Chat with Jason Sobel
Among his other duties, Sobel writes a weekly column, the "Weekly 18."
Send your questions now and join Jason on Monday at 1 p.m. ET!
Jason Sobel (1:00 PM)
I'm coming to you live from Augusta National Golf Club and couldn't be more excited about it. Three more days until the tourney starts? Not sure I can wait that long. Anyway, let's bide our time for the next hour with your questions. Fire away ...
VJ seems to be struggling a lot with his game lately--do you think he makes the cut? What about Ernie--who seems to play 1 good round and then 1 bad.
Jason Sobel (1:02 PM)
Gonna be tough for Vijay based on his recent results after his knee surgery. Obviously, he traditionally plays well here, but he's MC'd the last two years. And Els, well, I'd love to see him get back in contention here, but I've seen the guy miss too many short putts in the last few years. Can't give those away at this course.
DP (St. Louis, MO)
With Paul Casey's win at the Shell and his 10th and 11th place finishes the last two years at the Masters, do you expect him to continue his strong play at Augusta this week?
Jason Sobel (1:04 PM)
You know, I was actually disappointed that Casey won in Houston, because I was going to have him near the top of my ranking of the entire field. (Still working on this; will be posted Wednesday.) Now it's gonna look like I just jumped on the bandwagon. But really, I do think he's got a great shot. He said he loves this course, it suits his game and if there's one major that he thinks he can win over the others, it's this one.
Rob in California
As much as I would lke to see Tiger win his 5th jacket, I'd really like to see one of the new young guns compete with him and win. Maybe Rory,Camillo or Anthony. I think that would be bigger for golf overall if one of those guys went head to head with Tiger down the final 9 on sunday. What do you think about that?
Jason Sobel (1:06 PM)
I think golf fans would rather see a glimpse into the past or the future than a look at the present. What I mean by that is that either a run by Norman or Couples or one by Kim or McIlroy would be looked at as more exciting than one by Furyk or Ogilvy. Nothing against those guys, but they just wouldn't attract the same attention. As for the younger players to challenge TW, sure, it would be great to see, but I wouldn't limit that to the youngsters; if anyone can challenge him, it would be good for the game.
steve san Francisco [via mobile]
Seems like the only older player to ever have enough left in the tank was Jack Nicholas in 1986, so is it ever really likely an older player like Norman or Couples really has a shot at a major?
Jason Sobel (1:08 PM)
Yes and no. Gotta take 'em on a case-by-case basis. Have to like Couples after a T-3 finish in Houston, but I just don't think Norman has enough left in the tank to make a run at a green jacket this week. In fact, I think the bigger story will revolve around whether he can make the cut.
Benjamin (Jersey City, NJ)
Jason, You said in your report about pre-Sunday Sunday at the Masters that Tiger hit two tee balls off of the first tee yesterday and neither found the fairway (one right, another left). Any word on how he played the rest of the front nine? Thanks, Benjamin
Jason Sobel (1:10 PM)
Nope. On the Sunday before the week starts, media members (and there aren't many of us on Sunday) are limited to access only near the first tee/18th green/practice green. Can't go out on the course. And since TW didn't speak after playing 11 holes (did the first 10, then skipped over to 18), there's no way of knowing.
Brent in Michingan
With Phil missing the cut last week, what are your expectaions for phil this week.
Jason Sobel (1:11 PM)
Don't read too much into that. Mickelson was in the early-Thursday/late-Friday part of the draw that got killed by windy conditions in Houston. As Luke Donald -- who was a victim of that as well -- told me yesterday, that may have been a "blessing in disguise." Instead of getting here today, Mickelson was able to get some rest and get to the course on Sunday. I expect him to contend this week.
Mike Weir has tailed off from his hot start to the year this year and from the way he played at the end of last year. Do you think he can recover his game to be a factor in this years Masters?
Jason Sobel (1:13 PM)
No one is rooting for the rain to hold off and the cool dry conditions to come through here more than Weir, a short hitter who can contend if the course isn't playing too long. It did rain here overnight and this morning, but it's nice out now. With the sub-air system underneath these greens, they'll be firm and fast, but the fairways may still be wet come Thursday, which means the bombers will own a pretty strong advantage.
Which of the following would be the most popular win with the fans on Sunday: Tiger, Phil, Greg Norman or Fred Couples?
Jason Sobel (1:14 PM)
Great question. Tiger is always popular. So is Phil. A win by Freddie would be amazing. But if Greg Norman could win the elusive green jacket at age 54, becoming the first Aussie ever to do so, it would be the biggest story -- and I hope that would resonate the best with fans.
Conor (Kansas City, MO)
We have seen Tiger look good in each component of his game separately in each of his first three events. Any chance two or more of those gel together this week?
