Chat with Bob Harig
Welcome to SportsNation! On Wednesday, ESPN.com golf writer Bob Harig will stop by to talk about the 2010 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 Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET!
Bob Harig (3:57 PM)
We're getting closer to the first major golf tournament of the year. Actually, we have two in successive weeks, beginning with this week's Kraft Nabisco Championship for the LPGA followed by the Masters next week in Augusta. There's lots to talk about, so thanks for participating in this week's golf chat. Fire away with your questions, please.
Has the Champions Tour thought about Freddy proofing some of these courses yet?
Bob Harig (4:00 PM)
Brian, I'll say this: Couples is helping making the Champions Tour relevant again and it shows just how much we like -- at least in golf -- someone who dominates. We want to tune in to see if he can do it again. Couples is definitely playing some great golf. It'll be interesting to see how his game translates to the Masters next week.
In all seriousness about Steve Elkington, how does Tim Finchem get away with this and be able to look a Tim Herron or David Duval in the eye, or any player, and have any credibility after this? Also, how come no one gets on Arnold Palmer for giving Sam Saunders a sponsors exemption? Nepotism at its finest there.
Bob Harig (4:04 PM)
Brian is referring to the fact that Tim Finchem wrote letters to various tournaments on behalf of Elkington. Finchem's reasoning was that Elkington had missed out on a one-time top 50 exemption for all-time money winners and felt it was important to point that out. Others disagree. No question, it doesn't look very good, although I would maintain that tournament directors are very aware of the circumstances of all who ask them for a spot. As for Arnold Palmer, it is perfectly within his rights to offer his grandson an exemption. And the tournament gives out about 20 of them.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Has there ever been a PGA Golf Tornament Completely Cancelled due to Bad Weather? Which Golf Tournament was Completely Cancelled?
Bob Harig (4:06 PM)
Chris, it happened last year at the Viking Classic in Missippi. They had so much rain and poor course conditions that they simply elected to cancel the event.
Most people would say that the biggest demographic that Tiger may lose in terms of fan support would be women. Has there been any discussion of the fact that he is coming back to a place that does not have a woman member?
Bob Harig (4:08 PM)
Patrick, it's all speculation, but it is possible Tiger will not be as popular with women given all that has happened. But I don't see the correlation with Augusta National. The club has no women members, but it's a stretch to tie that into anything regarding Tiger.
Do you know if Phil was on site in Houston today? I beleive he was in Augusta Mon and Tues and he hasn't been on location before the night before these tourneys lately.
Bob Harig (4:08 PM)
Brian, he did take a visit to Augusta this week, but is also in Houston today for the pro-am.
Bob,My thought on Tiger next week is that the 1st round is THE key round for him. If he can get by at 72 (or better), then it is out of the way and he can focus better from there. But, I could also see him shooting 75/76 and the questions about his readiness popping up. What do you think?
Bob Harig (4:10 PM)
Robb, there is no doubt that a good start is imperative. It would take the pressure of immensely. No doubt a slow start is possible. Tiger has shot poor opening rounds at Augusta when he's been at his best. Amazing stat: Tiger has never broken 70 in the opening round of any Masters.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Has there ever been a PGA Tour Event Completely Cancelled due to Bad Weather?
Bob Harig (4:11 PM)
Chris, sorry, I failed to post your question earlier. Last year's Viking Classic was washed out due to bad weather and not made up.
Tom (Cleveland, OH)
I am just feeling that one of the top foreign players is due to break through at the Masters: Oglivy, Garcia, Fisher, Westwood, Stenson, Donald, Sabbatini, Clark, Poulter, Casey. Would you give me 2-1 odds and you get the field? BTW, Tiger makes the cut, goes 70-70 on the weekend and backs into a top 15 finish.
Bob Harig (4:12 PM)
Tom, I agree with you on the foreign player angle, am still unsure of what to make of Tiger's return. I guess nothing would surprise me as far as a finish for him.
