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GOLF CHANNEL MEDIA CONFERENCE
April 9, 2020
RICH LERNER: Thanks to all of you that have jumped on this call with us. We hope that you're safe and healthy. It's 82 and sunny in Augusta right now. If we were there, with the morning wave having finished, we might be seeing some of you in media dining for a late lunch, fried chicken with mac and cheese, pecan pie for desert. If we're lucky, we'll have that lunch in November, maybe a nice, hearty stew, and we are never not well-fed at Augusta, right.
I took our dog, Hank, for a walk yesterday. Someone came toward me from the other direction and I instinctively jumped into the street to get away as if it were on 11-foot crocodile coming at me. This new normal, to say the least, is bizarre. Not being able to be near people, to congregate, not being able to do what we love to do: Golf, go to restaurants, to ballgames and tournaments, that's been jarring.
Of course, foremost in our thoughts, the frontline medical personnel bravely fighting this battle. I hope when this is behind us, we can find a way to honor those men and women.
Wondering what we are planning this weekend on GOLF Channel in terms of programming, it's golf fans' favorite week of the year. Saturday after CBS airs the 2004 Masters, one of the best final rounds, Phil's first major title and that will be from 2:30 to 6:00. After that, we'll carry Phil's winning press conference from 6:00 to 7:00, and then beginning at 7:00 we will rerun our "Live from the Masters" that aired after last year's third round, and that will, as it always does, loop through the night.
Sunday at 11:30 A.M., we'll rerun "Live From the Masters" that aired a year ago before the final round. That's hosted by Mike Tirico and Paul Azinger, that's one hour leading into CBS's re-airing, 12:30 to 6:00 of the final round from last year, Tiger's comeback.
When that concludes just like a normal week, we'll be back at 6:00 on GOLF Channel with 'Live From the Masters" and our Sunday night presentation included an interview with Jack Nicklaus, Tiger's winning press conference and comments from the other competitors. That also re-airs throughout Sunday evening.
Beyond that, Monday we bring back the great "Big Break" series, Tuesday "Golf's Greatest Rounds," starting with the final day of the 2016 Ryder Cup.
Wednesday is the "Best of Golf Films" with documentaries like Hogan, Jack, Arnie, Payne and Ben.
One other note, if you'll allow me, next week, the Conor Moore Show presented by Club Hub will premiere, that's Tuesday, April 14th, exclusively as part of the GOLFPASS Digital Membership Program, which is offering the first two episodes of that new series for free. Conor has become well known in golf circles for his impressions of Ian Poulter, Tiger Woods and Padraig Harrington among others, and sports fans hungry for a diversion can get their fix with this one-of-a-kind comedy series that pokes fun at golf's biggest stars.
With that, I'll introduce our three featured guests, my colleagues on "Live From": Brandel Chamblee, Notah Begay and Justin Leonard.
We'll open it up for reporter questions in just a few minutes, but I'll start with Notah, and Notah, thanks for being with us. I know you've stayed busy with the work you're doing on behalf of the NB3 Foundation working to improve the lives of Native Americans, also doing some work on a new golf tournament, the NB3 Junior Invitational.
So, Notah, how are you and what's driving your efforts with respect to your foundation?
NOTAH BEGAY III: Well, I'm doing great and thanks everybody for joining us. It's great to hear some familiar voices and just getting to talk and visit with you before we started the call.
I'm probably the one on the call that wishes we were at Augusta most because it would certainly mean that my community wasn't getting decimated by the COVID-19 crisis.
I mean, a citizen of the Navajo Nation, which is on a percentage basis, in terms of the number of people infected in contrast to the population is the most highest-impacted community in the world right now, and so I still have probably 75 percent of my relatives still live on these reservations, and they are really at the epicenter of this issue.
So it's kind of with heavy heart that I deal with that and try and push through, and you know, it's been difficult but -- I don't know why I'm getting emotional. I haven't gotten emotional through this whole thing till now. I guess it's just there's a historical context here that's just tough for me to deal with.
So basically, Rich, what we have been working on is just getting supplies and food, as much resource -- (tearing up) sorry, guys. I apologize, I really do.
It's a scary thing for me. It's scary. It's been a scary process. I'm going to lose some family members; I'm quite certain of it, and I just don't know who it's going to be. And so what we are trying to do at the foundation is kind of adhere to our mission; adhere to what we stand for, which is community health and wellness, and raising money through our foundation page at NB3F.org to direct resources and food and water to families that live in a lot of these rural areas of these reservations.
The Navajo Nation is 27,000 square miles big. It's as big as the state of West Virginia. So there are people out there that have zero Internet access. They don't have mobile phone reception; that a lot of times aren't -- don't know what's going on, and so it's just a matter of using the network and trying to connect, and you know, hopeful that we'll be able to get through all this and hopeful that we'll be able to get back into a regular golf schedule at some point.
