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February 9, 4:00 PM ET
Chat with Bob Harig

Bob Harig
  (3:57 PM)

Welcome to this week's golf chat. Thanks again for your participation. My now weekly plug: you can send questions to my mailbag at bobhespn@gmail.com. I try to answer these questions once a week on ESPN.com. For now, however, we're chatting in real time. Fire away with your questions.

Jason Thomas (Pittsburgh,PA)

What does Tiger Woods need to do to get his swagger back to start being the dominant Tiger Woods that we are used to seeing?

Bob Harig
  (4:00 PM)

I am not sure if Tiger will ever return to the dominant ways we are used to seeing. But I think it is way premature to write him off and say he won't be a factor again -- which is some of the thinking out there.Tiger's got to get comfortable with his new swing. If you get away from the arguments about whether or not he should have made this change, well, he did. And you can't play well always obsessing about mechanics. To me, that's what he is doing now. It's not natural. Anyone who has played golf at even the most elementary level has gone through the process of trying to swing the club. What's natural is not always what is proper and when you try to make that change, it feels funny.At a much more complicated level, that is what appears to be happening now with Tiger.

Lawrence (Toronto)

How long do you think Westwood will hold number 1?

Bob Harig
  (4:01 PM)

It might only be for this week. If Martin Kaymer wins and Westwood finishes worse than second, Kaymer moves to No. 1. Of course, that is not to say that Westwood won't move back. I think we could be in for a year of lots of players occupying the top spot.

zonebrick (USA)

Tim Finchem just announced he's going to continue to allow TV viewers to phone in infractions missed by on course officials and players. IMO this is so far beyond stupid it's grounds for impeachment! Your thoughts?

Bob Harig
  (4:03 PM)

Because the rules of golf allow for infractions to be disclosed by anyone, the tour is not going to cut off this avenue as a way of protecting the field. I get that. But I don't agree with Finchem welcoming it. For people who wants their 15 minutes, this is dangerous. As I wrote in birdies and bogeys (shameless plug, sorry) many players don't know the rules very well. What about amateurs sitting at home?

Patrick (Hanover)

On the surface the PGA tour's decision to have more marquee pairings in he opening rounds of tournaments seems like a good idea, but doesn't that run the risk of having just 2 or 3 attractive groups and causing a crowd mess at events. I mean the Golf Channel shows every Tiger shot anyway no matter who he is paired with.

Bob Harig
  (4:04 PM)

I think it's a risk worth taking. Golf doesn't often suffer from crowds that are so huge they are unmanageable. If anything, this allows fans to see some of the top players and the same time. And obviously it can make things easier for TV.

Patrick (Hanover)

I would like your opinion on Mark Wilson's major championship prospects. I believe he has only played in 3 up until now and MC in all 3. It seems to me that he would be a good US Open type player, very steady, a comparison to say a Jeff Maggert who had a 10 year period of good results at the US Open.(several top 10's) Your thoughts?

Bob Harig
  (4:07 PM)

You are correct, he's played in just three majors and not made a cut. I'm guessing now that he has some confidence after two victories, things could be different. How he fares depends on so many things.

Brian (Westborough, MA)

Why do they play Monterrey Pen. as a par 70? Also does the tour consider the first round leader, the guy who shoots 4 under 68 @ Pebble or the guy who shoots 3 under 67 at Monterrey?

Bob Harig
  (4:08 PM)

Not sure about the par distinction this week, but the tour is going to base the leader on who is the most under par.

Cheesehead Sports Nut (Chicago, IL)

Last year Jerry Kelly and Steve Stricker talked about bringing a PGA Tour event back to Wisconsin after the GMO folded. What about showing off all the impressive courses in and around Sheboygan, Wisconsin? I know it might be a bit of a logistical nightmare but what about talking Herbert Kohler into sponsoring a tournament named the Kohler Championship that uses some combination of Whistling Straits, Irish Course, The Bull, and Blackwolf Run?

Bob Harig
  (4:12 PM)

There is nothing wrong with your suggestion, however, the guess here is that Kohler is fine with the publicity he has gotten from two PGAs and a future Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits. It wouldn't surprise me if the tour approached him about some sponsorship opportunities as far as keeping a regular stop in Wisconsin. But it's all about fetting someone to sign on the dotted line for millions in sponsorship dollars.

