Hello, lots to chat about. Let's get started. Please fire away with your questions.
Do you agree with Michael Collins that Tiger Woods will win the Masters?
I think he'll be among the favorites, certainly among those you think will contend. To pick him? That's hard to do in any tournament.
We keep hearing that Tiger is working on distance control - how much additional length has he added with these swing changes?
He is hitting his irons in some cases 15 yards farther. And I'm guessing it takes a little getting used to the idea that your 7 iron might go 200 yards. This is probably a good problem to have but it is one he has been sorting through for most of this year.
What ever happened to Calvin Peete?
He is still around. There is a good Q&A with him in the most recent GolfWorld.
Now that Tiger, has his first "official" win in over 2 years, do you think the pressure has switched to get his first major in almost 4 years?
Of course! Now it's going to be when will you win a major. That pressure has never gone away.
Bob, in all your time covering Tiger, who is your favorite perennial PGA Tour Nerd, that Tiger has churned into yesterdays meatloaf in the final round of a tournament (i.e: Matt Gogel)
Michael Lietzig comes to mind. He was paired with Tiger at the 09 Memorial and 09 Buick Open. Tough situation for a guy trying to find his way.
Dear Bob,I dare you to sit there and tell me that Jason Dufner isn't the most exciting up and comer on tour. He's got energy the likes we have not seen since Charl Schwartzel.
He's actually a pretty funny guy on Twitter.
What's your favorite hole at Augusta National and why?
Love the 10th hole. It's just such an incredible view as you walk down. Hard to appreciate how much elevation there is. It would be a par-5 for most of us.
Considering all the changes that Tiger made in his golf game, was it surprising to you that he didn't leave Nike and look for a different primary sponsor?
Not at all. Nike has paid him a lot of money over the years. He actually helped put them on the map for golf, and they stood by him when all hell was breaking loose.
Who ya got at the Shell Houston Open?
I'm going with Ernie. Sentimental choice.
How many majors do you see Tiger being in contention to win this year? Do the courses match up well for his "new" game?
I am not sure what to make of Kiawah for him. But certainly the other three: Augusta, Olympic, Royal Lytham. No reason why he can't contend at all of them. If you hit a lot of greens in majors, you have a great chance. That is what he has to continue doing.
I will be going to The Masters for Thursday and Friday rounds, how do suggest seeing the course and the Tournament for the 1st time?
My advice is always this: first time there, walk the entire course. Start at 1 and go all the way through 18. Check everything out. See where you might want to hang out the next day. Then, on the second day, find a spot or two where you watch the players come through. Maybe one on the front, one on the back... To be honest, you can't go wrong no matter what.
Do you think Sunday at Bay Hill showed Tiger at 100% of his game? Or is he still playing below his potential (a scary thought)?
He would be the first to admit he can get better. The 3-putt at the second hole was a great example. Also his distance control, especially on short irons, needs work. Tiger is not hitting it close with his 9 iron, wedge. We're nitpicking here but that is important.
How does tiger's win help him leading up to the masters?
Confidence. He knows he can do it. He just did it under pressure.
With all the trouble Tiger has had putting recently (except Bay Hill), how will he handle the greens at Agusta? It would appear with his ball striking where it is, if he can avoid a bunch of three putts this is his best chance for a major this year.
No doubt. His old coach Hank Haney has been a firm believer that 3-putt avoidnace is one of the game's most underrated stats.
When the First take and some of the other ESPN people talk golf, do you have the same urge to strangle them, or at least correct their "facts" that we do?
Ha! Trying to get me in trouble. Hey, maybe they want to strangle me for some of my views.
Do you think Tiger will continue to play more events, or revert to his customary schedule?
This is a tough area. He needs to play tournament golf to be competitive, but it is also clear that the injury issues are never going to be far away. Fine line.
What has happen to PHIL since Pebble?
Since Pebble, he has one round in the 60s the first round at Riviera where he missed a playoff. I'm a bit perplexed as to his very ordinary golf at Doral and again at Bay Hill. But he's gunning for next week.
Yani Tseng, over/under 2.5 majors in 2012. Go.
I'll be stunned if she doesn't win them all.
Johnny Miller commented Sunday on the 18th hole that Tiger was walking gingerly. Is there a chance that the achilles is still a problem for him?
I think there is a chance it will always be in the back of his mind. Achilles injuries are said to be chronic.
Why don't you like Kiawah for Tiger?
I'm not sure that I don't, just not sure how that is going to work for the PGA. It is apparently going to be brutal. So many unknowns though. Doubt he's ever played it.
