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January 10, 3:00 PM ET
Chat with Bob Harig

Bob Harig
  (3:00 PM)

Hello, one week of PGA Tour golf for 2012 is in the books. A bit of a sleepy -- and slow, as in slow play -- start to the year. I'm here to try and answer your questions. Please fire away.

Ed (Long Island)

Is Gary Woodland confused?? Tiger's agent, Phil's swing coach - he can't decide who he wants to emulate??

Bob Harig
  (3:02 PM)

Good point! Woodland recently switched agents to Mark Steinberg. And in doing so, he lost his coach, Randy Smith -- whose son had been his agent. So he needs a new coach and goes with Butch Harmon -- who used to work with Tiger but now works with Phil. Interesting to say the least.

Alex (Anaheim)

Laird just won me a fantasy golf week. Nice start for him, no?

Bob Harig
  (3:03 PM)

Anybody who finished in the top 5 at Kapalua got a nice jump start on the year. They had a low pressure event with out a lot of people to beat. Which kind of makes you wonder why more guys don't take advantage.

Ed (Long Island)

After watching this tournament, I cannnot figure out why someone would not show up for a guaranteed pay day in such a limited field. Even if you haven't been practicing, nice way to knock some rust off. Does the layout of the course somehow cause a player to get in some poor swing habits or putting habits?

Bob Harig
  (3:05 PM)

You are not alone. Seems an easy call. Great venue. Pampered. Discount rates. Limited field. But it goes to the fact that there are so many good golf tournaments now for the top players, that they can elect to skip this one. And some guys, believe it or not, do not like the Plantation course. We've been saying for awhile that there is too much golf, they should start the season a little later. Maybe then more would show up for the first event.

Marc (Charlotte)

Maybe Gary Woodland just wants to emulate Gary Woodland and is making decisions he believes are best for him to reach his full potential.

Bob Harig
  (3:06 PM)

It's possible. There is certainly nothing wrong with what he did. Guys switch agents and coaches all the time. I think Ed was having some fun at his expense.

drew (san francisco)

Bob, is it about time we really look at the wgr's more closely? 44 points to the winner of a limited field with no top 5 players? The australian open winner got less??

Bob Harig
  (3:11 PM)

I think you are taking about Stricker at the Hyundai and he actually only received 38 points because of the strength of field you noted. Greg Chalmers received more points for winning the Austrlian Open than Stricker got. Chalmers got 42. There are no doubt lots of issues with the world rankings, but in this case ,the Aussie Open fared better and was backed by a stronger field.

Ed (Long Island)

With Stricker winning the opening tournament, does this make the guys who haven't played yet a little more anxious to get started, knowing a proven veteran is now leading FEDEX points and money leader and is not a fluke?

Bob Harig
  (3:12 PM)

The tour wishes that were the case, but guys don't look at it that way at all. That's why a few less tournaments might create a bit more urgency. The players for the most part look at it as a long year and that they'll have plenty of opportunities to make up that ground.

Shoshana (Boston)

Happy New Year. Give me a couple names that will make this years US RC team that weren't on the Pres Cup team and a couple that will drop off?

Bob Harig
  (3:15 PM)

To make the U.S. Ryder Cup team, I like Gary Woodland and Rickie Fowler. To drop off from the Presidents Cup team, I think I'd go with David Toms and Bill Haas. . . Haas was a captain's pick of course. And the Ryder Cup team has just 8 players make it automatically as opposed to 10. But I don't see Toms having the kind of year he just had and he would be unlikely to be a captain's pick. Haas won at the right time and got a pick. We'll see if he can make it on his own this time.

drew (san francisco)

Bob, i was actually referring to the 47 points tiger got for winning an 18 person, no cut event. Maybe 26 points shojld be awaded for that event, if any.

Bob Harig
  (3:17 PM)

My apologies. Yes, Tiger got 44 for winning Chevron, which is more than Stricker got. But Chevron had 11 top 25 players in the field. It actually did have a stronger field. And 18 players is not much less than the 28 who played. To me, there's not much difference there. Perhaps they ought to look a limited field events for ranking points. You simply don't have to beat as many guys, no matter where they are ranked.

