Hello, golf fans. Ready to get started. Fire away with your questions.
Where is Jason?
Jason Sobel, ESPN.com golf editor, is knee deep in diapers and probably sleep deprived. Future LPGA star Emma was born eight days ago. He's taking some time off.
What do you think of Martin Kaymer? How well do you see him doing in this year's majors?
Kaymer, from Germany, is well regarded. Ernie Els raved about his game. He has climbed to No. 22 in the world. He lost in the first-round of the Match Play to Boo Weekley and he probably needs some more experience before you can expect much in the majors But it doesn't hurt to have Ernie's endorsement.
After the way he played in the Presidents Cup and the accenture match play, and for the comic relief/good teammate vibes, doesn't Woody Austin have to be a captin's pick assuming we doesn't qualify for the Ryder Cup Team?
A lot depends on how Woody is playing when captain Paul Azinger makes his four picks just a few weeks before the matches. There is no question that Woody's play at the Presidents Cup opened some eyes. But if he is struggling adn doesn't make the team on points, that is not going to matter to Azinger.
How much do the players like having this string of tournaments in one state? Not much travel involved there, no?
The travel aspect is not nearly as big as it used to be, when all players drove to tournaments. But it certainly helps. The PODS tournament is just a four-hour drive from Honda. Next week's event, Bay Hill, is only 90 minutes away. And then it's a three-hour drive down the Florida Turnpike to Miami. Another factor is the playing surfaces. All the courses have Bermuda greens, so they can get used to a similar style
When do we see Tiger next? (And how much does the PGA hate people asking that question?)
Tiger is an all but certain lock to tee it up next week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which is about a five-minute drive from his home. He's won the tournament four times. And I don't think the tour folks mind the question so much. They understand the popularity of Tiger.
With the worst winter of the past 5 years hitting Iowa now, I've been subjected to watching golf instead of playing it. However any golf I can get, I'm grateful. In watching, I've seen how dominant Tiger is right now. My question is: Who's the guy that's going to challenge Tiger this year and in the next 5? What lesser name guy (not a Phil or Vijay) has a shot? And who really ups their game in the next year or two and becomes a force on the tour?
I've been saying for awhile now that I think the person who will challenge Tiger is not on our radar yet. Think back to Jack Nicklaus. He was 35 years old when Tom Watson came along and one his first major at the British Open in 1975 Watson would go on to thwart Nicklaus several times. When Jack was 32 -- as Tiger is now -- there were probably not too many people who considered Watson such a big challenger. It could be the same with Tiger.
Never too early to talk Augusta. Were any changes made to the course this year?
The changes this year were relatively minor. They added some room to the front of the tee box at No. 1 to allow them to move the tees up if there is bad weather; they changed the green at No. 7, including adding some extra yardage on the left side which could mean some different pin placements; some changes were also made to the ninth green which will flatten out a couple of pin positions; and some trees were removed from the right side of the 11th fairway with the idea of enhancing spectator viewing.
It seems that Luke Donald may have a case of the "seconds" - do you see him making the leap into a multiple wins per year type of guy or has he topped out?
I wouldn't say he has topped out, but there is some question about his ability to win multiple times in a year. Donald has just two victores on tour and another two in Europe but has been a member of both since 2002. He is a very solid player whom I sure feels the next step is to win more often.
Much has been made of Jason Day being an excellent golfer. I know he finished second this year other then that how do you rate him on tour so far?
It is probably too early to tell. He finished sixth at Pebble Beach but missed the cut last week at Honda. He's probably going to go through some growing pains on tour, but he is just 20, won a tournament and finished fifth on the 2007 Nationwide money list. There is plenty of upside.
Which is the best tournament to cover in person?
To me, it's the Masters, no question, with the British Open a close second. Augusta National is one of the few places that lives up to the hype and exceeds it. And the British Open venues are so unique.
With the schedule changes, do you think there's any chance that Tiger maintains his preference for playing two weeks before a major. In other words, any chance we'd see him at the Zurich?
It is very unlikely Tiger would play in New Orleans -- where he has never played as a pro. That would be three straight weeks. Even though there is an extra week in the schedule this year, it is more likely that Woods would visit Augusta National for a day or two prior to the tournament week.
Hey Bob - What tour rookies have impressed you so far this season?
Dustin Johnson has been very impressive. He's made five cuts in six starts and has two top 10s. He's already made more than $440,000. Matt Jones has also been very good. He was in contention at the Honda in just his seventh tour start and it hardly seemed to faze him.
I heard that Freddie was the President's Cup captain for 2009. Does this mean that he'll never captain a Ryder Cup team? That would be a shame...
Good question, because some believe Couples would make a good Ryder Cup captain. There is nothing that says he couldn't do both, but since he will be the Presidents Cup captain in 2009, that pretty much takes him out of the Ryder Cup in 2010. And by 2012, Couples will be 51. The PGA of America typically likes its captains to be in their 40s and still playing the regular tour.
Considering tiger received his first exemption as a pro in Milwaukee, will he ever return there?
If the schedule remains as is, he will not return to Milwaukee, because the event is now opposite the British Open.
Who is a player we don't know much about who you anticipate making the Ryder Cup team?
You have probably heard of Hunter Mahan, who won in Hartford last year. He has to climb the list to make the team, but he's got plenty of time and plenty of game.
Is there a bigger gap between Tiger and the rest of the PGA, or between Lorena Ochoa and the rest of the LPGA?
