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PGA Tour Confidential: Phil’s schedule strategy, Tiger vs. Rory and our favorite courses in Scotland

Phil Mickelson

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Phil Mickelson finished a stroke behind Payne Stewart at the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst.

Every Sunday night, conducts an e-mail roundtable with writers from Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.

1. Phil Mickelson said this week that he’ll play fewer tournaments in 2014 and focus on events that will help him prepare for the majors. Is this a sound strategy for Mickelson? Why or why not?

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@AlanShipnuck): Absolutely. So often Phil looks like he’s just going through the motions. Being “competitively starved” — to use Adam Scott’s term for his scheduling philosophy — can only help Mickelson play at a higher level. 

Eamon Lynch, managing editor, (@eamonlynch): Winning the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart a week before taking the Open at Muirfield probably convinced him of the merits of this strategy. But that’s a rare situation where the actual course — as opposed to just the competitive experience — helps a player prepare for the next major. It’s not easy to find ideal course preparation for the Masters or Pinehurst in ’14. But Valhalla? He can find that every week on Tour.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Phil has more theories than Archimedes and Einstein put together. Actually, I have no idea if that makes sense, but Phil likely does. As for his schedule, the same. On scheduling, I have advice only for Tiger: play Hilton Head, Hawaii, Colonial and Greenbrier. You may or may not win, but you’ll have a good time.

Joe Passov, senior editor, courses and travel, Golf Magazine (@joepassov): He’s at the age and stage that Nicklaus did the same thing. Unfortunate for Phil fanatics, who will see less of him, but it makes sense to me if it makes sense to him, especially if his aches and pains are an ongoing part of his life.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@GaryVanSickle): If there’s been any pattern to when or where Phil plays well over the past two decades, I must’ve missed it. He seems to play better when he plays a few weeks in a row — the Scottish and then the British this year. But not necessarily. Phil is a guy who likes strategy. Some work — two drivers at the Masters. Some don’t — no drivers at the U.S. Open. If Phil’s happy, I’m happy.

Jeff Ritter, senior producer, (@Jeff_Ritter): Definitely. Playing a limited schedule has worked well for Tiger, although a more apt comparison might be Steve Stricker, who seemed rejuvenated this season after dialing it back. Phil’s entering his mid-forties and battling an arthritic condition that likely affects him more than most of us even realize. He has nothing left to play for except his legacy. Now is as good a time as any to slow down and try to peak four times a season.

2. With stars like Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia and Keegan Bradley, the CIMB Classic in Malaysia is now a bona fide PGA Tour event. Right direction or wrong direction for the PGA Tour? Is this a slap at the Texas Opens and Memphises and Greensboros that have trouble drawing the top names?

VAN SICKLE: It’s not an event in Asia that is cause for concern. Well, maybe it is. It’s another event on the schedule with a limited field. The Tour has too many of those. Playing opportunities seem to be on the decline. Every Tour stop can’t be a big-deal extravaganza. A tour has to be built on something, and these events undermine the Tour’s own product.

RITTER: It’s no secret that golf is discovering a new captive audience in Asia. And for Tour pros looking to bank some cash and FedEx points — and maybe even see a new part of the world — the CIMB falls at a nice spot on the calendar. The low-wattage U.S  events are sandwiched into the week-to-week summer grind, and they unfortunately face an uphill battle until they can get a date change.

PASSOV: Why is it that everything the PGA Tour does is always about the money? Oh, that’s right — because it’s always about the money. When I think of how hard our community in Phoenix works on the Phoenix Open, and think of how the lesser lights on Tour commit all that time, volunteers, many events with 50, 70 and even 90 years of PGA Tour tradition, I’m perturbed (the slightest word I could use). OK, I think it stinks.

SHIPNUCK: Screw the Texas Opens — golf is a global game and with this two-week Asian swing, the Tour has successfully colonized an important part of the world. And we all get to enjoy good golf in the fall — what’s not to love?

LYNCH: This question arises annually, right around the same time top U.S. players start showing up in Asia for appearance fees. Of course, the CIMB Classic is now an official Tour event, so we know none of these guys are getting a penny for flying a day to get there. They just want a head start on the FedEx Cup standings, right? There will always be Tour events that struggle to attract names for a variety of reasons, but the Tour making stops overseas is not one of them.

BAMBERGER: It is not a slap in the face. It is the market at work. Tours and News RSS Feed

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