On the topic of rules violations, in the final round at Doral, Charl Schwartzel hit into the bunker on 15. He then hit his next shot into a different bunker on the other side of the green. After the ball landed in the second bunker he slammed his club in the sand of the first bunker. Why was he not penalized for testing the sand of a bunker? I know he wasn't in the same bunker as the ball but if I hit into a bunker and then go into another bunker and take a few practice strokes the guys I'd be playing with would be calling me a cheater.
Bob Harig (4:13 PM)
Brian, my understanding of the rule is he was in a different hazard, so it is not considered testing the conditions.
Of all the major championship venues this year, what is the most likely to yield a Tiger victory? I cant help but think that the Old Course is the most likely venue...
Bob Harig (4:14 PM)
The Old Course at St. Andrews gets my vote. Tiger has won the last two Opens there, rough is not much of a factor, and if there is any wind that usually plays to his strengths.
If a player is ahead of the lead group and finishes say an hr before and shoots a really good round that puts him in a possible playoff, I know he can practice but can his coach be on the ramge with him?
Bob Harig (4:15 PM)
Yes, it is only during the competition -- once the round begins, or once a playoff commences -- that a player is not allowed to receive advice from anyone but his caddie.
Few things Bob...I'm betting at least 75% of athletes have done or are doing the same thing that Tiger has done in some sort of way...Tiger admitted his mistakes and apologized...Also, why does Golf and golfers act like Golf is some classy game? Golf has a severe history of racism and sexism...Now let him play golf...
Bob Harig (4:16 PM)
Dave, I really don't know what to say about your first statement. Surely there are plenty who are not perfect. And while golf does have its issues with racism and sexism, the point is usually in reference to "how" the game is played.
It seems to me that Michelle Wie has turned into the LPGA version of Sergio Garcia. She said over and over Sunday night that it "wasn't fair." BS, she obviously grounded her club and didn't want to face the music. Then she says that "these things keep happening to me." All I could think of was Sergio complaining about the golf gods after Carnoustie in 2008. They happen to her because she puts herself in these postions. Also is there some rule that announcers must only heap praise on her? Does the tour not want to criticize the "Choosen One?" Judy Rankin couldn't stop praising her and how she handled this and her past issues. Last time i checked she was DQ's in her first pro event, quit in another to keep her playing privledges and now this. If you're going to turn pro act like a pro.
Bob Harig (4:17 PM)
Brian, I'm not sure there is a question in there, but you got to say your peace nonetheless.
Joshua Campbell (Frisco, Tx)
First of all I hate to bring this up again but this whole Tiger Woods thing is really getting old. Only because he is one of or probably the most famous sports idol are we still as Americans gossiping about his situation still. If we did a tally of how may executives or people in America have cheated on their significant other I bet you money he wouldnt be the only one especially if we asked all his old sponsors if any of them have done the same. We as Americans need to get a life and the girls who wanted the 5 minutes of fame need to go get a job because they are just as much as fault as he is. I am not condoning what he did but the only person he has to answer to is God not us because at the end of the day we all have skeletons in our closets.
Bob Harig (4:18 PM)
Lots of statements without questions today I guess. We could go on and on about the topic, and people have very differing views. Thanks for yours, Joshua.
If Freddy keeps up his torid Champions Tour streak and has a decent but not great PGA Tour season, does he make the Ryder Cup?
Bob Harig (4:20 PM)
Brian, he would almost certainly have to be a captain's picks, but since Corey Pavin has four of them, Couples would make an interesting choice. I think the big key will be how he performs in the regular PGA Tour events he plays.
Who would be your sleeper pick for the Shell this week? Will Jeff Overton ever win on the PGA tour?
Bob Harig (4:24 PM)
I kind of like Kevin Streelman. He had a good week last week at Bay Hill and a win gets him in the Masters. As for Jeff Overton, I do think he's going to win. he's like a lot of players who certainly have the ability and need it to all come together.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
What is the Coldest PGA tour event in history?
