Thanks for again participating in this week's golf chat. It's been a wild year to this point, with the Masters only a few weeks away. Big changes just announced on PGA Tour. Arnie's tourney coming up. Please fire away.
What does everyone on the tour think of Hank Haney now? He certainly has a right to write a book that doesn't mean it's the right thing to do. Do most players think he crossed a line?
I'm guessing the feeling is more toward he crossed a line. That's if you are a player. Most would think that things discussed with their coach, things seen by him, would not be book fodder.
Sounds like #8 and 16 at Augusta had modifications to the greens, any word on what was done?
Mickelson talked about this at Doral. If anything, they smoothed out a couple of areas to make them a bit easier, believe it or not.
Poor Ernie... What was YOUR reaction watching Ernie and his Augusta berth complete brokedown Sunday? That was a hard one to be a part of, even as a viewer.
I wrote about this on Sunday (please check it out, shameless plug, sorry). No doubt, it was brutal. Ernie hit the ball great. Those 2 shots to the 16th were as good as it gets. If he makes that putt, the tournament is probably over. But he missed and that set off a chain reaction. That was tough.
Lets start off with some Haney-Woods Buzz going around. First off, was the timing of Hank's book on purpose? And how is this book going to effect Tiger at Augusta? I'd strongly advise him to avoid media that week.
Yes, it was on purpose. The release date of a book is typically tied to the best way to get publicity for it. What better time than the week before the Masters. And there is no question that the book has Tiger simmering. He's said he won't answer questions about it. If he doesn't, then he should be fine.
This new qualifying system for the PGA Tour is a mess. Why rush to make the announcement when there are so many unanswered questions still to be decided?
They wanted to get the framework of it out there: that starting next year, there will be a wraparound season. And that Q-school will feed the Nationwide Tour, not the PGA Tour.
I know this question is harsh but as someone who has gone through local qualifying for the US Open and tried to Monday qualify for the GHO I think I have a right to ask it. Since last year's Bay Hill Sam Saunders has gone CUT, CUT, CUT, CUT, CUT, CUT, T69 on the PGA Tour. Was it something in the T69 that Arnold liked or just outright nepotism that got Sam in the field this week? Also does anyone ever ask Arnold about it during his press conference, if so how does he justify it? I know the sponsor's have a right to invite anyone but that doesn't mean we don't have the right to question the merits of it.
It is sort of the elephant in the room, isn't it? Saunders is an aspiring pro who has yet to earn his way on tour. I don't know how else to say it other than it's Arnie's tournament and he has a lot of exemptions to play with it.
Coming off his win at Transitions, do you think Luke Donald has overcome his slow start and can make a run at a major this year? How about a similar shorter, yet precise, player like Mark Wilson? Will he compete for a Ryder Cup spot at Medinah this fall?
No doubt Luke has overcome his mini slump. And certainly, I think he can win or contend for a major. As for Mark Wilson, he certainly has put himself in position to make the team. But there is a long way to go.
Why is the PGA Tour messing with a good thing? The beauty of golf is those rare guys that can jump from nowhere to the tour. That route is all but gone. And as much as they think this will help, this will not boost the Nationwide Tour interest at all.
That is the big quesiton right now. What's wrong with what they've got. I will say I like the idea of a hard end to the season. Having fall events after the FedEx cup seemed silly. Tough to explain. But they weren't going to drop them, so if you are going to have them, why not have them count? To count, you've got to start the new season with them. But the Q school thing is going ot have many grumbling.
Tiger's injury at Doral must have been very minor for him to play Tavistalk. Agree?
It apparently has turned out to be minor. His comments on it suggest he was scared of further injury.
So what happens to the guys who used to get limited status for finishing 126-150? Is that gone in this stupid new system?
Good question. There is a chance that limited status would remain if they fail to get their full card. You still have to account for other ways to fill fields. For example, what if, for example, Gary Woodland failed to qualify for the FedEx Cup this year? Fell outside the top 125? Well, he won a tournament last year. Two-year exemption. So he'd still be exempt on tour.
How is this three tournament qulaifier for 50 cards going to work? Will players be weighted, as in No. 126 gets more points going in than No. 200? And do the PGA Tour guys get an advantage over the Nationwide guys or are they even? What a mess.
