Chat with Bob Harig
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, ESPN.com golf writer Bob Harig will stop by to talk about the 2009 golf season.
Harig covers golf for ESPN.com and provides columns, features and analysis on the world of golf, specifically the PGA Tour. He has contributed to ESPN.com's golf coverage since 1997.
Send your questions now and join Bob to chat Thursday at 2 p.m. ET!
Bob Harig (2:01 PM)
Hello, thanks for checking in today in a week when the PGA Tour does not start until Friday. We had an interesting first week of the playoffs. All golf-related questions are welcome. Please fire away.
The Brick ((VGC))
Hey Bobbo,WOOOOOOOOO!!!!! I've got Fed-Ex Cup Fever, and the only cure is mooooooooore golf.....NOT!!!!!!! I know Tim Finchem's baby is only in its 3rd year, but cmaaaan....this will never approach the popularity of the 4 majors....Am I right or am I right?
Bob Harig (2:03 PM)
Simply put, you are right. The FedEx Cup will never be the majors. But I don't think anyone expects them to be like the majors. They take a lot of criticism -- and deserve a good bit of it. But I continue to maintain this is far better than what we used to have. The last weekend of August, we would have never had Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington and Steve Stricker in contention at a tournament because they wouldn't have been in the tournament.
Andrew (Charlotte, NC)
Why is it that Golf is getting a pass from the media in terms of performance enhancing drugs. With the money these guys are now playing for, isn't that incentive enough. People can talk about Vijay Singh and Kenny Perry having huge success in their 40's due to "technology" but if this was happening in baseball, red flags would be raised. Or does Golf fly too much under the radar and the players aren't considered athletes that allow this to take place without much scrutiny?
Bob Harig (2:05 PM)
Andrews, I don't think golf has gotten a pass on this. A few years ago, there was much reporting and writing about the fact that golf needed a drug policy. Finchem originally was opposed, but came around. He realized that it was important just because of comments like the one you just made. If there is a perception of a problem, it needs to be addressed.That said, the tour has instituted mandatory testing. They have said that if anyone fails a drug test for performance enhancers, it would be announced. So far, that has not happened.
People would kill to win the amount of tournaments Tiger has won in 2009, but would you expect Tiger to come out in 2010 and attempt to dominate the Masters to send a message?
Bob Harig (2:05 PM)
Jonathan, I don't think it has anything to do with sending a message. I think it has more to do with Tiger wants to win the Masters. He has now gone four years without winning it.
Hi Bob,Are Mike Weir's days as a great golfer gone? He has some pretty respectable results this year and last but just can't seem to put it together and win.
Bob Harig (2:06 PM)
Chris, I'm not sure what to make of Weir. You're correct in that he's had decent results: 16 cuts made, five top-10s. But his lone victory since 2004 is in a Fall Series event two years ago. That's not very productive when it comes to wins.
looking at Tiger's putting numbers for this year, I noticed every time he has averaged 1.70 or less putts per GIR, he has won...is it really that simple in regards to Tiger winning? if he is making putts, he is basically unbeatable right?with that said, and the fact Tiger is back on a course he likes and has had success on, is it fair to assume he will have a good week on the greens and more than likely win?
Bob Harig (2:10 PM)
Chuck, golf stats can be very misleading, but you make a good point. There have been issues from time to time with his long game, but it really boils down to putting. At the Masters and U.S. Open he had poor putting tournaments, same for the PGA and Barclays. He putted poorly the first day at the Buick but then made a lot of putts on the weekend. In the tournaments where he has not won, it seems as if he has long stretches where he has lots of chances and makes nothing.
Seth (Amarillo, TX)
Do you like the way the new points are awarded in the Fed Ex Cup?
Bob Harig (2:12 PM)
Seth, I'm still sort of waiting to see.So far, I don't have a problem with it. What they have done is made it so a person who had a strong regular season is rewarded with all but being guaranteed of making it to the Tour Championship.But it also allows for some incredible movement if you have a good weekend. Heath Slocum offers a great example. He went from 124th to third with a victory. Now can he sustain it?I don't think it does any good to do this format and not allow for people coming from way back. Now we have that.