But in the meantime, it's boots on the ground for me, and doing anything and everything I can from my own quarantine situation at home and I feel really helpless at this point, but gotten a tremendous amount of support from some great people, including many of you on this call.
And hopefully we can continue to get the word out and drive some more support to the cause and create some more awareness just around the challenges that -- you know, we're Americans, too, and we're dealing with this at the highest level possible.
So it's been a very difficult time for me.
RICH LERNER: Notah, thanks for sharing that, and just for the writers on the call, it is NB3Foundation.org. Any help you can give Notah, obviously, would be appreciated.
Justin, you're out there in Colorado. How are you doing?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Rich, this is a pretty good place to be weathering what we're going through, I want to go back to what Notah's saying.
You know, first of all, you don't need to apologize for getting emotional. When you're in it like you are, and you're doing all that you can, you just keep your head down and plow through it.
But you know, I think when you're sitting here talking about it and telling us and the writers what you're dealing with, it all sinks in. You know, it's easy here in Colorado. Spring is blooming and we've still got some snow, and you know, the bikes are coming out.
But the realization is that we are all in this together, and you know, it's -- we're going to look back on this period, and hopefully we'll all change from it in a good way. There's going to be changes that we don't like, and of course, tragedy involved.
But my hope is that people will take stock in themselves, what they can do for others, how they are living their lives, and you know, find ways to do all of those things just a little bit better. And I think if everybody is able to do those things, you know, we'll come out of this as the human race in a better place than where we were just two months ago.
RICH LERNER: Well said, Justin.
BRANDEL CHAMBLEE: Yeah, just so well said by Justin, and the emotion that you could hear so apparent in Notah's comments, I think pretty much sum up the frustration of dealing with the uncertainty of this and how it's been wearing on all of us. We're three weeks, four weeks into this slow-moving disaster nightmare, and you know, it's affecting the whole world.
But as I get out, I happen to live in Orlando where it's warm enough, and we've been encouraged to take walks during the day, and as I get out and I walk around, to Justin's point, I see families everywhere sitting on their front porches or lawns, taking walks, taking bike rides. It's almost as if we have all been transported back to an era when the world was more present with sort of simple pleasures.
So if there is one positive to take from this, it's, again, along the lines of what Justin was saying; that perhaps we all do come out of this a little more present.
Thinking about the scheduling that has just been sort of rearranged, the first thing that occurred to me was that I would not and do not envy those whose job it was to rearrange the schedules, the various events that we hope will play out towards the end of this year, when you consider what they had to think about.
And with the continued infection rates and mortality of the virus, and well down list, broadcast partners and their conflicts and commitments to broadcast other sports, and then as it relates to golf, the myriad of concerns about daylight and agronomy and climate; it almost seemed beyond the computational power of any group of people to figure out, but nonetheless, they did.
And I suppose all of us at this point are hungry for good news, and anything will suffice for good news. The fact that somebody has the optimism to put out a schedule for sort of late summer, early fall, is, I suppose, good news.
The thought is that they are talking to people and have better information than we would have access to, and that they have got some comments that are indicating that perhaps there will be some abatement to this.
I will say, though, that I read this morning in the New York Times, from the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, that they don't expect the sun and the humidity and the heat to bring about an abatement to this.
So, you know, one day we get some good news. The next day we get some bad news, and that frustration is wearing on all of us.
RICH LERNER: I think that's why they are calling this new schedule an "aspirational schedule," and with respect to that, I think might just be a good time to quickly jump in.
Justin, you and I both spoke to the CEO of The PGA of America, Seth Waugh, and he pointed out that he was proud that they were all able to come together, the governing bodies, people who run and operate the championships, PGA TOUR events, and he was quite proud that they, in his words "operated as a game and not as single entities."
And he particularly pointed out that the PGA TOUR was to be given a lot of credit because they did sacrifice quite a bit with the idea that majors have a special place in the golf ecosystem; that's what fans really want to see, if there's a chance in the fall.
JUSTIN LEONARD: Yeah, I did; I texted back and forth with Seth this morning.
He was effusive in his praise of The PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan. He said the way that Jay has worked together with The PGA of America, with the USGA, with the Masters Tournament, to open up dates to allow those tournaments to hopefully take place, he said it's been remarkable.
You know, he told me that he's excited and hopeful that they will be the first major, hopefully having fans there in attendance, but they are prepared not to have spectators on the ground and I think that's a decision that does not need to be made yet.
Seth understands that, and like you said, it's an aspirational schedule. The point in time is now scheduled for August 6 through 9.
He also spoke of The Ryder Cup and it's intended to be played in its original date, the end of September at Whistling Straits, and he's hopeful that by that point at the end of September, they will be in a position to, you know, host an event that really does bring not just the eyes of the world into the game of golf, but really gives people something to look forward to, as that competition is always so exciting, and it would be one that I think would suffer the most without fans.