Patrick (Charlottesville)

Who wins their second major first: Jim Furyk, Keegan Bradley, or Martin Kaymer?

Bob Harig
  (3:18 PM)

I thought Furyk would have gotten his second by now. Given the choices, I'd have to go with Kaymer. I think he is the most solid player. That is not to say the others won't win more, but Furyk has been a top-10, top-20 player for years and still managed to win just one. It's tough.

Steve (Chicago)

What will it take to sew up a Ryder Cup spot for Stricker, another couple of top 10s, a win and few top 10's ? I think the points program is skewed heaviliy toward this year for qualifying, right ? ...

Bob Harig
  (3:20 PM)

The only tournaments that counted last year were the majors. Obviously the more money you win -- because points are based on money -- the better you are going to do. And the points double at the majors. For Stricker, it depends. He's obviously off to a great start, leading the standings. Consistently winning money is the key. And top-10s go a long way.

Tom (L.A.)

I know we can say "independent contractors" till we're blue in the face, but doesn't it speak of some disrespect to the Tour and it's sponsors by not bothering to show up to events like Kapalua? Especially when you use the family excuse but are only a 5 hour private plane flight away, but somehow have no qualms with a cash grab in China? If there's no Tour some day, you can peddle your contractor status to who exactly?

Bob Harig
  (3:23 PM)

I wish I had more time and space for this topic.The independent contrcactor stipulation, in my opinion, is a crutch. The tour still has rules nad regulations. You have to be a member of the tour. You have to play a certain number of events to be eligible. Ask other "independent contractors" if they get health care and free day care. To me, that is a crock. All it allows is for players to pick and choose their own tournaments. If they were truly indpendent, they could play as little or as often as they like, or go to Europe or Asia whenever they want.All that said. .. the tour prides itself no giving the players this freedom. And by having such a long season, the tour feeds into players skipping Kapalua, because a guy can't play them all. Like I said, this topic could be discussed for a long time.

Andrew (WI)

When the winners-only event started, there was a much larger offseason and less tournaments of note in Asia and Australia in November and December, so it was easier for a golfer to get his rest and play anyways. But now the season structure is different for everyone so this tournament doesn't fit anymore. Is it time to admit this tournament on the schedule in this spot just doesn't work anymore and nix it? There's no shame in that.

Bob Harig
  (3:25 PM)

Good point. Back in the day, the Tournament of Champions was not the kickoff to the season. It used to fall somewhere else on the schedule. For many years, the Bob Hope tournament kicked things off. The tour season ended in the fall, there were not a lot of winter options, and guys were ready to get going again in January. I think the players like the Kapalua event, and the tour certainly doesn't want to see it go away.

Shoshana (Boston)

The issue with limited fields and the OWGR, is that a few very top players give a tournament a lot more ranking points than a many players in the 50-200 range. If you re-scale pts to more highly value depth than top players. You would see a change

Bob Harig
  (3:27 PM)

That's true. Luke Donald benefits when he plays a tournament because he is No. 1 in the world and that gives the tournament more ranking points. And then it perpetuates from there.

Jax (Indiana)

Your sleeper picks for this week at the Sony?

Bob Harig
  (3:28 PM)

I went with Vijay Singh as my sleeper in our weekly picks, just because he quietly got better last year. .. But as those of you who follow know, picking any golf tournament -- especially one with 24 rookies and filled with Q School and Nationwide grades -- is nearly impossible.

Shoshana (Boston)

The tour wants to run or co-sanction events from Jan 1 through mid-Nov, bc it's good for their business. The flip side is their is no off-season, so players make their own. They are entitled to one, esp as they get older, have kids etc. Hawaii is very pretty, but they can afford to head there on their own dime. And if they are playing a pga event, it's work, not strictly a vacation

Bob Harig
  (3:31 PM)

This is true, too. The tour can't have it both ways. It sanctions events in every month of the year. It's mandate is to provide playing opportunities to its players. And it collects sponsor and television fees for every event it sanctions. You can't have tournaments across 11 to 12 months and then cry when guys don't show up at some of them. And the tour doesn't. It knows the situation. But I think golf fans would like to see a more dynamic beginning to the season. If not, why not wait a bit?

corey (rochester)

what do you think of tiger starting his 2012 season off at pebble beach

Bob Harig
  (3:32 PM)

He's actually starting in Abu Dhabi in 2 weeks, but you are correct, his first PGA Tour event is going to be at Pebble. And that's fine. Tiger has not played there for 10 years. He needed to begin his domestic schedule at some point, and given his trip to the Middle East, that was the earliest he could have done so.

