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January 27, 4:00 PM ET
Chat with Bob Harig

Bob Harig
  (4:01 PM)

Hello, checking in this week from Torrey Pines in San Diego, site of the Farmers Insurance Open. Phil Mickelson makes his first start of the year, Tom Watson just won on the Champions Tour, and there's plenty to talk about. Fire away with your quesitons.

Patrick (Hanover)

Even though Phil is a 3-time champion at Torrey he really has been just average since the redesign in 2002. It seems to be mostly on the greens. What do you feel has held him back there?

Bob Harig
  (4:04 PM)

Patrick,I think you nailed it. Phil talked about it today: "I knew the greens inside and out having grown up here and playing high scholl golf. But now having palyed here for the past eight or nine years on the changed golf course, I'm starting to understand this course a lot better." Phil went on to say that the greens read differently, and that it has taken him awhile to adjust.

Joe (Detroit)

Bwahahahaha!!! Your job is to write about golf. Seriously, how is that a job? Write about golf.

Bob Harig
  (4:04 PM)

Joe, I've always said it would be a really great job if it weren't for the writing part.

Bob Harig
  (4:06 PM)

Mike, you heard correctly. Phil is using a driver that is less than 6-degree loft. People, don't try that at home! The conventional wisdom for us mortals is that more loft is better to get the ball up into the air. But Phil explained that he is using a new golf ball that spins more. That isn't necessarily good with a driver, so left loft, he said, means it will spin less.

Mike H (NC)

I'm listening to Phil's press conference from San Diego and I think he just said his driver loft this year is under a 6, and that he played a 7.5 last year, can that be right? I didn't think anyone played a loft that low on the driver

Bob Harig
  (4:07 PM)

Sorry Mike, I answered your question without posting it. Here is the answer again .. . You heard correctly. Phil is using a driver that is less than 6-degree loft. People, don't try that at home! The conventional wisdom for us mortals is that more loft is better to get the ball up into the air. But Phil explained that he is using a new golf ball that spins more. That isn't necessarily good with a driver, so left loft, he said, means it will spin less.

Jason (Bozeman/MT)

Gut feeling to when Tiger will be back? Any chance he plays in the Match Play?

Bob Harig
  (4:08 PM)

Jason, I will say what I have been saying: if you are of the belief that Tiger will not skip a major championship (which I still believe) then he's got to come back prior to the Masters. To me that means Doral, Bay Hill or both. . I don't think there is any chance he returns for the Match Play, especially since Accenture dropped him as an endorser.

Frank (Dallas)

Does Ernie Els still have the game to win a major?

Bob Harig
  (4:09 PM)

Frank, I really think he does still have the game, but his putting has become a major concern. It really let him down last year and he's struggled on the greens. He needs to get that worked out.

Jon (Des Moines)

Bob, do you think Phil gets off to a quicker start this season v. last year?? He claims to have tuned up the short game and is more confident with the putter than he has ever been. Those areas killed him early on last year, so should we take his word and expect say a top 5 or even a win this week?? Thanks.

Bob Harig
  (4:11 PM)

Jon, despite Phil's start last year, he's usually been a fast starter on tour. He's won 4 times in his first tournament out. Last year he won in LA a few tournaments in. Whether he'll win this week remains to be seen, but I would be surprised if he struggles.

Jason (Bozeman/MT)

Do you think all of the players coming out and saying we need Tiger to come back soon, makes him come back sooner than he would have?

Bob Harig
  (4:12 PM)

Jason, to be honest, I think it has no effect whatsoever. He will return when he wants to and when he is ready and what they say has no bearing.

Mark (St. Paul, MN)

You've read the odds on you know who being back for the Masters. Where are you placing your bet?

Bob Harig
  (4:13 PM)

Mark, the question came up earlier about Tiger. I am still of the belief he will be back for the Masters, just because I don't see him skipping a major. But there is absolutely nothing to base it on. Just a hunch.

Jon (Des Moines)

Wondered what you thought about Rocco's chances this time around Torrey Pines... Seems the South Course won't play nearly as difficult as it did in the 08' Open. Seemed like he played better at the hope the last couple rounds.

Bob Harig
  (4:15 PM)

Jon, it suits Rocco more if the course plays more difficult. If it is running fast as opposed to playing long and soft -- as it will this week. When it is fast, it puts a premium on driving it straight. When it is slow, more guys will hit fairways. It's easier to hit it close to the hole. Making birdies is more important. Rocco has not contended for a long time, but it sure would be fun to see him in contention here.