Ed (Long Island)
When a player finishes a round, is he allowed to go and practice on the course. Example - Tiger finishes his 3rd round and there are still 8 groups playing - is he allowed to go and practice on the holes that have already been played, get more practice on the greens?
Bob Harig (2:14 PM)
Ed, I believe the answer to your question is no. There is a local rule at PGA Tour events prohibiting practice on the course. Unlike USGA rules, you are not allowed to even practice on the greens after you have putted out. But if anyone out there can offer any insight or clarification, I'd be happy to pass it on.
Hey Bob, with the Friday start this week, it got me thinking....Would the PGA ever think about making a four day event start on Fridays and end on Mondays?
Bob Harig (2:15 PM)
Greg, this only works on holiday weekends, really. These things don't work without spectators and television viewers and there is going to be far less of that on a Monday when most people have to go to work. But for holidays that fall on Monday, I don't see anything wrong with occasionally going to this schedule -- although it does cause some problems when the next tournament starts on Thursday.
After seeing the barclays last week at Liberty National and with the course changing the next couple of years from Ridgewood to Westchester to Plainfield there are a lot of rumors going around NJ. People are saying Bayonne or Trump National might get it soon. Any truth to this?
Bob Harig (2:16 PM)
John, the tournametn is set for the next two years with Ridgewood and Planefield in New Jersey, then it's supposed to go back to Westchester in 2012. Beyond that, there are a lot of choices but nothing confirmed, as it appears they do want to rotate the event.
Bob, has there ever been any thought to push one of the Majors back to later in the schedule to keep the fall season from having a lack of big events?
Bob Harig (2:19 PM)
Kevin, the folks who run the majors really don't care about the lack of excitment in the fall. Because the PGA Tour events are not theirs. They like where they are. The PGA Championship -- run by the PGA of America, not the PGA Tour -- is the one most discussed, and it is sometimes mentioned as going first. But there are a ton of issues with moving tournaments around. I think they will be in this present order for some time.
of the 3 tournaments remaining, which is Tiger most likely to win?which is he least likely to win?personally, I'd rank them:1. BMW2. Deutsche Bank3. TOURI think he has put way too much pressure on himself in big tourneys this year (see the 4 majors) and I'm afraid the same will happen at East Lake
Bob Harig (2:20 PM)
Chuck, I doubt he has a preference. I think he wants to win them all. And while he might have put too much pressure on himself in the majors, he doesn't have that same attitude in these tournaments, even though they are all pretty big.
I've heard lots of talk after the last tournament about Tiger "losing it" a little bit. What are your thoughts?
Bob Harig (2:21 PM)
Will, if you mean losing his game, I don't buy it. 1-1-2-2 is not losing your game. If you mean losing it in terms of his composure or his emotions, we have seen some of that this year. Truthfully, I don't think Tiger was into it at The Barclays until he started to finally have some success on Saturday. That is rare -- if ever -- for Tiger. His body language suggested to me that he didn't want to be there And then he almost won anyway.
Bob, when is considered a golfer's prime? Tiger is 33. In some sports, that's considered the back end of their prime. An NBA or MLB player is thought to be getting up in age at that time.
Bob Harig (2:24 PM)
Paul, I think is varies widely in golf. Palmer and Watson had won the last of their majors at this age. And yet looks at Nicklaus, who won seven of his majors after he turned 33. Look at Vijay Singh and Kenny Perry, whose best years have been in their 40s. Sam Snead, Ben Hogan all played well later rather than earlier.
Gus (New City, NY)
Can Phil be eliminated this week? Unless he plays lights out, part of me thinks it would be better if he just packed it in for the year. Thanks
Bob Harig (2:25 PM)
Gus, no he can't be eliminated. Anyone in the top 33 this week is guaranteed of making it to the BMW next week, where the top 70 will be in the field.
what do you make of Tiger's lack of positive emotion on the course this year?outside of the celebration at Bay Hill on the 72nd hole and the fist pump after the holed chip on 14 on Saturday at Hazeltine, I can't recall many positive celebrations from Tiger this year...there has been plenty of negative ones though...do you think Tiger has lost some of his joy for the game do to his frustration of not winning events he feels he let slip away?