Jason Sobel (1:16 PM)
Well, first off -- you're right. I thought his driving was great in Tucson, his iron play was great at Doral (especially on the weekend) and his short game was great at Bay Hill. Can he put them all together this week? Yes, but it's easier said than done. If he has all three, he'll win by 10. But he can win here just having one component, especially if that one component is the short game.
If your visiting the masters on thursday or friday. What is the better thing to do...1) follow certain golfers or 2) sit by a certain hole and watch all the golfers pass by?
Jason Sobel (1:19 PM)
All depends on personal preference. If it's me, I want to see the whole course. That's tough to do if you want to follow Tiger or Phil, so pick a favorite early in the morning, walk with that group, then if you want to pick a favorite hole to stay at, go for it in the afternoon.
Rob in California
I would not be surprised at all if Tiger were to come out and blow away the field this week. If he were to hit the fairways and greens, and putt like he did at Bay Hill, he is going to blitz the field and run away with this one. Do you think it is possible or probable?
Jason Sobel (1:20 PM)
Possible, sure, but not probable. Before we get too caught up in TigerMania, let's remember that he's won one of three tourneys this year and that one was just by a single stroke. It's not like we're going to see a reprise of the 1997 Masters all over again -- at least, that's not what I would expect based on his recent results.
Would Nick Watney be considered a darhourse in this year's field, or is he playing too well right now to be tagged with that?
Jason Sobel (1:22 PM)
I guess it depends on your definition of the word. I think Watney has been the most consistent player on the PGA Tour this season, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's one of the favorites here. Can he play well? Absolutely. He finished T-11 in his only Masters start.
I watched the back nine yesterday and Freddie just looked out of place. After every shot he looked like he was just going through the motions and really didn't care about the outcome. Was he hurting? Was he giving up? What was it?
Jason Sobel (1:24 PM)
I saw the same thing. Not sure if he was hurting, but Freddie's body language just seemed to lack confidence. That was a long four days for him last week and he's going to have to turn around and have another long week. Is it asking too much? Maybe, but he's been so good here over the years that I wouldn't doubt him.
Jon (Boca Raton)
I loved the U.S. Open deal where the 10 handicapper got to play with the celebs. What would a 10 handicapper shot from the tips at Agusta the week of the Masters?
Jason Sobel (1:27 PM)
Not nearly as high as at the Open. There's a lot of room to miss out here. I played the day after the 2005 Masters, was probably playing to about a 12-13 at the time and hit the ball really poorly and had a bunch of three-putts and just wound up on the wrong side of triple-digits. But obviously you get a caddie out here. Listen to him around the greens and a decent player can actually score pretty well.
Do you think Augusta has lost some of its luster with the changes made (added distance, intermediate cut, etc.)? It seems as though many of the players don't think as highly of the course as they once did.
Jason Sobel (1:28 PM)
Yes, but I also think that a) It's only temporary; and b) the weather has had a lot to do with it over the past few years. If we get four days of sunny, 75-degree temps -- as is expected this week, I believe -- scores will be lower and there will be more excitement.
Do you think we are looking at winning score under -10?
Jason Sobel (1:30 PM)
I'd say that's a pretty good number for an over/under. If pressed, I'd probably take the under -- might be something closer to Trevor Immelman's 8-under score of a year ago.
Annette - Illinois
Have you had a chance to see any of the Amateurs practice? How do they seem to be taking it all in?
Jason Sobel (1:31 PM)
Actually haven't seen any yet, but they're all here. Lee and Sexton played in the head-to-head Georgia Cup a few weeks ago, so they've gotten to know the course. Ishikawa spent the last few days here, Newman is playing and Kittleson is teeing it up with former champ Mark O'Meara later this afternoon.
Rob in California
How do you feel Danny Lee will do in his first time around Augusta?
Jason Sobel (1:33 PM)
This kid has absolutely no fear. And a ton of game. Impossible to predict exactly what to expect from him, but no matter what, he'll get some great experience and build on that in coming years -- he'll be a mainstay at this event for a long time.
Dudley Hart (Buffalo)
Do I have a chance of breaking 80 in any round?
Jason Sobel (1:33 PM)
Of course. Coming off a decent week in Houston, there are a lot of guys in this field worse off than you.
Yamzz, NorCal [via mobile]
How would you rank the top 5 in the OWGR chances this week?
Jason Sobel (1:36 PM)
Again, my ranking of the entire field will be posted on Wednesday and I don't want to give away too much, but there's only one player in the top five who won't be fairly high on my list and that's Sergio Garcia. Lack of solid recent results + Lack of solid recent results at Augusta National = Tough week.
You sort of touched on this in the Weekly 18, but do you think the weather delays at Houston this week will make some of the guys who played re-think their participation next year?