But I know that Seth Waugh and The PGA of America, as well as Jay Monahan and the PGA TOUR, are not going to do anything to put people, the general public, volunteers, the players, caddies or tournament staff in any kind of situation where their health would be compromised.
RICH LERNER: To the writers and broadcasters on the call, we are wide open on subjects that interest you, questions you want to ask. It could be about Tiger or Rory or about this upcoming proposed schedule or whatever it is.
Brandel, are you working on your golf swing at all indoors? I know I've taken a few divots out of pieces of furniture, and I'm really good in the kitchen with a golf club in my hand.
BRANDEL CHAMBLEE: I bet Robin has a different version of that, but sure.
RICH LERNER: You have divots in places that you shouldn't in your house. Come on, who hasn't taken a chunk out of a ceiling in their day.
BRANDEL CHAMBLEE: Oh, I have. Many times.
NOTAH BEGAY III: Taken out a few hotel lamps.
JUSTIN LEONARD: Speaking of hotel lamps, I remember playing the NCAA Championship at the University of New Mexico Golf course in Albuquerque, and we stayed in a hotel right there at the airport. And I remember we were hitting 6-irons out of our hotel room over the balcony railing trying to hit it into the airport parking lot. At least my teammate were; of course, I never did any of that.
BRANDEL CHAMBLEE: Of course not. I can remember, I was laying on a hotel bed, as my roommate in college, Paul Thomas, was swinging a 1-iron on the floor, you know, kind of right in front of me and I thought it would be funny to roll a golf ball, sort of through his legs as he was swinging, not ever thinking that he would come close to hitting it.
And he was swinging this 1-iron all out, and he flushed it as I rolled it through. And we were at a hotel in Tucson, and it went through the stucco and hit the brick on the other side of it, and then came back through the stucco as fast as it went, and then went through the wall on the other side of our room and it was literally in a flash of a second, it completely destroyed our hotel room and almost killed both of us.
Well, that was a piece of bad luck.
RICH LERNER: By the way, Brandel, that's only the seventh best Paul Thomas story. Correct?
JUSTIN LEONARD: And that's the only one --
BRANDEL CHAMBLEE: That I can tell.
JUSTIN LEONARD: -- that's the only one you can tell.
Q. Thanks for doing this, and Notah, hang in there, man. Thanks for everybody sharing what you're going through.
NOTAH BEGAY III: I appreciate, it thank you.
Q. I was curious with this announcement that the Masters is going to be in November, aspirationally, Jack Nicklaus immediately said he thought it favored Rory because he plays well that time of year. I was curious, for anybody on the call, what do you think of that? Do you think there's any truth to that?
JUSTIN LEONARD: I think there's a lot of truth to that. You think of Rory McIlroy, how he has the ability to play so well, amazing golf, over a three-, four-, five-month period of time, and even longer than that.
But you think about the run that he was on starting from last year, and I'm not going to any stats because I don't know them off the top of my head -- but a ridiculous amount of top-five finishes. I think if we -- if we are able to play the schedule as it is laid out right now, I think it does favor a guy like Rory McIlroy, who can get on a run, keep putting himself in contention.
From what I hear, I've never been to Augusta in November, but my guess is that the golf course could play a little bit softer. It could be a little bit cooler. You know, coming off of the summer months, my guess is that the golf course is typically a little wetter that time of year. We know how well Rory McIlroy plays in kind of softer conditions.
I think it is an advantage for a guy like that, and also, as good of shape as he is in, too, to be make a lot of big tournaments there in a short period of time, I think that not only the physical aspect of it, but the mental aspect of it will be tested when you've got a number of large events, talking about the PGA, the U.S. Open and The Ryder Cup in September, and then the Masters there in the middle of November. I definitely think it suits Rory McIlroy.
BRANDEL CHAMBLEE: Just to expand on that a little bit, I was looking at some weather charts from November for Augusta, and in 2014, the average temperature for the entire month was 49.2 degrees, and on November 19 of that year, it was 15 degrees. It can be quite cool there, obviously, that time of year. My friends who have played there in November tell me the golf course plays quite long.
There is, on one hand, I think the sort of thought that the postponement of the majors in general would help, you know, the likes of Tiger and Koepka and Oosthuizen and Jason Day who are dealing with some injuries.
So it's good news on that front if these events actually come forward because there were some hobbled superstars and there's a chance they could show up in better physical condition, which is really good news. But cold temperatures are not particularly good on old backs.
So yeah, I don't -- I can't imagine any scenario that doesn't favor Rory. But when you think about what Rory has got at stake this year, you know, he could be the first three-time winner of the FedExCup, which is hard to believe. He could be the first to go back-to-back in the FedExCup, and you start to look at that, and well, there's a lot at stake.
Rory seems to be playing -- which is hard to believe, as close to playing the best golf of his life. His high watermarks were '11, '12, '14. Last year was extraordinary. Won the Vardon Trophy again, and this year seems like he hasn't lost any of the momentum he had last year.
