- Bob Harig, Senior Golf Writer
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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.
Haven't we learned not to count Tiger out when it seems like he won't win? Last year he was having injuries in the weeks leading up to the U.S. Open and he wasn't playing that well but he still contended and could have won that tournament. No matter his health, Tiger always finds a way to at least keep himself around the lead. He always does and it would be foolish to count that possibility out.
It will also help him that Congressional will be playing really hard so the winning score will be only a couple under par or even over par. It's pretty obvious that Tiger wouldn't be contending if the winning score was going to be [15 under] because he is injured and he isn't playing good golf, but to count out Tiger shooting around par is ridiculous no matter how hard a course is.
Another advantage Tiger has is that he has won at Congressional [the AT&T National in 2009.] I know the course is very different but it helps knowing you have won at the venue, and they didn't rip apart the course and put in a whole new course. It's foolish that people want to count Tiger out proven that his track record would tell you otherwise. Tiger knows how to play U.S. Opens.
Harig: There is no question that you write off Tiger Woods at your own peril. It seems very premature to do so, even for a U.S. Open in which he'll have virtually no preparation -- if he even plays. But the recent past gives doubters plenty of evidence to suggest he won't get it done this time. When Woods came back for the 2008 U.S. Open in a similar predicament, the big thing he had going for him was a swing that was dialed in. He had won three times that year in five starts and contended in the two previous tournaments. He was coming off an incredible 2007 season, as well.
Now, in addition to the injuries from which he has yet to fully recover (knee and Achilles), Woods has not won in 18 months and has struggled -- for the most part -- with his game. He showed positive signs at the Masters, where he tied for fourth, but has been unable to build on that. It is certainly understandable why plenty have their doubts.
It seems golf loses its momentum after each major and for the common fan it is only the majors that pique the interest. Is it time to take a white board to the whole season and start over to try to keep the fans in tune with the season throughout? Keep the four majors as is, but try to create a regular season that leads up to the four FedEx Cup playoff events. Create four divisions, two on the PGA tour, two on the European tour where the top 16 players from each division advance to the FedEx Cup -- you can use the OWGR as a way to create each division and have as many players as needed for each division.
For the first FEDEX event, the top four in each division get a bye into the second round, with everyone else competing for the last 16 slots into the second round. From there eliminate half the field for each event until the Tour Championship -- winner takes home the championship from the remaining eight players. I don't believe the WGC has created the interest from the casual fan that it intended. This would also create a better type of fantasy golf game -- which is huge in baseball and football -- and also create more betting action in Vegas, which also drives interest and ratings (see NFL). Too drastic a thought?
-- Edward Virgona
Harig: Bottom line: too drastic a thought.
First, you're not going to get the European and PGA tours to work together on this. They are separate entities. If you want to simply boil it down to the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup, numerous ideas and scenarios have been put forth to make it better. The view here is that the current format has its virtues, the best being that it brings together so many top players for a series of events that in previous years would have been void of such fields.
A negative is that nobody pays attention to the FedEx Cup now. It simply has no impact. One way to alleviate that might be to have a cutoff earlier in the season in which a certain group of players automatically qualify for the Tour Championship -- no matter what they do the rest of the year. Let's say you had that right after the Players Championship. You could bet there would be more attention paid to the FedEx Cup then.
That, of course, brings other issues into play. How would you do it? How many players? It will be interesting to see whether changes are made to the FedEx Cup -- and whether it is called something else -- after the current TV deal expires after the 2012 season.
Is Joe LaCava and Dustin Johnson still working together/trying it out? Is Joe carrying Freddy and Dustin's bags at the same time this week since they are paired up together?
-- Ryan Heck
Harig: Yes, LaCava has made the permanent move to Johnson's bag, effective with the Memorial. And although Couples and Johnson were paired together in the first two rounds, Joe was steering clear of Fred to avoid his old habits -- which must be hard to break.
I love watching golf and only wish that the U.S. programmers would follow the European Tour and show more golf being played by more players. The announcers are too in love with their "mug shots" over here and want to pontificate on everything, while overseas they just show golf. And by not focusing on one player, the viewer gets exposed to all the great talent in the world. Do we have any hope in the U.S. for a similar format?
Harig: Coverage of golf on television gets a lot of scrutiny, but if you take a longer view, it's a tough sport to televise. The playing field comprises acres, not yards. Action is going on simultaneously all over the place. Do you show the stars or the no-names? Do you show great shots or follow the action close to the lead? Do you produce features to fill the slow time or simply show shot after shot?
There are numerous theories. European broadcasts -- especially those on the BBC, where there are no commercials -- seem to be slower-paced. American broadcasts actually try to get in more shots. Is there too much commentary, too much analysis? You will get lots of opinions on that.
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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