Jason Sobel (1:38 PM)
Unfortunately, yeah, I do. It's one of those things where it seems like a good idea at the time, since the course is set up like Augusta National, but once you're sitting around waiting out weather delays and fretting about how the wind will wreak havoc on your swing, it's tough to say you'll want to do it again the next year.
Bill, New York
Why is the press so in love with Phil. I keep hearing them drool over the possibility of a showdown with Tiger, but how many times do we have to see Tiger beat Phil to realize that Phil is not in the same class as Tiger. If Paddy, Oglivy, Tiger, and Phil are tied with 9 holes to go on Sunday, I am not sure that Phil finishes in the top 3. Paddy vs Tiger is the real for story for Sunday.
Jason Sobel (1:41 PM)
Look, Phil is the first to admit that he's not Tiger. He's said it before: He could win 30 more PGA Tour events and 10 more majors ... and STILL not be at Tiger's level. That said, I think he's the closest thing that TW has to a rival. And as a two-time Masters champ, a title contention by Mickelson holds more validity than the others, though they shouldn't be left out of the mix, either.
Its supposed to rain early in the week. This will make the greens softer and players will be able to get irons closer to the pins. Do you expect scores to be much lower compared to that psat two years?
Jason Sobel (1:43 PM)
Maybe. But don't forget about those sub-air systems than can basically suck all the moisture out of the greens. Even if it rains, the tournament organizers will control how firm or soft the greens will be.
Colin (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
Who finishes higher: Mike Weir, Zach Johnson or Trevor Immelman?
Jason Sobel (1:45 PM)
I know the Canadian fans want me to say Weir, but I'm going with Zach, who has been playing really well lately.
Matt (North Palm Beach, FL)
I know there's nothing like being there, but since I'm not that lucky, I scheduled my vasectomy for Wednesday. I now have a legitimate excuse to sit on the couch for 4 days and bask in the glory. I can't be the only one out there to think of this.
Jason Sobel (1:47 PM)
I think this is the where I'm supposed to make a joke about missing the cut...
Jared from Boston
Ok be honest. How many sandwiches have you slammed down so far?
Jason Sobel (1:48 PM)
Only one chicken fillet for breakfast so far. Craving another one as soon as I'm done here. May not touch the pimento cheese all week. After downing about eight of those in one day as part of a Live Blog a few years ago, my stomach starts churning just thinking about 'em.
Silky Johnson (Saint Augustine, FL)
Jason, is it true that Adam Scott's friends have taken to referring to Kate Hudson as Yoko?
Jason Sobel (1:50 PM)
Haha. Haven't heard that one, but I like it. Speaking of the Live Blog, you'll have to remind me to use this one when the time comes...
Who aren't we talking about this week that we should be?
Jason Sobel (1:51 PM)
Well, I don't know who you're talking about so it's tough to answer. I've been talking about all 96 guys. But how about someone like Steve Stricker? Keeps getting himself into contention and though he can't win one, he's been playing very well.
Jason, for you, is Masters Week all work and no play or do you have plans to mix it up in Augusta's bustling night-life scene?
Jason Sobel (1:53 PM)
Dude, I'll be kickin' it at the Wendy's drive-thru on Washington Road at around midnight each night. I assume that's what you meant by "Augusta's bustling night-life scene," right?
Tayler (Lincoln, NE)
Nobody is talking about Padraig Harrington and his run at 3 straight majors. What are the odds he actually comes through and wins it, and what would that mean for the sport of golf, would anyone care?
Jason Sobel (1:56 PM)
Would anyone care??? Really? Um, yeah, I'll go out on a limb and say that if Harrington won his third straight, making the Paddy Slam a possibility entering the U.S. Open, then yes, people would care. Lots and lots of people.
Cory Chicago IL
Will Tiger break 70 in the first round? He never has...
Jason Sobel (1:58 PM)
Never know, but I always think of Tiger as a boxer -- he enters a tourney and just kind of bobs and weaves, picks his spots to throw a punch, but isn't looking for an early KO. I'd expect something in the neighborhood of 70 or 71 which would keep him very much in the mix entering Friday.
Darren (Bend, Oregon)
What's going to be the most important stat this week? And which pros in particular does this favor?
Jason Sobel (2:00 PM)
Putting is always big, but you're just not going to hit every green on this course, so I'd go with scrambling instead. Last I checked, Steve Stricker was the highest-ranked scrambler in this week's field.
Jason Sobel (2:01 PM)
That's all I've got time for right now. Thanks for all of the questions. Live Blog will begin at 3 p.m. on Wednesday for the Par-3 Contest and will continue early morning on Thursday for all four rounds of the Masters. Can't wait! Until then, hit 'em straight ...
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