Ross (IA)

Can you give me the short version of how fields are determined week to week. Can you comment on why you can get thru Q-school and then not be in some tournaments. And why I still see Craig Stadler in some tournaments?

Bob Harig
  (4:20 PM)

Ross, it can get complicated.The field is comprised mostly of those who finished among the top 125 the previous year and those who won tournaments in the two previous years. Major champions get five year exemptions.After that, the Q-School and Nationwide Tour players fill out the field and they are ranked in order of their finish at Q-School and/or Nationwide money list. That list reshuffles a couple of times per year based on money earned.So how did Craig Stadler get in the Hope? There is a category for past champions of an event which is higher than the Q-School/Nationwide category. Stadler won the tournament in 1980.

Kyle (Newington, CT)

Any chance we see something special from Roc this week? He said he lost about thirty pounds and the back and knee are good.

Bob Harig
  (4:21 PM)

Kyle, Rocco did lose a lot of weight and his knee problems appear to be in the past. Not sure where his game is at yet, though, as this is his first tournament of th eyear.

Henry (Columbus)

Bob, any darkhorses to keep an eye on this week? Can I get a winner prediction from you?

Bob Harig
  (4:22 PM)

Henry, the tournament is filled with darkhorses as only three of the top 20 in the world are entered. That made it easy for me to pick Mickelson as the winner. As a true longshot, I picked Michael Allen, whose never won on the PGA Tour but finished third on the Champions Tour last week.

Hanz (St. Paul)

Bob, who are three "average" tour pros that we should watch out for this year?

Bob Harig
  (4:23 PM)

Hanz, I'll go with Bill Haas, Bubba Watson and Tim Clark. They were the guys right there at the end last week at the Bob Hope, with Haas winning his first PGA Tour title. Watson and Clark have yet to win, although they are steady players.

Blake (Abilene, TX)

Its been about 6 years sence his last win, its Torrey were he plays well, and its the begining of the year so he has not had timed to get depressed yet. A longshot John Daley wins.

Bob Harig
  (4:25 PM)

Blake, I guess crazier things have happened

Tyler (Greenville)

Bob, What do you think will be the main factor this week as to whether Phil performs to all these high expectations.

Bob Harig
  (4:30 PM)

Like many weeks, it is his ability to drive the ball well. Phil himself said that has been his weakness, missing too many fairways. If he plays from the fairway on a soft course, he'll have a much better chance.

ben (nc)

is rory mcelroy ready to win his first major? will he be #1 in the world rankings within 8 years?

Bob Harig
  (4:34 PM)

Ben, I think Rory needs to win a few more tournaments first. He's incredibly talented, ranked 11th in the world at age 20. But his long professional victory came at Dubai a year ago. I think it's a lot to ask for him to win a major so soon. As for getting to No. 1, I would think he could do it much sooner than 8 years, depending on what happens with the current No. 1.

Jon (Des Moines)

I appreciate you taking a couple of my questions. I'll just ask one more for the day and that's whether you think Bill Haas can keep the momentum going. He did play pretty good in San Diego last season, so could you see him with another Top 10 finish?

Bob Harig
  (4:35 PM)

Jon, it's certainly possible. Sometimes guys get on a roll and keep it going. He's got a ton of confidence, played well here last year, so why not? The other side is he's overwhelmed by having own and runs out of gas.

Andrew (WI)

Idle Tiger thought: The Masters seems like the time & place for Tiger to come back. However, considering we're only a few years removed from Hootie and Martha, if Tiger comes back at Augusta and the Augusta National GC "shields" Tiger from the media, won't there be a backlash against them? Couldn't this all blow up in their face? Which leads me to this wild theory: They force Tiger to address the situation before he arrives at The Masters, or they dis-invite him. Am I crazy for thinking this could happen?

Bob Harig
  (4:38 PM)

I don't think Augusta will dis-invite him. Nor do I think they will shield him from the media or force him to do anything before the tournament. They will let it ride. The good thing about Tiger returning there is no media is allowed inside the ropes. That is a huge distraction at every other tournament. I still contend, however, that if he really wants to win the Masters, he needs to play somewhere prior to it.

Blake (Abilene, TX)

When do you expect to see the new grooves to start to take effect in how courses are set up? What golfers do you expect to benifit from the groove change.