Bob Harig (4:25 PM)
Chris, not sure they keep records on such things. I can assure you there are numerous tournaments where the temperature was too cold to play golf but the show went on.
Any changes to the layout at the Masters this year?
Bob Harig (4:27 PM)
Dave, it appears that anything done to Augusta National this year is subtle. They might have added a pin location at the second and 15th holes, changes that you wouldn't ever recognize unless you were looking for them. They'll look like they were there forever. The biggest difference will be the new state-of-the-art driving range.
Speaking of the Shark, is he planning on playing at all outside of the 2 British Opens this year?
Bob Harig (4:29 PM)
Brian, there's not been much to report about Norman's golf game. The shoulder surgery he had last fall before the Presidents Cup kept him from playing a couple of late-season tournaments and he's yet to tee it up this year.
Outside of the whole Tiger thing, what do you see as the most interesting story line at this year's Masters?
Bob Harig (4:31 PM)
I would have to say Ernie Els at this point. He is the only player to step up in Tiger's absence and show some consistent form by winning twice. He knows the place very well. Has contended often. Can he finally get a green jacket?
I think JB Holmes should be in the Masters field with the year he has had so far. But he is not ranked in the top 50 (58 I think) and I do not think he is playing this week in the Shell. Why would he take this week off and miss a chance to earn a spot in the Masters?
Bob Harig (4:35 PM)
It is curious that Holmes is not playing in Houston. He lost in a playoff there last year to Paul Casey. But Holmes didn't make any of the other criteria, including being in the top 30 money winners at the end of last year.
Joe (Stamford, CT)
With Freddie Couples in the midst of a renaissance, it seems an appropriate time to debate his Hall of Fame credentials. I'll, briefly, make the case in favor, and then I'd like to get your take. 15 wins, including a Masters and 2 TPC's. Reached number 1 in the world. The King of Silly Season, and now the Geezer tour. And then there's his popularity. In the era between Arnie and Jack, and Tiger and Phil, Freddie was the face of American golf. Yay or nay on Freddie's candidacy?
Bob Harig (4:38 PM)
Joe, it's the subject of an excellent debate. I personally would throw out any Silly Season stuff and Champions Tour success. The two TPCs really help. This is tough, because I typically don't think 15 wins is enough. You can argue that Couples underachieved. Then again, he's been dealing with back issues since 1994. There is no telling how much that hurt him over the years. I think he'll be the subject of lots of discussion, but if you go by the numbers, I say no.
Bob, how you been surprised that Lefty isn't more of a factor this year?
Bob Harig (4:39 PM)
Dave, I am surprised. After the end to last season, the expectations for this year, and Phil's own optimism, I figured him to take off. It hasn't happened, and Phil himself seems stumped. I have to believe that his personal issues with his wife's illness is not helping the situation.
If Tiger does win the Masters next week, then what do you think will become the more dominant topic: his potential quest for the Grand Slam or his off the course issues?
Bob Harig (4:41 PM)
Nelson, I really believe -- win or lose -- that the more he plays golf, and the more he contends and wins, the easier it will be for him to put the personal stuff behind him. I have a feeling it will always be there, but more in the background if he is playing and successful.
Matt (bored at work)
Bob, What did they do to the Range at Augusta? Is it still in the same location?
Bob Harig (4:43 PM)
Matt, if you are familiar with parking lot that was on Washington Road near the main entrance to the club the turned that into a driving range. It has been in the works for years, but after last year's tournament they went to work to convert it into a range that those who have seen it are marveling at. It has actual fairways with trees planted to give them shape. The players are impressed. And it's only open to the members a few times a year.