Brian (Westborough, MA)

Up until a couple years ago Dubai was a hot spot for everything. Do you think, in our lifetimes, that there will ever be a major outside of the US or the British Shore.

Bob Harig
  (4:14 PM)

In our lifetimes, no. Unless there is some radical change to what is considered a major championship, it can't and won't happen. The Masters is not going anywhere. The U.S. Open and PGA Championship are not going outside of the U.S. And the British Open is going to be played in Britain. If there is a remote chance of anything happening, it might be the British going outside of England and Scotland and heading to Northern Ireland, where it was played one time in its history. Perhaps Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell will have some influence there.

Nate (Los Angeles)

Bob, what is your take on Tiger's continuing refusal to challenge Riviera? The course is fantastic (highly underrated in my mind) and he historically has not fared well there, so he just doesn't play it anymore. What gives? When, if ever, do you think we will see him back at Hogan's Alley?

Bob Harig
  (4:19 PM)

Not sure the answer there. Tiger has really not played that poorly at Riviera. In eight appearances as a pro, he has three top 10s and has not finished worse than 20th. But he has not returned since withdrawing with an illness before the third round of the 2006 event. And typically when a tournament is left off the schedule, he does not return. Since he is playing in Dubai this week and likely the Match Play in two weeks, it is unlikely we'll see him at Riviera next week.

Shoshana (Boston)

Is Kaymer getting overhyped? It seems like everywhere I turn he's getting outed as the best player in the world etc, but outside of a very nice 3 tournament stretch he was pretty unimpressive last year, and his only other wins in the past couple years have come at Abu Dhabi.I guess I'd just like to see him win and contend more consistently year round before I anoint him the best payer in the game.

Bob Harig
  (4:21 PM)

I believe he's won 4 of his last 9 events on the European Tour, including the PGA Championship. The win at the dunhill Links was against a good field, as was the one in Abu Dhabi. For a guy who is only 26, he's already got a lot of victories.

Brian (Westborough, MA)

Why is it that there is no TV coverage of Monterry and Spyglass other than the 9th and 18th holes? Even the PGATOUR website has no idea what happens on those courses. All of a sudden they post a players score for about 4 holes and often the scores are incorrect and later corrected.

Bob Harig
  (4:24 PM)

The guess here is it is a logistical issue. As you can imagine, it is a monumental undertaking to televise a golf tournament across one course, let alone three. And MP and Spyglass are not right next door to Pebble. They are a few miles away. As for the scoring issues, that shouldn't be an issue. Not in today's technological world.

Brian (Westborough, MA)

Did the tour/firebirds consider shutting down on Sunday after round 3 ended to avoid overlap with the Super Bowl?

Bob Harig
  (4:26 PM)

I am sure it was considered. There was a lot going on last week in Phoenix due to the weather issues which were out of everyone's control. The greens were frozen or with frost on them in the mornings, so they had to delay play for hours, which meants running into Monday. Sure, they could have just played the entire fourth round Monday. I would understand that decision. But the decision was made to get as much golf in as possible to make for a shorter Monday, allowing those players there to travel earlier. It is hard to argue with that.

Panacea10 (USA)

Any chance the European and PGA tours merge or at least make wins on either tour equivalent (i.e. the PGA tour counts Euro wins as official wins)? Both have strong fields and often a win on a Euro event is more impressive than a US event.

Bob Harig
  (4:28 PM)

I don't see that happening. They are two separate entitites, with their own staffs. To merge them would, in effect, reduce the amount of golf around the world. I do think there is a good possibility that there will be more cooperation between the two tours going forwward. There are things they can do to make life easier for both.

Brian (Florida)

I've been scratching my head as to how Mark Wilson could have won the Honda Classic and still never started in The Masters. Injury seems unlikely since they're played so close together. What am I missing?

Bob Harig
  (4:30 PM)

When Wilson won the Honda in 2007, the Masters was in a period where it did not give an automatic invitation to tour winners. It had stopped the practice in the late 1990s when it instituted the world ranking and expanded the money list criteria. They also had a top 50 in the world criteria through Bay Hill and a top 10 on the money list. Wilson didn't fit either of those.