Bob Harig (2:26 PM)
Chuck, I'm not sure he has lost any love for the game, but Tiger has appeared to be more frustrated this year that at any other point in his career. He has won five times, and he has talked openly about having patience after knee surgery. And yet he seems to expect more out of himself. He knows it is unrealistic, and yet he nonetheless has those expectations.
With the FedEx Cup not having the history and tradition of the majors, what gets the players to play in those events? The money? Does their performance in those tournaments effect their Tour card or anything?
Bob Harig (2:28 PM)
Kyle, there's no doubt the money is a big lure. They're playing for $7.5-million each week. If you make it to the third and fourht events, it's a guaranteed paycheck -- plus the $35-million in bonus money, with $10-million to the winner.And for those not at the top of the game, making it into the top 30 in points to qualify for the Tour Championship also guarantees a spot in next year's Masters, U.S. Open and British Open. Those are pretty strong perks to keep going.
Are the PGA Tour players still affraid of Tiger? He seems to have lost that aura that he always had. He always could play from infront but can't really come from behind. Have the demands of fatherhood displaced some of his drive to pass Jack?
Bob Harig (2:30 PM)
James, I really don't think they are afraid of Tiger, although it has been in their head over the years that he rarely makes mistakes down the stretch and that they might have to play even better. It is best if they can get that out of their heads, play their own game, not worry about what he does. And I don't think marriage, fatherhood, any of that has curtailed his desire at all. Let's remember: five wins this year. Three top-sixs in majors. I don't think that suggests a lack of desire.
Why not play the first quarter of the season, then have a "Playoff Event" for those who qualified. Top 10 Qualify for the Finals. Then play the second quarter, third quarter and fourth quarter in the same mannner. You'll then have 40 for the Tour Championship. Play 4 rounds, lowest 10 guys are cut after rounds 1, 2, and 3. You then have a shootout on the final day for all the money. Not only would it be interesting, but guys would have to play more tournaments to ensure they have a chance at playing in 1 of the 4 qualifier events.
Bob Harig (2:32 PM)
Marc, similar ideas have been suggested. There are a lot of creative things that could be done. But would it change anything? You'd have to then displace a current tournament earlier in the year for the playoff event or make that a playoff event. And the majors still rule.At this point, my only change would be to give a bit more space between the PGA Championship and the playoffs. Since these tournaments are going into football season anyway, why not go a week or two longer.And if they're worried about going up against football? Play the last two tournaments out west so they could be shown in prime time on the weekends.
Bob, Is Villegas going to play this week given he withdrew at The Barclays? How do you like the defending champ's chances? Thanks.
Bob Harig (2:34 PM)
DT, so far Villegas is a go. All but Paul Casey in the top 100 are scheduled to play. As for his chances? He hasn't had a top-10 finish since March, so I wouldn't say his chances are great.
Bob, You're right, Tiger finishing second a couple of times isn't exactly him losing his game. Actually, I think him finishing second is good for him. He's not used to that and might fuel his fire a little bit or cause him to tinker with parts of his game. What do you think?
Bob Harig (2:36 PM)
John, it's very possible. A little adversity -- especially when his game is obviously very good -- can help motivate even more.
the HSBC Champions event in Shanghai is now a WGC event. has there been a decision as to whether it will count as a PGA Tour victory? I have heard conflicting information
Bob Harig (2:37 PM)
John, the event doesn't count as a PGA Tour win, nor does it count on the money list or automatically get you into the Masters. But it does come with World Ranking points, so a victory there will help accomplish a lot of goals.
If you look at Tiger's wins this year, they were primarily come from behind victories in which the leader somewhat fell apart coming down the stretch. It also seems as though Tiger has gotten more and more conservative in the early rounds of tournaments leaving much more of an uphill battle in the closing rounds. It's hard to question Tiger's approach to winning, but have you noticed this conservative trend as well, and do you see it being a problem?
Bob Harig (2:40 PM)
Tony, he came from behind at Bay Hill and Memorial and Bridgestone, that's true. But he did shoot good final rounds on each of those days, too. He has appeared conservative to me in the early rounds, especially at the majors, not wanting to shoot himself out of it but nonetheless finding himself with ground to make up. (That wasn't the case at the PGA where he led.) I doubt he means for it to work out that way. I'm sure he'd love to shoot as low of a score as possible. But again, if the putts are not dropping, it is hard to look aggressive.
