Chat with Jason Sobel
Send your questions now and join Jason on Monday at 1 p.m. ET!
Jason Sobel (1:02 PM)
What's up, golf fans? Hope you're as fired up as I am! After all, the golf season FINALLY gets under way with this week's Mercedes- Benz Championship. (OK, so "finally" might not be the right word, considering the 2008 PGA Tour season just ended nine weeks ago...but we can still be excited.) Anyway, start firing away those questions and I'll type as fast as I can...
True or False, does Kenny Perry win more than 1 million this year?
Jason Sobel (1:05 PM)
True. I'm not very bullish on KP in '09 considering he's 48 and coming off a career year, but $1M shouldn't be too tough a task for a player of his abilities. Besides, Perry has always been a guy who can get really hot. Even if he doesn't have a great year, he should be able to clear that number with three straight top-five finishes once the weather gets hot (which is how he likes it). I'd be wary about picking him to win many events this year, but he'll definitely make some cash.
top 5 golfers to win this week?
Jason Sobel (1:07 PM)
I'm on record as going with Vijay Singh as my pick to win. Too much experience on that course and he shouldn't be rusty, either. After him, I'll go with Davis Love III (also a good track record at Kapalua), then maybe some big hitters, since I've heard the course will play extra long this week. Anthony Kim is a strong option anywhere, J.B. Holmes could be up for the task and keep an eye on super sleeper Dustin Johnson, who I actually like more at next week's Sony Open.
Brad (Carlisle, PA)
Which major are you looking most forward to blogging from all day for 4+ days this year?
Jason Sobel (1:10 PM)
I've never had more fun covering a golf tournament than I did at the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage. I'm a NY guy originally, grew up about 20 minutes from the state park, so I loved seeing the local fans enjoying themselves watching the tourney -- even if some of 'em did get a little carried away at times, especially when Sergio was waggling over his shots. But yeah, I mean, Augusta is always awesome, Turnberry should be a treat and Hazeltine is a cool course, but I'm taking the Black for this one.
What are your thoughts on John Daly's six-month suspension by the PGA Tour?
Jason Sobel (1:12 PM)
I have mixed emotions. On the one hand, I think it's good for him to have some downtime to get help for any personal problems he may have right now. On the other hand, when left to his own devices, Daly hasn't exactly cleaned up his life, so I'm not sure that ignoring him for six months will make the problems go away. Fact is, he's just going to use the time to play in more events around the world at which he'll receive large appearance fees -- could be a blessing in disguise for him.
J, Which rookie do you think will be one to watch, either from Q school or the nationwide?
Jason Sobel (1:15 PM)
Don't love many of the Q-school guys. I'm sure a few will turn out to be decent players, but they just don't have the pedigree right now. (Although I am excited to watch Gary Woodland, who may challenge Bubba Watson for the driving distance title.) The Nationwide class, however, is first-rate. I picked Casey Wittenberg to win the ROY award, but really, there's a whole bunch of guys who should fare well, including Colt Knost, Ricky Barnes, Peter Tomasulo, Matt Bettencourt, Aron Price ...I could go on for a while. A lot of talent in that group and I'd be surprised if they didn't surpass the four wins by rookies in 2008.
What would Tiger shoot at wintonbury hills in CT? Also, don't you think Lefty is a bit overrated at this point in his career?
Jason Sobel (1:17 PM)
If I can break 90 at Wintonbury then TW might break 60. As for Phil, I hate the notion that he's overrated. Dude owns 34 career victories and three major titles. He could retire tomorrow and he'd end his career as one of the top 15-20 players to ever play the game, I really believe that. As for his current ranking, he's third on the OWGR behind a guy (Sergio Garcia) who has never won a major, so if anything you could make a better case that Sergio is the overrated one.
What are your expectations for Camilo Villegas this year? He was pretty tough at the end of last year.
Jason Sobel (1:19 PM)
I don't mean for this to sound like a knock against Villegas, but I don't think he'll fare better than he did last year. Can he duplicate those two wins and some strong rounds at majors? Absolutely. But I'm not sold on him to take the next step and seriously challenge for major titles on the back nine on Sunday. He makes a ton of birdies, but they're offset by too many mistakes.
CAL (St. Paul, MN)
What are the chances that Anthony Kim wins a major this year?