I would have to say the gap is bigger between Tiger and the rest of the PGA Tour, although Lorena has distinguished herself in the past year. Tiger has been doing it for longer. Lorena did make a nice statement with her 11-shot victory in Singapore.
Tougher to do: Winning the grand slam or having a Perfect Season(36-0)as an 11 year old?
I'll go with the Grand Slam, simply because it's never been done in the modern era. Of course, 36-0 as an 11-year-old is pretty impressive, too.
who finishes higher at the Masters this year - Charles Howell III, Zach Johnson, or Justin Rose?
I"m going with Justin Rose, on a hunch. He had the best run in the majors last year of anyone not named Tiger.
Bob -- you said earlier that Watson didn't start winning majors until Jack was 35. Isn't that why it's unfair to compare the strength of Jack and Tiger's "competition," when Tiger's compettiton still has another 15 years or so to earn wins and majors? I think the quality of the players today is every bit as outstanding as it was years ago (which makes what Tiger is doing all the more amazing).
It is true that we really won't know for some time. But it is interesting to note that Watson (eight majors) and Lee Trevino (six) did their winning at Nicklaus' expense.
Other than Tiger, who is playing the best golf right now?
It's got to be Mickelson. He has a win and lost in a playoff.
Is Tiger playing his best golf EVER right now?
Woods himself has suggested that his golf now is better than in 2000, which saw him win three majors and nine tournaments overall. The difference now -- except for the majors -- is that he is playing more tournaments against stellar fields than he did then.
Bob, why are there so many tournaments that aren't considered PGA tour events? Shouldn't there be a requirement for how many PGA tournaments a player should play in to keep their card? I feel bad for someone who can't get one because Tiger has it, and only plays in 5 tournaments a year.
PGA Tour players are required to play a minimum of 15 tour events in order to keep their card. Many believe the number should be higher or that players should be required to compete in each tournament at least once in a four or five year period But for now, those are the rules.
I know everyone has already given Tiger the grand slam, but of the four courses which one least suits him?
We know he likes Augusta and Torrey Pines, where he has won often. He tied for third, one shot out of a playoff, 10 years ago at Royal Birkdale. That leaves Oakland Hills and it's more due to the unkown. Woods played the 1996 U.S. Open there as an amateur and made the cut but finished well back. He also had a so-so Ryder Cup there in 2004. That said, it is hard to believe there is any course that doesn't suit Tiger.
Nice win for the Big Easy this weekend. Do you think he's back on track to challenging Tiger? His swing looked great again and now it seems it's all about getting his confidence back.
Until he wins a tournament again in which Tiger is entered, it will be hard to say he is on track for challenging Woods. He needs to get in contention and beat Tiger.
Heard on the telecast this past weekend that Couples has named Michael Jordan and Robin Williams as co captains of the President's Cup. Please tell me that is a joke.
Couples has not named them as assistants, but he has suggested that he might, to help lighten the mood. Don't know if he was joking or not but expect him to do something different with his assistant captains.
Speaking of Freddie, what are your thoughts on his play this year? If his back holds up might we see him on the front page of a leaderboard at some point this year?
For a guy who didn't play after the Masters last year, his results have been encouraging. Couples had made the cut in three of four starts, including a tie for eighth at the Buick Invitational. I would not be surprised to see him in contention somewhere.
I noticed that each week prior to a tourney, the ESPN golf experts choose anyone other then Tiger to win. Look at every tourney Tiger has played in this year, and the expert chose someone else. WHY? Are you guys hoping to look good by calling a "long shot"? I know there are other golfers out there, but.....not really :) Thanks!
Picking the winners of golf tournaments is nearly impossible. I often pick someone other than Tiger because he seems too easy of a choice. Obviously I"ve often been proven wrong.
Can you honestly put a good perspective on how hard it is to win 8 out the 9 past world events??
I think the best perspective may be this: Ernie Els had not won on the PGA Tour since 2004. And he is ranked third in the world.
Huge Lefty fan here. It seems like he's playing well this season, but shot -7 in the match play and still lost. When will he play next? Bay Hill or Doral? Does he have a shot at either of them?
That is the nature of Match Play, so I wouldn"t put too much stock in his loss there. If he had been well ove par, it woudl have been another story. Phil is expected back next week at Bay Hill and then again at Doral. And he has played well at both places.
I know this question is about a week late, but why doesn't the tour have more match play events? It is so much fun to fill out a bracket!
Match Play can be disaster for television, especially if no-name players make it to the finals. And golf is tough to televise when there are just two or four players on the course for four hours.
I just want to bring up the fact that Calc WHIFFED a shot this week. Mind you it was upside down and backwards, but he is a pro...In true form, showing how decent a guy he is, he said something like, "I whiffed it and then hit the next one real quick afterwards, smashed 8 iron on the green and made a 10 footer for bogey". Makes me feel like I could play on tour - even if I cant make a 10 footer....
Calc said he's done that five or six times in his career. Give him credit for admitting it. We can all whiff a shot, but few of us could still make the bogey he did after doing so.
Bob: If the U.S. loses the Ryder Cup this year, do you think they'll get to have SIX captain's picks for the 2010 edition? What do you think of the U.S. having four captain's picks?
I like four captain's picks. It gives Azinger a lot more flexibility. But if the U.S. loses, I believe it goes back to what we've said for a long time: they simply have to play better, and that is what it all boils down to.
Okay, thanks everyone for all your questions. I'm sure we'll be chatting again soon.