Chat with Bob Harig
Welcome to SportsNation! On Wednesday, ESPN.com golf writer Bob Harig will stop by to talk about the 2011 golf season.
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 Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET!
Bob Harig (3:55 PM)
Thanks for visiting this week's golf chat, we weren't able to weigh in last week so there's a lot to catch up on and talk about in the golf world. Feel free to fire away with your questions. I'll get to as many as I can.
Nancy (Orlando, FL)
Why would you even dignify the email in your column last week about Arnold's grandson being allowed to play in his event? Arnold has done so much for golf and society that his motives and decisions should be beyond question! To use a word like nepotism just becuase he allows his grandson to play is completely disrespectful!
Bob Harig (3:56 PM)
The person asked the question -- in my weekly mailbag -- and I answered it. And I also tried to point out that it's perfectly within his right to do so. Saying that doesn't mean it should be ignored. And, I should add, that while you may very well be right, that doesn't mean there might not be some grumbling out there that Arnold Palmer's grandson got a fee pass into the tournament.
Brian (Westborough, MA)
The Sunday pins at Bay Hill were challenging to say the least. Do players mind a collection of pins like that? I would like the harder the pins the better a chance for someone to get "hot" and make a run who is well behind the lead.
Bob Harig (3:57 PM)
I would say that in this case, the majority of the players did not like the pins. Mickelson said every pin from the 11th hole on was a bogey or double bogey pin. His point was that to attack them meant trouble. I think some of the scores pointed to it being a bit too difficult. And yet, it can be very compelling, too, to see the best in the world struggle as they did.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Who do you think will win The Masters?
Bob Harig (3:59 PM)
Let's get this one out of the way right now. I have no idea!! Look at this year's results. Who wold have predicted Byrd, Wilson, Baddeley, Sabbatini, Woodland, Laird? It's impossible! No predicitons during this chat.
Mike (Charlotte, NC)
Would Phil not be better served spending this week playing practice rounds at Augusta if he is essentially saying he's going to be playing the shots he'd hit at the Masters regardless of what the Shell course requires? - Hard to buy the "I need tourney pressure" agruement when his stated goal really isn't to win
Bob Harig (4:00 PM)
It's a good point and I tend to you agree with you. It seems kind of a waste to play a tournament in which you are not really playing the course presented. On the other hand, I'm sure the tournament and the folks attending love having him there regardless. Phil likes to play the week prior to majors if he can. I appreciate his honesty on the subject.
Mike (Charlotte, NC)
I know it is practically impossible to get tourney round tickets for The Masters (unless you have 2500.00 to give to stub hub) but how do you go about getting practice round tickets are what are the odds
Bob Harig (4:02 PM)
The club offers practice round tickets available via lottery in the spring, about a month to six weeks after the tournament. Check Masters.com after the tournament. The club makes available a form to submit and they notify winners in the fall.
Cheesehead Sports Nut (Chicago, IL)
I enjoyed your most recent "Tiger-proofing" article about Augusta National. It seems like shortening the course and narrowing the fairways would have been much more effective than lengthening the course. If you were in charge of revamping Augusta National, how would you change it?
Bob Harig (4:04 PM)
The story was meant to point out that the term "Tiger proofing" was kind of silly, that making it longer and tougher in theory would not make it harder for him to win. But in some ways, it has. Let's face it, technology meant the club had to do something. The par-5s on the back nine were not meant to be played with wedges for second shots. Same with 18. They might have overdone it. The trees on the right side of 11 and 15 were too much. But much of the length added was probably the right way to go.
Hi Bob- There was a recent interview done with Colin Montgomerie who said it was his goal to become an elite player and back in the top 50. Do you think he will be able to follow through?
Bob Harig (4:05 PM)
It is going to be difficult. Monty is not in the top 400 right now. Not only does he need a few high finishes but he needs to be competitive in some big events that offer world ranking points. The problem is, he's not eligible for a lot of them. It will be interesting to see if Monty remains committed to his goal.
Being a casual golf fan, why should I be excited for Matrin Kramer?
Bob Harig (4:06 PM)
Because he's an excellent player. Seems to have all the tools and has already experienced great success at a young age. Could probably be around for awhile. He's not flashy, but he's got a lot going fo rhim.
Is Bob Murphy no longer on NBC's golf coverage?
Bob Harig (4:08 PM)
No, he is not. I don't believe he has been part of the broadcast team for the past two years.