So yeah, I think it is setting up to be another epic year for Rory, and I would have thought and I think most people would agree, he's easily a favorite to win his next major championship at some point this year.
NOTAH BEGAY III: One thing I would add on that that I think is kind of peculiar here, these things that happened, they favor some; some would consider it a bad break.
On the one front, I think it is a bad break for Rory. Any time you're forced to take time off playing the kind of golf he was playing, it's like, I finally got this thing where I want it, and now I can't run with it.
I think that is a bit of a hindrance as far as, okay, how long is it going to take him to get back to running at the same sort of pace he was running at now.
But as far as the lineup of majors go and him trying to finish off the career Grand Slam, it's no longer going to be the first major we see him in this year. It will actually be the last one. So that might change a little bit of the mind-set. That mind change a little bit of the approach. He might have already won one by then, and it's just kind of like -- so it actually could benefit him in a couple of ways from a mental standpoint in terms of if it does play a little wet and a little longer, it's going to favor him. But also it's not the first thing we are all converging on as the golf universe always looks towards the Masters. It's like, okay, golf can sort of start now.
BRANDEL CHAMBLEE: Yeah good, point.
RICH LERNER: Just to put a button on this Rory conversation: 27 pro wins combined, European Tour and PGA TOUR, seven of those wins have come in the month of September or beyond, and deep into November. That includes the two DP World Tour Championships he's won.
He's played well late in the year, and I think that just speaks to, a, his conditioning; and then I would add that if he does win the Masters and he becomes sixth to win the career Grand Slam, I think he becomes the first legendary figure of the post-Tiger area.
I think Koepka was obviously proven he's a great player. Jordan had a great early run. I think McIlroy could become the first bonafide legend of the post-Tiger -- we're still in kind of the Tiger era, but the post Tiger generation, let's just put it that way. And I think he could also lay claim to the title, maybe best European player ever.
Brandel, you can jump in if you disagree. If he wins the career slam, a fifth major title, he's in the conversation with Seve and Faldo, and maybe he would be the greatest European ever. I'll let you have a quick swing at that.
BRANDEL CHAMBLEE: Well, yeah, certainly in that conversation. I'd say that he has a ways to go and he's got plenty of time to get there, doesn't he. He's got another ten, 15 years to re-double his cache at this point.
So it wouldn't surprise me at all if at the end of it he was demonstrably the best European player ever.
RICH LERNER: Career slam doesn't get him there? Not enough?
BRANDEL CHAMBLEE: Well, I think you weigh all these things. You know, it's the number of majors, but certainly the career slam would get new that debate, but there are plenty of people that didn't have a chance to compete the career Grand Slam that I would still put as formidable players.
It's certainly another element that you add to it. But impactful players, it's hard to get more impactful than Seve Ballesteros. I think at this point, it's sort of between a Seve and a Rory McIlroy, and at the end of his career, I wouldn't doubt if Rory has -- it wouldn't surprise me, if he had, you know, seven or eight major championships and was, again, quite obviously the most formidable European player ever.
Q. Something rather trivial, I was really curious when CBS came out with its weekend schedule of Phil's 2004 and Tiger from last year. So many Masters to choose from, and obviously Tiger probably came down to '97 or last year, and then you have the choice of Phil. Can you guys just talk about why you think those two Masters were chosen from all the rest of them?
NOTAH BEGAY III: As far as this generation is concerned, those are the two most popular players over the last 20 years in terms of productivity on the golf course and off the golf course. I mean, they have distanced themselves. For a spell there, they had a pretty solid head-to-head rivalry, and you know, it's a pretty obvious choice whether it's a popularity, people love watching these guys playing.
I would never tell Tiger -- don't tell him I said this, okay, but he might not win it again, and Phil is a long way. I've got money saying Phil won't win another tournament the rest of his PGA TOUR career. I won't say where I placed that wager (laughter).
But I just think it's a great chance to see two of the most popular players in the last 20, 25 years, that people really enjoy watching. Not only do they enjoy watching them play, but the way that they play Augusta National, it's pure artistry.
BRANDEL CHAMBLEE: I would agree. Between those two players, they have, what, eight Masters titles, and of this generation, the most major championships -- well, obviously Tiger has eclipsed everybody by galaxies.
But other that than that, Phil has the most majors. And when you think about Phil, you think, I can't help but thinking to some extent, he was exactly the player they had in mind when they designed this golf course, giving it a little rough, and encouraging you to sort of take risks and have all these bold recoveries, which is exactly the type of player you think about when you think of Phil Mickelson.
So you could hardly find two more exciting players, not only in this generation, but really in the history of the game. So I think those are two pretty obvious choices.
Obviously with Tiger, you can choose his '97 Masters. You could choose 2001 and 2019. I think those are the three, at least in my view, the three most important Masters ever played. There's others that I could choose for sentimental or nostalgic or just feel-good reasons, but Tiger just gives you so many different options.
