Rich Lerner Chat Transcript

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 4, 2001, 4:00 pm
TGC_COM - Welcome to's Live Chat with Rich Lerner. Rich is joining us Live from Augusta National where he is reporting on the Masters for TGC.
TGC_COM - We'll get started at 1:00PM ET but please feel free to post your question now. We will hold on to it until Rich arrives!
TGC_COM - You can see Rich tonight at 7:30 PM ET on an expanded edition of Golf Central on The Golf Channel.
TGC_COM - OK, let's go ahead and get started!
Rich_LIt's a beautiful day here at Augusta. Skies have opened up...temp in the 70's. If you are a golf lover, no better place to be than right here. We're happy you are along for the ride.
birdygrl- Rich, have you ever played Augusta? Thoughts?
Rich_LI played Augusta last year, the Monday after. Each year, Augusta holds a lottery for media members. Once you are chosen, you do not another chance in your lifetime...truly a once in a lifetime experience. It was a memorable day...I shot 81.
Rich_LThe highlight would be birdie-ing both par 5's on the front and lowlight would be double-bogeying 12.
Rich_LIt was as beautiful as I had hear it was. The caddies were really essential to rounding out the experience. They had lots of stories. It will remain for a long time the most special golf day I ever had.
spindy - how do you think tom lehman will fare this year at the masters?????
Rich_LI think Tom will do well. 42 years old now. 42 was a good number for Mark O'Meara. Spoke to Tom this morning...he feels very good about his chances. He has played well here in the past, 6th last year. He had his chances in 1994, when he finished second to Olazabal. He has the right kind of game for this course. The key is in how well he is putting...if he is putting well, then I think his ball hitting is strong enough to win the championship.
tf - Rich, what do you think of Mike Weir's chances this week? As well, are you back on TGC full time again or just for 'major' events?
Rich_LMike Weir....I would not be shocked if Mike Weir were to slip on the green jacket on Sunday. I don't think he one of the top 3 favorites, but he is in the top 12. He is ready to break through in a major.
Rich_LRegarding Golf Central, I am full time, and enjoying every minute of it.
eddie f- Do you think Tiger has a mental advantage because he doesn't care about 2nd, 3rd, or anything other than 1st?
Rich_LI think Tiger has a mental advantage because he has mastered self doubt. He has a psychological advantage because he embraces the pressure rather than fighting it.
tf - Rich, do you think they should revise the entry rules in the tournament to include winners on the tour from the last year?
Rich_LI happen to think they should. Every year somebody sort of slips through the cracks. Sluman, 16th on the money list, should be here. Scott McCarron is on form as much as anyone, and he should be here.
Rich_LWhen asked, Hootie Johnson, head of Augusta, said they have no plans to change the entry requirements.
bg - Which par 5 do you think will play toughest this week? 13 or 15?
Rich_L15, probably will see bigger numbers. It isn't a lock to hit the green in 2 anymore, because some of the trees have grown. There is no longer a shoot down the side. So, guys will lay up, hit their 3rd shot into the green with the shaved front and the balls will spin back into the water. Now, all of a sudden they are hitting their fifth shot, trying to save bogie.
GStewart - Rich, Do you feel David Duval can compete this year at the Masters. I realize he has had the wrist troubles, but his record this year has been horrible. Have you noticed anything that might suggest that he could return to form this week. I know he has a great track record at Augusta.
Rich_LI think yes. This is the perfect week for David to return to form. I spoke to his coach, Puggy Blackman, and he said he his hitting the ball better than he was a year ago. He is not in my top 3 or 4 favorites, but definitely in my top 10, and I wouldn't be shocked if he won.
Alex - rich, you're in augusta right now, right? so just how amazing is it
Rich_LAugusta is....Wrigley field if you're a baseball lover...Churchill Downs if you are a horseracing fan...the White House if you love politics. There is a feeling in the's hard to's PURE GOLF. It's amazing.
bg - Rich, I put big money on Azinger this you think that was wise?
Rich_LHmm....well....I'm not sure that was THE greatest investment. He only really had one good year here...1998...5th place. He's never had any other top 10's. Augusta just isn't set up for a low ball hitter like Azinger.
Alex - hello, what do you think of Fred Couples chances because it seems he's almost always up on the leaderboard
Rich_LIt's a long shot just because Freddie has not been incredibly competitive this year. I tend to look at guys that come in here having competed well of late. Best finish this year...a tie for 23rd at Phoenix. That being said, if there is one place that Freddie could rekindle the spark, it would be here. He has a great record here. He has done no worse than a tie for 23rd back in '93. 7 of the last 8 years, he has been in the top 25. That's why I would never say never with Freddie.
wmhoff - who is your top 3 or 4?
wmhoffCan you give us your sleeper pick also

