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December 31, 6:22 AM ET
Chat with Bob Harig

Bob Harig
  (2:01 PM)

Hello, and welcome to this golf chat. The 2009 PGA Tour season is about to kick off, er, get underway. Sorry, it's still kind of hard to believe we're cranking it back up again. But a lot of big names and great players are ready to go in Hawaii. And so are we. So fire away with any and all questions pertaining to golf.

Steiny (NYC)

Would you say Tiger is the early Masters favorite?

Bob Harig
  (2:03 PM)

Steiny, might as well get started with a Tiger question. Simple answer: yes I would. Because I believe he won't come back until he is ready. And assuming there are no issues with his knee, the time away will have done him good. He has plenty of time to get geared up for Augusta. And so when the Masters rolls around, I would expect Tiger to be in good form.

Curtis (Cedar Par, TX)

Bob, why isn't anyone talking about Villegas going for his third straight PGA win at the Mercedes-Benz? I know that he played the Chevron and didn't finish well, but three-in-a row "on tour" is still quite a feat.

Bob Harig
  (2:04 PM)

Curtis, you're right, Villegas is going for three in a row in official events in which he has played. For a guy who had not won anything until the end of last year, it probably is being overlooked. It is going to be interesting to see how he builds on that finish to the 2008 season.

Sean from KC, MO

who will have a better year: AK or Sergio?

Bob Harig
  (2:05 PM)

Sean, good question, and tough to answer. If I had to choose right now, I'd go with Sergio, mostly because we haven't seen Anthony Kim for very long. It'll be interesting to see how Kim builds on 2008. Sergio has been on the verge of really having a monster year.

Mike (NC)

How serious is VJ's injury and what are you expecting out of him once he comes back? Is this just something minor or a sign that the body may finally be catching up to him

Bob Harig
  (2:06 PM)

Mike, I don't think you can ever discount a knee injury, especially one that occurs to a player who is about to turn 46. But I don't believe this is age related. It appears he injured himself at Tiger's tournament a few weeks ago -- the one he won! And it has gotten worse, so he decided to take care of it after the Mercedes. Knowing how hard Vijay trains, and knowing that he is in excellent shape, I would expect if there are no complications, he'll be fine. He'll just get a later start.

Tom (Carroll, Iowa)

I know the PGA Tour life can be pretty awesome for the top guys. I happen to think that being a top level amateur who happens to have a healthy bank account might even be better. I think you might enjoy the game more not playing for money. What do you think? Thanks Bob.

Bob Harig
  (2:07 PM)

Tom, it's an interesting idea, but who has enough money that they can turn their back on the millions upon millions these guys play for? And it costs a fair sum to play the tour, with travel and caddies and meals and instructors,etc. It's hard to imagine someone turning down the chance to make money for doing it in this day.

Jay (PA)

Do you see Boo contending for any majors this year? I think the Masters would be his best shot.

Bob Harig
  (2:09 PM)

Jay, I think that is the next step for Boo, to get into contention at one of the big four tournaments. He certainly has the ball-striking ability to contend. He would be the first to tell you that his putting is the problem area,and that is especially crucial at the Masters.

BOB-DENISON,TX

curious what you think the failing economy will do to golf over the next 24 months. To some extent golf is a rich man's game but the grassroots-$150 a month club member may be forced with play with the same clubs a while instead of trading up. Consider Nike has to sale roughly 150,000 full sets including irons and woods just to pay tiger where is it all going to end.

Bob Harig
  (2:10 PM)

Bob, the state of the economy should be a concern at all levels of golf. People throughout the world are simply being forced to cut back. Whether it be companies who pay for sponsorships or golfers who can't afford to play as many rounds. It is certainly going to be a rough year for everyone. As mentioned, some golfers might elect to play with what they've got. Maybe they play less rounds, hit more practice balls. Or maybe they don't attend as many tournaments. Golf can't afford to assume it will be immune from such problems.

Steiny (NYC)

Do you think Padraig Harrington can make a run at Tiger Woods?

Bob Harig
  (2:12 PM)

Steiny, if you mean in the world ranking, possibly. Simply because Tiger is going to continue to lose ground as he sits out, and a hot start to the year by Harrington -- or Garcia or Mickelson -- could possibly see them overtaking Tiger for No. 1. And it is possible that Harrington could be a foil for Tiger in the majors. He has learned how to play them and play them well. But unlike Tiger, he has difficulty keeping his game at a high level all the time. The major pursuit seems to take quite a bit out of him.

Sean W. (Westfield, MA)

With Tiger's knee improving faster than expected and being completly healthy when he returns, do you think he will blow away his competition?

Bob Harig
  (2:15 PM)

Sean, I'm not sure yet that we can say his knee has improved faster than expected. The timeline for him to not twist and turn on it was six months. He was told it would likely take a full 2 years before it is 100 percent. But of course, it's been way less than that for a long time, and he did quite well. Blow away? Maybe not initially. I think he's going to need a bit of time to get back into it. Six-eight months away cannot be dismissed. But I don't think it will take long for him to get where he wants to be.