Jason Sobel (1:21 PM)
I purposely grouped this question with the one on Villegas, because I feel the same way about Kim. Great young player, ton of talent, going to be a world-class guy for a long time. But I just don't see it happening in a major yet. At 23, I think he needs a little more experience. Again, not a knock on him because I think AK will win majors -- yes, plural -- but not this season. Not yet.
I work at the new Ritz Carlton in Marana, Arizona where we will be hosting the World Match Play Championship in late Feb. Will Tiger Woods play?
Jason Sobel (1:23 PM)
I don't think so. I have a blog about Tiger's schedule that will be posted tomorrow, I believe, and details every event that he will play. If his recovery is well ahead of schedule, I could see him playing one tourney (maybe L.A.?) before the Match Play and then entering the Match Play, too. But for that to be his first tournament back is a risky proposition. He'll want to get in four competitive rounds, but there's obviously no guarantee in that format, meaning he could be done by Wednesday afternoon. My gut says he'll return at Doral, then follow up by playing Bay Hill and will make the Masters his third start of the year.
What happened to the Best Ball Challenge?
Jason Sobel (1:25 PM)
Getting a bunch of questions on this. From my understanding, the game won't return this year because there was no sponsorship tie-in. Maybe I'm offering too much info, but that's honestly what I've heard. There will be a game for the majors, though, I've been told.
Mike - Charlotte, NC
Do you ever see the PGA tour allowing appearances fees to try and reduce the flow of players playing euro tour events?
Jason Sobel (1:28 PM)
No, but the Tour is in a big-time Catch-22 situation right now. Players like Kim and Villegas and Snedeker and Weekley are going overseas to take appearance fees on the Euro Tour, which means they'll be out of the mix at certain times for the PGA Tour events. But I don't ever see the PGA Tour fighting fire with fire, so to speak, and offering similar appearance fees to its players. Purses are large enough in the U.S. that they should be incentive enough for the players who are good enough to earn money. It's a tough situation, though. If I'm Tim Finchem, I'd be a little scared to see what is taking place right now.
Who has the better year: Duval, DiMarco, Toms?
Jason Sobel (1:30 PM)
I think it will be a nice little bounce-back year for Toms. He showed some flashes last year and at 42 years old (yesterday was his birthday -- happy birthday to David, if you're reading), he's still got some good golf left in him. I'd expect him to finish somewhere in the top 50 or 60 on the money list, if not even better.
Would you make Padraig the favorite coming into the Masters? He finished in the top 5 last year (7th the year before that), and has won the last two majors.
Jason Sobel (1:32 PM)
Need to see Tiger Woods before the Masters. If TW has some difficulties recovering and doesn't play before then, then yeah, I would probably have to enlist Harrington as a slight favorite from a bookmaker's standpoint. But as I've so often said, if Tiger is playing in a tourney, he's the favorite. As long as he doesn't come out shooting in the 80s in his first couple of starts, Woods will be the favorite to win his fifth green jacket at Augusta.
Any chance Harrington pulls off the three peat at the Open this year?
Jason Sobel (1:33 PM)
Sure. I'd have to believe there's less pressure on him than anybody else out there, right? He has obviously proven himself to be a cool customer on the weekends at major championships, so there's no reason to think he couldn't be right there when it's all said and done at Turnberry.
Wayne (Ottawa, Ont.)
If everyone was exempt for all the majors (which they aren't), which 5 guys NOT currently in the OWGR top 50 do you think would do the best overall in the 4 majors this year?
Jason Sobel (1:37 PM)
Wow, you're making me do some research on this one -- good thing I like doing research. If you had said top-40, I could have picked from Hunter Mahan, Paul Casey and Boo Weekley -- all of whom I like to play well in a few majors. Outside of the current top 50? Just on a quick glance, I'd like the chances of Chad Campbell, Sean O'Hair, Brandt Snedeker, Nick Dougherty and Nick O'Hern. And for a guy outside the top 100 (No. 192, I believe), I'd go with Nick Watney, who I think is going to have a big year.
Brian, Jacksonville, FL
What's your favorite event to cover during the season and will you be at the Bob Hope in a few weeks?!
Jason Sobel (1:39 PM)
Since I'm not making the pilgrimmage to Kapalua this week, I'd have to go with the Masters -- tough to not enjoy covering the event at Augusta National. As for non-majors, I'm really looking forward to my first trip to the FBR Open this year, where I'll be live blogging the first two rounds from the stadium atmosphere of the famed 16th hole. And sorry, no Hope for me this year.
