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February 3, 7:36 AM ET
Chat with Bob Harig

Bob Harig
  (2:01 PM)

Hello, welcome to the first golf chat of the year from the road. I'm checking in from Torrey Pines, site of last year's U.S. Open and the annual Buick Invitational. There's plenty of golf subjects to talk about, so let's get started. Feel free to fire away with your questions

Steiny (NYC)

Why exactly has Rocco Mediate withdrawn from this week's Buick Invitational?

Bob Harig
  (2:02 PM)

Steiny, we're keeping the streak alive and starting with you -- as I believe we have in every chat this year. Rocco apparently had arthroscopic surgery on a knee to repair his meniscus. It is not considered serious, and he could be back in a couple of weeks -- although it is always much easier to say that surgery isn't serious when it isn't you having the surgery.

Patrick Haonover PA

Do you think Phil's association with Dave Pelz has been more detriment than success. It seems like he can't putt anymore. He's way too into scientific data than just freewilling it which is what made him great to begin with?

Bob Harig
  (2:03 PM)

Patrick, you bring up an interesting point. You wonder if Phil is thinking too much. But you have to remember how much Pelz helped Mickelson win his first major championships. If you recall, they went through and dissected the major courses in advance and came up with a strategy for the short game. And I would also say that Phil's problems hitting fairways of late aren't related to Pelz.

John H. Victoria BC

Do you expect Robert Karlsson (aka the Scientist) to breakthrough this year and win his first major? Thanks Bob!!

Bob Harig
  (2:04 PM)

John, I wouldn't be surprised if Karlsson won a major this year, but I don't expect it. He did emerge as a top player in Europe last year, winning the Order of Merit. He had top-10s in three of the four majors. But I'd call it a stretch to expect him to win one.

Steiny (NYC)

Dubai wants to host the Ryder Cup. Do you think they will?

Bob Harig
  (2:06 PM)

Steiny, I think it's possible, and I also think it's a bad idea. How much can one sell out? The European Tour makes no secret of that fact that the Ryder Cup is a huge source or revenue for the organization. Fair enough. They've gone to places that wouldn't otherwise get the competition because they paid to have it at their course. Sad, but reality. But to take it out of Europe -- which is being discussed for 2018? Sorry, but that is going too far. There are so many great venues in Scotland alone that have never had the Ryder Cup. It would be a shame.

Jeff (Columbus, OH)

I have been waiting for Justin Leonard to win another major since 1997. Is it to late? He has not been in position to win one in a while.

Bob Harig
  (2:08 PM)

Jeff, I do not believe it is too late at all. Leonard is coming off a great 2008 season. He did make the cut in all four majors. And you might remember in 2004 he lost in a playoff at the PGA. Leonard is still just 36 and has plenty of game to get it done.

Jeff (New York)

Bob - Nice to see Rory McIlroy get his first win last week and what a great up and down on 18 to ice it. What events can we expect him to play this year in the U.S.?

Bob Harig
  (2:11 PM)

Jeff, McIlory has accepted a sponsor's exemption to the Houston event, which is the week prior to the Masters. He is also in the Match Play and the CA Championship -- World Golf Championship events -- based on his world ranking, which has soared to 16th. I wouldn't be surprised if another tournament or two gave him a spot so he could stay over here.

mark n [via mobile]

I have not seen a picture, video, or interview with mickey wright for the last 30 years. When you consider she was of golf's all time greats and posessed arguably the best golf swing of all time, it is hard to believe. What is the answer?

Bob Harig
  (2:14 PM)

Mark, you are correct, Mickey Wright is very much like Ben Hogan was in that way. Sort of an interesting coincidence. I do remember in the early 1990s, she came out for an event that featured several legendary LPGA players and actually played in a 36-hole competition with Kathy Whitworth. The current LPGA players all stuck around to watch and were thrilled to see her. You're correct about the golf swing. Mickely lives in Florida and rarely grants interviews, choosing to keep to herself.

Eric (Ann Arbor)

What happened to Phil Mickelson last year and the beginning of this year? Is Phil breaking in a new swing? New equipment? Or, is everyone (me) over-reacting to his first competitive tournament and Phil will come back this weekend?

Bob Harig
  (2:15 PM)

Eric, I happen to think it is over reaction. It doesn't make sense really. We all are wondering why Phil didn't perform better last year ,but he did win twice, was in contention at two big tournaments, including the Tour Championship. He said he had gotten to the bottom of some of his putting problems. I expect big things, but was very surprised at his performance last week.

mark n Deerfield, nh [via mobile]

It is pretty well known that golf scores for the average player have not gotten lower in the 25 or 30 years. It sounds hard to believe, but the professional scores are not any lower either? How do you account for this? Has the fact that players are bigger and stronger and hit the ball further been totally offset by the fact that the courses are longer and the rough is higher? Something is missing in this argument

Bob Harig
  (2:17 PM)

Mark, I think you've answered your own question. Scoring is not appreciably lower -- if at all -- despite players hittng the ball better than they ever have. But the courses are longer, fairways narrower, greens harder. More rough around the greens. There are lots of theories and arguments but many have complained that this hurts the game.