Bob - Nice name, I like it. Els looks more in form for a US Open win than a Masters win. Seems like he scrambled extremely well at Bay Hill to hang on despite some poor irons on the back nine. I know he has finished well at Augusta in the past, but don't you think Pebble Beach is a better chance for him to get a major? Seems like someone always creeps up at Augusta and goes crazy on birdies on the weekend. Ernie seems like he could hang in there at the US Open and not have to deal with someone making a charge at Augusta.
Bob Harig (4:45 PM)
Bob, I certainly see your point. I'm going more by the fact that Els is playing well now. Who knows how his game will be in two months? But he did finish second -- although by 15 shots -- to Tiger at Pebble Beach in 2000. If Els putts well, I believe he has a chance at any of the majors.
One last Masters question. Bob, which of those Masters sandwiches do you favor?
Bob Harig (4:47 PM)
I have never come around to pimiento cheese. Just doesn't do it for me. I'll take the egg salad.
is there any other pairing possibility out there that could make you want to watch that one more than TW and anyone?
Bob Harig (4:47 PM)
Brandon, under the circumstances, probably not. But the good news is I am sure there will be plenty of golf to watch before he tees off.
Matt (bored at work)
Bob - I live near Aronimink. Any talk about what the tour pros are saying about it if anything? It is a great classic course.
Bob Harig (4:49 PM)
Have yet to hear anything said about it so far. That is where the AT&T National is moving to this year while Congressional gets ready for next year's U.S. Open.
Regarding Fred Couples and the Hall of Fame, I think you have to take into account his President's Cup play and just the overall classic 'moments' he created that made that competition get off the ground. The bunker shot on 18, the big putt to beat Singh the first time, that wonderful celebration after beating Singh in 2005. Hall of Fame is about numbers and wins, but Fred should be in because of the overall impact he made on the sport and all the fans he brought to the table before Tiger came on the scene in the late 90's. Too many magical Fred moments to keep him out of the Hall.
Bob Harig (4:51 PM)
It's an interesting point, although I maintain that the Presidents Cup does not yet have the stature to be making or breaking Hall of Fame careers. I think the Ryder Cup can put a player, such as Colin Montgomerie -- who has no majors -- in the Hall of Fame. But not the Presidents Cup. Not yet. But you point out several reasons why Couples will get plenty of support.
Chris (Kandahar, Afghanistan)
Is it me or is the entire golf world sleeping on Paul Casey ?! No one has been more consistent (other than Mr. Boom Boom). Why is there no major talk associated with him?
Bob Harig (4:53 PM)
Chris, I think you are on to something with Casey. He missed a good part of the end of last season with an injury, and fell off the radar a bit. But I like his chances next week.
Bob - are there similarites between the course this week in Houston and Augsta National Golf Club
Bob Harig (4:55 PM)
Matt, only in that they've tried to make the greens, chipping areas and rough very similar to Augusta. The course layout and contour is nothing like the Masters, but the playing conditions have been approximated as best as possible and the players love it for that reason.
pam (West Palm beach)
Bob, why the promoting of Rickie Fowler so aggresively? Is he any better than some of the so called youg guns, who came before, ie CH3, Ryan Moore. Also wasn't the idea to stop the focus on one golfer and spread the focus on many
Bob Harig (4:58 PM)
Pam, I agree Fowler has gotten a lot of attention for someone who has not won. He came close last year, made an impressive run toward getting his card ,then earned it at Q school. He's had some nice tournaments this year for such a young player. And he's accessible, which is probably why they lean on him.
Have you heard from some players on how they feel about the impact thus far of the new groove rule on tour?
Bob Harig (4:59 PM)
There is not enough data to really know for sure, but many players have suggested that it has made them think more when they have to play shots from the rough. They've seen some shots take off -- fliers -- out o there with grooves that are not as wide. That would suggest there has been some impact.And that is the idea, to make them think from the rough, hopefully geting them to buy into the idea of hitting the ball in the fairway.
Bob Harig (5:00 PM)
Okay, I am out of time. Thanks for participating. Check back again Tuesday when I'll be chatting from Augusta National. Should be interesting. Thanks.