Of course, the idea of Phil winning his first major championship, well after everybody thought he should have won one; well after it looked like he would have won one in the Tiger era. That was a great call by Jim Nantz. That's one of the legendary calls. It's right up there with "Yes!" or maybe "Yes, sir!" kind of thing. I mean, it's just a legendary call, and the buildup to that call is perfect.
RICH LERNER: That was a great final round. He played, what, the last seven holes in 5-under. I think Ernie had shot 68, and Ernie was gutted when it was all over, because you always figured Ernie was well-fitted, well-suited for a green jacket with his game. I remember just how disappointed he was, and how high Phil jumped relatively speaking. I think he was 33 years old, his first major.
BRANDEL CHAMBLEE: I've seen you jump. You don't get much higher.
RICH LERNER: I'm jumping, man.
Justin, how about you?
JUSTIN LEONARD: I was scrolling through Twitter and Mike Tirico is hosting a show on NBC Sports Network. He had Jim Nantz on today. It's called "Lunch Daily Live." During the Masters Rewind this weekend, he's going to have Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods in the "booth" to kind of talk about what was going through their minds at certain points.
What two better players would you want to have in that situation to know what was going through their minds? Because nobody in the world knows what's going through Phil Mickelson's mind, and then, you know, you've got Tiger Woods' insight into what he was thinking. I can't think of two better modern-day players to have in that kind of situation.
We all know the results. But to be able to get into their minds a little bit and talk with Jim Nantz about those tournaments and what was going through their thought process and the emotions. It seems like a pretty natural choice to me.
BRANDEL CHAMBLEE: And what's great now, as they get a little older and have become sort of elder statesmen of the game -- they are still competing, but taking this elder statesman role is that they are more willing to sort of share their thoughts and ideas about how they play the game, which is, you know, it's just terrific. You're talking about must-watch programming.
RICH LERNER: Do you think Phil is the kind of guy, who, even at 52, because he is so comfortable at Augusta National, could still contend in the same way that Jack did until he was 58 years old? He had an outside crack in '98, and same thing for Tiger. Do you think these two guys, provided they stay reasonably healthy, will have a decent crack, or you'll think about them, even into their early to mid 50s at the Masters?
BRANDEL CHAMBLEE: I'm still bullish on Phil Mickelson. I think he'll have another win or two before he, you know, decides to go do something else, whatever that may be.
Of course, there is no other place. I've joked over the years that Augusta National is like a good Good Samaritan helping an elderly person across the road because it has not only been kind to its past champions. It's also been very kind to the players as they get a little long in the tooth. Jack Nicklaus was -- what was he, 58, and still finished in the Top-10 there.
It seems like every year, we have sort of an aged shock there; if it's Bernhard Langer or Fred Couples or Sandy Lyle. I think it was 1967 that Hogan shot 66 in the third round and was two back with a round to go, and he was 54 at the time. I don't think he had yet turned 55.
So yeah, of course. Phil has all the hallmarks of players that accomplish great things as they get older. He's got the long golf swing. He's still got a sharp short game. Still got plenty of length. So absolutely.
And Tiger Woods, I think if we learned anything in 2018, 2019, is that, you know, even the seemingly insurmountable hurdles of physical, psychological, a host of other issues that he was dealing with, and was able to come back; it seems like he's the best that the game has ever seen of being able to recreate himself over and over and over again.
Certainly not going to rule out the possibility of him doing the miraculous again there.
Q. I'll start with Notah, and Notah, a virtual hug coming your way.
NOTAH BEGAY III: I'll get the real thing later.
Q. Question on Tiger. Just curious, what do you think this extra time between now and the Masters potentially in November, what that will do for him and his chances, and also if you have a good story you might be able to tell about how Tiger has celebrated this Masters triumph differently than the other ones that he's had before.
NOTAH BEGAY III: Well, he gets an extended celebratory moment now for the next few months. I think he's having some fun with it. He's posted a couple things on his social.
It's honestly been a blessing in disguise on a couple different fronts. First and foremost, a lot of question marks about where the back was. And keeping in touch with him through and in the buildup to The PLAYERS Championship, it was sore. There wasn't a lot of mobility. He was trying to fire it up, and it wasn't responding to the levels that he felt like he needed to play. So he wanted to give it rest.
I've talked with Justin and Brandel and a lot of our other analysts and you're weighing a couple things here when you get into those types of scenarios.
Now, he is in my opinion the best to have ever played, but you still have to play. Like you have -- you need to get competitive reps to be able to at least know somewhat where your game is at and what sort of you have available to you. It appeared in the lead-up to the original scheduling of the Masters, Tiger was maybe going to get one start, if that.