That is what they still have to figure out. There will be some sort of seeing process. The guy who finishes No. 1 on the Nationwide money list has to have some inherent advantage. No. 126 on PGA will have more of an advantage than No. 200. But how they work them in remains to be figured out.
Hi Bob, Big fan..do you think Tiger playing Tavistock is more of an indicator that he's loyal or that he feels that he needs to play more events to feel prepared for the majors? Or both or neither?
Probably both. Certainly there is something going on with Albany, who he is representing. He clearly didn't want to let them down. Also he must have felt like all was well or I doubt he'd play.
If this is such a great move for the second-tier tour, why is Nationwide bailing at a time when it will get "attention?" Is it because even Nationwide knows nobody cares about its tour? In the pecking order, it goes PGA, Europe, huge gap, LPGA, huge gap, Champions, huge gap, Nationwide.
Nationwide had decided to bail before these changes were discussed. If anything, this is being done to attract someone to replace Nationwide.
Hope Tiger has early tee times this weekend and exits via his Mercedes mid-round. Just saying, some of us really don't care if he plays.
You are clearly in the minority. The TV ratings, web hits, all indicators point to people being the most interested in him. That's simply how it is.
What is Rory's pre-Master's prep? Is he just bumming around with friends?
No, he was spending some time with his coach, going to take some time off, heading to Augusta for a few days next week.
I don't understand everyone who is yelping at Tiger about the Navy SEALS excerpt. Do people not realize he is bettering himself by just talking to those guys, they are our countries hero's. Tiger is a grown man who, if anything, should be recognized for training with such a accomplished group.
I think if he explained it as such there would not be as much of an issue. What has people intrigued, however, is if he really hurt himself -- and his chances at bettering his record -- because of this training.
Is Faldo the youngest non-playing former champion at The Masters? I guess he feels like he just doesnt have the game anymore to even try?
I would say you are correct on Faldo being the youngest non-playing Masters winner. It is more about his TV duties. He just doens't play much. And while I'm guessing CBS wouldn't mind if he played in the tournament, his responsibilities are a big commitment. He made the decision to go all in with TV.
Is it true that for the U.S. Open this year at Olypic Club the USGA will play the 1st hole as a Par 4 (played as a Par 5 in 98) and the 17th hole as a Par 5 (played as a Par 4 in 98) leaving the only two Par 5's on the course as back to back holes on 16 and 17? If so, that could be awesome!
I believe you are correct. . Back to back par-5s at the end.
Your impressions on Sang-Moon Bae? I feel like he gave away a lot of strokes that resulted in him not being able to get over that -13 traffic jam
Yes, and he's only a rookie. It was a pretty strong performance given his lack of experience.
Walked several holes with AK at Transitions last week. I've never seen somebody with so little confidence. The swagger is all gone. It seemed like he was waiting for something to go wrong on every hole. Why not take a month off and get his head together?
I think he's tired of being away. He had the injury issues two years ago. Now he is seeing his world ranking plummet. Probably figures he needs to work it out on the course.
Feel like system was not broken, but they tried to fix it anyway.Season, almost by definition, should be calendar year...I would like to see those events after the Fedex Cup count toward total money for the year and top 125..I'd also like to see the winners get a ticket to the Next Year's Masters as they are stand alone events and still very difficult to win.
It doesn't look like they will go by the money list anymore. So the only way for those tournaments after the FedEx Cup to matter is to include them in the next year's schedule. Even if they go by money, it is going to end at the Tour Championship.
What a slap in the face to me to play this silly season Tavistock Cup the week of my tournament? Those guys should be playing their practice rounds at Bay Hill and showing respect to the person most responsible for golf's popularity today.
Since I'm sure Arnold himself has other things to worry about than this chat. .. I do understand the sentiment. I am not a fan of the Tavistock for the reasons you mentioned, along with the fact that a two-day event is bound to affect the tournament prior as well. . and maybe the tournament after. Easy solution: move it to the offseason or simply make it a one-day deal.
Will Tiger Woods win a tournament by April 9?
That means winning either Bay Hill or the Masters. I'll be honest, I thought he'd have won one by now. I picked him at Doral. You saw what happened. I guess I wouldn't be surprised either way.
Your thoughts on the belly putter? Do you agree with Tiger's assessment that it takes away from how the game is meant to be played?