Mike (New York)

Bob, I'm heading out to the Northern Trust Open this year. Any chance Tiger decides to start it up there?

Bob Harig
  (2:19 PM)

Mike, it's an interesting thought. Logic says no, because he's never won there, hasn't played there the last two years, and it could be right around the time his wife gives birth. I'm not ruling it out, but it just doesn't seem likely.

Andy (Los Angeles)

Where's AK today? Shoulder injury?

Bob Harig
  (2:19 PM)

Andy, Anthony Kim is simply not in the field. He did play last week at the FBR Open, where he missed the cut after skipping the Hope with shoulder soreness.

Colin Hexamer Las Vegas, Nevada [via mobile]

Was Colin Montgomerie the right choice for Ryder Cup captain?

Bob Harig
  (2:21 PM)

Colin, I think Montgomerie was a fine choice. He is certainly deserving. He was going to be the Ryder Cup captain at some point, and it didn't seem to be a good idea for him to do it in the States. I figured they would wait until 2014, when the matches are in Scotland. But they seem to not want to wait for guys to reach 50, so Wales in 2010 it is.

Pete (NC)

Ryan Moore is a very unique golfer by refusing sponsorships so he can pick and choose the clubs he feels match his game the best. In the day and age of money money money, how great is it to see someone playing for the love of the game?

Bob Harig
  (2:22 PM)

Pete, I somewhat question that. I have not spoken to Moore, and so I can't know for sure, but do you really think he is turning down huge endorsement deals? I'm guessing he didn't get any offers that were to his liking, so he decided to go this route. Certainly if he feels he is better off to play with something he likes than to play something he doens't like but be paid for it, then I commend him.

Mike (New York)

Bob, Paddy Harrington is making his PGA tour debut this week, and is off to a blistering start. You've got to believe he's thinking he needs to win at least one major for this season to be a success.

Bob Harig
  (2:24 PM)

Mike, I'm not sure he feels he has to win a major this year. I think he'd like to win another one sometime. That's awfully tough to put those kind of expectations on yourself. No doubt ,however, he is going to put a great deal of effort into winning more majors.

Jay (PA)

I asked Sobel this during a chat last year, and was curious of your thoughts: what's worse, the yips or the shanks?

Bob Harig
  (2:25 PM)

Jay, I would have to say the shanks -- which almost never happens to elite players. That would be very difficult to overcome, while with the yips, there are other methods to go to in order to get the ball in the hole.

Chuck (Long Beach, NY)

How does the excemption system work? How many players are fully excempt and if all of them wanted to play in a PGA Tourney, are there spots for all of them?

Bob Harig
  (2:29 PM)

Chuck, there are numerous exemption categories that go beyond the top 125 on the money list. A quick rundown: winners of the Players Championship in the past five years, winners of PGA Tour events the last two calender years, the top 50 in career earnings, the top 25 in career earnings. . The list goes down a long way. . This week at Torrey Pines, there are 156 spots. In theory, if everyone from 1 to 125 entered as well as various other players, you could run out of spots. And then it would be based on where a person finished on the money list last year.

mark n Deerfield,nh [via mobile]

what effect do you think the elimination of the square grooves will have on the PGA tour next year? Can you hack it out of the rough with spin with the old groove clubs?

Bob Harig
  (2:32 PM)

Mark, it will be interesting to see. When players show up next year without square grooves, their ability to hit shots that spin out of the rough will be diminished. It could mean they go to a softer ball for more feel around the greens, which could mean less distance. Or perhaps they put more premium on hitting the ball in the fairway. There could be several differences we see next year.

Alex, Northern California [via mobile]

Where do you see Phil at in terms of world ranking at the end of the year? Who do you see making the biggest jump into say the top 5 or 10 in the world?

Bob Harig
  (2:33 PM)

Alex, I figure Phil will be in the ballpark of where he is now: top five or so, maybe as high as two or three. I just think he's too good not to stay up there. As for someone making a jump, how about McIlory? He's already risen to 16th, which is unbelievable.

Jim (LA)

How much will Michelle Wie play and what can we expect from her now?

Bob Harig
  (2:34 PM)

Jim, I thnk they'll play a good bit. That has been one of the drawbacks to her schedule, an inability to gain any sort of playing momentum. It would be smart if she played several events in a row and tried to gain some consistency. I expect her to finally win a tournament.

Dan (Natick, MA)

Will David Duval ever climb back to the point where he can contend consistently, or even at all?

Bob Harig
  (2:35 PM)

Dan, I really have my doubts about Duval. He made just five cuts last year. And this despite seemingly putting the effort into his game. At some point, you wonder.

Chooch (Pittsburgh)

I played Torrey Pines 6 months prior to last year's US Open...calling it a goat path was being polite. Aside from some beautiful views from a few holes, it just reminded me of our local muni course back home. Why so much hype?

Bob Harig
  (2:37 PM)

Chooch, I think the South course has subtelties that are appreciated by these guys. Remember, the winning score at the Open was just 1 under par. That is pretty amazing for a muni.