And so in staying in touch with him this break, he's just been literally relieved. He's like, "I don't have -- I'm not rushed. I don't feel like I'm having to do anything that is on a specific timeline." And even if the uncertainties even a week ago what the schedule was going to look like, if there was even going to be a schedule, he's just like, "I'm still working on it"; staying strong, going through all the things that he has to do to sort of maintain the health of his back.
But getting to spend a lot of time with Sam and Charlie, which has been great, and I think, you know, in a weird sort of way, even for myself, seeing him be able to do this and not have the pressures of the world of golf pulling on him to compete, this has never happened to him. I think it's been a nice reprieve for him.
I know as much as any other player out there, when these guys get the green light, it's going to give them a chance to actually build a schedule that will hopefully make him available for the remainder of the major championships, but not only that, I think we'll probably see him in some good form, which will be great to see a Rory who has been playing the best golf of anybody, the Jon Rahms and the Tiger Woods' in good form going at it in these big tournaments.
Q. Justin, I wish I had known that '92 story. I was just a fledgling sports writer in Albuquerque at the time. That would have made for a pretty good exclusive.
NOTAH BEGAY, III: Let's just say, I know a couple people that did that, too. But you know, myself, like Justin, I never participated.
JUSTIN LEONARD: Players from Stanford were getting ready for exams. They didn't have time to practice.
Q. I remember Notah back then, a native of that area, and a legend there, in fact. All you guys can take a crack at it or whatever wants to, but just on the overall schedule, I know it's a big if still, a lot of uncertainty, but if this schedule does come off the way it does, how exciting could this be for the fan and player, condensed, particularly the U.S. Open, Ryder Cup, back-to-back weekends?
RICH LERNER: Justin, want to have a crack at that?
JUSTIN LEONARD: I think if, a, we are playing golf, and hopefully as early as July, August, it's going to be good news for everyone, because it's going to mean that we are in a better place than we are today. I do think that golf is one of the only sports that can maintain social distancing and still have events.
So I think we are all hopeful that that will happen for a number of reasons. You're also going to have guys -- every player in the world will have had three, four, whatever, however many months off, so they are going to be itching to play.
The fields are going to be incredible when they do begin, and it's going to be a release not only for the players and people involved running these golf tournaments, but for golf fans in general. I think that is certainly an exciting prospect, and one, again with, as an aspirational schedule, hopefully it comes off and just provide everyone with a real sense of hope in what is really dire circumstances.
BRANDEL CHAMBLEE: Yeah, I think as we are all sitting at home serial watching our favorites shows, this will have -- again, if it comes off, it will have almost the feeling of serially watching the most dramatic events in golf. Like Ozarks, you can't wait to watch the next one, the next one, the next one. Well, you won't have to wait. It will come the very next week, or couple of weeks. They will just be coming all at once.
To go from the U.S. Open to the Ryder Cup, and just go from the PGA to the BMW to THE TOUR Championship, boom, boom, boom, if it comes off, it will be an avalanche of entertainment and drama.
And you're right, even if -- to Justin's point, if it's played without spectators, everybody will be likely -- if we are playing without spectators, we'll still sort of be cooped up in our homes, and by then, there will be nothing left in streaming services to have watched that we haven't seen. So we'll all be watching sporting events.
So in an odd way, it could be the respite from the worry that we all have. It could be good for golf.
NOTAH BEGAY III: The way it's laying itself out right now, opens the door for a player to get on a really big hot streak and knock off a couple majors in one particular calendar year, just because everyone is going to be rested.
I think this is going to be a brave new world for a lot of players when basically all of golf's schedule has expanded over the last five or six years, and you were starting to see more players turn up in the fall events and fields are getting bigger, and everyone just seemed to be running on fumes come the Playoffs.
It's just one of those thing where I think now, these guys are going to show up just ready to take anything and everything on, and I think we are going to see some epic battles.
RICH LERNER: The other two, the two fall majors, the U.S. Open I guess is right before fall starts, but then the Masters, be curious to see how they stack up against football, presuming football -- and we don't know this for sure, but presuming football is back, as well, golf has spent some time kind of moving away from having to compete with football.
That was the whole idea of the FedExCup, moving to August and away from September because football is just so dominant. Be curious to see with all the pent-up excitement and The Ryder Cup and the Masters, two of, I think the favorite events, as much as for golf fans, but for sports fans who might otherwise be curious about golf, I'd be curious to see how they stack up in terms of eyeballs right smack in football season. I think they will do really well.
Q. Presumably all 24 Ryder Cup players will have played in the U.S. Open the woke before, and I'm wondering what you think the impact might be on The Ryder Cup one week later in terms of energy level, the players coming off the most taxing major championship, and as a player, maybe Justin can answer this, how would you handle the back-to-back weeks?
JUSTIN LEONARD: I think as far as the energy and everything that goes into The Ryder Cup isn't going to be compromised. I think that in the past three or four editions of it -- it's just, again, I was talking about just how the scheduling has forced guys to play a lot of golf as things started to just get expanded and more worldwide; it never took any energy away from The Ryder Cup from what I can tell, and I've covered every one with NBC since Gleneagles.