I do sort of go along with that thinking. It just seems that you should not be able to anchor the club, that it takes away from the skill of being able to make a putting stroke. But. .. it's not like guys using belly putters make everything. They struggle too. Look at Ernie Els. That is why the issue of banning them is a tough one.
Is Luke Donald the most under the radar # 1 ranked golfer in history? Even Tom Lehman got alot more respect and he was # 1 for like 5 minutes. I guess its operating within the shadow of Tiger, Rory and Phil?
I disagree. Donald got a lot of recogntion last year. Player of the year on both tours. Won both money lists.
Its year 2026, Tiger is 50, He just published a book on his career. How hard is he going to be on all the people who are hating on him now?
If that book tells the complete story, it will sell 10-million copies.
Why would the Masters give Ryo an invitation even though he probably qualifies on merit -- he's inside top 50 in world. Why not give it to Ernie instead, so we don't have to watch a formerly great player grind so hard for a goal he's not going to reach?
Many share that view. The Masters probably wanted to make sure Ishikawa was in. He fell to 50th this week. What if he falls out? They wanted to take out the guesswork, let the folks in Japan know he is going to be there. It's a commercial move, really. They are looking to capture the Asian TV market, which is huge. As for Ernie, I wrote about that very topic (sorry, again, shameless plug) today. They ought to give him one.
This new qualifying system sounds a lot like what the NBA did - it seems like they want all the young golfers to spend a year in the Nationwide Tour instead of coming straight up to the PGA Tour. Seems like they want to prevent young golfers from flaming out. Not the worst idea in the world, although we'll have to see what happens first.
There is some merit in their thinking. Research shoes guys who come through the Nationwide have more success. But shutting it out completely? it's still good to have a few of those stories coming from Q School. Maybe let 10 in that way?
With this early, warm spring weather, Augusta National should be really fast and firm. Seems like a year for a wide open field, if the short hitters are getting lots of roll out in the fairways, no?
Yes, the optimum conditions are for the course to be firm. Greens hard, fairways running so errant drives roll into the rough but good ones are rewarded. Also positioning off the tee to hit those tough greens. Let's hope it stays dry.
Everyone keeps harping on Ernie got getting an invite, but dude didn't qualify for the tournament. Sure, giving Ryo an invite and not Ernie is not a good decision, but that doesn't make Ernie not getting an invite unjust in itself.
True. Ernie has had every chance to qualify on his own. He would say that. But so did Ryo. It doesn't have to be about them, though. They could give a spot to both.
Interestingly, Sam Saunders got the maximum 7 sponsor exemptions for a non-tour member last year. Yet, the only time the complaints arise (at least in this chat anyway) is during this time of the year. So, if I have this right, getting an exemption from some random event is OK, but if Arnold Palmer wants to exercise his right to hand one to his grandson, suddenly it's unfair?
It is just more obvious when it comes at Palmer's tournament. And it might actually be more fair there because he has far more exemptions to give because his tournament is an invitational than most tour stops.
What I hate about the new system is, suppose you're in the top 10 on the Ntaionwide Tour all year then, come the three-week playoff, you're sick or injured. That year's work could be lost for a three-week roll of the dice.
Yes, exactly. Which is why they really have to think hard about the seeing process. Perhaps a top 10 player is virtually assured of his card and then is playing for slotting on the PGA Tour? Then your exmaple would not be as dire.
With no indication of the so-called "sophomore slump" so far this season, do you see Keegan Bradley picking up another win and possibly a major this season?
I don't know about a major. That is so hard to say. He is 1 for 1 in majors, a pretty good start. But I definitely see him winning. He was right there a bunch already this year.
Counterpoint to having 10 Q-school spots - there's no guarantee the 10 golfers qualifying that way won't be the top young golfers entered in the tourney (or top journeyman pros). You really do need to qualify 25-50 golfers through Q-school to give a fair chance to have "good stories".
I don't think there is an easy answer in this. The reason I said 10 is now there is going to be nobody. At least it would give you a shot that way. And to make it through 3 stages and a 108 hole tournament to get only 10 spots would not be easy.
Jim Furyk looked good at the transitions. Most would say he doesn't have the length for Augusta, but what are the chances he notches another major this year, especially at a course that more suits his game like Olympic?
