And how might one describe Phil Mickelson‘s decision to potentially skip the one major he desperately wants to win for his daughter’s high school graduation?
We talk about those topics and more in this week’s edition of Monday Four-Ball.
1. Fact or fiction: We will never see Tiger Woods with a legitimate shot to win on the PGA Tour again.
SportsCenter anchor Matt Barrie: Fiction. Let me first point out, that his DUI doesn’t change my opinion on Tiger’s future. He needs to get healthy physically and mentally. When he does, the talent that’s won him 14-majors will have enough swings left to contend for a few more years on tour.
ESPN.com senior golf analyst Michael Collins: Too many times in sports have we seen guys make comebacks that would not even be considered miraculous. So for Tiger Woods, even through the fusion surgery and everything that has now happened to him, to believe that he couldn’t win again is some place that I am still not ready to go.
ESPN.com senior golf writer Bob Harig: Fiction. Granted, this is a big leap because a lot has to go right. But if he is able to consistently practice without pain — understandably big unknowns at this point — then he has a chance to be competitive down the road. But it’s a long road that will require enormous patience and a reduction in expectations. And those hurdles are nearly as big as the back injury itself.
ESPN.com senior golf editor Kevin Maguire: Fiction, but the only thing keeping this from fact is how golfers can play — and contend in tournaments — into their 50s. Just look at Tom Watson back in 2009 at nearly 60 years old. He almost won the Open at Turnberry. Are we really to think Woods couldn’t pull off something similar a decade from now?
ESPN.com senior golf writer Jason Sobel: Fact. I think. But I really don’t know. What did everyone else say? I’ll go with the opposite, just to prove them wrong.
2. In a word, describe Phil Mickelson’s decision to likely skip the U.S. Open.
Barrie: Expected. As much as his brilliant short game and wild tee shots, we’ve come to know and love Phil for being a family man first. His daughter speaking at graduation is a life moment. He doesn’t miss those. He doesn’t have many majors left on his scorecard. And to miss the one he hasn’t won is even more endearing.
Collins: Expected. Phil has always put family first, so no one should be surprised by his actions. While his daughter might have told him to go ahead and play, Mickelson knows that 20 years from now, she’ll thank him for being there, and he’ll know he made the right decision.
Harig: Touching. That is the tournament Phil wants to win the most. And the opportunities are dwindling. And yet attending his daughter’s graduation seemed not a difficult decision at all for him.
Maguire: Awesome. How great must his daughter feel that her famous father is putting her first and willing to sacrifice a shot to do the one thing professionally for his career that means the most to him right now? All parents to some degree put their personal wants aside for their kids, but it’s an amazing example that she will likely never forget.
Sobel: Selfless. Mickelson wants nothing more in his professional career than to win a U.S. Open — and he knows he’ll only have a few more legitimate cracks at it. But no matter how much it means to him professionally, other things mean more personally. I really respect that.
3. Dustin Johnson missed the cut at the Memorial Tournament. How will that impact his favored status heading into the U.S. Open?
Barrie: It won’t. If I was in to conspiracy theories (maybe I am), I’d say DJ didn’t try too hard to make the cut so he could get in work at Erin Hills this weekend, while the rest of the tour was at Muirfield Village.
Collins: It shouldn’t affect it at all. Now he has more time to go prepare to defend his title and get used to the course in Wisconsin. I would think he’d be a bigger favorite with all the extra time and rest he’s going to have. Remember the last time he missed a cut (at Torrey Pines)? He then went third, win, win, win.
Harig: It won’t. One poor tournament matters very little. Johnson has been playing well for 18 months, and there is going to be the occasional poor event. It might have been a blessing. He got to Erin Hills early to check it out, and has plenty of time to work out any issues.
Maguire: Not in the least. If forced to pick one player on tour who can let things slide off their back the fastest, DJ is at the top of my list.
Sobel: It shouldn’t impact it at all. Now maybe if DJ had won at Memorial instead of MCing, he’d be more of a favorite than he is, but this shouldn’t drop him down the list at all. He’s a pretty unsinkable sort of guy. By next week, he won’t even remember this ever happened.
4. Coming off the Memorial Tournament, which player is trending in the right direction heading into next week’s U.S. Open?
Barrie: It seems like it’s always Rickie Fowler. He played well this week at the Memorial Tournament until he faltered late on Sunday. He’s been around all season, and is always the talk come major week. If he can somehow stay sharp, and put together four rounds of fairway golf, Rickie might continue the first time major winner trend.
Collins: I like where Justin Thomas seems to be heading. Even though he didn’t have a great Sunday, he saw himself atop the leaderboard a couple times. That, along with the fact that he’s only played in 10 tournaments this year make me believe he’s going to be fresh, with a golf game that is peaking at the correct time.
Harig: Bubba Watson. For the first time in seemingly forever, Watson got himself into contention. He faltered on the back nine Sunday, but he had a solid week. With Erin Hills being a long course, but with wide fairways, perhaps that serves him well going there.
Maguire: Rickie Fowler. His T-2 at Memorial was nice, but finishing in the top 16 in seven of his past 10 starts, including his victory at the Honda Classic back in February, shows a consistency in Fowler’s game that will be a huge asset at Erin Hills.
Sobel: Shhhh. Don’t let the Golf Gods hear this, but Bubba Watson is starting to round into form just in time for massive Erin Hills, which could very well suit his game. After a year of struggling to contend, his T-6 at Memorial should at least have punters taking a long look at him for next week’s event.