Certainly Phil will be judged from here on out by his performance in major championships and not saying that he does not care about regular tour events but it seems to be that he is really focusing almost too much on the majors and neglecting tour events. Your thoughts?
Bob Harig (4:09 PM)
Earlier this year Phil said that he'd love to get to 50 PGA Tour wins. He has 38. So I don't think he's only focused on majors. And he also wanted to win earlier this year to get some momentum. It can be dangerous to put everything into the majors, however. It leads to a big letdown if you don't succeed. There are only 4 of them, and lots of other tournaments.
Any update if Phil will be implementing a two driver strategy at Augusta?
Bob Harig (4:11 PM)
He apparently is considering it
You could argue that Phil has been a better player than Tiger since the significant changes at Augusta? Why do you think that is the case?
Bob Harig (4:13 PM)
If you consider that a good number of the changes occurred after 2002, Phil definitely has had the better record -- 3 victories to 1. The big reason for Tiger has been putting. He's been in contention every year since his victory in 2005 with no finish worse than sixth. But he's had some putting problems.
another withdrawl from villegas this week no reason given.. only 4 cuts made in 8 events and 2 were no cut WGC's.. looked at his stats since i figured it was putting but alll his numbers are terrible.. whats the deal? Ever get the feeling he is fragile mentally despite all the fitness discipline?
Bob Harig (4:15 PM)
Villegas is having a rough year, no doubt. He did have some injury issues and I'm not sure if that is still part of it. He got DQ'd at the first tournament and there seems to have been one issue after another since.
Why do you think ANGC (over)reacted so much to the win by Tiger in '97? Nicklaus dominated the Masters and won 6 times without them feeling the need to Jack proof the course.
Bob Harig (4:17 PM)
Nicklaus has pointed out that the bunkers on the left side of the 18th fairway were moved because in the 1960s he simply blew his drives over them. So in a way, they reacted to Jack, too. . . The reason they changed was actually sound: they wanted players to be hitting the same kind of approaches that their predecessors had to face. Gene Sarazen hit a 4-wood second shot at the 1935 Masters to 15, not a short iron. The problem for many however was some of the drastic changes, such as the adding of trees on several holes.
Ed (Long Island)
What is the reasoning behind the 14 club limit in the golf bag, why not let them carry 20 clubs if they wish?
Bob Harig (4:18 PM)
Not sure why they arrived at 14 clubs. I will try to reasearch that and get an answer in another chat or in the mailbag. I do know it was around 1940 that they put the rule into effect. There has often been a call to limit the number of clubs further, which would require more skill out of players to compete.
Ed (Long Island)
I'm a fan of Phil, but the tournament executives at SHO have to be fuming about his comments of using this week basically as a practice round, using clubs he'd use at Augusta rather than the better club/swing for the shot to execute there. Is Phil's comment subject to a fine by the PGA?
Bob Harig (4:20 PM)
I would be surprised if he were subject to a fine. And I doubt the Houston folks are upset. They are glad to have him in the tournament. Phil said he gradually wanted to get better each day but didn't want to be focused on the results. I admit it's an odd approach but I think the Houston tournament would rather have him than not.
Bob. Can a first time Masters player go to Augusta early and play practice rounds or do they have to wait until the week of the tournament?
Bob Harig (4:23 PM)
Once a player is qualified for the Masters, he has the right to go to Augusta National on any day the club is open to play a practice round. He simply needs to inform the powers that be he is coming and they will typically send them out with a member if they are not a past champion. Some have played multiple rounds at Augusta before tournament week.
Gary Mccray (Nutley NJ)
As we get ready for The MASTERS, is Tiger going to be in the final pairing on Sunday? Or will his swing woes hamper him again?
Bob Harig (4:23 PM)
Wish I knew. So hard to say. It wouldn't surprise me either way.
What do you think of the statistic that's been floated around about how the last 9 major champions have failed to win a PGA Tour event since winning their last major? I think it's misleading and out of context. Ye Yang, Martin Kaymer, Graeme Mcdowell, and Louis Oosthuizen all won on the European Tour last year. And Padraig Harrington won on the Asian Tour. Granted in Harrington's case his form has definitely suffered since the '08 PGA, but Kaymer, Mcdowell, and Oosthuizen have all improved on their previous form since winning their major. I do think it's worth noting however that American players seem to struggle the last few years after taking a major, but that statistic which I've seen retweeted by Paul Azinger (a respected ESPN commentator obviously) suggests something that simply isn't happening.