Brandon (Orlando)

McIlroy, Westy and fews others are, in my opinion, publicly sticking it to Finchem and the PGA tour by strickly playing on the Euro circuit and deciding not to accept the PGA card (which i applaud, by the way). How much do you think Finchem's embarrased by it and will he make adjustments to playing requirements next year? thanks.

Bob Harig
  (4:32 PM)

It is being perceived as sticking it to Finchem, but I can assure you the commissioner doesn't view it that way. As nice as it would be to have Westwood and especially McIlroy, are they huge difference makers by themselves? They seem to want to be able to play about 12 tournaments, but not the 15 required. So they don't want to join. And that's fine. But I don't see the tour changing its requirements. If they make it easier for a non-member to play, what is the incentive to be a member, other than to be eligible for the FedEx Cup?

Brandon Crunkilton (Mount Vernon, OH)

Why did Tiger stop using his 3-wood Stinger? He controlled it, hit it 280, and got a ton of roll out of it on firm fast fairways (which gave him an advantage during the majors)

Bob Harig
  (4:35 PM)

It might simply be that he has had difficulty executing the shot in the manor you described. Certainly it would seem to be a go-to shot if it is working.

mike (charlotte)

Where do you rate the state of Phil's game on a scale of 1-10? Also who is your favorite golfer?

Bob Harig
  (4:38 PM)

I would rate Phil's game at about 6 right now. Two weeks ago he had trouble hitting fairways, last week it was the loose shot that led to penalty strokes. But I don't think he's far off. As far as a favorite player? Don't really have a favorite, there are certainly many who make for good conversation.

mike (charlotte)

What is your favorite tournament to cover?

Bob Harig
  (4:39 PM)

It's a coin flip between the Masters and the British Open. . . For numerous reasons on both sides.

Sam (Columbia)

Hey Bob, what do you think Dustin Johnson's odds are to threepeat? On paper he's easily the favorite, but something inside me says its to hard to pull it off? Whats your take?

Bob Harig
  (4:39 PM)

I agree, it's difficult to win the same tournament three straight years. As we've seen recently with Tiger Woods, past success at a venue means only so much. You have to be playing well. That said, Johnson is off to a good start this year. He likes Pebble. I wouldn't discount him.

Brian (Westborough, MA)

Why isn't Tom Watson playing in Dubai? He's also had great success @ Pebble and isn't playing there?

Bob Harig
  (4:42 PM)

The guess about Dubai is he was paid an appearance fee to show up last year. And actually did quite well, with a tie for eighth. And in recent years, he's only been playing the majors he's been eligible for on the regular tour.

jon (VA)

Whats the deal with Villegas? Are club change and loss of caddie a factor? Even when he cooled off after hot start last year he still put together a lot of top 10's. Now he can't even make weekend. While I know his workout routines may be best on tour does he put in enough golf work?

Bob Harig
  (4:43 PM)

Villegas withdrew last week with a back injury, which could be part of his issues this year.

Jim (NY, NY)

Now with a fairly large sample size has the reputation of Butch Harmon taken a hit for failing to do more with Mickelson? You can't throw out the Masters win but Phil has always played very well there so I'm not sure Harmon can get much credit for that week. And aside from that Phil's results have been relatively bad- I think he's only finished top 10 in like 2 of his last 12 events.

Bob Harig
  (4:48 PM)

This subject is fair game, espeically when you consider all the scutiny that Hank Haney and Sean Foley endure working with Tiger Woods. And Harmon knows all about that, too, having worked with Tiger for years. Phil doesn't seem to be driving the ball any better than he did pre-Harmon. But since going to work with him in 2007, Phil has won eight times, including last year's Masters. And Phil has applauded Harmon for helping him with various aspects of his swing.

Brian (Florida)

I know it may be uncomfortable commenting about another network, but doesn't it seem like a wasted oppurtunity on the part of the Golf Channel to not figure out a way to broadcast the Woods-Kaymer-Westwood pairing live? They show the Dubai World Championship and the entire late-season Asia swing live so the logistics exist.

