Iím supposed to discount Tom Watsonís 60-plus years?
Friday, October 17, 2014 By Ron Romanik
Media topic you really don’t need to think about: The FedEx Cup format. It’s an imperfect game, there’s no perfect
solution—just let ’em play.
In Medias Rant: "...and I’m supposed to
discount Watson’s 60-plus years of respecting the traditions of the game just
because some whiny, spoiled kids are too afraid to trash-talk Phil and too
lily-livered to speak on the record about..."
Word of the day: metanoia; noun; change in one's way of life resulting from
penitence or spiritual conversion.
In case you missed it: Bill Murray talks some
golf with Howard Stern, including his early caddying days. The non-golf
parts are also excellent, with the comedy legend speaking openly about a few
movies and the finer elements of his craft.
Private Hole of the Week: The long
at Moselem Springs Golf Club. One of the great
finishing holes in the region brings high drama to many amateur events held
there, including the annual Hawley Quier Memorial.
I’m usually "anti" water on finishing holes, but this is an undeniable classic,
also overlooking the fact that out-of-bounds is almost absurdly close to the
green on the right.
Public Hole of the Week: The
par-five eighteenth at Turtle Creek
Golf Club in Limerick, PA. Another water finishing hole, a pond guards the
green. The thirds shot is often a pitching wedge off a downslope, which makes
it dicey and fun.
Philly Insider: After birdieing the final
hole at Turtle Creek, you might want to treat yourself to one of the awesome
Prime Rib sandwiches at the Trappe Tavern
just down the road (also a great place to watch some NFL).
Irony of the week: The
slower you swing, the farther the ball goes.
"You Kids Get Off My Lawn" Comment: Golf in the Olympics? The
Olympics...really, the Olympics? Do I even need to explain?
Water Cooler Debate: Who is
most to blame for bringing golf to the Olympics—Tom Meeks, Judge ElihuSmails, or Vladimir Putin?
If this "experiment" lasts more than one Olympics, though, here
are a few good ideas to fix it from Shane Ryan at Golf Digest.
Stats of the Week: Courtesy
Digest’s year-end run-down, two mind-numbing putting stats. 1. Brian Stuard went 395 straight holes without a three-putt. Let
that sink in. 2. Gary Woodland just finished his second straight season without
missing a putt from inside of three feet. That’s 1,641 out of 1,641.
In case you missed it II: Rory McIlroyputts into a
bunker. It’s forgivable—it was the Road Hole Bunker at St. Andrews.
Chambers Bay is next year’s U.S. Open site, so the USGA posted some
stunning pictures of the course. The links course on Puget Sound near
Seattle reminds one of the Kohler
courses in Wisconsin—Whistling Straits and Blackwolf
Run—which run along Lake Michigan. Designed by Robert Trent Jones
II, Chambers Bay is also Audubon
Certified Silver Signature Sanctuary Courses. A brief history
of the course and a good definition
of a "links" course is here.
The 2015 season will start this coming Thursday at the Frys.com Open at the Silverado
Resort in Napa, CA. That beautiful location will hopefully lure some A-list
talent, but wouldn’t it be hilarious if an earthquake aftershock affected the
outcome, a la Danny Noonan’s final putt in Caddyshack?
Word of the week: Inveterate; adjective, long-established, as a habit.
Lady golfer on the rise: Is she the women’s version of John Daly? No, she’s
not a drinker and gambler, as far as we know, but she does have one of the longest swings you’ll ever see.
She’s Sakura Yokomine, currently No. 44 in the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings.
Media topic you really don’t need to think about: Rory. Anything Rory. His Twitter feed, wearing
kilts, yaddayaddayadda. He’s a good kid. Just let him live his life for a
Private hole of the week: The best short par-four in the region has to be No.
10 at Merion, a 300-yard dogleg left with
a green that runs away. There are risk/reward calculations each step of the
way no matter how you play it. The greatness of the design was evident at last
year’s U.S. Open, where some players used five-iron off the tee, some used
driver, and the rest used every other club in between those two. I’ll bet a few
players even used a different club each day.
Public hole of the week: Another devilish short dogleg par-four in the
region is No. 5 at Bella Vista Golf Club in Gilbertsville, PA. At just over 300
yards, a creek running across the hole forces a tough decision. Who wants to
lay up with an eight-iron, after all? If you go bold, you’ll often end up one
of the large,
deep bunkers fronting the green. So swallow your pride, and pull the
Prediction: Europe wins
15-13. Do I need reasons? If I do, then I’ll go with experience, vitality, and
verve. And home field advantage. And they are better.
you really don’t need to think about: Rory and Graeme and their lawsuit. I fear
it will come up once an hour on the telecasts. Yawn.