How good a job does Houston really do of providing an Augusta like test the week before? The field strength this year appears better than in the past, which would indicate their efforts are paying off.
I have never been there, but from all indications, they do a great job of simulating conditions as best they can. Fast, fast greens. Shaved down around the greens, little rough. For a course that isn't anything like Augusta, they do very well to simulate the experience.
The reality is that other than that final rd at Pebble, and the opening rd at Riviera, Phil hasn't had many very good rounds this year. And that pebble rd his putting was off the charts
Do you think Ernie will receive a special exemption to play in the Masters?
I think it's too late. Augusta can do what it wants, but it seems they would have done so by now.
If you'e in charge does Ernie get a Master's invite?
Yes. How does it hurt anyone if they add him to the field?
Think Tiger's win may help motivate Phil for Masters?? Not that Phil should need any further motivation.
I think you answered your own question!
Whats your take on him staying with Nike from a technology and equipment standpoint? Any belief in needing the Scotty in the bag?
I've always been one who thinks it's more about the player. Tiger and many guys could probably have success with anything that is up to date. As for the Cameron putter. .. I really think there are some loyalty issues there with Nike, although many say the ball comes off this putter better.
In his book, Haney said to Tiger "What about Nicklaus's record? Don't you care about that?" Woods replied, "No. I'm satisfied with what I've done in my career." Do you believe Tiger feels this way?
No, I think he wants more. Obviously he could sit back and relax and his record wouldn't be questioned. But he knows he's got more in him.
When do most players, who aren't playing Houston, get to Augusta?
It varies. Some guy will be there Sunday. Others don't want to overdo it and wait. Some grind out practice rounds each day, others try to take it easy and play just 9 holes.
We all have our feelings on the potential Ernie invite, but what do the players think about him potentially getting an invite from the powers that be?
I haven't heard anything negative about it. This is a situation where nobody gets hurt if he gets invited. He doesn't bounce anyone from the field. I think what rankles some is that they gave a spot to Ishikawa. If they don't give any, it's okay. But they give one to him, why not Ernie?
A) Hank's 3-put stats on Tiger are wrong, at least according to PGA Tour b) generally the better you putt the more likely you are to win but c) in reality most pga players would be better off putting slightly more aggressively and trading the additional 3-putt for making more birdie putts
Not necessarily at Augusta. It is putting aggressively there that can get you into trouble. Being great at lag putting is so important. Hank says it is an underrated stat and he's got a point.
Have you ever won the Monday media lottery at Augusta?
Yes, last played it in 2009 Awesome experience. It rained from the 6th hole. We of course played on.
I read where it said the Masters already has 96 players, and we know our overlords at Augusta said that's right up against their limit. Adding Ernie would add one extra tee time to the first 2 rounds. It may be as simple as overcrowding for them.
That's exactly it. They really don't want to go beyond where they are. But it's not that big of a deal in the overall scheme of things. After the cut is made, it hardly matters.
Scenario: Masters Sunday Final Pairing - Woods & McIlroy. Tie score going in. Who wins in your opinion?
Playoff! I really have no idea!! Sure would be fun, tho.
Hi Bob! What are Rory's chances to win The Masters? Will last years utter collpase haunt him? Thanks!
No, I think he's moved on from last year's disaster. He won the next major and has had great success since. If anything, it will help him. But to say he is going to win? Tough to do with anyone.
I'm sure you saw Rick Smith's comments regarding Hank Haney's book. Is he right in saying that all other coaches should be disappointed in Haney and most of them are? What is your take on the whole situation...do you think Haney should have written this book or was it just for money?
This is a tough one for me. I'm a writer so I view things differently. Obviously to someone like myself, the idea of a book about Tiger is intriguing. There are a lot of things in that book that are very interesting from a golf standpoint. I don't think Hank did it for the money, no. It seems to me he is doing fine. But I do see why Tiger and his folks are upset. There are some things said and done that you would think would be kept among themselves. And I'm not even necessarily talking about the stuff that gets all the attention. Even just things about practice habits or how he might go about things. It's complicated.
Wouldn't it almost be embarassing for a player of Ernie's stature to accept a sympathy invitation to the Master's than earn it?
The top 50 in the world cutoff is so arbitrary. The different between 30 and 70 is literally fractions. Meanwhile, someone who had one good week and moved into the top 30 in the FedEx cup gets a spot.
Everyone says Houston is similar to Augusta...how so?
It's not reall similar. They try to make the conditions similar. Fast greens, shaved down banks, little rough.
What did you shoot at Augusta? Did you play from the back tees?
