Chat with Jason Sobel
Welcome to SportsNation! On Tuesday, ESPN.com golf columnist Jason Sobel stops by to chat about the golf season and the upcoming U.S. Open.
Among his other duties, Sobel writes a weekly column, the "Weekly 18."
Send your questions now and join Sobel to chat Tuesday at noon ET!
Jason Sobel (12:01 PM)
Hello, golf fans! Plenty to discuss today, following Tiger's win at Memorial and practice round at Bethpage, Phil's return to the PGA Tour this week and the U.S. Open field getting finalized yesterday, so let's get right to the questions.
Jonathan (Westerville, Ohio)
I know that Jack said during The Memorial awards ceremony that Tiger would win in two weeks (with Tiger standing right next to him). Is this kind of like speaking to a pitcher during a no-hitter (putting pressure on the golfer)?
Jason Sobel (12:03 PM)
Tiger puts pressure on himself to win every time he tees it up -- whether Jack thinks he'll get it done or not. Nicklaus was simply speaking his mind. I don't think what he said will affect Woods one way or another. Perhaps the only newsworthy note would have been if Jack said he DIDN'T think Tiger would win the Open. Then we'd have some major headlines.
Dan S (Chicago)
TW always seems to play much better on Sunday. Is the last thing left in his development increasing his intensity and focus on Thursday and Friday? How frightening is that?
Jason Sobel (12:05 PM)
That hasn't really been the case so far this year, though. I mean, in his last start before the Memorial, Tiger was in the final pairing at the Players Championship and failed to seriously contend by day's end. I think the fact that he's now had a few very strong Sunday performances (Bay Hill, Memorial) speaks volumes about his health and endurance going forward.
What do you expect from Phil this week and at the US Open nextweek,has he been able to get in much practice with his wife'sillness,
Jason Sobel (12:07 PM)
I honestly have no idea what to expect from Phil. Can't imagine his mind has been focused on golf recently, although maybe that isn't a bad thing -- maybe he'll go out and play without overthinking his game too much. I will say this, though: After last year's Open was some of the greatest theater we've ever seen in golf, if Mickelson can work his way into contention on Sunday at Bethpage, this year's edition could be even better.
Tucker Hicks (TX)
How do you think Tiger will follow up in the 09' Open after playing fairly well in the Memorial? Will he win?
Jason Sobel (12:09 PM)
I'm not going to make my pick until just before the Open -- my ranking of the 156-man field should be available next Wednesday -- but I will say that TW exponentially increased his chances with that performance. After all these "What's wrong with Tiger?" discussions recently, he's playing with a major chip on his shoulder, which should only serve as greater motivation at the Open.
Billy (Portland, OR)
How are the Rider Cup heroes doing? Is Boo going to be healthy for the open? Is AK focusing any better?
Jason Sobel (12:11 PM)
From what I hear, Weekley has a torn labrum, which certainly doesn't sound like very much fun. He's in the field this week, so he's trying to give it a go, but I wouldn't think he's a strong contender. Just spoke with AK a few hours ago. He'll see Bethpage for the first time on Thursday, playing a practice round with Michael Jordan. he said his ball-striking has never been better than it was at Colonial a few weeks ago.
Tiger hit every fairway, had an insane chip in, hit one of the best approaches to the 72nd hole.......and won by one. Does pre-surgery Tiger win by 3 ?
Jason Sobel (12:14 PM)
Who cares? A win is a win is a win. Like you said, I'm not sure what he could have done better on Sunday, other than not making that late bogey. Tough to criticize a final-round 65 to win from four shots back, though.
Albie J (New Hampshire)
i think tigers workout just isnt as tough as it was before the surgury thats why he like that Dan S form Chicago
Jason Sobel (12:16 PM)
Uh, really? You think he's not pushing things in the gym right now? If anything, I think he's working harder in hopes that he can come back stronger than ever. This isn't a guy who spends his days lounging on the couch and hitting a few range balls. Tough workouts will never be an issue for Tiger.
Cosmo (Anytown, USA)
Who do you think is happier about Tiger's win - Tiger himself or the TV people that get to hype him in the Open even more?
Jason Sobel (12:18 PM)
He was pretty pleased with the performance, which should give him even more confidence heading into the Open. But you're right -- it's great for the TV coverage to have him on a hot streak going in. But it's not just that. It's great for the fans, great for the game. Anytime the game's No. 1-ranked player is competing at a high level, it makes the competition better and draws more people to the sport. I don't really see any negatives.
