Ever wonder what the members of the world’s golfing elite really think about some of the game’s hot-button issues? Sick of the clichéd answers they sometimes trot out in the effort to not make any waves? You’re in luck.
We took the occasion of the 2012 Tour Championship to pose an anonymous survey to 10 of the PGA Tour’s elite players, making sure to get a mixture from around the world, to find the unvarnished truth. Do guys prefer the company of Tiger or Phil? Is it truly time to ban the anchored putter? What, if anything, intimidates the best in the world?
Below are the answers we received. You’re welcome to try to guess who said what, but be aware that this material is presented in no particular order.
Question: Have you ever been intimidated on a golf course?
Eight of the 10 players we talked to admitted to feeling intimidated at times in their careers, although not all wanted to mention the specific moments. Others were ready to admit that there have been times when their insides were churning.
• “There are times you are out of your comfort zone for sure. The first time you play with Tiger Woods, I’m sure everyone felt intimidated then. I played as an amateur at The Masters and that was also intimidating.”
• “My first time playing with Greg Norman when I was younger was very intimidating. He had an aura around him and having watched him growing up as a golfing hero and then all of a sudden having to show you belonged on the same course as him … That was very intimidating.”
• “Many times. As a kid you build up the stars so much and you can’t help but feel a little intimidated around them in the beginning. I remember as a junior I was pulled out of a clinic by a star player, my grandpa pushed me forward, and having to hit in front of him and a crowd is still one of the most nerve-wracking things I’ve ever done.”
• “The first time I teed it up on the PGA Tour I had plenty of nerves and felt totally intimidated. Thankfully, though, once you get a shot or two away, you calm down.”
Question: If the line is set at eight majors, do you think Rory McIlroy will finish over or under the mark and why?
Rory’s competitors are feeling the love. Six out of 10 guys think the current world No. 2 can become only the sixth player in the history of the game to win more than eight major championships along with Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Walter Hagen, Gary Player and Ben Hogan.
• “He’s got a lot of talent, and he’s such a young guy so he has a lot of majors to play in.”
• “I was talking about this with my caddie recently actually. It’s something many out here talk about. I’ll say over, based on the fact he already has two and he won them both by eight shots.”
• “He’s got two already, and he’s off to a flying start. And seriously, look at him; he’s got boundless talent.”
• “He hits it really long and consistent. He has the short game. He’s the world No. 1, and I think the odds are he could do much more than eight.”
• “It just has to be over. He’s just 23 and has two already and he got them easily.”
• “He has two really quick, and I see him going to 10 or more.”
• Another thinks he’ll finish on the number, right along with Tom Watson: “Eight seems right on. I think eight is a good number and that’s where he’ll finish. Not a bad career … Can I have that?”
But some say he won’t get to the mark.
• “It’s really hard to win majors, and the competition is getting tougher and tougher. He is young and has two already but so many factors could change — friends, family, babies. … They’re not easy to win.”
• “Under. People forget there are only five guys, and only three in recent times, who have done that in golf. It’s not like it’s easy.”
Question: If you had the choice of a practice round with Tiger or Phil, who do you take and why?
Nothing quite polarizes the players on Tour like a Tiger/Phil question. Most guys are either in one camp or the other, although some are lucky and get on well with both. Our answers here, similarly, are split. Some want to get out with the mostly intense 14-time major champion, while others would like to get out with Lefty and play in his notoriously big-money but good-natured games.
• “Give me Phil, because he likes to gamble, and it gives me a chance to win some money off him and get some good practice under pressure.”
• “It’s got to be Tiger. He’s the guy I watched growing up. I want to watch the greatest player who I’ve ever seen up close and personal as much as possible.”
• “I’d take Tiger. I think I could learn more from him as he has as much creativity as Phil but you could really pick his brain on ball flight and swing and even the mental game.”
• “Phil for sure. Why? Isn’t it obvious? Because I might win some money!”
• “Tiger. He’s fun to watch and because I actually like hanging out with (instructor) Sean Foley.”
• “You really have to ask? Phil, for sure … He’s a lot more fun.”
• “Give me Tiger. I like spending time with both of them, but I’d take Tiger because I’ve had a little bit more time with Phil already. So just to even it out maybe.”