Justin (Ohio)

Anything new about Seve's condition you could tell us Bob?

Bob Harig
  (2:17 PM)

Justin, all I know is what I read the other day, when he sent out a greeting on his website wishing players well at the event this week where he would have been the captain. He apparently is walking and improving. Would be great if he could make a cameo at the Masters.

Steve, (Montreal, Canada)

Since his big Master win a few years back, does Mike Weir have what it takes to win another major? If yes, how?

Bob Harig
  (2:21 PM)

Steve, since Weir won the Masters, he's had seven top-10s in majors. But he's won just two regular PGA Tour events. I definitely think it is possible, because his game seems suited for majors. But his recent record does not suggest he will be a favorite

Kev (NYC)

Where are the 3-non Masters Majors being played this year?

Bob Harig
  (2:22 PM)

Kev, after the Masters, the U.S. Open is at Bethpage Black on Long Island (where Tiger won in 2002); the British Open return to Turnberry in Scotland for the first time since 1994 (Nick Price); and the PGA returns to Hazeltine in Minnesota, where in 2002 Rich Beem relegated Tiger to his first runner-up finish in a major.

Sean W. (Westfield, MA)

who would you consider the number player in the world?

Bob Harig
  (2:23 PM)

I still consider it to be Tiger, even though he hasn't played. He built up such an impressive record that he can still hold onto it this long without competing.

Johnny (South Carolina)

What type of year do you think Davis Love III will have? How will he do at the Mercedes?

Bob Harig
  (2:24 PM)

Johnny, Davis had to get a big boost from his season-ending win at Disney. In fact, his game came around during the Fall Series, where he began having to fight for his card. He's played well at Kapalua before, and I believe he has to be motivated to perform well there becasue he has yet to qualify for the Masters.

Jamye (Brunswick, ME)

Where do you think Sergio has the best chance to win a major this year?

Bob Harig
  (2:26 PM)

Jamye, I think Sergio can win any of them, but his best change might be at Bethpage for the U.S. Open. He finished fourth there in 2002. It's a demanding driving course, and Sergio is one of the best in the game off the tee.

Jason (Jonesboro,Arkansas)

What about Harrington? What do you think his chances are this year?

Bob Harig
  (2:28 PM)

Jason, I expect Harrington to be highly motivated to play well at the Masters, where he'll be going for his third straight major. That means working toward getting his game to peak there.

Sean from Kansas City, MO

How does 2009 look for A Oberholser? Expect any wins? I took him in my FGL, and am hoping that he is fully recovered from his surgeries.

Bob Harig
  (2:30 PM)

Sean, it is difficult to say that a player with just one win in his career is a lock for any victorie. Oberholser had a lot of injury woes in 2008, but appears to be on his way back.

MLB (IA)

What kind of season do you expect out of Zach Johnson? He seemed to start playing well again near the end of last year.

Bob Harig
  (2:31 PM)

MLB, Zach was having a horrible 2008 until he won the Texas Open. He seemed to regroup during the fall and get a few things figured out. I would guess that momentum will carry over into the new year.

Jamye (Brunswick, ME)

Who do you think will be ranked number 2 in the world at the end of the year?

Bob Harig
  (2:34 PM)

Jamye, since I think Sergio is going to have a big year, I'm going with him, meaning of course Tiger remains No. 1.

Sean W. (Westfield, MA)

Will Phil mickelson and Vijay Singh ever become consistant players in PGA when the pressure to win is put on them?

Bob Harig
  (2:36 PM)

Sean, I'm not sure what more you want out of these guys. Other than Tiger, no active player has won more. Mickelson and Singh have each won 34 times on the PGA Tour. Each has three majors. Sure, they could have won more. Who couldn't have? I think we might have expected more out of Phil in the second half of last season, but he still had a strong year.

Jason (Jonesboro,AR)

Besides Tiger, who has the best chance to win a Grand Slam?

Bob Harig
  (2:38 PM)

Jason, I don't think anyone other than Tiger has a chance to win the Grand Slam-- if we're talking winning them all in the same year. Only Arnold Palmer (1960), Jack Nicklaus (1972) and Tiger (2002) have even managed to win the first two in a year since 1960. None of them went on to win the third. Only Tiger has won three straight in a single year (2000) since Ben Hogan in 1953. It is just too difficult.

Brian (NY)

Tiger Woods is a joke he is just real lucky

Bob Harig
  (2:38 PM)

Brian, thanks for the insight.

Colin (Classroom)

Hey Bob, when Tiger comes back do you see him picking up right where he left off. And what about Sergio, when will he win a major?

Bob Harig
  (2:40 PM)

Colin, I think we have to give Tiger a few tournaments to work out the kinks, but it won't take long for him to return to form, simply because I don't think he will come back unless he is absolutely ready to compete. As for Garcia, I really think this is the year. It is his 10th full year on tour. But I still say he's got time. His 29th birthday is tomorrow.