Bob Harig
  (4:49 PM)

Just talking as a golf fan here. Obvioulsy it would be great. But there is a 9-hour time difference to the East Coast, which means the tournament would air very, very early. They likely feel it is more effective to package the tournament into a tape-delay time slot in which more people would be able to view it.

Brian (Florida)

What are your thoughts on the new qualification requirements for the European side of the Ryder Cup? It seems like the European Tour shooting their foot to spite their face because its going to devalue the importance of they're own events since no more than 1 or 2 players will qualify on the strength of their European earnings alone when you could have had as many as 4 qualify that way on the previous system. It seems like the Euro doing a huge favor to the PGA Tour to me.

Bob Harig
  (4:52 PM)

If I am reading your question correctly, you are misunderstanding the criteria. They are taking 5 players from a European money list that begins later this year and runs through next year's Johnnie Walker. So 5 players will make the team soley on how they fare in European Tour events, not 1 or 2. The next 5 -- outside of the money -- are determined by the world points list.So for example, if Lee Westwood is No. 1 in money and No. 1 in world points, he drops off the world points list and the next five are eligible.This should actually help the European side, although limiting captain's picks, to me, is a curious move. Why not keep the flexibility it allows?

Jon (Chicago)

Has Dustin Johnson publicly talked about dating Natalie Gulbis?

Bob Harig
  (4:52 PM)

Yes, he was asked about it a few weeks ago, and his official answer was that they are not dating.

Craig G. (Fairfield, California)

Hi Bob, I enjoy your coverage and insight. My favorite golfer is Mike Weir and I was wondering if you could give an update on his current play, what he's been up to, etc. Thank you!

Bob Harig
  (4:55 PM)

Thank you. . Mike Weir is having a tough time after having a ligament tear last year in his right elbow. He missed the cut at the Bob Hope and was tied for 77th at the Farmers Insurance Open. He is playing this year on a major medical extension, which means he needs to win about $250,000 in five events to remain exempt for the rest of this year.

Nelson (DE)

When you say you don't think we'll see Tiger's dominant ways again, how would you define that type of "dominant". Are you referring to a specifc year or timeframe?

Bob Harig
  (4:57 PM)

Just two years ago, he won six times and had 14 top-10s in 16 tournaments. That is pretty dominant. And I'm not sure we will see that level again. Can he win three or four or five times in a year? Probably. But is he going to contend every single tournament, like he seemingly did for years? Probably not.

Tom (Green Bay, WI)

Hey Bob: Two quick questions for you:1. Do the celebrities that are in the Pro-Am have to pay to play? and 2. Did you see John Daly's new bag? It has a flat screen TV on it. Keep up the great work.

Bob Harig
  (4:58 PM)

Did not see Daly's flat screen TV. .. as for the amateur celebrities, typically they are invited to play for free. They are viewed as a draw to the event. It might vary by tournament and personality, but in general, the tournaments that have these formats leave open several spots for that purpose.

Brian (Florida)

In response to Shoshana's question above it should also be pointed out that Kaymer won the French and Scottish opens back to back in 09. That's one of the more impressive things you can do on the Euro tour since those are always strong fields right before The Open Championship when a lot of players are getting acclimated to the time difference to prepare for that. He also had top10's at last years US Open and Open Championship and the Pga the year before. Kaymer's been proving he's the real deal for about 2 years now. His recent form is far from a revelation.

Bob Harig
  (4:59 PM)

Can't argue with that.

Nelson (DE)

Do you think the organizations that run the major championships might take a different stand than the PGA Tour regarding TV viewers calling in rules infractions?

Bob Harig
  (5:00 PM)

I don't think so. The general feeling among all golf organizations is they will look at any information brought to them in order to protect the field. So while I don't think they'll be advertising the phone number, they won't discourage people pointing out infractions -- as cumbersome as that could become.

Bob Harig
  (5:02 PM)

Too many questions, not enough time. Sorry to have say goodbye but I've run out of time this week. Thanks again for your participation. For those who didn't get a question answered, try the mailbag: bobhespn@gmail.com. I'll be back again next week checking in from Riviera. Thanks