Commentary

Predicting a Year of the Tiger?

Updated: February 3, 2011, 1:14 PM ET
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

Each week, golf writer Bob Harig will take your questions and answer a few select ones on ESPN.com. Below are this week's selections.

Question: How do you think Tiger Woods will do this year? Personally, I think he is going to come back with a bang. I think he is going to win two majors and four other tournaments. I like the venues for him. I see him winning at Congressional and Atlanta, maybe at Augusta. I think this is the year people regret doubting him. What do you think?
-- Carlos Villezcas

Harig: There is nothing wrong with your optimism, although I think it might not be quite that successful of a year for Tiger. It is not necessarily an indicator, but Tiger had poor majors at Congressional (1997 U.S. Open) and Atlanta Athletic Club (2001 PGA). But he has won the AT&T National at Congressional. Certainly his game is better than it was last year. Nothing would surprise me.

[+] EnlargeCouples/Langers
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesFred Couples may be the more skilled golfer, but is he prepared to outwork Bernhard Langer on the Champions Tour?

Question: Let's talk about the Champions Tour for a sec. Do you think Bernhard Langer will continue his dominance, or will Fred Couples get back at him?
-- Oliver Jahns

Harig: It is all about Couples, really. If he is motivated to do well and is healthy, he could dominate. Langer is the more dedicated player, and it is hard to envision him going away.

Question: Do PGA Tour pros who either don't have equipment deals (e.g., Rocco Mediate) or who have deals that let them use whatever driver or putter they want have to pay for their clubs? I'm assuming they still get support from the club vans at tournaments, but do they actually have to purchase their equipment or do they still receive it free even though they are not a paid endorser of that manufacturer?
-- John Beard

Harig: There is no definitive answer to this question. It's possible a manufacturer who isn't paying a player will give him clubs, simply because it's good for them. But there are likely players who simply like something and get it on their own, too.

Question: Is Steve Stricker not playing in the Farmers Insurance Open this weekend, and if not, is there a reason?
-- Robert Huffman

Harig: Stricker is not at Torrey Pines, and the reason likely has to do with the fact that he is headed to the Middle East next week to play the Qatar Masters on the European Tour -- the first time Stricker has ever played in that part of the world.

Question: There has been a lot of talk lately about the European Tour and PGA Tour -- which tour has the better players; which tour should they play; by not playing a tournament, are they disrespecting a certain tour? How about a setup where the tours continue the way they are with their respective tournaments, but after the PGA Championship, in lieu of the FedEx Cup and Race to Dubai, a world playoff for world player of the year co-sanctioned by both tours?

Each tour would send its top 16 players, for a total of 32 players -- the top 16 finishers of the first tournament go to the second round, the top eight finishers go to the third round, the top four finishers go to the final tournament, and the winner is crowned world player of the year. Take a week off between the second and third tournaments -- this way, two rounds each year could be played on both American and European soil, rotating each year.

The casual golf fan would be able to better understand this format than what currently goes on, and it will put a premium on playing well during the "regular" season and create worldwide drama.
-- Edward Virgona

Harig: I'm all for outside-the-box ideas such as this, but there are so many logistical issues involved. Do the PGA Tour and European Tour really want to co-sanction events such as this? The Race to Dubai is concluding at that time of year. It would likely squash existing tournaments. And you're asking the top players to play in four consecutive tournaments -- even with a week off. I like the concept, and the tours should start thinking of their own innovative ideas, but I think this one might be a bit too radical.

Question: Do players keep actual score during pro-ams or do they treat it as a practice round and skip holes, take multiple shots, etc.? If they do keep score, I think it would add a little hype to the Thursday rounds if they would disclose them.
-- Ross Schade

Harig: The players keep score because they are part of a team competition with their amateur partners. Typically it is some sort of best-ball scenario, with the amateurs using handicaps. If the pro's ball is the lowest on the hole, that score is used. So they don't skip holes or hit multiple shots, but in some cases they might not putt out or they might not even finish a hole if their amateur partners have had success. They might try to get in some extra putting on some of the greens or sneak in an extra chip shot, but that's about it.

Question: What will Tiger's tweet be if he wins Torrey this weekend: trash talk or humble reply?
-- Jamie Wolf

Harig: My guess -- and that's all it is -- is that Tiger will be humble in victory and thank his fans.

Question: In the early-season pro-ams where multiple courses are used, do they keep the pin placement in exactly the same place for each round until everyone has had a chance to play the hole? Or do they move it a very short distance?
-- Mathew Branch

Harig: They do keep the pins in the same locations, as well as the tees. The idea is to present the course in the same way for all of the players. This can get a little dicey at a place like the Hope, where four courses are used over the first four days. The same occurs at Pebble Beach in a couple of weeks.

Question: Why don't they get rid of television replays and spectators when it comes to the rules? Let players call the rules on themselves and other players and leave the television replays and calls by spectators out of the rules. Before television, the players did not have to deal with it -- why should they have to now? Players and rules officials should be able to figure things out without the aid of media and spectators.
-- Jim Williams

Harig: I would bet you are not alone in those feelings. Competitors, caddies, walking scorers and tournament officials could all be counted on to help point out rules violations. Beyond that, to many, there is a fairness issue. Not every player or group gets the same amount of spectator, media or television scrutiny. The way it is now, the powers that be will examine any possible violation brought to their attention.

Have a question? Send it to Bob Harig's mailbag at BobHESPN@gmail.com to see if it gets used next week.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com

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