Bob Harig
  (4:41 PM)

Blake, I think we will see it gradually. If it proves true that guys have a tougher time getting it close to the hole, you might see slightly easier pin positions or less rough or maybe even slightly wider fairways. As for who it benefits, I think it benefits the most skilled players. Technology has narrowed the gap. You take that away and guys who already have great short games or can hit a flop shot are going to prosper.

Tony (Nv)

When I think Tiger..I dont tend to think of the things in his personal life. Im still thinking of strictly the golfer. Am I alone? The sooner Tigers back..the better.

Bob Harig
  (4:45 PM)

Tony, you are not alone -- although the opinions on Tiger are wide-ranging. Still, there is a big segment that could care less about his personal life and just wants to watch him play golf.

Rob (NY)

Does Phil have it in him to win the Master's and US Open/Pebble Beach this year?

Bob Harig
  (4:46 PM)

Rob, I don't think there is any question he has it in him.Look how close he came to winning the Masters-U.S. Open four years ago?Pebble is a place where he has won and he was in contention at the Masters last year. With all the talk about how well he played at the end of last year, there's no reason to think he can't contend or win both.

Blake (Abilene, TX)

Bob, a seconed part to that question. If it does prove true that golfers have a harder time with the new grooves. Could we see some of the pros asking the manufacturers to bring back the Balata ball?

Bob Harig
  (4:47 PM)

Blake, we won't go back to the Balata ball, but many players are experimenting with a softer ball that spins more.

Rob (NY)

Your Super Bowl pick is...?

Bob Harig
  (4:47 PM)

Colts to cover

Andrew (WI)

Reading what Phil said, what I found more interesting is the comment that he may add tournaments later in the year to offset any that he might or might not skip earlier in the year. Finchem has to be doing backflips upon hearing that, right?

Bob Harig
  (4:48 PM)

Andrew, I'm sure the commissioner is not too happy, however, that Phil will be missing a World Golf Championship event. That will most likely leave the tournament without the top two players in the world.

Blake (Abilene, TX)

Your Handicap is?

Bob Harig
  (4:50 PM)

My swing

Dan (Boston)

Not a question, moreso a comment. Phil announced today that he plans to skip a few events that he's played in the past and maybe add a few he doesn't usually play towards the end of the season. I commend him highly on this. Golf fans turn out to see big names. I wish a certain feline-monikered individual would consider something like that.

Bob Harig
  (4:53 PM)

Dan, in Tiger's defense;He played the Buick Open last year when it appeared he would never play two in a row heading into a major. He also played The Barclays, where he likely would have preferred to skip and meaning he would play seven of eight weeks -- something he almost never does.Your point is well taken, however, that it would be nice to see him play in some places where he has not participated.

ben (nc)

what grade would you give the fed ex cup after three years? do the players care about it? what percentage of fans could actually tell you who won it in 2008?

Bob Harig
  (4:54 PM)

Ben, I'm a supporter of the FedEx Cup, because it far surpasses what we used to have -- a lackluster end to the golf season and almost no interest in golf after the PGA Championship.I'd give it a B, because the system is not perfect. It certainly has flaws.But the bottom line is for four weeks in August and September, golf has excellent fields at PGA Tour events that it would never have at that time of year otherwise.

Rob (NY)

Tiger will win ___ tournaments in 2010?

Bob Harig
  (4:55 PM)

Rob, I think the better question is how many he will play? It's impossible to say how many he will win. It depends on when he comes back. The longer it takes for him to return, the more difficult it will be for him to get his game back in shape. It all goes from there.

Trey (Dallas, TX)

Will Adam Scott win in 2010 on the PGA?

Bob Harig
  (4:57 PM)

Trey, I think it's possible. He turned his game around toward the end of 2009 and won a tournament in Australia. That was a good confidence boost.

Blake (Abilene, TX)

Regardless of what people say, Tiger will feel embarassed when he returns to the tour. Is there another golfer on the mens tour he could turn to or that he has built a strong relasionship with?

Bob Harig
  (4:58 PM)

Blake, from all indications, Tiger has not reached out to any of his PGA Tour peers. The guess here is that he has plenty of golf friends on tour who would be supportive.

Brian (Charlottesville)

Bob,Will the absence of Phil and Tiger kill the matchplay a la 2001?

Bob Harig
  (5:00 PM)

Brian, it certainly is not going to help. However, it is important to note that Phil has never made it to the semifinals of the event anyway.

Bob Harig
  (5:01 PM)

I am out of time, thanks for all the questions. Please check back again next Wednesday. Enjoy the golf this weekend.