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What We Learned: Transitions Championship

Tiger Woods
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Each week, the team offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from the most recent events. This week, the team reflects on Luke Donald's victory at the Transitions Championship from Innisbrook's Copperhead Course in Palm Harbor, Fla.

I learned that when Hank Haney initially said that his book, 'The Big Miss,' was about his observations during a six-year span with Tiger Woods, those 'observations' extend to aspects of Tiger's personal life, including his marriage. The book always felt like a breach of trust, but judging by the leaked excerpts in the New York Times, it also feels like an invasion of privacy. – Mercer Baggs

I learned that Hank Haney's Tiger Woods book 'The Big Miss' is about more than golf. When word leaked that the book was in the works Haney had hinted that the book was mostly about golf and said he believed Woods would think it was a fair depiction of their time together. With more leaks this week alleging Woods to be cheap, rude, dishonest and mean-spirited about other players, this is going to get uglier than I first thought.  Jay Coffin

Ernie Els deserves another chance at the Masters.

The Big Easy may not have won the Transitions Sunday, and he may not qualify for the Masters, but he deserves an invite, based on his life’s work.

With his strong play Sunday in a bid to return to Augusta National, Els showed he is still competitive, still worthy of a chance to win a major he has come so painfully close to winning (two second-place finishes).

With his disappointing bogey-bogey finish outside Tampa, he also made golf fans wonder if that scar might be his last, if he has taken too many blows to fully recover and win another PGA Tour event. The putting stroke, so problematic in recent years, didn’t hold up in the end Sunday, but you can see the desire’s still there, the fight is still in him. He was so close Sunday that it wouldn’t seem fair if we never saw him in another Masters. – Randall Mell

I learned that Ernie Els has more demons than a Wes Craven film. OK, so maybe I was acutely aware of this fact before he finished bogey-bogey at the Transitions Championship to go from a one-shot lead to one shot out of the playoff, but his inefficiency down the stretch once again reared its ugly head.

The Big Easy missed a couple of short, easy putts on Nos. 16 and 18, his bugaboo throughout the second half of his career. Afterward, he looked completely shellshocked, like he didn’t even know what had taken place over the final 30 minutes of his round. If he ever reviews the tape, he’ll see a man with a lot more weighing on his mind than the next shot and one who lost all confidence when it came to crunch time.

That’s a shame, because in a tournament that featured a fun, frenetic final round with a four-man playoff that was won by Luke Donald, the lasting image will be that of Els, still wondering what happened to the title he was supposed to win. – Jason Sobel

I learned that if Luke Donald was ever prepped to win a major, his time is now and that major is the Masters.

With his victory at the Transitions Championship, Donald took back the world No. 1 ranking and added a fifth PGA Tour championship to his resume. He’ll be heading down Magnolia Lane in 14 days feeling at ease in the driver’s seat.

Donald finished T-4 at Augusta last year and will likely ride his wave of momentum right into his first major championship. – Bailey Mosier

I learned that the best storyline in a golf tournament isn't always the winner. Luke Donald won the Transitions Championship and regained the world No. 1 ranking. Good for him, but in the grand scheme of things, so what? The No. 1 ranking may end up being traded from player to player for quite some time.

But how can you not feel for Ken Duke and Ernie Els? Both missed short putts that would have kept dreams alive – Duke's for finally getting his first PGA Tour win, Els' for getting a win that would have put him back into the Masters field. Els' interview with Golf Channel's Steve Sands was cringe-worthy viewing. Clearly the Big Easy was angry. That's the lasting image I'll take out of this tournament, which is unfortunate. It should be Donald's remarkable approach from the rough to the first playoff green. – Al Tays

I learned that it might be time for a temporary reprieve from the debate about belly and long putters. With the USGA saying it would like to gather data to prove any statistical correlation with the length of the flat stick and sinking putts, the governing body had two good examples of how no putter can steady nerves.

Ernie Els had a 4-foot putt on the 72nd hole to make it a quintet in the sudden-death playoff at the Transitions Championship. He pulled it.

Robert Garrigus had about twice the length as Els did on the same hole in the first round of sudden death. He pulled it. Luke Donald didn't.

As Stuart Bloch, the USGA's chairman of the Equipment Standards Committee, said in a 1989 statement blessing long putters, 'The Equipment Standards Committee felt and the Executive Committee agreed that the use of longer putters introduces a new element but does not change the essential nature of the game.'

That essential nature is the urge to blink. Els and Garrigus did. – Ryan Ballengee