Chat with Bob Harig
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, ESPN.com golf writer Bob Harig will stop by to chat as the 2010 PGA Tour season gets set to tee off.
Harig covers golf for ESPN.com and provides columns, features and analysis on the world of golf, specifically the PGA Tour. He has contributed to ESPN.com's golf coverage since 1997.
Send your questions now and join Bob to chat Thursday at 4 p.m. ET!
Bob Harig (3:57 PM)
Happy New Year and welcome to the first golf chat of the 2010 season. The first balls have been struck in Hawaii at the SBS Championship and there is plenty to talk about in the world of golf. Thanks for sending in your questions. Let's get started.
Mark (Boston MA)
What are the chances Tiger never plays again or when he returns plays only on the Euro tour?
Bob Harig (3:59 PM)
We might as well begin with a Tiger question. Mark, I wish I knew the answer. It's all speculation at this point, but I do not put much stock in him never playing again or only playing in Europe. His career has been judged mostly by the records he has set on the PGA Tour. That is what defines him, along with the major championships. When he does return, it would seem he would play a majority of his schedule on the PGA Tour.
Patrick (Hanover PA)
Is this the danger that a sport runs into by basically throwing all its eggs in one basket and only essentially caring about that person, if something goes wrong your left with players that most people no nothing about. THe NBA did the same thing in the 90's by only caring about Michael Jordan and it has taken many years to get back.
Bob Harig (4:03 PM)
Patrick, so much attention has been focused on Tiger because interest in him dictated that. I go back to the second half of 2008 when there were many great stories in golf while Tiger was gone: Harrington winning two majors, Greg Norman nearly winning a major, the U.S. winning the Ryder Cup. . . And yet none of it -- despite getting just as much golf media prominence -- seemed to be as interesting to people as Tiger. The tour has attempted to market other players. They have been written about and talked about. And yet, it just doesn't seem to move people as much as Tiger seems to -- even before the controversy.
Brian (Westborough, MA)
Does the USGA give Tom Watson a special invite to the Us Open this year?
Bob Harig (4:04 PM)
Brian, so far the USGA has made no announcements about special exemptions to the Open, but if they were ever going to give one out, this would be the perfect one to give, wouldn't it? Who would complain about Watson -- who nearly won the Open Championship -- getting a spot in the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, where he won his only U.S. Open title in 1982. Good thought. We'll pass it on.
I got to play Pebble the other day, WOW! My only question is the 17th hole. Every year it plays about 185 yards, yet when we played there was a tee box that was 220 yards. Why dont' the pros play this tee?
Bob Harig (4:06 PM)
David, congrats on getting to play this year's U.S. Open venue. How much was it??? To answer your question, the pros do play that back tee -- sometimes. And you'll most certainly see it used during at least a couple of the rounds at the U.S. Open. It is from that tee that Jack Nicklaus famously used a 1-iron during his '72 Open victory, his tee shot hitting the stick.
Brian (Westborough, MA)
OK Bob, gun to head, when do we see Tiger hit his next meaningful shot?
Bob Harig (4:07 PM)
Brian, I'll repeat again that nobody knows. But if I'm guessing, I say Doral in March. That's still more than two weeks away. Would allow him to play two events (if you consider Bay Hill) before the Masters. I know there is a lot going on in his life, but I still have a hard time believing he will skip a major in his prime while not injured. Again, just a guess.
Chris Paterson (glasgow)
Hi Bob,I reckon we are going to see big seasons this year from Sean O'Hair and Ross Fisher. Both have got the swing, game and tempremant to be top level superstars. Any thoughts on those two?
Bob Harig (4:09 PM)
Chris, difficult to disagree. O'Hair needs to be more consistent and learn to putt better. He's been on the verge for awhile and, frankly,should probably win more given all of his gifts. Fisher was solid in the major championships last year but had trouble closing. All of that experience should help him.
Give me 1 player in the top 10 who's game is helped by the new grooves and 1 player who's game will suffer. Names here Bob!
Bob Harig (4:12 PM)
Jason, I think a player like Jim Furyk -- No. 5 in the world -- is helped by the grooves rule. But indirectly. Other players will be forced to play from the fairway more, as the theory goes. That might mean they have to hit less club, which benefits a medium to short hitter like Furyk. I think it hurts a player like Mickelson, although he seemingly has the skills to make up for it. He'll have more difficulty hitting those great pitch shots from the rough. But there are many, many factors in all of this and we will have to see how it all plays out. (Shameless plug: I have a story running Friday on ESPN.com about the new grooves rule.)
I've heard two schools of thought on Phil Mickelson and the new grooves. One is that his game will suffer, though not a lot, as he won't be able to bomb and wedge anymore. The other is that his game will prosper as he, along with Woods and maybe Justin Leonard have the greatest shortgames in the world the the new grooves will serve as a way of highlighting this even more. Which do you buy into.
Bob Harig (4:13 PM)
Allen, although I just said in the previous answer that Mickelson stands to be hurt by the new rule, you make a good point about his short game being good that perhaps he prospers. Certainly Mickelson can hit the high flop shot, which players are going to have to get better at. But it is true that the bomb and wedge came could suffer because of this.