Word of the day: Omphaloskepsis – noun; contemplation of one's navel.
Navel-gazing, used as a criticism, means overly self-absorbed focus on a topic.
Example: "Media Wonders Why Media Over-Hypes Ryder Cup Rivalries."
In Medias Rant: "...and how
can the first time an award is given already be ‘prestigious.’ Wie only played four rounds in two of the five majors! And five majors is an abomination to all
that is natural and good..."
of the Week:
The 14th at Rolling Green (Bausch
Collection/Rolling Green). One of the most intimidating tee shots on a
par-three you’ll ever see. Uphill, an angled green, deep bunkers, and a steep
drop-off on the right. It feels like your best shot will also need some luck to
find the dance floor, and if you don’t hit the green, you’ll be lucky to make
Public Hole of
The 15th at Galen Hall. More infamously known as "The Moat Hole," famed
architect A.W. Tillinghast may have had a hand in
this unique par-three. Also extremely intimidating, top amateurs in competition
have been known to lay up for a better chance at par, on average.
Irony of the
The less time you have, the more you get done.
"You Kids Get
Off My Lawn" Comment: The Ryder Cup competition was established to promote
sportsmanship and camaraderie. They should change the name. It now promotes
gamesmanship and jingoism.
Stat of the
Billy Horschel was ranked 1st in putts from 15 to 20
feet for the 2014 season. In all other putting distance ranges, he ranked worse
than 50th. Does not compute.
Michael Jordan caused the USA team to lose the last Ryder Cup, in Chicago.
Because, in trying to get into Ian Poulter’s head, he
managed to achieve the opposite of the intended result. Poulter’s
defiant passion fueled the European team on to victory.
The last part of the season
just flew by, with 16 days of competitive rounds in 25 days. That’s 64 percent of
the days of the FedEx Cup in the heat of competition. It’s perfectly fine for
football and hockey be battles of attrition—not golf.
But why is that a knee jerk
reaction? Do I have latent biases that prevent objective reporting? Of course I
One of my biases that I’m
getting over is the resistance to the rise of the golfer/athlete. Somehow, in a
traditionalist’s mind, the delicate touch of a golfer would be inversely
proportional to their brawn. This turns out to be not so true.
Regardless of what you think
of the politics of Glenn Greenwald (bias: I admire constitutional lawyers who
don’t pull punches) and the whole Edward Snowden affair, Mr. Greenwald has no
qualms decrying the fake objectivity of "traditional" journalism. In fact, he
posits, true objectivity is pretty much impossible. We all have biases, we all
interpret events through our own lenses, so let’s put them on the table and be
honest about it.
But, no matter how obvious a
media outlet bias is, the tone of its "reporting" or opinionating can define
the media conversation more broadly. I’m not sure what media conversations that
Golf Digest is trying to introduce these days, but I guess all is right in the
golf world again now that actual professional golfers are back on the cover of
Golf Digest (bias: I feel betrayed by new magazine redesign).
Yes, Michelle Wie is on the
cover, the epitome of golfer/athlete, and my pick, earlier this year, for having a breakout year (biases: Leadbetter fan
and defender of the persecuted—I’m looking at you, Michael Bamberger). Wie was just recognized with the Rolex Annika Major Award
for best performance across all five majors. If you didn’t know what that was,
don’t worry—it’s new.
And another superfit golfer of note is Suzann Pettersen
(bias: I love a woman who drops the F-bomb on live TV). I believe her best days
are still ahead, and she had 10 top-10 finishes in 18 tournaments this year.
Speaking of athletes,
javelin-thrower turned golfer Keegan Bradley (bias: Keegan is a cool name) has
demonstrated that he’s no flash in the pan. If you get to spectate a PGA event
next year, check out Keegan’s ball rainmaker ball flight. It’s impressive.
And Bernhard Langer (bias:
my maternal grandfather was German; Mercedes-Benz; Altbier)
was just unbelievable in the Senior Open Championship this summer. In case you
missed it, Mr. Langer topped off his victory with whipped cream and cherry on
top, with the classiest of finishes. On the impossibly hard and fast Royal Porthcawl Golf Club links in Wales, no one in the field had
been able to get close to the 18th pin on the approach—even with a wedge
in hand (bias: links-style golf is more fun to watch).
