What events are a step below majors?
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.
It is obvious that the majors are the most important tournaments, followed by the Players Championship, the WGCs and the four playoff events. But what is the pecking order after that as far as importance to the players? I was guessing Bay Hill and The Memorial would be high, and maybe Torrey Pines, but wondered if there was a pecking order among players as to which was the most significant?
-- Justin Smith
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Harig: There really is no set pecking order. It is all a matter of personal taste. As you mentioned, the four majors certainly rank the highest.
Then you'll get some debate about what comes next, whether it's the Players Championship or the World Golf Championship events or the playoff events. Certainly the Tour Championship would rank highly, as getting there is a significant achievement and means a lot, both financially and as far as what it gets a player in terms of exemptions.
After that, it's up for debate: the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions? Torrey Pines, Pebble Beach, Riviera? Bay Hill, Colonial, Memorial, AT&T National (all invitationals)? Wells Fargo? The choices are numerous.
Really hoping that Phil [Mickelson] can challenge at a major this year. Do you think he will be in the hunt at the U.S. Open? Also, why does he seem to struggle at the British, and do you think doing well there means enough to him?
-- Doug Greenberg
Harig: It would not be surprising at all to see Mickelson in contention at the U.S. Open at Congressional. It is probably the tournament he wants to win the most, and as Lefty followers know, he's been close, with five runner-up finishes. He tied for 43rd at Congressional in 1997.
The British Open is more difficult to figure. It certainly is not for a lack of trying or caring. Mickelson has spent considerable time at British Open venues in advance of the tournament, trying to work on a game plan to attack the course, but he's had limited success. His best chance was a third-place finish in 2004 at Royal Troon, where he missed a playoff by a stroke. Amazingly, that is his only top-10.
Some have suggested that Mickelson's high ball flight doesn't work well in the wind, or that he's struggled to control lower-trajectory shots, or that his flop-shot wizardry does not work on a hard links. But Mickelson has no such ball-striking issues in U.S. tournaments -- and obviously, as one of the best in the world, adapting to all conditions has been a big part of his success. It is strange that Lefty has fared so poorly in the tournament.
Just wanted to get your thoughts on Tiger going up the steps to his car two at a time [after withdrawing from the Players Championship], when earlier he was limping and unable to walk
I thought that was pretty odd. Only a few writers have mentioned this, but I think it's worth saying something about. What's your take?
-- Randy Fernando
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Harig: Woods does not have a history of dogging it or faking it. In 15 years as a pro, he's withdrawn from four tournaments after starting play. The 1998 AT&T Pebble Beach, where he didn't return for the final round that was postponed six months; the 2006 Northern Trust Open, where he became ill after the second round; and the 2010 and 2011 Players.
Last year, he had a neck injury, this year his knee and Achilles problems forced him to withdraw. Yes, Woods took a couple of big leaps up the stairs, but that doesn't mean he wasn't hurting. The fact that he's been in a boot and on crutches since withdrawing from the Players suggests that his injuries are real.
The man (Woods) has won 71-plus tournaments worldwide and 14 majors. Why change putters? Was it all of a sudden the putter wasn't working? I find that hard to believe. He should go back to what has worked so good for so long. What do you think?
-- Michael D'Amico
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Harig: The putter switch has a lot of people stumped. He won 13 of his majors and about $60 million using the same Scotty Cameron model putter. Then last year he switched to a Nike model, went back and forth, and this year settled on a different Nike model that looks more like a mallet.
Everything Tiger does is scrutinized to the extreme, and the putter switch is no different. But Woods' peers have made putter changes seem routine. Some guys are trying out new putters every month, every week, every day. The real surprise is more that Woods managed to stick with the same one for so long.
A senior tour-related question. Is Fred Funk still recovering from injury, thus explaining his recent struggles on the course? After taking the senior tour by storm and being a top player for the last couple years he seems to have swiftly regressed. As one of the world's most accurate drivers of the ball he seems to have the ideal game suited for the senior tour. Is age catching up to him or can we expect more victories in the future for Fred?
-- J. Adams
Harig: Funk had full knee replacement surgery in 2009 but bounced back last year to win one of the Champions Tour majors, the Tradition. He followed that with five more top-10 finishes last year.
This year, Funk has a solo second, his best in seven starts, and remains exempt on the PGA Tour through this season. Funk will be 55 next month but he still seems capable of competing.
Have a question? Send it to Bob Harig's mailbag at BobHESPN@gmail.com to see whether it gets used next week.
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