly putter as the phenomenon of the year. We’re still feeling the fallout.
Gorant: Clarke’s win was a nice moment, but it has no impact because it has no future. Rory’s win potentially augurs a thrilling tomorrow.
Godich: We were saying the same thing about David Duval a few years back. And there he was last week at Q-school.
Van Sickle: I don’t disagree with the impact theory. Player of the Year is different from Best Player. Michael, will you admit that Donald was the Best Player of 2011?
Bamberger: Resolved: Luke Donald was the best golfer in 2011 not named Yani Tseng.
Van Sickle: Correct. We’re talking PGA Tour here. Yani rules. She was the most dominant player in the world.
Herre: I guess Donald is the right metaphor for the 2011 season. He’s consistently good but never great.
Van Sickle: I like the metaphor, but I disagree with the analysis of 2011. I think it was a great year. Four majors were fantastic in their own ways, starting with Charl Schwartzel and the best finish any champion has ever had at Augusta. (He birdied the last four holes.) As we look back on this year and the rise of Rory and maybe Webb Simpson, it may get even better.
Bamberger: Cue the music. It was a very good year. It was a very good year for Yani Tseng, bank accounts, Tiger views. It was a very good year.
Godich: I’ll go with great. Four fabulous majors, an exciting finish to the Fed Ex Cup and a handful of intriguing winners in the fall.
Gorant: I think Jim had it right except for one word — never. Consistently good with moments of greatness.
Mick Rouse, SI Golf+ Intern: We had the beginnings of a lot of storylines: the emergence of Rory and Webb, the dominance of Luke, the return of Tiger. But I don’t think too many people are going to be looking back on this season with too much to say.
Tell us what you think in the comments area below: How historic was Donald’s double dip? Is he a deserving No. 1, or does he need to win a major before you’ll be fully impressed?