Already having lapped the
field, there was no need for theatrics. Nevertheless, he hit a perfect 9-iron
approach, landing just over a fairway bunker and releasing to about 20 feet
from the pin. An eagle might have been too much to ask for, but a tap-in birdie
seemed the right level of "I make this game look easy."
But I digress. Many have
biases about Golf Channel personalities, and for good reason. There is much
room for improvement, and sometimes a pretty face is just a pretty face. As for
Brandel and Frank, my bias is in favor of first-hand
expertise. For all their faults, they still bring a lot of knowledge to the
table. Steve Flesch and Charlie Rymer,
on the other hand, don’t seem to remember what playing professionally was like.
The Golf Channel dropped a
few notches in my esteem when I was looking for wrap-up analysis of the Women's
U.S. Open this summer—and found almost none. I imagine this was the
result of some television network executive bickering, but disappointing
Which brings us to the
golfer/athlete of the moment—Billy Horschel.
His phenomenal performance of back-to-back wins and 12 consecutive rounds in
the 60s was surely do in no small part to his fitness. So, the golfer/athlete
is here to stay, especially if the FedEx Cup system survives the critics. Even
Rory (bias: red hair like me/Ireland connection) is looking ripped these days
(bias: he’s shorter than you think).
And let’s give Billy a pass
on his loss of decorum when he did seven full Gator Chomps on the 18th green
after his FedEx Cup win. Oh yes, my bias is clear on Horschel:
My wife is a University of Florida alum. I deserve your sympathy, but for the
grace of God go you. In our house, patriotism for your country plays second
fiddle to allegiance to the Gator Nation. Chomp Chomp.
is principal of the brand, marketing, and packaging consultancy Romanik Communications (www.romanik.com), located in Elverson, PA. His full bio is here.
The irony of my argument
here is that the Greatest Open Champion Ever (G.O.C.E., if you will) earned
that title by not becoming the "Champion Golfer" of 2009. He lost, instead, in
an illegitimate playoff format.
(18 holes on Monday is the
proper way to decide a Champion, and I am confident he would have fared much
This man’s second place
finish, though, should still be considered one of the greatest sporting
achievements of all time. To some, though, that "loss" five years ago was very disappointing.
I don’t quite understand this. Even Tom Watson himself bemoans his fate: "It
was in my grasp, and it hurts, it really hurts. It was a huge disappointment."
But I ask you, how many
golfers on this planet would not have gladly exchanged places with Mr. Watson
at that moment? He had a glorious run that week, and at age 59! This week, at
64, he made the Open cut again at Royal Liverpool.
And what was the final
obstacle the thwarted his sixth Open title? A two-foot diameter "nose" on the
front of the 18th green that deflected an otherwise perfect approach, and sent
it careening off the back of the green.
But my real question is: Why
would he, or anyone, now look back on that week with sadness or disappointment?
Why not instead admire his performance in isolation and wonder at the amazing
athletic and sporting feat that it was and always will be?
Watson does admit that he
was comforted by the outpouring of support and notes thanking him for his
inspiring performance. By why isn’t that the rule, rather than the exception in
fans’ hearts and the media’s recollections? For many, he "lost."
Not to be melodramatic, but
is this damning evidence of our societies’ ill-founded emphasis on "winning is
the only thing"? (Thanks a lot, Red
Sanders.) I, for one, don’t think it is human nature to look at the
runner-up as the "first loser."
On this past Thursday
evening, GolfChannel’ Kelly Tilghman
introduced a segment on Tom Watson’s run in 2009 with a "sad face" grimace,
saying: "It’s no exaggeration to say that he was on the verge of producing what
could have perhaps been known as the greatest sporting accomplishment of all
time." I posit that—win or lose—his accomplishment was equally as impressive—and
Other circumstances or facts
could have made it truly tragic. If he hadn’t already won five Opens, for
instance. If his career might be defined by this single losing event. Or if
this loss irrevocably damaged his psyche in the prime of his career. But none
of these scenarios apply.
I would prefer to look back
on Watson’s performance as a crowning coda to a full and rewarding career. Or a
swan song, victory lap, or farewell tour.