Did not play from the back tees. Course is very playable from the member tees but greens still treacherous and Sunday pins. Broke 90, which is good for me
I hope you have been hitting the sauce already...because if you really don't think Haney did this for the money you have to be dis-illusioned. Do you think he just needed to get his questinable memories off his chest for his own sake? This is entirely a pure money grab.
Well, let me say, if you take on any type of task such as this, you're not doing it for the love of it. People write books to make money. However, on an hourly basis, Hank could make far more giving lessons.
Are there any darkhorse candidates you have a good feeling about at Augusta? While I agree they are deservedly the favorites, someone who doesn't follow golf might assume its a 5 person tourney with Tiger, Phil, Rory, Luke and Lee
Right, nobody was picking Schwartzel last year. There is typically somebody who emerges who nobody was thinking about.
Does Ernie except the invite if they finally do extend it now that they have made him wait so long? Maybe he doesnt want our pity?
At this point, if they offer, I think you have to accept.
Joe Lacava made some really good comments after the round, is this something that TW's camp is comfortable with him doing? Seems a marked change from Stevie?
I think if they weren't comfortable he'd have heard about it by now. It sure is a marked change for us.
Any chance Keegan Bradley goes 2 for 2 to start his career? obviously a long shot, but he's been on leaderboards a lot already this year.
Now that would be some story, wouldn't it? I do think it is a tough ask for a guy to win his first Masters. But it's also a tough ask to win your first major, period.
You said typically a darkhorse will emerge, any thoughts on who it might be?
would you consider Sergio a darkhorse? Maybe Bill Haas?
Do KJ or Adam Scott count as "dark horses?"
I would say no. But then again, nobody's talking about them, either. Adam Scott was second last year.
Do you have any insight into how the arthritis affects Mickelson?
Phil has not used it as an excuse. Whenever he is asked about it, he says all is fine, and brushes it off. But who knows? Is he being completely honest? It's very difficult to determine if there are issues with practice or too much golf. Of if everything is fine.
Is it a good idea to buy tickets on stubhub to the masters this year? Just because I've heard stories about how they check lists to make sure everyone who got tickets recieved them from Augusta themselves.
I would answer this by saying you do so at your own risk. However, Augusta does not check to see that the owner of the tickets is using them. You are allowed to give them to others.
you would be shocked if Yani doesn't win all the majors this year. You would literally be shocked if she doesn't win the grand slam? What kind of odds can I get against you betting that she doesn't win all of them in 2012?
Given how she has performed to date, I would not be shocked. I'm not saying I would bet my house on it. That would be dumb. Nobody is that kind of lock. But I don't think it would be a stretch for her to win them all. But she's got to win this one this week and maybe she doesn't.
How can you say Hank didn't write the book for money? Do you think he wrote it because his creative juices were flowing? He wanted the money and to capitalize in the wrong ways on his relationship with Tiger.
I don't think it was his ulterior motive. But sure, if it wasn't worth it in some way financially, he wouldn't have done it
Tiger drove it well when Butch was his coach and now with Foley as his coach. Do you think some of Haney's teachings might have changed the way he hit his driver?
It seems that Tiger was struggling with the driver before he began working with Hank and it was a continual issue. Perhaps there were some things that didn't work for Tiger, but I go by the record and he won 31 tour events and 6 majors. They must have been doing something right.
I understand your point that Yani is the absolute favorite going into every single event, let alone major. It's about how tough it is to be that good during all the majors. Tough thing to do.
No quesiton. Lots of pressure trying to win 4 specific events.
Would you consider Augusta to be your favorite course or is there another out there that tops it for you?
Love Augusta, love Pebble Beach, love Riviera, also love the British Open courses.
Most golfers deal with nagging injuries, whatever, especially as they get older. We flip out when it's Tiger, but in reality it's normal. See David T WD'ing mid round on Sat at Doral, then playing Transitions
Everything, as you know, is magnified with Tiger.
Do you think tiger will break jacks record
Tough one. He's got time. Jack won three majors after turning 40. If Tiger stays healthy, why can't he win any in his 40s?
Have you played Kiawah before? Looking at it online I'm having a hard time visualizing huge crowds on that course. There doesn't appear to be any room.
Kiawah is very tight, and there will be many holes where spectators can only view from one side. It is supposed to be very tough.
Couples looked great this past weekend. How do you think he will fare at Augusta? Can never count out the old man.
Putting 4 rounds together is the tough part. If it doesn't become a birdie fest, Fred is still plenty long. Would be fun to have him in the mix.
Okay folks, I'm out of time. I plan to be chatting next week from Augusta on Tuesday afternoon. You can also ask questions via Twitter: @bobharig. Thanks again.