We all know about John Daly's numerous off-course transgressions...Do you think being home in Memphis is more likely to help keep his focus, or be more likely to distract him from progressing with his game?
Jason Sobel (12:20 PM)
I've got to believe he'll be focused for the first one back. Hometown events are often tough for players because they have so many obligations -- to family, to friends, to media, to fans -- but JD always seems to feed off that.
What should we expect out of John Daly this week? And are you going to go get some of those pants? wow
Jason Sobel (12:21 PM)
I think he'll play well. And as I wrote in the Weekly 18, I believe he'll have a few really good results this year. Daly will never be a consistent week-in, week-out guy, but can he pull three or four top-fives this season? Absolutely. The pants ... well, I've got a few pairs from the Ian Poulter collection myself, so I can't talk. I will say that I prefer loud over khaki any day.
Tiger wins a tournament 2 weeks before a Major, then is declared that Major's favorite by the tournament's legendary host...sounds vaguely familiar, and how did that work out?
Jason Sobel (12:23 PM)
You're right. Arnie said he would win the Masters, which obviously didn't happen. Perhaps Jack is more of a soothsayer -- or they'll both be wrong. One thing is for sure: Just because a legend says he thinks you'll win doesn't mean they automatically give you the hardware. Tiger will still have to earn it.
Marc (Malden, MA)
Doesn't the coverage of Tiger get a little ridiculous at times? No other golfer could have top ten finishes at The Masters and TPC and get the "what's wrong" question.
Jason Sobel (12:25 PM)
True, but he's raised the bar for his own performance level. If anyone else came back from knee surgery and posted his results, we'd consider it a huge success. Tiger is held to different standards, though, because he has brought that upon himself -- fairly or unfairly.
What kind of expectations are on you when you have gone 6 for 6 in stroke play this year in the top ten AND you won twice to have people question if your game is coming together? How scary is Tiger if he "ever" got it all together? Could his game cure the recession?
Jason Sobel (12:28 PM)
I'll say this: he is already the world's best ball-striker, best putter, best clutch putter and sharpest mentally. If Tiger can continue hitting 85 percent of fairways like he did at Muirfield Village, he may never lose again. For him to find the short stuff 49-of-56 times is downright scary. As for getting it all together, well, I'm not sure how much more "together" he can get than that final round on Sunday.
Over/Under on Michael Jordan's score? 90? Also, over/under on the total amount of side bets he has going on his score? $250K?
Jason Sobel (12:29 PM)
Yes, the Golf Digest challenge is on Friday, I believe. I've seen Jordan's index listed anywhere from a 1.5 to a 6, so it's tough to know exactly how he's playing at any given time. I don't think he'll break 90, but will keep him under 100. Let's go with about a 94.
Any rumors of Phil making a trip up to Bethpage to "gameplan" for the US Open?
Jason Sobel (12:30 PM)
Mickelson was actually there this morning before heading to Memphis: http://www.newsday.com/sports/golf/usopen/ny-spphil0610,0,4159918.story
Is Duval's game finally turning around, or is this just a fluke? Back to back made cuts (after 6 straight MC's), then qualifies for the Open at Bethpage.
Jason Sobel (12:33 PM)
I'm always a bit skeptical these days when I see Duval playing well. Just seems like we've been down this road before. He plays well, we get optimistic ... then he falls apart and doesn't make any noise for a while. The qualifier scores yesterday were really impressive, though, so maybe he is finally turning the corner. Then again, I think I said the same thing when he was on the leaderboard at last year's British Open.
I understand Tiger is always the favorite to win a Major, but most golf writers handed him the Green Jacket after Bay Hill, and now are all giving him the Open after the Memorial. We'll see what happens when he has to start hitting driver again at Bethpage.
Jason Sobel (12:35 PM)
All golf writers are giving the Open to Tiger, huh? How do you know that? Fact is, I'm a golf writer and I haven't made up my mind yet. So there. I'll admit that you likely won't have to look too far down the list to find his name, but let's not throw everyone in there together without some form of proof. Oh, and don't be surprised to see TW still hitting plenty of 3-woods at the Open.
How do you think Anthony Kim will do at the open?
Jason Sobel (12:37 PM)
He sounded confident when I spoke with him. Then again, he's always confident. AK hasn't played too well this year, but I expect him to turn it around and have a pretty big second half to the season.
Nick Tomasulo (The LBC)
How about that Peter Tomasulo!?! -9 to medal at his qualifier.