If you want golf drama that
is truly tragic, I invite you to look back on the 1939 U.S. Open in
Philadelphia. Sam Snead, by all reasonable estimations, should have won several
U.S. Opens. He had the perfect opportunity to close out the deal on the final
hole of the Philadelphia Country Club in 1939. A miscommunication may have
caused Snead to be more aggressive than the situation required, and the snowman
he carded on that hole took him out of contention. (Here’s
a subjective list of the top 10 real
U.S. Open disappointments.)
Perceptive readers will no
doubt suspect that I have a soft spot for Mr. Watson. Watching him win his
Opens as an adolescent, I was both fascinated by the traditions of the game and
intrigued by the way the Scottish and English fans embraced their likeable
American Champion. Too bad fans don’t raise golf champions on their shoulders anymore
like they used to in Bobby Jones’ era. That would have been a fitting tribute
for Mr. Watson.
I admired Watson for
categorically conquering the quirky and whimsical nuances of the game in its
original form that is, in many ways, foreign to the American style of play. And
I always liked how the knowledgeable golf fans across the pond reacted to action
with the right amount respect and gravity correspondent to the situation.
Of course, the crowd energy
instantly deflated when they saw Watson’s approach to 18 skip through the green
in 2009. The faithful had been pulling for him to win the whole week. And I
won’t begrudge anyone for questioning his decision to use putter for his third
shot. I might defer to the caddie, though, who believes 100% that the putter
was the right choice.
But the larger begrudgement still remains. In my rewriting of history, the
R&A never adopts the abomination of a four-hole playoff, allowing Watson
glory on Monday. For the record, the R&A only abandoned the 18-hole playoff
in 1985, two years after Watson won his fifth Open Championship. I’m sure he
would have prevailed in a "real" playoff.
By the way, the ageless 64-year-old
wonder shot 68 today at the Open in Liverpool, and finished at +1, three better
than Stewart Cink. But Cink
will always be able to brag about the crowning achievement of his career, the
day he stared down a man 23 years his senior and trounced him fairly and
squarely—for four holes.
is principal of the brand, marketing, and packaging consultancy Romanik Communications (www.romanik.com),
located in Elverson, PA. His full bio is here.
There are many reasons to pull for Bubba Watson
as a favorite to win the U.S. Open. And there are a few reasons that I can
understand that he might not be everyone's cup of "T," if you know
what I'm getting at. His limited range of beverage choices aside, and his
occasional temper tantrums aside, the best reason to love Bubba is his utter
uniqueness. He is the John Daly of this era, a sort of anti- anti-hero.
Bubba's swing is an affront to all that the
established golf elite wants to convince you about the golf swing. It's a
self-made wonder that defies a great deal of logic, tradition, and physics.
That is also effective at winning majors is an amazing bonus.
Winning the U.S. Open at Pinehurst would be the
equivalent of a thumbed nose to tradition in a way that John Daly didn't even
achieve at The Open Championship at St. Andrews, though Daly deserves all the
kudos he receives. Some call Pinehurst the St. Andrews of America, and for good
reason. The resort represents some of the best qualities of American golf. What
a perfect place to throw shade over the stuffy ideals of the establishment.
Instead of Waffle House for a victory breakfast the morning after, after a U.S.
Open win, he should order Dominos delivered to the pressroom.
And Pinehurst just might be the ideal venue for
a Bubba U.S. Open win. No rough at Pinehurst means it's possible to get lucky
and find a few good lies in the waste areas the line the fairways. Bubba will
also be able to hit less club off par-four tees to keep the ball in play.
But again, the fact that no golf teaching pro
in the known universe would teach a swing like Bubba's is enough reason to root
for him. And several corollary sub-reasons: 1) Bubba proves that established
and fashionable teaching philosophies of the current and past ages are not the
answer for everyone; 2) golf needs more personalities; 3) golf needs more
creatively played shots; 4) he's not afraid to be whoever he wants to be; 5)
he’s a lot more fun to watch than Adam Scott.
It was easy to shrug off Bubba before his
second Masters win this year. Many, many top golfers have only one major. But
now that he's got two under his white belt, and now that he's within striking
distance of No. 1 in the world, he can no longer be dismissed so easily.
Simply said, I'm pulling for Bubba because he
doesn't fit anyone's definition of a pro golfer. I like to pull for the
underdog, the outsider, the misunderstood. He is all of those, and he has no
reason to apologize.
In the picture here, Bubba has just hit one of
the defining shots of his career. A shot only he would attempt. A shot only he
could pull off in that situation. Okay, maybe Tiger and maybe Dustin Johnson
could pull it off.