So I don't think there's going to be much of a distraction there. In fact, I think if one of the teams has a member that had actually won the U.S. Open the week before, could actually be a benefit to them in sort of leading the charge out there in those opening matches.
RICH LERNER: There's been speculation about maybe 12 captain's picks for both sides. I've been told by someone in the know, at the PGA of America, that won't happen. The likelihood is that it will be a 50/50 split. Six will qualify on points, and there will be probably just the one major and the FedExCup Playoffs, The TOUR Championship, to go by because I don't think they can count the points from the U.S. Open the week before. The team will already have to have been selected.
But I've been told to look for something along the lines of maybe a 50/50 split, six qualify on points and six are chosen by the captains, which would be more than they are currently allowed to choose.
But anyway, Brandel, your thoughts?
BRANDEL CHAMBLEE: Looking at the current top 12 in The Ryder Cup standings, the only players that I think that would be missing in terms of popularity would be sort of Spieth and Fowler. Fowler is just outside of it.
But right now, the team that the United States has is just about the 12th-most interesting and best players that you could ever imagine. You couldn't draw it up any better.
But The Ryder Cup has a way of just providing an adrenaline shot. It's always come at the end of the year when you would expect players to be sort of, you know, a little bit lethargic, and a few -- occasionally, a few players do show up there a little lethargic.
I think as the game has gotten younger and younger, and I think The Ryder Cup has taken on an even more fevered pitch as its gone on, that the lethargy that sometimes you would see sort of late in the year at The Ryder Cup will be infused with youth and energy.
You know, the one thing going for the United States is that they have since 1999 managed to play pretty darned well at home, and this team is getting younger and younger.
So I think regardless of what takes place as Winged Foot, and the way it was originally meant to play was sort of -- at least what I heard, what I've been reading, was similar to the sort of setup that they had there in 1974, just absolutely brutally difficult.
I don't know how the postponement of the event will affect the course setup, but if it's as difficult as they were intending it, yeah, there will probably be some banged-up people heading to Whistling Straits.
But I suspect that the youth and energy and adrenaline rush of the competition, and the fact that it doesn't start until Friday, will give some guys renewed energy.
Q. Notah, thoughts and prayers and hopefully things will move in the right direction.
NOTAH BEGAY III: Thanks so much.
Q. So my question is really for the whole panel. We all know that golfers are creatures of habit. Things are not obviously in a habitual form right now. Is there certain players that you would look at and say, you know, this is the guy that I would anticipate hitting the ground running when things start up or are there other players vice versa that might -- would you suspect need some time to get their game day reps in?
BRANDEL CHAMBLEE: Looking at the various social media sites of players, most of them are finding a way to do something. Most of them are out, it looks like distancing themselves from everybody, but still managing to sort of put a few balls in the air and so forth.
Obviously the one player that seems to need every minute of sunlight is DeChambeau. So you wonder when we are allowed to come out of our homes and breathe some fresh air, if he will hit the ground running.
But other than that, I think some of the players that were sort of banged-up superstars, Koepka and Woods and Jason Day and Oosthuizen, they will certainly come out a little better off because of it but I don't think that we are going to see a fall-off in players' games.
I think on the contrary, I think one of the great things, and I would say sort of disadvantages of the excess is that there really is no off-time. There hasn't been any off time for some time on the PGA TOUR. So this is a forced sabbatical for everybody, so everybody can sort of, you know, sort of mend some frayed nerves and heal some sore bodies, and so I do think that we'll come back with -- Rich was alluding to, some pent-up energy and excitement and I think the players will come back and we may be treated to the best golf that we've seen, the freshest golfers that we've seen and I think maybe even themselves, they will find out a little time away from the game is not necessarily a bad thing and that they may come back sharper than even they themselves would have expected.
Q. Question about Tigers tee shot on 16 last year on Sunday. Wanted to start with Brandel. I know on "Live From the Masters" that Sunday night, you had mentioned the tee shots on 5, 13 and 14 being crucial to him playing well that Sunday. But remember, that was a one-shot lead, as Tiger was on the 16th tee and he stretched it to two with that tap-in birdie. So for you guys, how sensational was that near ace when we look back in ten, 20 years, the Michael Phelps body english, every caddie close to that hole from Ricky Elliot, Joe LaCava, Paul Tesori, they thought that thing was going in. The crowds were going crazy. What did you make of that moment?
BRANDEL CHAMBLEE: That's a great question and it's funny how often the 16th gets overlooked, because you're just coming off the most exciting and most beautiful stretch in the history of the game.
And the fact that as it related to 2019, I think the most pivotal shot was struck at No. 12, and nobody is ever going to forget what Tiger Woods did at the 12th. And subsequently, they are less likely to remember what he did at the 16th.
