Happy New Year. And welcome to the first golf chat of 2011. Thanks for your participation after an ever-too-brief offseason. The first official PGA Tour event of the year begins Thursday in Hawaii.First, a quick housekeeping note. We've set up a mailbag to answer your questions that either don't get answer or you are unable to ask during the weekly chats. The hope is to answer these questions at least once a week on ESPN.com.So feel free to ask questions here. And send others to this email address: BobHEspn@gmail.com.Let's get started. Please fire away.
I can?t believe how little play the finale of the Chevron World Challenge got, considering it was one of the most exciting duals of the last 10 years. It was virtually match play, with Tiger and McDowell, two major champions, basically playing just each other. Every shot was crucial, there were miraculous saves, lead chages and about the most thrilling 72nd and playoff hole approaches and putts I can remember. And it flew totally under the radar. Your thoughts?
It didn't fly under the radar here. I was at Chevron and I agree, it was great stuff. For a tournament with otherwise so little meaning in the grand scheme of things, you could tell it meant the world to Woods -- looking to get a win -- and McDowell -- who loved going up against him. It was a big confidence booster for McDowell. And while it was a tough defeat for Tiger, for the first time he put three good rounds together and seemed to show that his game is coming back.
Why in the world would McDowell switch to srixon? he just had the year of his life and hes changing thing? Reminds me of when VJ switched gear after a big year in 08 then has not done anything since
Dave, good question. Changing equipment is always a surprise to those of us on the outside. But McDowell won the U.S. Open, Callaway wasn't likely going to pay him what a U.S. Open champion deserves -- especially with Mickelson and Els getting big money -- and these guys typically are going to want to cash in. In McDowell's defense, his contract was expiring, and so you get the feeling he was experimenting with other equipment anyway. And it doesn't appear it is all his clubs, which can also be a big difference. It will be interesting to follow.
Do you like these predictions for the majors?Master- Mahan, he always does well there, no reason he cant win a majorUS Open: Tiger hes dueOpen Paul CaseyPGA: Phil finsihed 2nd there lat time or d johnson
My prognosticating ability is sorely lacking, but I don't have a problem with those picks. They might not happen. But I wouldn't be surprised if they did.
Bob, never kept my handicap before, how and where should I do this?
I suggest going to the golf course you play the most and see if they allow you to submit your scorecards for handicapping purposes -- whether the round is played there or not. If not, there are various on-line handicapping services you could check out by doing a search. If you want a handicap, it's not difficult to set it up.
Tiger wins ____ tournaments this year and __ majors.
My best guess. . . . 4 tournaments, 1 major.
I love Sean Ohair sooooooooooo much. Will he rebound this year?
Hard to say. It was a tough year for O'Hair in 2010. I think we expect more out of him. He's just got too much ability. So I wouldn't be surprised if he had a strong season. Whether he wins is another matter.
Mahan and McDowel playing again today. Who wins this time?
They are actually paired together in the first round at Kapalua, and the circumstances are far different than they were at the Ryder Cup. Who wins? Well, they can't win the tournament on the first day. But if you're asking who will shoot the lower score, I'd probably go with McDowell since he's played so much golf recently. But nothing would surprise me.
I think it is great that the Masters will be in TW 12. How/why did Augusta make that decision?
It is a pretty big deal that Augusta National has decided to be part of something like this. They did it because they understand how big these virtual games are to people, they know it is especially big among young people, and they realized the huge money-making potential for their newly-formed foundation which will direct proceeds to various grow-the-game initiatives.
Your guess to when TW is the OWGR #1 again?
It could be as early as this month if he wins in San Diego. I'm guessing he will get there at some point this year, and that it might go back and forth among several players who are close.
If you could provide us with a little bit of perspective. How does 2010 compare to others? Was it the most exciting for you as a journalist?
I wouldn't call it the most exciting, but it had its moments. Tiger's issues made for a tough year, as there was so much to that story. Phil's win at Augusta was probably the story of the year, the big-name players in the hunt at Pebble made for a great story. St. Andrews is always great for the Open, but it was too bad it was such a snoozer of a final round. Dustin Johnson at the PGA? Amazing. And the Ryder Cup, despite all the rain, was incredible. Plenty of good stuff.
Is it over already for Sergio? Seems like Tiger and his love life have taken all the spirit out of him. Whattaya think?