Jamye (Brunswick, ME)

What kind of year do you think Adam Scott will have?

Bob Harig
  (2:43 PM)

Jamye, Adam Scott remains a mystery to me. We all know how good he is. But it is amazing to think that he has never truly contended in a major championship. Last year he won in Dallas, but had a poor end to the season. And now he's battling a knee issue.

Evan (Austin)

What about a career Grand Slam?

Bob Harig
  (2:45 PM)

Evan, even this is not going to be easy. Vijay and Phil would each have to win the U.S. Open and the British Open to complete the career Grand Slam. Ernie Els needs the Masters and the PGA. Harrngton needs the Masters and the U.S. Open. They all have a long way to go.

Steiny/Jmerms(NYC)

Since the Commish asked the players to play more tournaments this year, is there any word if any of the top names will help out and do this?

Bob Harig
  (2:46 PM)

Steiny, so far there has been no indication, and it will be interesting to see if they try to help out. Because there are certainly a lot of tournaments that would benefit from the presence of the top guys.

Evan (Austin)

If you take Sergio out of the picture, who is the best player never to have won a major now?

Bob Harig
  (2:48 PM)

Without Sergio -- who is probably the best -- I'd have to go with Lee Westwood and Adam Scott. Both have won a good number of tournaments, both have been around long enough and played enough majors without winning.

Jason (Jonesboro,AR)

How do they calculate the points for the Fed-Ex Cup?

Bob Harig
  (2:49 PM)

Jason, they've made it much easier this year. The most a player can earn at a regular PGA Tour event is 500 points for a victory, and it goes down to 1 for making the cut. .. The points go up a bit at the WGCs and majors. And then they are 5X at the playoff events.

Dennis (San Digeo, CA)

Do you have any stat's on the TV ratings post US Open without Tiger? There are some really great players on the tour, Anthony Kim developing as a star, but we all know Tiger is the Tour. Lot's of buz when he plays, no interest when does not.

Bob Harig
  (2:51 PM)

Dennis, I don't have the numbers in front of me, but as you would expected, the ratings declined without Tiger. That said,they always do. If he plays, there is more interest. The rating for the Ryder Cup was quite good. As it was for the British Open, with Greg Norman in contention.

Jay (PA)

Over/under 5 sponsor exemptions for John Daly this year?

Bob Harig
  (2:51 PM)

Jay, when Daly comes back from his suspension -- whenever that might be -- I don't think there is any question he'll get more than 5 sponsor exemptions. The man still moves the needle.

Mickey Smike (Regis Jesuit)

Hey Bob, what do you think about caddies getting paid more than any of us make for just having knowledge on the sport of golf?

Bob Harig
  (2:53 PM)

Mickey, caddies can make a lot of money, but not all do. For every Steve Williams making big money, there are dozens who barely get by. They've got no insurance, no benefits, pay their own travel. It seems glamorous, but plenty would tell you otherwise.

Brian (Savannah)

Who wins more times this year, Anthony Kim or Michele Wie? I will go with the cute Hawaiian.. Let's remember Kim has never finished ahead of Tiger in any event.

Bob Harig
  (2:54 PM)

Brian, I want to see Michelle win ONE tournament before I make any predicitons about her. I think if she breaks through, then multiple victories will follow. Let's see.

Rob (NY)

In order to get more top players to certain tourneys, why does the PGA ban appearence fees?

Bob Harig
  (2:57 PM)

Rob, appearance fees are dangerous. It really then would pit tournaments against each other, because that money isn't going to come from the tour, it's going to come from the sponsors. Then there is the issue of how it might affect the competitioin. I know it's done frequently in Europe, but does a guy have the same incentive if he is being paid to be there?

Jason (Jonesboro,AR)

Do you think the players should be fined for missing these tournaments?

Bob Harig
  (2:59 PM)

Jason, not sure exactly which tournaments you are referring to. But as long as a player competes in the minimum of 15 required by the tour, he has met his obligations. The commissioner, however, was asking them to add a few more. It was simply a request.

Chris (FL)

Could Rocco make a run at a major again if his back cooperates? Or was he a one major wonder?

Bob Harig
  (3:00 PM)

Chris, tough call. Rocco didn't do much after the U.S. Open. Certainly a tough golf course, if he gets his game going again, it's possible. He's got a much better chance when par is a good score, as it was at the Open.

Chris (LA,CA)

Colt Knost...expecting any wins from the rookie?

Bob Harig
  (3:01 PM)

Chris, Colt did win a couple of times on the Nationwide Tour, and he was such a strong amateur player. My guess would be not this year. But I think he'll be a multiple winner in time.

Bob Harig
  (3:03 PM)

Okay folks, I'm out of time. Thanks for making the first chat of the year a succesful one and please check back in next week. Hope you enjoy the new golf season.