Jim (NY, NY)

Bob, John Feinstein wrote a very tough column recently about Tiger and part of his critique was that Tiger doesn't give tourneys advance notice of his participation like he pledged to Finchem that he would do. I find that completely unfair with the Pebble announcement being the latest example. Aside from the uncertainty caused by his injury that prevented him from mapping out a schedule for most of last year I think Tiger has made it a point to be more accomodating to the Tour in that regard.

Bob Harig
  (3:35 PM)

Feinstein's piece was obviously written before the Pebble announcement. Tiger has tried to give commitments earlier, but probably not to the level the tour would like. Yes, Pebble is a month early. Last fall, he committed a month early to the Frys.com. You have to give him a pass for last summer when he was unsure if he was going to play. He has entered tournaments earlier than the deadline.

Shoshana (Boston)

To be honest I have no real problem with Tiger or Stricker or Lee picking up owgr pts for beating a limited field, guys getting pts for dfl though is a bigger issue. What about a rule that only 50% of the field, including ties (at max) gets points?

Bob Harig
  (3:35 PM)

They probably need to do something. Seems kind of crazy that you get points for finishing last.

Andrew (WI)

The more and more I read about this issue, the more and more I think a world tour is the perfect solution to address these concerns. Requires all the tours and players to sacrifice a little, but isn't it time to admit unifying the world under a single top tour fixes a lot of the problems?

Bob Harig
  (3:36 PM)

Perhaps, but who is going to run that world tour? All of the various tours now have executives, rules officials, etc. Do they want to sacrifice jobs. Wouldn't tournaments be sacrificed? I think we are moving toward that, but the idea is not so simple.

Ed (Long Island)

I think a good way to "Kick Off" the season would be with a cooperative pro-am tournament the week between the NFL Conference Championships games and the Super Bowl with the NFL. Have a pro-am with NFL players, co sponsored by the NFL - have it prime time and played on the west coast. NFL markets its players, Super Bowl, apparell, PGA gets ratings and I would think the tour players would have a lot of fun playing with the NFL players and increased exposure. Crazy??

Bob Harig
  (3:39 PM)

It's not crazy. Probably won't happen. I have long suggested that the tour begin its season the week between the NFL conference games and the Super Bowl. There is no football that week. It's a bit of a lull on the sports calender. Perfect time to beem golf into living rooms from Hawaii or some other great locale. Then the next week go to Phoenix where the huge crowds there are not affected by the Super Bowl. Regardless of the NFL influence, it would be a much better start to the season.

Shoshana (Boston)

The prob with TW committing early is that unlike any other player on tour a lot of people buy tickets to see him. If he WD's (and you see several players tourn do this), it becomes a big deal. Closer he commits to the event, less chance of a WD.

Bob Harig
  (3:41 PM)

The commitment to a PGA Tour event is procedural, not binding. You are required to "commit" to an event by the Friday prior. Some players commit to every tournament at the beginning of the year, then WD as the year goes along and nobody notices. If people did not hammer Tiger for withdrawing, I think he'd commit earlier. There has to be an understanding that it's not binding, that a guy has a right to change his mind. As long as that is not the case, he will be reluctant to commit early.

Nelson (DE)

Is the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am still going to pair amateurs with pros for all 4 rounds? In reading the report about Tiger committing to that event, the last line said: "The pro-am format will require him to play with an amateur for the first three days", but didn't mention anything about the final round

Bob Harig
  (3:42 PM)

Every pro in the field has an amateur partner for three rounds. Then the pro field is cut for the final round. So is the amateur field. The top 25 pro-am teams advance to Sunday. So, if Tiger's team qualifies, he'd have an amateur play with him on Sunday.