Again it was just another example of, you know, the contrast between the brilliance of 16 and the patience and prescience that Tiger showed at 12, is the essence of who Tiger Woods is, and it's the essence of what Augusta National is, where it asks you to take chances one minute, and it subtly requires you to show great patience the next, and I think that's the beauty of 12 and 16.
You get up there at 12, and you're hitting a shorter shot, and it's just right out there at the end of the stick. It's like a carrot at the end of the stick, right there, saying, you can get there close; and Koepka bit and Finau bit and Molinari bit; and then you're talking about in this generation, the greatest iron player ever, but really, maybe in the history of the game the greatest iron player ever, with a shot of under 160 yards, he more than anybody else had the talent to hit it close. But he more than anybody else had the patience and the prescience not to even try.
And I think in that one shot, I think more manifestly demonstrated his ability to separate himself by thinking clearly, and to me that was the cognitive equivalent of a 350-yard drive and a stuffed approach.
And then to see what he did at 16 was where you can take a chance. That is the universality, the comprehensive nature of Tiger Woods. That is Augusta National. That is Tiger Woods. And we got to see it all there. That's why we all lean in to watch the Masters, and that's why we can't take our eyes off of Tiger Woods.
NOTAH BEGAY: That summarizes it so well.
In talking with Tiger about sort of that last stretch run in the last nine holes, and just in a lot of our casual conversations over the last few decade and just in terms of how he approaches tournament golf, he's an amazing handicapper in terms of, you know, Brandel talks about his tactical abilities and his ability to compartmentalize certain things.
He has a distinct strategy when he goes into those final few holes, and he has a distinct understanding of who is exactly where, what their capabilities are, and what he projects is going to be the number he needs to get to, and he's usually -- I mean, he's pretty much right on, almost every time.
For him to have this strategy, and the strategy was before the round, you don't go after the pin at 12. That was before the round. He was patient, he was tactical, and he understood that there was plenty of golf to be played, and that there were going to be other opportunity as Brandel mentioned.
For me, though, on 16, it wasn't so much -- I had debated, because I just walked off the Live From set as they were making the turn, and I had debated whether to wait around and see how this thing turned out, but in all the previous years, I have left and have gone to catch my flight home to be with my family. And so I didn't want to jinx it, so I got in my car, did everything that I normally did, and I was driving to Atlanta and I was listening to it on the radio.
And so what that one shot told to me is that No. 1, he believes he can win this thing. Because he's come close in trying to get over this precipice of getting to 15, at times, and it was an errant, a bad drive, a bad putt, something that kind of held him up. So what that swing at 16 told me was that he really believes he can win this thing, No. 1.
And No. 2, is that he's got his nerves under control, which at that point after he hit the shot and made the putt and went to 17, I'm like, he's going to win.
RICH LERNER: I think we'll try to draw this to a quick close.
It's nice to hear some questions from our friends -- other than the question that I've heard the last month, which is, "How many days in a row have you worn that tee shirt," which is what my wife keeps asking. I think I've gone for a record of maybe five consecutive, which tells you I'm not doing a whole lot of sweating.
Hey, Brandel, real quickly, I know you've been hard at work. First of all, I saw on Twitter, you've not done a whole lot with your hair in the last month. That was clear. What happened there? And then real quickly, I know I haven't listened to it yet, but the Podcast with Jaime, what's that about?
BRANDEL CHAMBLEE: Well, we did, we obviously went back and talked about the 2019 Masters, and what I believed is the greatest come back in the history of golf, and then we talked about the greatest rounds ever played at the Masters, which was fun.
When the idea was put forth, it's like, how do you sum that up. But since I found myself with a lot of time going back and looking at every single round I ever played at the Masters was, well, it took a little while to do it. We each sort of same up with our own idea of what the best rounds ever were at the Masters, and that's in there.
I further addressed sort of the controversy that came out of my Q&A at Golfweek, which hopefully I cleared the air a little bit there and worked diplomatically on that Podcast. I think it was good. I quite enjoyed going back and forth with Jaime. He did not deny great my coif as much as my wife did yesterday after a bike ride. She said, "You realize you are out in public? Can I just take a picture of you right now so you can see what you look like?"
That's pretty much the state of all of us right now. I mean, we are encouraged to get out once a day to take a walk or a bike ride. And you're right, me styling my hair is well down there on priority list, right, with you changing your tee shirt.
But we are all doing these things to distract us from the uncertainty of this time. We have these little minutes, these little moments throughout the day where we have a little respite from the uncertainty.
But "surreal" is the word I've heard a lot, and it's anything but comforting, that's for sure.
RICH LERNER: All the writers, all our friends, we miss you guys and I don't know if there are women on the call here, we miss all of you no doubt, and hopefully see you at some point soon, and stay well, stay safe and healthy.
And Notah, we'll keep you in our thoughts, as well, thank you, and Brandel and Justin.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports