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Sports: Golf

Leonard Shapiro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 18, 2005; 2:00 PM

The Masters may be over, but golf is still swinging.

Wondering what's next for Tiger? Inquisitive about the PGA Tour? Washington Post staff writer Leonard Shapiro was online Monday, April 18, at 2 p.m. ET to talk golf.


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Complete Coverage: Golf Section

Keep an eye out this week for The Washington Post's feature, "Swing 2005: A Guide to Washington Area Golf." It will highlight a printable course map online, descriptions of the most scenic holes around the Washington, D.C.,-metro area, and tips and tricks to improve your game.

The transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

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washingtonpost.com: Leonard Shapiro will be online to take your questions today at 2:15 p.m. Thank you for staying tuned.

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Vienna, Va.: Two questions: Could you tell us what makes Pinehurst No. 2 so unique and tough. And who do you think the course suits? Gotta darkhorse you like?

Keep up the good work

Leonard Shapiro:

Unlike many other open venues, pinehurts will not have a lot of really thick rough. It favors guys who can work the ball left and right and putt like hell. Also has humpback greens, always a challenge, especially the way the usga sets it up. I'll take Mickelson as the favorite, only because he [probably should have won last time. The darkhorse: how about chris dimarco?

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Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.: Hi Leonard ... you might have one of the greatest sports writing gigs ever!

The Wall Street Journal ran an interesting article last week re: a letter written by the USGA to golf ball manufacturers requesting that they submit ball designs to limit the length of pro golfers.

When you talk with various pro golfers/PGA officials do you get the sense that they feel there is a need to limit technology in golf? What's the buzz on the tour with this issue?

Leonard Shapiro:
Yeah, it's tough work but somebody has to do it. As for technology, many players do believe pulling back the ball a bit would fix everything, rather than messing around with all the club technology. Nicklaus, watson and others have said if you made a tournament ball about 10 percent less distance than they get now, all would be well. By the way, this distance business really only affects the great players. The average 15-handicapper might get a little more distance with improved equipment, but not enough to render the courses we play as obsolete.

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Burke, Va.: Hi! I was wondering, who are your top 4 picks currently for the U.S. Open this year?

Leonard Shapiro:

If forced, I'll take Mickelson, tiger, ernie and goosen

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Fairfax, Va.: Tiger aside, what's the best storyline coming into this year's U.S. Open?

Leonard Shapiro:

I think Mickelson is a good story, mostly because of how he should have done last time the open was at pinehuerts, when Payne Stewart beat him with a final par saving putt. I also think the usga is a good story, if only because they totally screwed up the open last year at shinnecock

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Silver Spring, Md.: Can you recommend a course offering beginner lessons? I know East Potomac has a golf school, but am hoping for something more convenient to Silver Spring.
Thank you!

Leonard Shapiro:

Virtually any public golf course or driving range in your area will have teaching professionals on staff. I used to play a lot at Northwest park a bit further out than silver spring. You might also check out the PGA of America web site. They have a program called Play Golf America and the site will steer you to plenty of nearby venues to help you get started.

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Great Falls, Va.: I believe Darren Clarke can play a round of golf as good as anyone in the world ... I believe he has as good a chance at shooting 59 as anyone ... but isn't NEARLY as good for 4 rounds ... what's your take/Any other golfers fit this syndrome, past or present?

Leonard Shapiro:
In years past, Darren Clarke had a stamina issue, but he's lost a lot of weight and now works out, so I don't think that's an excuse. I'm not sure what goes on in their brains. Some guys can't handle the weekend pressure, somke guys hit a bad shot and it plays with their confidence, some guys get hot with the putter early then lose it all in a round or two. It's why it's such a goofy sports to try to predict, and it's why you have to admire a guy like woods, who always seems to come up with a big shot at the right time.

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Reston, Va.: That was some ugly golf yesterday afternoon. I couldn't really bear to watch it after such fabulous displays the week before. What happened to these guys?

By the way, I understand you're going to be a grandpa soon. Congratulations!