Steve (Chicago)

Webb Simpson hits at lot of balls pure, but throws in some really squirrley shots that rely on a lot of hand/arm manipulation. does he have a swing that will hold up over time ?

Bob Harig
  (3:43 PM)

That is a question for a swing expert out there. You see lots of different swings that produce all kinds of results. It is hard to say with Webb. Is he on a roll or is this sustainable?

Lou (East Liverpool, OH)

Shoshana has a good point on the Tiger committment issue- I think he learned a lesson early in his career when he got killed for blowing off that awards dinner and made it a point not to commit to something unless he was reasonably certain he could fulfill the obligation.

Bob Harig
  (3:47 PM)

Spot on. In my opinion, Tiger was unfairly criticized for that. Way back in 1996, he was given a sponsor exmeption to the Buick Challenge in Georgie. He had played four straight weeks after turning pro after winning the U.S. Am. He was to be given an award on the Wed night of the tournament and had gone to the tournament site, but was ill. He cited fatigue and withdrew from the tournament. He probably should have tried to go to the dinner or been more remorseful, but he had every right to not play if he wasn't up to it. Guys do that all the time. But he got hammered. And from that time, he decided he was never going to commit early.

Andrew (WI)

Bob, I think in a world tour scenario, both the US and Euro PGA tours can funnel say, half of their events into a world tour structure, and keep the other half for their rank-and-file players who don't quite qualify for the world tour. But then again you'd probably have to get the sponsors to agree to that, and you're right, the idea would be very, very complex to pull off

Bob Harig
  (3:49 PM)

I think something like that is possible, but you'd really have a bunch of haves and have-not tournaments. Pulling off the structure of such a tour would take a lot of planning. And what that means is the stars of golf would skip a lot of the rank-and-file domestic events. If that happens, does TV wnat to pay for them? Lots of issues.

Shoshana (Boston)

A world tour has killed tennis' popularity in the US. The tour has done a pretty good job keeping tournaments around. As long as multiple tours are economically viable why combine them? We currently see nearly all the top players against each other 9 (at least) times a year. Even if you have a global tour, you prob wont get many more top tournaments than we have now

Bob Harig
  (3:50 PM)

This is a good point, too. The 4 majors, the 4 WGCs, the Players all have excellent fields. Throw in the BMW PGA in Europe and a few others and we do see the top players come together quite often -- while giving a boost to the regular events.

Jim (NY, NY)

Looks like Tiger will have 4 stroke tourneys and the Match Play as prep for The Masters, what type of results would you need to see to make him your favorite to win at Augusta.

Bob Harig
  (3:54 PM)

Abu Dhabi, Pebble, Match Play, Doral, Bay Hill are the ones we expect. There's a chance for Honda -- where he now lives -- which would be six tournaments prior to the Masters. I think contending in a few of these events, getting into the mix on the weekend -- win or lose -- and seeing that he feels good about his swing is all that matters going into the Masters. The last two years there was nothing to go by and he still tied for fourth both times.

RJ (Los Angeles)

Any idea when Tim Clark tees it up this year?

Bob Harig
  (3:56 PM)

Have not heard anything about Clark, who has had some ordeal with the elbow.

Michael (Cincinnati)

What kind of year do you see for Charlie Hoffman? This is a guy who just never seems to put it all together but has immense talent.

Bob Harig
  (3:57 PM)

Very hard to say. So many players in this category. You wonder about confidence and momentum. His two-year exemption will expire after this year so he needs to play well.

Nelson (DE)

Why do you think Steve Stricker (and others like Vijay Singh, Kenny Perry) have had success in their 40's than at any other time in their career?

Bob Harig
  (3:58 PM)

Some guys peak later, find their stride. Stricker is better in his 40s than he was in his 20s. He trusts his swing, still putts well. Vijay was an unbelievably hard worker and Kenny Perry hit it a long way, things that helped greatly.

Bob Harig
  (4:00 PM)

I am out of time folks. We are reviving the mailbag if you care to ask more questions via email. Please send them to bobhespn@gmail.com. I will answer select ones on line each week. Check it out. See you again next week. Thanks