Jason Sobel (12:38 PM)
Good call from an impartial observer. I've been a fan of Tomasulo's game for a long time -- Peter's, that is, not his brother Nick's -- and think he could be a pretty good U.S. Open player. Doesn't make too many mistakes and hits it pretty straight.
wes (los angeles)
Are you going to do a blog at the open?
Jason Sobel (12:40 PM)
Absolutely. In fact, for the first time, I'll be doing a semi-live blog on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday prior to the tournament -- updates from the course, injury news, player quotes, interesting stories, etc. -- then will come back with the live blog, as usual, from Thursday-Sunday.
Great sports weekend with TW and RF's wins. So where do you stand: who's more dominant Roger or Tiger?
Jason Sobel (12:43 PM)
I know I'm a golf guy, so I'm biased... but I'll take Tiger. Not only does he have to beat an entire field -- not just the one guy in front of him -- but he has to play a different course each time. Even though Federer competes on different surfaces, the lines on the court remain the same. Playing 18 different holes for each major is more challenging.
Michael (Dayville, CT)
What is the pre-US Open talk regarding the setup of Bethpage? Any significant changes from '02, other than the added length and graduated rough?
Jason Sobel (12:46 PM)
There will be changes to 11 of the 18 holes, ranging from significant to minor. I'd need another 30 minutes to break down each one specifically, but overall, Mike Davis will give the players more bailout areas in terms of wider fairways at places and we won't see any teeing grounds so far back that some players can't reach the fairway. I have a Hot Seat interview with Davis that will be posted early next week (I believe) and addresses a lot of the changes.
Mike Cuneo (CA)
Let's say Tiger gets to 19 majors. Do you think he'll have the same fire to get to, say 24 majors, or do you think once he beats the record he'll spend less time focusing on golf? And when do you think he'll break the record?
Jason Sobel (12:47 PM)
Yes, I think more than anything Tiger understands that there will be another kid who comes along someday as the "next Tiger Woods" and will want to break all of his records, just as he is going after those of Nicklaus. Because of that, he wants to put the major record as far out of reach as possible. The motivation won't diminish after he reaches No. 19.
The US Open is by far my favorite tourney. It's always an amazingly difficult course with even more difficult conditions. Plus watching the final round with my dad. Golf doesn't get better than this.
Jason Sobel (12:49 PM)
There's always that extra coolness factor while watching the final round of the Open, knowing that it's Father's Day, as well. If I wasn't covering the tourney each year, I'd probably be hanging with my dad watching it, too.
So where do you see Tiger finishing? 23 Majors?
Jason Sobel (12:50 PM)
I'm on record as saying he'll get to 24. Remember, he's 33 years old right now. This is about the time when most golfers start reaching their peak. Scary.
Chuck (Long Beach)
There was a group of troopers and about 60 to 70 spectators, how hard would it have been for Tiger to give those people a story for life and play out the 18th at Bethpage yesterday?
Jason Sobel (12:52 PM)
I'm not sure how playing one more shot on 18 (he teed off, then left his ball in the fairway) and hitting a putt or two would have given them a better story. Nothing against the spectators, but this was never supposed to be a fan-friendly event. I mean, what are we talkin' about? We're talkin' about practice, man! Practice!
where does golf rank in the us on poularness in spoorts?
Jason Sobel (12:54 PM)
That's a pretty vague term -- I mean, if we're talking TV ratings, it's behind NFL, MLB, NBA and NASCAR. If we're talking about the amount of people who play the game, though, it's probably right up there after other personal pursuits like running or cycling. Not sure how to quantify that, really.
Matt (Perth, Australia)
Should we be worried about Geoff Ogilvy's chances at Bethpage after his 75 on Sunday?
Jason Sobel (12:57 PM)
I'm not sure what to think of Ogilvy's game right now. He's been all over the map this year, from really good at the Mercedes and Match Play to pretty poor at some other events. The one good thing I'll say about his game is that his streaks don't last very long. That 75 was preceded by a 63 on Saturday, so he can apparently go low -- or high -- at anytime.
Do you think the crowd will be as rowdy as they were in 2002?
Jason Sobel (12:59 PM)
I think so. I think that so much was made out of the crowd being rowdy that now they'll wear it as a badge of courage. People who aren't golf fans but heard about the tournament back in '02 will want to take in the action and add their voice. As long as it's not during anyone's backswing or impeding play, I'm all for fans having a great time on the course.
Jason Sobel (1:00 PM)
That's all the time I've got for now. Tons of U.S. Open preview coverage coming later this week and of course into next week, so keep checking back. And don't forget to check out the live blog from Bethpage for all seven days next week. Until then, hit 'em straight...