Couples back seemed to hold up last year for the first time in awhile. Can you see any scenario where he challenges for a tournament title?
Jason Sobel (1:40 PM)
Absolutely. Freddie's proven that he's no longer a week-in, week-out top-10 type of guy, but on any given week he can get hot and contend for a title. If Rocco can do it with his back problems at last year's Open, then so too can Couples.
I sure hope they have you onsite this week in Maui, as opposed to stuck in balmy Bristol. That being said, I am Honeymooning there in September (Maui, not Bristol). Is it worth it for me, a mid-handicapper, to cough up almost $300 to play Kapalua or should I try somewhere else?
Jason Sobel (1:42 PM)
As I said, no Kapalua for me this week. My advice: Use some of those wedding checks for 18 holes at Kapalua -- and bring a camera. It's worth it just for the views, which are unreal. Of course, it's not my money...
How long until Tiger looses the number one ranking in the world?
Jason Sobel (1:44 PM)
Funny you ask that. Just before the chat started, I received an email from Ian Barker with the OWGR that detailed how and when TW could be overtaken prior to his return. Unfortunately, I haven't gotten a chance to analyze the possibilities yet, but as he told me, he doesn't think either Garcia or Harrington can surpass Woods without winning a big event (likely a WGC) and in Harrington's case, it may take two wins. I'll have more on this in next week's Weekly 18 column.
jim trevethan (bedford ohio)
With regards to Couples, do you think Norman can find magic at the Masters like he did at the Open?
Jason Sobel (1:46 PM)
Maybe not to that extent, but I've always thought that for every five years of experience at the Masters, a player will save one stroke during the week -- or something like that. (I'd love to find some sort of mathematical equation, though I'd imagine there are too many variables.) Norman can certainly make the cut -- in fact, if I had to say right now, I'd pick him to do it -- but asking for him to contend at another major may be a bit too much.
Cosmo (Anytown, USA)
Gear question - as a general rule, which is a better investment: a new driver or a new putter? (driving and putting are equally poor for me)
Jason Sobel (1:47 PM)
Just my opinion, but when it comes to drivers, there are actually technological advancements that can help your game. When it comes to putting, it's the indian not the arrow. If you really hate your putter, buy a new one, but I'd be more inclined to buy a new driver and just practice more with the putter that's in your bag right now.
Any chance Phil erases the Winged Foot demons this year?
Jason Sobel (1:51 PM)
Well, Butch from Nevada, as you probably know, Phil doesn't really have any demons from the 2006 U.S. Open -- despite the fact that almost everyone keeps thinking that he does. I mean, the guy won a major two months later -- isn't that enough of an exorcism? I don't think Mickelson thinks about that missed opportunity any more than the once a year he gets to the Open and is aksed about it by reporters.
CAL (St. Paul, MN)
True or False, Anthony Kim will win more majors than Phil Mickelson.
Jason Sobel (1:54 PM)
Well, Phil has three and I'd put him down for at least one more, so let's call it four for his career, just to err on the safe side. Doesn't sound like too much, but that's a pretty hefty task for Kim. I've got to think he'll be a guy who stays in shape and has 25 more years of great golf left in him. That's 100 majors. If he wins at a clip of 5 percent, he may pass Mickelson. I think he can do it, but it won't be easy.
I think John Daly will win the euro tour, ha, sorry this board needed a good laugh
Jason Sobel (1:59 PM)
You laugh, but it wouldn't shock me to see JD get motivated, work on his game and beat up on a comparitively inferior field to claim a win on the Euro Tour. He's not going to win the inaugural Race to Dubai and he won't be one of the top players, but Daly can still win a golf tournament and odds are he'll have a better opportunity to win over there than on the PGA Tour.
Which major did Phil win after Winged Foot? I didn't realize the Northern Trust was a major?
Jason Sobel (2:00 PM)
My bad. First mistake of the year. Start your tally now. He has won events, though. The demons existed for a few days...and no longer than that.
Jason Sobel (2:01 PM)
On that note, my hour is up. Thanks for all the questions and be sure to check out all of our season preview content on the golf page this week -- lots of good stuff there (including the Weekly 18 -- shameless plug!). See you next Monday at 1 p.m. ET. Until then, hit 'em straight...