As far as a major, it's been 9 years since he won the U.S. Open. Some figured he'd have added another by now. But there are only 4, so predicting that he will win one is difficult. But I do like Olympic for him.
I like the fact that the Masters has this limited field that makes it more of an exclusive event. If they handed out exemptions all over the place, the thrill of making the tournament will lose it's importance. It's nice you have to do something special to earn your way in. If Ernie unfortunately doesn't EARN it this year, it will be more rewarding if he makes it next year. Look at all the players when they win their first tournament - first comments are usually now I get to go to the Master's. Keep it special!!!
I see your point, but it will still be a special tournament if Ernie gets an exemption.
Does The Master's just feel like the biggest of the majors due to its position on the calendar (e.g. 8 months removed from the last one, first one of the year, etc.) or do you think its genuinely considered the biggest tournament in the world?
I think it's more of the former. The wait ,the spring, the venue. .. all of that give the Masters that feeling. But many will tell you they think the U.S. Open, Open Championship are bigger.
Who is the guy you've covered for years and years that has never won that would bring a smile to your face? There are so many journeymen out there that seem like really great guys.
Probably Briny Baird Been going at it for a long time Lost the Frys in a playoff last fall.
If you had to pick one player 50 years or older to make a run at the Masters this year, who would it be and why?
I don't think any of the 50-plus golfers this year really have a chance.
Is Phil now not taking any time off between now and the Master's?
Correct. He is playing Bay Hill and Houston.
Really random thought that entered my mind thinking about Arnie and the Masters coming up: Honorary starters. Tiger and Phil will probably someday get the call, but who in between Jack/Arnie/Player and Tiger/Phil would bridge the gap? Watson? Faldo? Couples? Of course, given the shape Gary Player is in, he might do it until he's 150 so it's all moot.
The Masters has had years without so perhaps they simply don't ask anyone.
Does Tiger needs to win a major this year to have a realistic shot at 19, or does he has plenty of time, given that golfers now are competitive into their early 50's
It gets harder with every year that goes by. But if healthy.. and that's a big if... I go back to Jack winning 3 majors in his 40s. Tiger is 36. He would still have 3 more years in his 30s, and why couldn't he be competitive into his 40s? It's about health and desire.
I don't really see how Tiger training with the Seals is anything different than him or other players going skiing or any other hobby. You could potentially hurt yourself doing any of those things. And if the ACL was only 20% intact anyways, it was going to blow out at some point sooner than later, regardless of what he did
You could fall down the stairs and tear your ACL. I think the point is that why would someone at the height of his powers risk it in this manner? Maybe it's becaue he wanted to live life.
Better "sleeper" pick for Augusta: KJ Choi, Stricker, or Adam Scott?
K.J.. . he's played well there. Scott might be among the favorites.
Is there something about Bay Hill's course setup that so many players opt not to play this event? With only one other tournament between now and the Master's - figure this would be a good final tune-up.
It's interesting how things have transpired. The field at Bay Hill is average at best. The Florida courses really don't prepare you for Augusta, it's more about getting your game sharp. And many have chosen other ways to do that.
You seem to have a decent relationship with Tiger (from what I see/hear at press conferences) compared to some other journalists (e.g., the rather terse conversation at the Honda Classic). Any comments on what you have learned about his demeanor over the years? What about asking particular questions that you know are likely to tick him off, such as Hank Haney and his book?
He was asked they Haney book question early on and basically said he won't talk about it any more. I asked him about it again at Honda when things heated up with the book and he simply said he's not going to say any more. I think he knows we have a job to do. As for his demeanor, obviously Tiger is not the most forthcoming with his answers. But he does answer questions after amost every single round he plays, before every tournament. Is he as engaging as people would like him to be? No. But I actually think he's been pretty good to us over the years. Depending on the topic, there are some good answers to be had. Not always. Not a lot. But some.
I read online that, "Bubba Watson said Tiger?s injury will do nothing to diminish his chances at the first major of the year." Do you agree or could this injury pop up again?
That's the big question. Achilles injuries are said to be chronic. What we don't know is how much it bothers him on a day to day basis, does he have frequent inssues with tightness or soreness or was the Doral deal a rarity?