Leonard Shapiro:

I have to admit I didn't watch the finish at hilton head sunday, but I suspect the reason everyone fell back had to do with either wind, tougher pin placements, guys in the lead who hadn't won before. By the way, I am a grandpa already, with No. 2 due in July. Thanks for asking.

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Georgetown, Washington, D.C.: Any early word on who's gonna play the Booz-Allen this year. Word on the street is that we can expect Ernie at least, maybe Phil as well. Any chance we could see the Big 4 that weekend? Great year for golf in the D.C. area.

Leonard Shapiro:

Because Booz Allen is a week before the open, we should have a terrific field. Els is supposed to be here, as is mickelson, goosen and dimarco. Not sure about vijay or Tiger, who usually likes to take off the week before a major. With Congressional the venue, and with the heat off after ending his major drought at The Masters, he may show.

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Alexandria, Va.: So, what's your favorite local course? I'm a big fan of Whiskey Creek when I have the $$.

Leonard Shapiro:

Money is a big issue at a lot of places. Whiskey Creek is terrific, and so is Stonewall right next to RTJ. My favorite course in the area is Evergreen Country Club, and there's a nice course next door called Bull Run off Route 15 in Haymarket.

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Herndon, Va.: Mr. S: Am I crazy to say that DiMarco outplayed Tiger during the last round? He did nearly everything right, but still lost. Hope he can make it to another Masters "final," because he deserves a win.

Leonard Shapiro:
Well, DiMarco posted a 68 to tiger's 71 in the fourth round. I thought tiger won the tournament early sunday morning when he had to play nine holes to finish the rain-delayed third round. He was in the group ahead of DiMarco, opened with four straight birdies and DiMarco began with a double bogey at No. 10 with a hacker's second shot into a bush. DiMarco played great in the afternoon, but tiger hardly backed in.

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Concord, N.H.: It seems like Woods is a bit less consistent now than in 1999-2000. But he can still dominate, and, as you say, he has a knack for making the big shot at the right time. Who do you think the other golfers fear more -- the unbeatable Woods who won majors by 10+ shots, or the Woods who will not blow away a course and the field for 72 holes but is perhaps even better now at focusing when he has to (like holes 19-54 and 73 at the Masters)?

Leonard Shapiro:

No question the players were in awe of woods during that seven majors in 11 attempts stretch from 99 to 2002. But many of them have stepped up their own level of play, and most will tell you they don't worry about quite so much because he is not at that same level. Then again, they all will tell you when tiger has his A-game, he won't be beaten.

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Richmond, Va.: Has the USGA made any announcements about what they won't be doing to the greens at this year's Open. I'm all for a tough test, but it really was getting down right silly last year -- especially when you saw the sprinklers turn on during the Golf Channel's final post round coverage ...

Leonard Shapiro:
I suspect the USGA will not trick up the greens as they did last year. I hope not, anyway, but you never know with those guys.

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Fairfax, Va.: Len:

I know this is supposed to be a golf chat today, but I never seem to be able to catch you online and I don't know how else to contact you, so I hope you will take this question. As a member of the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame Selection Committee (and Veteran's Committee), could you tell me why you think Chris Hanburger has not been voted into the Hall-of-Fame and if you would be willing to endorse him for selection by the Veteran's Committee this year? Hanburger was selected for the Pro Bowl nine times, picked as an all-pro five times and voted NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1972. I don't think there is another player with those credentials who is not already in the Hall-of-Fame. It took George Allen many years to get in, and I think Chris Hanburger deserves to get in, too. Among the Joe Gibbs era Redskins not already in, only Darrell Green is more worthy of enshrinement than Hanburger. Once Chris gets in, I will lead the rally for Art Monk, but in all fairness, Hanburger deserves to get in first. Your thoughts on this subject would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Leonard Shapiro:
Chris Hanburger was a fine player, a guy who slipped through the cracks for a lot of years because he played on a lot of bad redskins teams. I could support his candidacy as a senior, just as I believe pat fischer should be in, as well. One thing going against hanburger: he was extremely media unfriendly, and some people have long memories.

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Clifton, Va.: Come on golf is not a real sport. Beating up a poor defenseless little ball is not a sport. If you can't die doing it it's not a sport.

Leonard Shapiro:

So I guess you must be a MASCAR fan, right?