Will the USGA put in a driveable par 4 in the Open. I know #4 is only 330 but usually not driveable as it bottlenecks, has an ocean right and is usually into the wind. I was at the AT&T the past 2 years and saw Mickelson almost drive #3 (cutting the dogleg).
Bob Harig (4:15 PM)
Chuck, I am not sure where they will do it or when, but Mike Davis who sets up the Open seems to like the idea and I'm guessing will do everything he can to try and make it happen. It has worked well, the risk/reward aspects are compelling and as we've seen, not every short hole has to be an easy hole.
If an amateur tries to qualify for the US Open, will he have to abide by the new groove rules throughout the process?
Bob Harig (4:17 PM)
No, only starting with sectional qualifying. The grooves rule will not be in place at local qualifying for the Open, likely due to the logistical issues in testing. But anyone who makes it to sectionals will have to abide by the new rules, and of course, if they make it to the Open as well.
My boss and I were talking the other day about pairings. I said they are random and laughed at me. He said if they are random how come Tiger and Phil have never been paired in a regular tour event. He said they are only paired when the format makes them be. Is that right? If it is random why dont' the televise it? It'd be cool to see.
Bob Harig (4:22 PM)
Victor, the pairings are random to a certain degree. There are categories that players are grouped in based on their resumes: There's basically one groupig for major champions and past two winners, another for fully exempt tour members and another for everyone else. That's why you don't see Tiger paired with a sponsor exemption.However, a computer randomly puts the groupings together, and it is programmed that so players don't always go late-early or early late. And it tries to keep the same players from being paired together all the time. Tiger and Phil have been paired together, but it is rare.
Who is the #1 player in the world (accoring to OWGR) at the end of the year?
Bob Harig (4:23 PM)
Mark, since I believe Tiger is going to come back this year, I have to say it will be Tiger at the end of the year.According to the numbers crunched by the OWGR people, it would take until at least the early part of July for Woods to lose the No. 1 ranking if he doesn't play until then.
Dean M (Portland)
Best bet to win his first major this year?
Bob Harig (4:24 PM)
Dean, I keep thinking Lee Westwood is going to win a major. He did win the Race to Dubai. He's due.
Dave G. (Scappoose)
Who will be this year's new big name on the Champion's Tour?
Bob Harig (4:24 PM)
Dave, I don't think there is any question it is Fred Couples. He is playing in the Champions Skins Game to kick it off. It'll be interesting to see how much he plays and how well he competes.
Any changes to Augusta this year?
Bob Harig (4:25 PM)
Chuck, the Masters folks have not announced any changes.
Saying Tiger comes back and plays in all the majors, who are your picks for the 4 majors this year?
Bob Harig (4:26 PM)
Dan, I like Phil at Augusta, Lee Westwood at Pebble Beach, Tiger at St. Andrews and Tiger again at Whistling Straits. .. . Don't hold me to it.
Adam Scott won down under last year and somewhat saved his year. Any chance he regains his form this year?
Brian (Westborough, MA)
If this weeks event were someplace (but not the old course) in CA would some of the bigger names (Woods and Mickelson) be playing more often? Before the WGCs wasn't this a premier event on the tour? Now it seems like its a step below Phoenix and above the Hope.
Bob Harig (4:32 PM)
Brian, hard to say. We're really only talking about Tiger and Phil skipping. They might skip it no matter where it is played. As I wrote today (another shameless plug for an ESPN.com story), the season begins too early. It would be hard for these guys to skip if the first event was a few weeks later. And while it is their right to pick and choose where they want to play, what would be wrong with making one event mandatory for those eligible?
Stanley (San Francisco)
Bob, who do you see having a better year, Rickie Fowler or Michael Sim?
Bob Harig (4:33 PM)
Stanley, that is hard to say, really. Sim has more experience and did go through the full grind on the Nationwide Tour, winning three times. But Fowler showed so much promise coming out of college and nearly earning his card. If I had to pick, I'd go with Fowler.
Brian (Westborough, MA)
Any chance Phil Mickelson gets membership on the Euro tour and plays in the Race to Dubai?
Bob Harig (4:35 PM)
Brian, I seriously doubt it. He needs to play 12 European Tour events to be eliglbe, seven of which are the four majors and three world golf events. If he plays the Scottish Open the week before the British and then defends his title in China, now he's up to nine. The season-ending Dubai event would be 10. But he's still got to play two more. When? Where? I don't see it happening.
Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy are two of the most talented young guns on tour. Do you either of them winning this year?
Bob Harig (4:36 PM)
Dan, I could see either or both winning. McIlroy is already ranked among the top 10 in the world, the next logical step is to win in America. Fowler nearly did it in a playoff last fall. It would be good for the game to have these guys winning tournaments.
Brian (Westborough, MA)
What do you make of the rumors that the fall series will be played in Asia? With weather issues, limited sponsors and great courses that we can only see in the winter months do you think the tour will ever schedule a foreign opening leg, say Jan and Feb, and then let us see Pebble and Torrey in dry months and desert golf when there isn't the chance for frost?