Any insights into Kenny Perry's change in caddie? Is it as simple as blood's thicker than water?
Bob Harig (2:43 PM)
This one is a stunner. Perry is one of the game's all-time great guys, and to dump a caddie even for a relative by having your agent do the dirty work just doesn't wash. That said, caddies are hired to be fired, it is an ever-changing business, and many, many players but sons, daughters, friends, neighbors on the bag. Justin Perry caddied for his dad at the British Open this summer. But given all the success Perry had with Fred Sanders, this seems odd.
Can someone tell James that Tiger is pretty good coming from behind to overtake the leaders. He's got 70 tour wins. How many did he not have the lead after 54 holes?
Bob Harig (2:45 PM)
Marc, if I'm not mistaken, Tiger is now 47 of 51 in converting a third-round lead into victory. So that would suggest he came from behind to win 23 times.
Do you think Tiger using the new/2010 grooves this year affected his play at the Majors?
Bob Harig (2:47 PM)
That's a question that does not have an easy answer. It is true that Tiger's irons (except, I believe, his wedges) already conform to the 2010 rules in regards to grooves. So, yes, Tiger was playing with clubs that did not give him as much spin as other players. And yet Tiger has said that he likes irons that will allow for a "flyer" lie to help him get more distance from the rough. And he plays with a ball that spins more than others. So it is really hard to say. That'll be a good question to ask Tiger at some point.
Was Tiger's biggest issue this year his putting? Wouldn't you think it would have been better, since while he was out, putting was probably the only thing he could have practiced for a while.
Bob Harig (2:48 PM)
Tom, that's a good point. For the longest time, the only thing Tiger could work on was his putting and chipping. Then again, there is so much more that goes into putting on tournament-ready greens with different grasses and slopes.
Bob (Phoenix, AZ)
Bob - just wanted to say I totally agree with you about Tiger last wee at the Barclays and his lack of emotion. He could have gotten an Albatross this past weekend and not even smiled. I look for a big week from Tiger this weekend.
Bob Harig (2:49 PM)
Bob, I'm just speculating. I'm going by what I saw. He just appeared -- for one of the few times, if ever -- like he didn't want to be there.
Chris (Glasgow Scotland)
How many PGA tour stalwarts do you think we'll see in the next few years juggling tours to get in on the race to Dubai action?I keep reading posters on here yet cry that the European tour is nowhere near as strong, yet every July I head 20 miles up the road to Loch Lomond and you see as good a field as you'll see in world golf outside the majors and WGC's, and Sawgrass obviously.
Bob Harig (2:51 PM)
Chris, I really don't think the numbers will be that big. Obviosly you have the international players such as Harrington, Els, Ogilvy who play both tours already. But Americans don't seem as inclined to do it, despite the obvious perks. One reason is they have it so good over here. Even a middling event here has a purse of at least $5-million. Travel is less. I'm not saying that's necessarily right, but you can see what some of these guys wouldn't have the motivation to participate.
for what its worth:Tiger is 46-4 with a 54 hole lead, has 21 come from behind wins, and 3 Match Play titles
Bob Harig (2:53 PM)
John, I just looked it up.He's 47-4 with a share or the 54-hole lead. But he does have 3 Match Play wins, meaning he would have come from behind 20 times. Thanks
Tiger has taken more putts in recent tournaments, but I think it's important to look at proximity to the hole on approaches as well. It's much harder to keep the putting numbers down if you're always hitting 20 footers. It would be interesting to compare the proximity numbers from his "good putting" rounds to the "bad putting" rounds.
Bob Harig (2:57 PM)
Tony, that's an interesting point. It's true that if he has longer putts, he won't make as many. It's interesting that he leads the tour in approach shots from 175 to 200 yards in proximity to the hole.
20 come from behind wins. There are only 37 guys with 20 or more wins in there career. He's pretty good.
Bob Harig (2:59 PM)
Marc, that sums it up pretty nicely.
Bob Harig (3:01 PM)
I'm out of time folks. Check back next week, I'll be chatting at some point from the BMW Championship. Enjoy the holiday weekend.