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Anonymous: I think an overlooked record is Woods's mark for consecutive cuts made. I can't even think of anything else in golf or any other sport to compare it to.

Leonard Shapiro:

You're right. I think we're at 141 and counting, and next closest might be about a dozen. It's a remarkable record and a testament to his ability to rise to most occasions.

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Washington, D.C.: I only follow golf when Tiger is in contention. He is fascinating. It's like watching Gale Sayers run, Ali box, old films of Ruth hitting, you just can't turn away. Any chance I might see him play nearby? Does he know about the historic Langston golf course and what it has meant to black golfers over the years?

Leonard Shapiro:
Tiger will definitely be in the area in September in the Presidents Cup at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club near Manassas. I don't know if he knows anything about Langston, though I suspect either his father or charlie sifford probably has mentioned it to him. I've played several rounds there myself and thoroughly enjoyed the layout (but not my score)

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Springfield, Ill.: Doesn't the fact that Retief Goosen has two majors to Michelson's one, merit him inclusion into the current pantheon? The Big 4 seems to be one short.

Leonard Shapiro:

I think I wrote about a Big 4 and a Fab 5 before the Masters. Goosen definitely belongs, but in the world rankings, he's still No. 5 behind tiger, vijay, ernie andphil.

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Bethesda, Md.: Hi Leonard,

I have always wondered about the extras that the guys on the pro tour get in terms of special equipment. Tell us, are the balls they use different than the balls available to us at the local pro shop? How about the irons and metals? How much are they tweaked, if at all?

Leonard Shapiro:

You can buy the same golf balls the pros use, but the clubs are very much different in the sense that they are designed down to the last ounce or silly little milimeter to a player's specs. It may say callaway, but it's not the same driver we buy out of the pro shop. It may have a different shaft, a different grip, a different clubhead angle.

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Alexandria, Va.: It seems to me that Tiger makes the memorable shots at crucial moments more often than anyone. In fact, I like it better when he messes up, because we can see these great shots to recover -- like that shot from the rough up the hill in the 2000 US Open, or the shot from the bunker over the water in Canada, or the one at this year's Masters. Do any other golfers in television era that I might not have watched have as many of those amazing shots like Tiger's?

Leonard Shapiro:
I've been privileged to watch a lot of great shots by many top players. Mickelson also has a flair for the dramatic--including big flops--but you're right, Tiger has more shots in his bag than most. I always used to love watching Seve Ballesteros, who always got in trouble but as someone said, could make poar from the parking lot, and did several times.

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Anonymous: What is your opinion on whether Tiger is back on form and ready for another run? There is plenty of arguments that his sloppy play on the final two holes at the Masters means he is still beatable.
Still, other than DiMarco's gutsy comeback he lapped the rest of the field, including the other members of the "Big 4".

Leonard Shapiro: Tiger is not back to the form of his dominance a few years ago, but at his best, no one can beat him

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Tampa, Fla.: How do the touring pros view the Moe Norman golf swing -- a viable alternative to the conventional swing or a fluke that happened to work for just one man (the late Moe Norman)? I read recently Vijay Singh thought Norman to be the best ball striker he ever saw. But you don't see more than a handful of pros using it. The Natural Golf Co. is trying to commercialize Norman's swing with the general public, but they're relatively new, so they may not have "bred" a generation of golfers following their philosophy.

Leonard Shapiro:

You know, I've never asked anyone about it. I've seen the swing, heard about it, but not seen it on the PGA Tour. Listen, if these guys thought it would suit their games, they'd use it. So far, no one has

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Columbia, S.C.: I was at the Hertiage over the weekend - it is a very tough course and not very forgiving if a player is not at his best (and it was quite windy every day). I felt badly for Darren Clarke who genuinely seems like a good guy - he interacts with fans, has a fun time on the course, etc. He plays very quickly - sometimes I wonder if he gets in a bad rhythm and then can't right his game during the course of a round.

Leonard Shapiro:

I can't really explain his late round folds. He's a nice guy who probably needs a bit more killer instinct.

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Leonard Shapiro: Thanks for all the good questions. Hope we can do it again.

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