Bob Harig (4:40 PM)
Brian, I don't think we'll see the PGA Tour opening its season on foreign-soil anytime soon. I could see the Asian events in the fall someday, as we are already moving in that direction. Two are scheduled -- although they are not official PGA Tour events. One day they could be. As for moving Torrey and Pebble into later slots, it just seems unlikely in the short term. That would require some radical thinking and the tour has been doing things -- successfully -- for this way a long time.
Do you see Anthony Kim rebounding from a bad 2009 and winning on tour this year?
Bob Harig (4:41 PM)
Dan, it certainly would be good for golf if he did. My guess is that Kim learned something from last year. Part of the season he was injured, but he also didn't put in the effort required, either. He more or less admitted that. He got worn out with some overseas travel which didn't help. It will be interesting to see how he moves along this year.
Jim (Salt Lake City)
Chances Mike Weir can pick up a second major this year?
Bob Harig (4:43 PM)
Jim, I like Mike Weir's chances simply because he remains a solid player. He gives himself chances. I know he's not won much lately, but Pebble Beach and St. Andrews especially would seem to be places where his game would thrive.
Which west coast event are you looking forward to the most?
Bob Harig (4:44 PM)
Mark, I'd have to say Torrey Pines. That is when Mickelson is expected to play his first tournament. There's no football that week. It seems more like the true beginning to the season then.
Everyone is talking about how the new grooves will affect certain players. Let me ask you this, how will it affect certain courses? What type of course will see the biggest change and what type will see the smallest change. I think Augusta, with the new "second cut" will play much harder as players won't be able to get close to pins from the "second cut."
Bob Harig (4:46 PM)
Mitch, so many factors are in play here. If course set ups remain the same, it impacts those that have the highest rough and the narrowest fairway and hardest greens. But what if they cut the rough, widen the fairways and soften the greens? Then the grooves issue isn't as big of a deal.
Brian (Worcester MA)
What is the best course on the regular tour (no majors).
Bob Harig (4:48 PM)
Brian, lots of possibilities here, but if you go by many of the players, it's Quail Hollow in Charlotte. Seems to have everything they like. Although not all of the players agree, any list would have to have the TPC Sawgrass Stadium course. From a design standpoint, not everyone loves it. But the course does have a way of creating a lot of interst during the Players Championship.
What kind of field should the Greenbrier tournament expect this year? With it being stuck between the Open Championship and the WGC-Bridgestone and PGA Championship, it seems the big names won't play.
Bob Harig (4:50 PM)
Dan, I think you're on to something. The date is a killer. It follows the British Open and Canadian Open and is prior to a very difficult stretch that starts with the Bridgestone and is followed by the PGA and then two weeks later the FedEx Cup playoffs. I'm sure the tour will twist arms to get players to an event that is new and stepped up to replace the Buick Open. But it's going to be a tough sell.
What are the chances that we are making a bigger deal of these groove changes than they really are?
Bob Harig (4:52 PM)
There is a very good chance that too much is being made of it. The grooves issue is very "insider" type stuff. Unless an announcer mentions it or the players talk about it, you might not notice the difference as a viewer or spectator. It's hard for me to envision scoring being affected much, if at all.
Do you see any tournaments sponsors NOT wanting Tiger to play in their events given what has transpired with him? Can any tournament deny an exempt player?
Bob Harig (4:54 PM)
Nelson, I seriously doubt a tournament would not want Tiger. And, no, they can't deny an exempt player. Despite all of his troubles, Tiger is going to bring a ton of interest to whatever tournaments he plays. And, ultimately, the tournaments are looking to sell tickets and gain exposure for their sponsors.
Were Camilo's 2 wins in 2008 a flash in the pan? I know he is a solid player, but do you think he can be known for more than his "Spiderman" pose?
Bob Harig (4:54 PM)
Dan, I don't think Villegas is a flash in the pan, but like many solid young players he seems to be lacking on the greens.
Brian (Westborough MA)
Is the Waste Managment Phoenix Open really being televised on TGC during the weekend?
Bob Harig (4:56 PM)
Brian, that appears to be the case.
What kind of year should we expect from Kenny Perry? 2 Wins and a near miss at Augusta last year. Can he have the same type of year this year at age 49?
Bob Harig (4:57 PM)
Dan, it probably depends on Perry's motivation. He has said he will cut back some this year? Will he have the same drive and intensity? He has also said he might play a few senior events after turning 50.
Dan Weber (Iowa City)
How many majors for Tiger this year? I would say at least 1, more likely 2...
Bob Harig (4:59 PM)
I predicted in an earlier answer that he would win one: St. Andrews. Of course, that assumes he is back playing, which as you all know is very much up in the air at the moment.
Bob Harig (4:59 PM)
I am out of time, folks. Thanks for all of your questions.A quick programming note: most weeks, we will try to do these chats on Wednesday afternoons, the day before PGA Tour events begin. Look forward to checking in with you next week.