Rich_LTop 3: Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson. My sleeper: Brad Faxon
tf - Which is harder in your opinion 17 at TPC or 12 at Augusta?
Rich_L12 at Augusta because there is only a sliver of green to work with. 17 has a wider landing area. The fact I doubled it has a little to do with that. ;o)
lenfry - Rich: is it true Augusta National closes down for the summer months
Rich_LYes, it does close down during the summer months, June through October. This morning, Hootie Johnson, Chairman of Augusta National, announced that the course will be lengthened extensively this summer...most of the par 4's will be longer.
Rich_LThey are strongly CONSIDERING expanding television coverage for next year's FINAL round, to bring viewer's 18 hole coverage of the leaders.
Alex - what do you think singh's chances of a repeat are?
Rich_LVery good. He's even more dangerous when we won a year ago, because of the added dimension of his improved short game.
birdygrl - Have you heard any buzz about the Champion's dinner last night?
Rich_LI have not. But I know Vijay said he wanted to get some stomachs jumping with Thai food. I asked Doc Giffin (longtime friend of Arnie) if Arnie would be sampling the Thai food, he laughed and said that he would probably go for a steak instead.
Nathan65 - I have a friend who won the US Mid Ametuer..what are the chances of an 'A' making the cut?
Rich_LIf you look at statistics, they are not great. This course demands a degree of familiarity, which most do not have. Between being awestruck by the surroundings and the subtleties and difficulties of the course, it is very hard to make the cut. I never met an amateur who didn't say it was the most memorable experience of their lifetime.
bg - which amateur in the field is the most polished and has the best chance of playing saturday and sunday?
Rich_LI would say Driscoll. It is more of a hunch than anything else. He has a level of poise that has impressed me.
spindy - i understand this will be the last year for byron nelson to start the tourney???????
Rich_LIt's a question of age. Byron has done this for a long time and certainly tomorrow morning will be emotional as Augusta says thank you. He will be missed and no one seems to know if he will be replaced. Snead may be alone next year. I don't think Arnold is ready to move into that role. Byron will be missed for sure.
wmhoff - Do you play the new Pro V1, if so what do you think?
Rich_LI have played the ProV1...fantastic golf ball. Has all the properties any player would want. (at $54 a dozen, I have seen guys with their snorkel gear diving in to retrieve just can't afford to lose one. Ha! Ha!)
TGC_COM - We're just passed the midway point in today's chat...
TGC_COM - Please post you question for Rich and we'll get to as many as we can!
T Gator - Rich, What is generally regarded as the toughest hole on the 'first nine' at ANGC? Why?
Rich_L5 is a difficult par 4...9 can be a little bit difficult.
bg - tigers long ball has been hooking will this affect his outcome at the masters?
Rich_LNo. With the exception of an isolated pull or hook, he is fine and nobody in the game is better at self-correcting themself after they have made a mistake. And nobody is better at turning trouble into triumph. ie...the last hole at bay hill this year.
simmy - There are not many talking about Bernhard Langer this week...he's played a full schedule of PGA Tour events and was, clearly, on form at the TPC...not to mention 2-time champion...what do you think of his chances this week?
Rich_LFair. Yes, he's won here twice and yes, he played well a week ago. But I would not consider him among the top-12 favorites at this point.
Alex - do you think mickelson can break through for his first major this week
Rich_LYes, I do. I think Phil has competed in the last year and a half better than anyone. He is confident, and when he hasn't won, he has contended. Phil has said he will play a little more conservatively this week to minimize the mistakes he has made recently. He is one of the few players who relishes the idea of taking on and beating Tiger. I think if it happens, the floodgates will open and he will win even more.
wmhoff - Mickleson is grinding at the moment and I think is the favorite, Faxon and Singh have the putting for now, Woods has the mental game But Davis Love will be the lucky one, and it takes luck to win this tournament. Hwo do you feel about his game right now?
Rich_LI think Davis has a chance...he always does here. He tied for 11th last week, missed the cut at the Players, but he has been competitive all year at Pebble, maybe should have won the Buick, maybe should have won the Nissan. So you combine the fact he has been competitive this year, and he plays well here, he certainly has a good chance this week.
spindy - in your opinion,If Tiger wins the Masters,is it truly the Grand Slam??????
Rich_LIn my opinion, not in the manner in which it was originally but unofficially intended. My position has been that by definition you need to do it one year. It will also be the greatest achievement in golf history. Keep this in mind, if he wins, not only will he hold all 4 trophies, but he will also hold the Players' trophy, Arnie's trophy (Bay Hill) and Jack's trophy (The Memorial) and the Canadian Open. The only jewel that he is missing from his career resume is Riviera in Los Angeles.
mnorman - Rich. Going back to 1994, the winners have been Olazabal, Crenshaw, Flado, Woods, O'Meara, Olazabal, and Singh. Besides Woods, does one have to be in their late 30s to win this championship? Thanks
Rich_LI don't think you have to be....although I think it is a good point. It speaks to the fact that experience is a big help. Knowing where to land your ball, knowing when to hold back and two putt when to take risks. An astute observation, but it does not preclude a savvy 20-something from winning.
birdygrl - What's your favorite thing about covering the Masters at Augusta?
Rich_LHanging under the old oak tree and talking golf with all the great people that make up the game. We do alot of player interviews there, see old friends, etc.
kcguy - what time will Mr. Nelson tee off tomorrow and will it be televised by the GC
Rich_LByron Nelson will tee off at 8:00am with Sam Snead. We will get video and televise it at the 10:00 scoring update. Scoring updates will occur on TGC and streamed on the website at the top and bottom of the hour, from 10am to 3:30pm ET. And then coverage starts at 4.
birdygrl - Thanks for a great chat - keep up the wonderful work you do for TGC!
ThreePut - Who is stying in the crows nest this year?