I think it's too early to say that Sergio is done. Agreed, he's had a lot of troubles. But he's only 31 this year. He's got lots of golf ahead of him.
Does Finchem get his wish and TW and Phil play more this year on tour? And do either of them decide to start contenting regularly on Sunday again (such that it matters for TV)?
I doubt Phil is going to play more. He played 20 times last year on the PGA Tour, which was up 2 from the year previous but down one from 2008. I'm guessing he'll be in that ballpark.Tiger played just 12 times, so his numbers are bound to be up. But will he add events he hasn't played.As for contending, I think we'll see them both in contention quite a bit.
Think Ernie can finally get a W at Augusta?
He seems to put too much pressure on himself there. After winning twice in Florida, you figured he was ready to contend, and yet he was never really in it, tying for 18th. He's running out of time.
Which will be more difficult for Tiger to regain - his swing or his psychological advantage over the field?
I think he will regain his swing. He's simply been working on a new one. The psycholgocial edge appears to be gone -- and it might have been before the scandal. When Y.E. Yang beat him at the PGA in '09, it proved it could be done. That should have made it easier for others.
What is the Coldest Golf Tournament that you have Been to?
The 2002 British Open at Muirfield. On Saturday -- the day Tiger shot 81 as it rained sideways -- the temperature was in the 40s with wind chills in the 30s. And when you're on a golf course ,that is cold.
Are you in Hawaii? (if so, must be nice!) What is the difference in media people between a tournament with Tiger and without? It's funny, even without playing as much - he still sure can add excitement - US Open, final round at Austrailian Masters, Chevron. He still brings the ratings!
Unfortunately, I am not in Hawaii. I'm in Florida, though, so it's not terrible here. And you are correct, there is more media at tournaments in which Tiger places, just like more people tune in when he plays. Despite protests otherwise, Tiger is the most popular player and draws the most attention, no matter what he does.
I know sports writers like to prognosticate on players future wins, but, don't you think it is a bit early for the media to be writing off Tiger for 2011. Alex Miceli speculated that TW will not win anything this year and another guy said he will win 2 inconsequential tourneys(TW plays those)
It's the nature of the media beast to make predictions and try to forecast how players will do based on what is observed or reported. However, let's be honest, golf is a very, very difficult sport to predict. It is not one team trying to beat another. It's one player against 150 others. So many things going on. I wouldn't predict that Tiger won't win anything, but I wouldn't have said that about 2010, either.
Best non agusta major venue this year?
If you look at his record, most of his wins have come early in the year. He seems to hit a wall in the summer and has talked of needing to get away and getting refreshed. At some point, the desire comes back and he starts working on his game. Phil will play in Abu Dhabi in two weeks then return to the U.S. for four straight on the PGA Tour -- Torrey Pines, Phoenix, Pebble and L.A.
Oops, sorry folks. . . Got some questions and answers mixed up. . Let me try again.
Regarding the quesiton about the best non-Augusta major venue. . . I'm going with Royal St. George's for the British Open, simply because I think all of the British venues are cool.
Why does phil play so little in the fall and winter?
I answered this without posting the question. Here is my answer again:If you look at his record, most of his wins have come early in the year. He seems to hit a wall in the summer and has talked of needing to get away and getting refreshed. At some point, the desire comes back and he starts working on his game. Phil will play in Abu Dhabi in two weeks then return to the U.S. for four straight on the PGA Tour -- Torrey Pines, Phoenix, Pebble and L.A.
It almost seems like professional golfers don't like golf. They have to be begged to play more tournaments. Golfers bailing out on the tournament in Hawaii - sounds like a tough way to start you work year. They receive too much money from endorsements, no need to tee it up more often. Shame they don't enjoy playing and competing as much as other players do in other sports. Jordan always played every game of every season.
You are certainly not alone in your sentiments. . . This has been said before, but there are simply too many good tournaments, too many "must play" tournaments. It stinks that a bunch of guys are skipping this week. But we also expect them to play all four majors, all four world events, the Players Championship, the four FedEx Cup playoff events. That's 14 right there. Throw in Jack, Arnie and Tiger's tournaments. What about Torrey Pines, LA, Pebble, Bay Hill? Hilton Head and Colonial? The problem is, they can't play them all.
Is this the only tourny of tigers career besides last years tour champ that he wont be eligible for (eventhough he wldnt play it anyway)
That is correct. When Woods didn't make it to the Tour Championship last year, it was the first time he was unable to play any tournament on the PGA Tour schedule. This week marks the second time.