For guys that play Bay Hill I don't have a huge prob with Tavistock Cup. I do have a problem with a player opting to play Tavistock and not play Bay Hill two days later
Or how about one -- Adam Scott -- who played neither?
Why can't they expand the field at Bay Hill? I know it's an invitational, but we're past daylight savings time and to have a 120-player field is just silly -- especially when you see some of the names of players who get in compared to the alternate list.
This is an interesting issue. Nicklaus' tournament, Tiger's AT&T, Colonial. . they are the same thing. Limited fields. I don't have a big problem with it. I'd rather see the WGCs expanded.
I know Rory did the same thing last year, but with how well hes playing and just taking over the number 1 spot (now lost it). Do you think it is a mistake taking this time off to prepare for the Masters?
No, he set up his schedule like this for a reason. He played a good bit earlier and now is recharging. Whatever works.
The way I'm reading the new tour changes is that if you're coming from an international tour or out of college you will have to rely on sponsor exemptions to avoid the NTW tour (even wgc's plus majors isn't many starts, and that's only top 50). Given how few of those there are, and the politics behind them, this seems like a good way to create problems
That was always the case, though. Those guys were trying to avoid Q school by getting sponsor exemtpions and trying to earn enough money to avoid Q School. Now they will try to enough to either get their card or at least qualify for the 3 tournaments. But what it does is perhaps force some to leave school earlier so they have more opportunities. Or perhaps take their game to Europe.
I thought Adam Scott was playing in the Tavistock?
He did not play Transitions and isn't playing Bay Hill. But he is in Tavistock.
Do you think that the younger players, considering the age gap now, don't have the appreciation for what Arnold Palmer made to the game?
Unless they take the time to learn what he did either by reading about Palmer or talking to others about him, there is no way they can know. Most were born AFTER he won his last PGA Tour event.
Is Ishikawa another Jumbo Ozaki (i.e. can he only win in Japan)?
Well, Ishikawa is only 20. Give him some time.
It seems like the fans want Tiger to get to 19 more than Tiger does himself, DON'T get me wrong, Tiger is all about being a winner and the best ever. But if that means all work and no play, I mean, c'mon golf is still a game and even at the highest level it still shouldn't be a chore..
But I do think on some level, competitive golf is a chore for Tiger. It's a grind. Not defending him, just saying that is how it is. The constant hassles of security, fans, media. The scrutiny of his game. How he has to be perfect on the course. I bet it takes a toll. Human nature, you know?
Do you think the new qualifying process will now lead to college players leaving early to get started on the NW tour since they no longer have the opportunity to qualify through Q school?
That is a distinct possibility, one of the things they have to consider.
Right but before if you didn't get the sponsor exemptions there was q-school, now you have to be on the NTW tour or another tour. Now sponsor exemptions are basically your only way in
Or. . . you could play well enough to at least be among the top 200 and get into that 3-tourney series, which is sort of like Q school. The old way, you had to earn enough to finish among top 125 to avoid q school. Not the same, true.
I know people are griping about Sam Saunders, but how about Robert Damron and Skip Kendall getting into Bay Hill every year? Neither one has had a PGA Tour card in a half-dozen years, yet every year they get an invite. Mike Hulbert used to be one as well.
The tournament is actually owned by IMG. It is one of the few on tour that is a "for-profit" event, meaning they are not set up as a charity or a non-profit. That gives them a different make up. And with all the exemptions they have, most of the time they go to IMG clients.
Do you like Olympic fo Phil and his quest to win the US Open
I think it is more about how Phil is playing. He proved at the British Open last summer that if his game is on, the venue doesn't matter.
Bob, I think you're right that pro golf is something of a chore for Tiger, it's his job. Given that he doesn't have a contract saying he can't do certain hobbies, I don't have a prob with him skiing, or Seal Training or whatever, and if he gets injured so be it. I don't think he owes it to me to break 19. And I think not having a life (unlike every other player) would be a good way to drive someone insane
I think if he said that, then some of the angst over the Seals stuff would subside. It's just that for an outsider, it seems strange that he would risk his career for that. Then again, you have to live and if that's what he wanted to do, it's his choice.
Okay, folks I'm out of time. Thanks again for particpating. I'm available on Twitter at various times if you have other golf quesitons. @bobharig. Thanks