Justin (Ohio)

Bob, is it possible that Kenny Perry is the best player on the planet right now?

Bob Harig
  (2:38 PM)

Justin, I wouldn't go so far as to say that. Despite all his success, Perry played just one round in a major championship last year. It is hard to judge him when he didn't play in those big tournaments.

Justin (Ohio)

Bob, maybe the scores haven't gotten significantly lower but I think the number of players who can consistently win has shrunk considerably.

Bob Harig
  (2:40 PM)

Justin, the reason for that is there are so many more players who can win. Guys you've never heard of can jump up and grab a victory. That makes it more difficult to be a consistent winner when victories can come from anywhere. The pool of talent is much deeper.

Eric (Ann Arbor)

With Ginn's abrupt pull-out as sponsor and the number of sponsors who may simply choose not to re-up when their contract run-out in the next couple of years will the PGA be forced to shrink purses and/or contract the number of tournaments? And, do you think the Ginn withdrawal will lead to other sponsor's trying to leave?

Bob Harig
  (2:42 PM)

Eric, there is a good chance some sponsors will elect to not return when their contacts are up for renewal. The tour sued Ginn because it walked away from its contract, and did so likely to dissuade others from trying to do the same thing. It might not be a bad idea for the tour to cut back on purses to some degree. Do you think these guys wouldn't have shown up this week if the purse were just $4.5-million? That relief could go a long way toward helping the tournaments and the sponsors.

Chuck (Long Beach, NY)

So if I player qualified to the PGA Tour via Nationwide or Q-School, they aren't necessarily automatically in this weeks event.

Bob Harig
  (2:43 PM)

Chuck, that's right. After all the exemption categories, the players who made it from Q-School or the Nationwide Tour get in based on their number. If you were 10th at Q-School, you are in theory 20th in line (it alternates between Q-school and the Nationwide). But not all of the top 125 play every week, which allows many of those guys to get in.

Dave M. (victoria bc)

Its all about MAJ this year....I expect the Mechanic to be smoking many victory cigars in 09!! What do you think?? His attitude is off the tonic!!!!

Bob Harig
  (2:44 PM)

Dave, I must admit, Miguel Angel Jimenez was not really on my list of players to have a huge year. But he manages to keep his game in shape and contend quite often.

Rafael (Colombia)

Another birdie for Villegas....Your thoughts on him finishing top 3 in the world at the end of the year.

Bob Harig
  (2:45 PM)

Rafael, Camilo is off to a great start here at Torrey Pines, he is 5 under through six holes. And I think it is possible for him to move into the top 3, but he'll have to win a couple of times again this year to do it.

mark n Deerfield nh [via mobile]

hypothetically speaking, you have a 5 footer to win a $ 10 million dollar purse and you can choose any golfer not named tiger woods to putt it for you. Who is your choice?

Bob Harig
  (2:48 PM)

Mark, tough one. Tiger is obviously the choice,but if you can't have him, I think I'd go with Aaron Baddeley. He just seems to be a good putter, especially the short ones.

Brandon (Orlando)

Villegas and Kim are some of the best ball strikers i've ever seen. How will he and the other young late winners from last year fare against Tiger when he comes back? I think Kim's got the nerves but i'm not so sure about Villegas (and don't get me started on Serge!).

Bob Harig
  (2:49 PM)

Brandon, one thing they've not done is beat Tiger. Kim has never finished ahead of Tiger in any tourament in which they have played. They seized the opportunity and had great years in 2008 with Tiger mostly out. Now let's see how they do when he comes back. It will give them great confidence if they are able to win tournaments with Woods in the field.

Eric (Ann Arbor)

Do you think that any of the "old" guys (Jack, Gary, Lee) will give it a real try and make it to the weekend at The Masters? It seems like despite the lack of length issues, course knowledge might give the guys a bit of a chance?

Bob Harig
  (2:50 PM)

Eric, only one of those players -- Gary Player -- will be in the field. Nickalus stopped playing the Masters in 2005 and Trevino is not eligible, as he never won it. That said, it is very difficult for players in their 60s to make the cut at Augusta. The course has simply become too demanding.

Dave (Miami, FL)

Tiger and Camilo......This is 2009s rivalry....What do you think?

Bob Harig
  (2:52 PM)

Not sure it will be a rivalry this year. But I've said many times that Tiger could end up having a rivarly with someone who is about 10 years younger than him, just as Nicklaus did with Watson.

Will J (Portland, OR)

Bob, my brother is Vincent Johnson, who just received the Charlie Sifford exemption for the Northern Trust Open. What advice would you give him for his first PGA tourney?

Bob Harig
  (2:54 PM)

Will, I am probably the wrong guy to ask about that. From afar, it would appear the best way to handle it is to try and treat like any tournament he has played. Don't make it bigger than it is. Relax. All probably easier said than done.

Bob Harig
  (2:56 PM)

I'm out of time, folks. Thanks for all the questions. Please check back next week for another golf chat. Enjoy the weekend.