Seriously Bob, you honestly believed that Tiger could have won last year based on his mental state with the scandal. yes people called him a robot, but the guy is flesh and blood. Isn't golf played 90% between the ears, thus if mental is bad then. Considering Tiger life in 2010, he did remarkedly well on the golf course. Name one other golfer who would even have made cuts
Well, yes, given what we know now, it's hard to envision him winning. He obviously went through a ton of presonal turmoil, culminating with a divorce that I think we can probably surmise he did not want. I mistakenly believed that he would do what he had always done, which was to be at his best once inside the ropes. The tie for fourth at Augusta is remarkable in retrospect.
How much of Phils inconsistant year last year do u contribute to him not being healthy and how will he do this year?
I am not sure we got the full story from Phil about his arthritis. It's quite possible that he was not letting on as much about how much it affected him, perhaps in an effort to not make excuses. At the end of the year, however, he suggested that it was under control, that with the proper medication he could focus on the offseason and getting his game in shape.
Do you think VJ Singh is done or will he compete this year.
I do not think he is done, although at age 48 this year, it is getting more difficult. Vijay prospered by outworking so many players throoughout his career, and that is getting harder for him to do. He probably needs to back off some with his practice -- and may have started doing so -- but of course he probably also sees a dropoff because of it. But I wouldn't be surprised to see Vijay win in his 50s.
Could you list a few of the other guys who have changed club sponsors and are you suprised by any of the other guys who changed clubs? Whats going to happen with Poulter and Cobra now that its been sold?
Not sure about Poulter. As for some who switched, McDowell has gone from Callway to Srixon, Furyk from Srixon to Taylormade and Villegas from Cobra to Taylormade. Surprised? Not really. This happens all the time, and especially since big money is involved.
I think people forget pro golfers don't get to play half their games at home (sleeping in their own beds) and are independent contractors. Maybe if you told Tiger and Phil you would give them $30M a year but they had to play 30 events they might consider it. But then again they both make more than that with endorsement deals. You just won't get the same turnout at "lesser" events as you do at majors when the schedule is so full. Even if it is the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii. Phil is probably getting a seven figure appearance fee to play at Abu Dhabi...
It's true that these guys travel a ton and in their off weeks they are working on their games. For some, it takes time to figure out the right balance with their schedules. Some guys don't like to play more than 2 weeks in a row. Some are okay going four or five straight, but then need a lenghty break. The independent contractor deal is probably another discussion (how many indepenedent contractors do you know who get a pension and benefits?) but your point is well taken.
Saw Bubba Watson's tweets about breaking some course records a bit ago. Any other word on guys whose games are looking up, down or sideways since we last saw them? From the coaches/other players?
I tend to go with the guys who played late into 2010 and have not taken a great deal of time off. Geoff Ogilvy comes to mind. He played a full schedule in Australia, winning once and losing in a playoff. And that was just last month. His game has to be better than, say, Steve Stricker, who played once tournament since the Ryder Cup and lives in Wisconsin.
I never get tiired of debating this.....if you had a water gun to your head, who is the best ALL AROUND golfer to ever walk the planet? Only one word answer allowed.
What player's first win in 2011 will come as a surprise?
If I said Steve Marino, would that be considered a surprise? I think it's a surprise he has yet to win.
What do you see in your crystal ball for AK
It's a shame he had the thumb injury because he off to a great start last year and then he appeared to try to come back too soon after surgery. I like AK and hope that he is completely healthy because I can see him winning a bunch. He's a good putter, which so many young players lack.
It often feels like the American media doesn't give enough credit to winning on the European Tour. Do you think this will change now that 3 of the last 4 major champions weren't even PGA TOUR members at the time? And also ofcourse that so many of the top players are not pga tour members? (Westwood, Kaymer, Mcilroy, The Molinari brothers, Ross Fisher, ect.)
I am not sure I agree with your assessment. Winnign on the European Tour is not dismissed by any means, although at times there are certainly discrepencies in strength of field. Of course, the PGA Tour has plenty of those weeks as well. There is no doubt that a good number of top players are not PGA Tour members. It really is evolving into a world game.
Okay folks, I've run out of time. Thanks for all the great questions in week 1.Remember, I'm answering your mailbag questions as well, simply send them to: BobHEspn@gmail.com. Those questions will be answered at ESPN.com.Emjoy the views from Maui.