Rich_LJeff Quinney (US Amateur champ), James Driscoll (US Amateur runner-up), Mikko Ilonen (British Amateur champ) and Greg Puga (the mid-amateur champ).
Nathan65- All the top pros seem to actually express relief by not having a Coprorate presence at the masters. Does having the corporate tents at the other tour events effect the Pros that much?
Rich_LI don't think it affects them. I just think pure golf fans appreciate that once a year, the profit motive isn't so blatant as it might be at some other big events. The focus at Augusta is 100% on golf.
bg- you're the man Rich, lots of respect for you...GO ZINGER!

mnorman- Rich. You have been doing a great job on Viwer's Forum this year. Question. Could this be Joe Durant's coming out party. I think he has a shot. But I do feel that Duval is going to win.

Rich_LI just spoke to Joe not long ago, and he told me he wasn't in the best form and that he had been working on a few things with his coach and felt he had them straightened out. He has been a great story this year....a nicer guy you won't meet. Will he win? No. But a good performance is definitely possible.
TGC_COM - We've got about 5 more minutes left with rich, time for a few more questions.
twfan123 - Rich, who is the most confident player this week?
Rich_LTiger Woods, for sure. Vijay is as confident as I've ever seen him, as well.
Alex- why do they mess with a good thing so much, i understood the changes after tiger won but almost every year there's something new
Rich_LI just think they feel like they want to stay in touch with the modern game and technology has almost outgrown a golf course like Augusta National. So, they want to try and maintain the integrity of the course and still keep up with today's game.
mnorman- Rich. What are Mark Calcavecchia chances?
Rich_LI spoke with Calc...he's hitting the ball reasonably well. MAYBE....he's had a pretty darn good year, he's one of those guys who if it feels right, he's tough. It wouldn't be a complete shock, but I don't think he will win. Not a bad long shot bet.
Alex- thank you for feilding my q's rich, i'll be watching for you on TGC

twfan123- Has the rough changed since last year. I went last year and found it to be rather shorter than expected.

Rich_LI don't think it's changed much at all. I think the rough here is really bothersome more than it is brutal. Essentially, if you hit a ball into the rough and you have a decent lie, it still means you cannot control the ball as well, making it hard to put the ball where you need to on these greens. It isn't terribly penal, though, like you would see at a US Open.
TGC_COM - That's all we have time for today. Thanks for joining Rich Lerner for this Live Chat.
mnorman- Keep up the good work. I have been enjoying Master's week.
Rich_LThank you for taking the time to chat and for being loyal viewer's of The Golf Channel. I enjoyed it and I hope everyone enjoys what is always a great week for the game!

TGC_COM - Be sure to come back tommorrow at 11AM when TGC's Adam Barr will join us and Friday at 3PM when PGA Tour player Brandel Chamblee will be our guest!
TGC_COM - Copyright 2001
Getty Images

Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.