Nevertheless, Bubba’s follow-through at 13 at
Augusta on Sunday epitomizes his appeal. After carving a high, controlled slice
over the corner trees of the dogleg, his right foot has moved a full foot from
its starting position. Just amazing. The shot came off, and Bubba was on his
way to his second green jacket.
I'm rooting for Bubba because if he bucks
tradition and wins the U.S. Open with his wild style, I can't wait to see the
look on the faces of the USGA elite hell bound to protect an unnecessary level
of decorum and tradition that can put casual golf fans off.
Which brings us to the idea of tradition and
Pinehurst and the USGA. I hope this experiment in a "no-rough" open is not a
one-off. The fact is, preparing U.S. Open courses with thick, high rough is a
tradition that is not traditional. Well, that depends on your definition of
tradition, I suppose, and how many years it take before something becomes
I believe the impossibly high rough trend took
hold mid-20th century, when Hogan was at one of his peaks. He remarked after
one U.S. Open round that he didn’t miss one fairway, but his shoes and pant
cuffs were still soaking wet. This side anecdote illustrates the newness of the
high rough concept, because they hadn’t yet realized that a walking path through
the rough from tee to fairway made more than a little sense.
But tradition is, of course, not only a matter
of years. If it were, major championship courses should be set up more
rough-hewn and natural, like Scottish links courses. But if you believe that
the USGA has started a valid new tradition with impossibly high and thick
rough, I can grant you that as well, and that is their right.
Tradition is as much a consensus of "what is
right." It would be quite a dramatic turnaround if the USGA would adopt a new
Pinehurst-inspired model for most future U.S. Opens, but anything is possible.
More likely, with the tanker-steering agility of the USGA, the tournament
committee will gradually introduce more and more variety in their concept of
rough in future venues.
And that bodes well for a future U.S. Open win
for Bubba, that is, if he doesn’t win a British Open first and celebrate with a
breakfast of haggis—or a KFC Double Down.
Ron Romanik is
principal of the brand and PR consultancy Romanik
located in Elverson, PA. His full bio is here.
What to get the golfer who
has everything? Silly, useless knickknacks of course.
Luckily for everyone, one
man has taken on the responsibility to collect links to every "Ridiculous
Golf Item" he can find.
From the bizarre to the
sublime, these items can clearly identify you as a golf fanatic, or just
someone who likes to have a little fun, or someone who is just plain "off."
Whether or not you wish to advertise to your boss where golf is on your
priority list with a desktop golf curio is a separate issue you have to decide
for yourself. Or, if you’re the gift giver, it might be a clever way to
embarrass a golfer who would be compelled to actually use, say, a golf-bag-and-pull-cart
golf-club pen set just because you gave it to them.
I have read that one of the
fastest and easiest ways to endear yourself to a new colleague, acquaintance,
or friend is to be self-deprecating. Golf, it turns out, provides countless
opportunities for this, both on the course and off. These fun golf gift items
add yet another layer to that noble life goal. Of course, constant
self-deprecation can make you look pitiful, so beware of that fine line.
I already own one of these orange
hats. And it’s good quality. But if you’re wondering... no, I haven’t had the
courage to actually wear it on the course yet. It’s like wearing a bow tie on
TV. Only a small percentage of the population can pull it off with style or
The excuse I tell myself for
not wearing the Bushwood hat is that it still looks
too new, too bright orange, and too obvious. It’s a Catch-22: You have to wear
it so it will look worn, but you don’t want to wear it and look obvious. Maybe
I’ll run it over with my car a few dozen times or leave it out in the sun for a
So, I bought the hat in an
effort not to take myself too seriously, and be endearingly self-deprecating. But
I still can’t help but wonder if fellow golfers would see it as an innocent act
of self-deprecation or a pitiful ploy for self-attention.
I imagine this is an ongoing
internal struggle for many (or maybe not). Whereas I’m frequently
self-deprecating on the course, both during idle teebox
chatter and during my pitiful short game, in golf attire I’m much more
On second thought, in honor
of Payne Stewart’s win at Pinehurst 15 years ago, I’m going to get me some tartan
plus fours. I’ve toyed with the idea for decades, and now is the time. But you
already know... whether I’ll actually wear them is a completely
separate—and extremely heart-wrenching—moral dilemma.
is principal of the brand, packaging and PR consultancy Romanik
Communications (www.romanik.com), located
in Elverson, PA. His full bio is here.