Bob Harig (4:26 PM)
I do think you have to note what Kaymer has done since winning. And Oosthuize did win a European event in South Africa. Yang won but not on the PGA Tour or the European Tour. Harrington's victory was not against a very strong field.I think the real place to look is at the 2009 major winners -- Cabrera, Glover, Cink. All have struggled since.
It has been exciting to watch this younger generation of players make a run at these last few tournaments. Do you think its because they are playing that much better or some of the older guys are not playing as well as they normally do?
Bob Harig (4:27 PM)
Probably a little of both. Young players today seem to be much more fearless. They are not afraid to contend and go after it. They come out more seasoned. And we've had a batch of the older players -- Phil, Tiger, Furyk, Harrington, Els -- who have not done much. But things change in a hurry.
Ed (Long Island)
Not only did the grouping of Mickelson, Westwood and Kim finish 1-2-3 in the Masters last year, but each has been known to throw a bet or 2 aournd. How much do you think the bets will be during the first 2 rounds - or is that against the rules??
Bob Harig (4:29 PM)
It is very much against the rules.
I noticed that David Toms had one of his best finishes in quite some time at Bay Hill. Do you know if he is eligible to play The Masters this year? I think his PGA Champion exemption has probably expired.
Bob Harig (4:31 PM)
Yes, he is in the field, based on tying for 14th last year. The top 16 finishers get a return invite.
Do you think that Tiger can win the masters if he is in the top 10 in putting stats at Augusta? We all can see that his troubles have been with putting. He had 1 or 2 rounds that he was not driving the ball well but for the most part he has been decent off the tee and with his approach shots. The main problem has been his putting. He has been so un-tiger like with the flat stick.
Bob Harig (4:34 PM)
For all the talk about the long game and his swing, it really is true thaat a lot of his troubles at Augusta have come down to putting. Don't forget that Tiger made 4 eagles last year. But remember that brutal 3 putt at the 14th green on Sunday? I think if he's anything like the old Tiger on the greens, he can contend. He's also got to be better with the short game, something that has let him down of late.
Yang's win in China last year was co-sanctioned by the Asian and European tours.
Bob Harig (4:36 PM)
I stand corrected. Yang's win last year was at the Volvo China Open, which is a European Tour event.
Pam (Palm Beach)
Apart from Tiger and Phil's first Masters win, has there been any player who had a great form going into Augusta (win a few times just before the Masters) gone ahead and win the Masters.
Bob Harig (4:38 PM)
Tiger has typically been in good form whenever he's won the Masters. He's never failed to win at least one tournament in a year in which he won the Masters. Phil won the week prior in 2006 and won the Hope in 2004, as did Mike Weir in 2003. But nobody saw Zach Johnson, Trevor Immelman or Angel Cabrera winning based on how they were playing going in.
In 1986 Nicklaus hit 3-wood and iron into one of the par-5's on the back 9, and the major tech distance improvements didn't come until 2002. No one other other then Tiger even got to double digits in '97. Just seems like a lot of the clubs explanations for the changes in '97 don't make sense.
Bob Harig (4:40 PM)
True, but he wasn't hitting sand wedge into those holes. Or sand wedge to 18. He hit 5-iron to 18 in 1986. He hit 5-iron to 16 that year. He hit a short club to 17, which would not be possible today. The course was barely 7,000 yards and even then guys could do some damage -- although the argument goes it was incredibly exciting.
Bob. I bought tiger woods 2012 - the masters today. Have you played it?
Bob Harig (4:40 PM)
I have not played it nor seen it yet. . Would be curious for any reaction. If anybody has played it, send in a quick comment and I'll post a few of them before this chat is over.
Ed (Long Island)
How do the pairings get set at the Masters?
Bob Harig (4:41 PM)
It's up to the Masters Tournament committee. . They typically will put the defending champion with the reigning U.S. Amateur champion. Often times past champions will play with the other amateurs.
Ed (Long Island)
Are we over emphasizing the "Tiger Proof" of the Master's course and it's effect on scoring? Last year Phil won at -16, Tiger's great year was -18...seems the players are able to adjust
Bob Harig (4:45 PM)
Tiger was 18 under and the next best was 6 under remember.. .You are making it too simplistic, however. The idea that they made these huge changes goes beyond the final score. It goes to the way the course is now played, the excitment level. I thought Furyk's comments were very telling. Instead of it being a "fun" course where you can take chances, guys play defensive. And yet, in the last two years, there has been a lot of excitement on Sunday. I don't think there's a definitive answer one way or the other, just an issue worth discussing.
Give your best guess even though you are not sure yet. Tiger Woods will finish within the Top ___________ at the masters. Fill in the blank.
Bob Harig (4:45 PM)
Five. . . .
Ed (Long Island)
Any chance Phil changes his stance this week with hitting driver on every hole and using this as glorified practice rounds if Westwood is playing well and his competetive juices start flowing?
Bob Harig (4:47 PM)
There's no telling. I think once you get out there, don't you want to shoot the best score you can? I think a lot depends on the weather and how he does. If he gets going, he'll want to keep it going. If he struggles, then I guess he goes back to working on the things for Augusta.
Brian (Westborough, MA)
To respond to "Nancy from Orlando" and since I was the one who authored the email about nepotism I think she contridicted herself in saying that "To use a word like nepotism just becuase he allows his grandson to play is completely disrespectful" she basically defines what nepotism is in her denial that it was nepotism. From my point of view as someone who has tried to Monday qualify and gone through the USGA's qualification process for the Open/Amateur/Mid Am and Pub Linx it is frustrating to see someone get a free pass out of this who hasn't earned it save for the fact of who they know. I have nothing against Sam Saunders but I, and others out there, would have a lot more respect for his career if he qualified for events.
Bob Harig (4:48 PM)
As I tried to say earlier and in the mailbag response, I can see both sides to this issue. Certainly Palmer has done tons for the game. And his grandson Sam Saunders has proven to be an excellent player perhaps in need of a break here and there -- he did make the cut. But if you're on the other side of that, sure, you can see where people would be upset. Others have to do it the hard way.
Bill (New York, NY)
It seems a little fishy that Augusta made changes to the course in 1998, 2002, and 2006, each time following a Tiger Woods win. Now Phil is starting to dominate Augusta (3 of last 7) and there are no changes coming, I don't want to bring the 'r' word into this but it is peculiar
Bob Harig (4:50 PM)
I really think it had nothing to do with Tiger in particular. If anything, Augusta would WANT the biggest name in the game to win the tournament. But the powers that be saw the technological advancements. I remember Hootie Johnson talking about seeing Phil's drive on 11 and having an 8-iron to the green. So this is not all about Tiger.
Pam (Palm Beach)
Hey Bob, did you hear the news that Tiger still draws the crowd at Tourneys even though he is not winning. Thst was the incredulous report from the AP. Why was there surprise to the Media
Bob Harig (4:51 PM)
The story you are referring to I believe was done to point out that inspite of him struggling people still want to watch him. I get asked all the time why I write about him so much. I get some pretty nasty email on the subject. Well, it's because his story, his game, still fascinates, even though he is not winning. The guy has won 71 times with 14 majors. Now he's fallen off the cliff. But he's only 35, less than two years removed from a 6-victory season. And we're going to ignore him?
Do you know what time ESPN will be airing the Masters on TV each day?
Bob Harig (4:54 PM)
I believe it is 2:30 p.m. ET each day, Thursday-Friday. CBS has the weekend. Also there will be a video component on espn.com.
What course on the PGA Tour is the most like Augusta...is there one?
Bob Harig (4:55 PM)
The closest one was TPC Sugarloaf site of the BellSouth Classic near Atlanta which is no longer in existence. There really is not a course close.
I also think it's the fist pumping and the way Tiger plays, because no one else was hitting SW into 18 in '97, but the 2nd place score was -6, the course was certainly holding up
Bob Harig (4:56 PM)
There certainly is an argument to be made that they went too far. Tom Kite was 6 under and that is a perfectly legitimate winning score. It is a good topic of discussion.
Bob, I won't make you pick the winner of the Masters....but is there even a favorite going into this?
Bob Harig (4:57 PM)
To me it's the most wide open in some time. We've had all these winners on tour this year who weren't ranked among the top 100 in the world. A great group of European players. The only player in the top six in the world to win this year is Kaymer. So many different possibilities.
Bob Harig (4:58 PM)
Okay folks, I am out of time. Thanks for all the quesiton. I'll be chatting next week from Augusta, just not sure which day yet so keep checking back to find out. Enjoy the golf.