Fence sitting is easy; being a professional curmudgeon is hard
Friday, June 15, 2012 By Ron Romanik
However much I pretend to have strong opinions
about everything that exists in this world, I’m actually on the fence about
many controversial topics. Fence sitting can be both a privileged vantage point
and a frustrating never-never land.
I know it’s not fashionable to write an
evenhanded blog post that, by convention, is expected to be opinionated
tomfoolery, but sometimes being a well-respected curmudgeon takes more effort,
talent and practice than most of us have the time for. Curmudgeonry among
family and friends can be fun, for sure, but I’m willing to admit that I’m not
ready just yet to turn pro in that field.
So here’s a few things that I am resigned to
just scratch my head over while I enjoy the view from my perch on the fence ...
Wide White Belts – If you
gave up golf in 1983 and just turned on the TV this season, you’d be
experiencing time warp whiplash. It’s just comforting to know the rest of the
fashion world is not following close behind golf fashion "innovators." I just
worry... Are Sansabelt slacks too far behind?
Tour Players Always Asking for Rulings During Play – One on hand, you want shout at the screen: "Read the Friggin’ Rules
Book!" On the other, you understand the crazy amounts of money each stroke can
represent at tournament’s close. What really might be at work is the fear of a
player returning home to a nagging wife: "Why didn’t you get a ruling?" Which
is frightening similar to: "Why didn’t you ask for directions?"
Westwood Will Never Win a Major – So what. Neither will 99.999999% of all golfers. He’s a fine
player. Leave Lee alone!
Tiger Is Back – Yes and no.
During every slump, short or long, when sports fans asked me if he’ll be back,
I unequivocally responded: "He’ll be back. It’s folly to underestimate him." Will
he ever dominate again like he did in 2000? That’s unlikely, but 6/1 to win
this week seems about right. I’d take 2/1 for winning a major this year.
Rory Is a Choker – Well...
maybe... sometimes... I guess.
Tee Markers Shaped Like Mini FedEx Trucks – On second thought, not on the fence with this one. That’s just
Golf in HD – Rapid
zoom-ins and zoom-outs can give you vertigo and make you fall off the couch.
But super-slow motion sequences of a seven-iron slicing through thick rough can
be pretty cool. The question is: Is it worth the ability to see every blade of
grass between the ball and the lip of the cup if you have to also tolerate
seeing every follicle in Rickie Fowler’s disturbing mustache? Most of the time,
Golfers as Athletes – Not
all of them are, of course, but when you see Dustin Johnson perform an
unassisted one-leg squat, it’s difficult not to be impressed.
Golf Channel Without the "The" –
Ah, the good old days.
Trying to Make Golf on TV More Rock and Roll – This is especially annoying during the "Round Recaps," when an
unidentifiable, repeating loop of a bass-heavy beat pounds your brain into
quick-onset apoplexy. Of course, we all miss the smooth jazz of Barry White’s version of
"Love’s Theme" that was the defining ABC golf leaderboard music for
Ron Romanik is principal of the brand and PR consultancy
Romanik Communications (www.romanik.com).
His full bio is here.
Enough is enough: Another reason longer is not better
Monday, June 11, 2012 By Ron Romanik
There are many reasons why the still-increasing
distance that the ball flies is a detriment to the game. Of course, it's a
combination of technological advances in both clubs and balls, but it really
must be stopped--and reversed.
I don't have space to list all the reasons
here, but here's a few:
ball flight encourages building of longer courses
courses = longer time to play rounds
time = more expensive golf and less golfers
courses = unwalkable courses
--Longer ball flight means longer time looking
for lost balls = longer rounds
But I'm tired of stating the obvious. One thing
that is less obvious for the health and growth of the game is the role of the
spectator—namely, the TV spectator. The touring pros no longer play
remotely the same game as the rest of us. And I think that hurts TV ratings.
When did a 480-yard hole become a driver-short iron? And that's not just for
the longest hitters.
I'm not totally ignorant. I know the face angle
of the irons that pros play has been creeping steeper and steeper over the
years. But still, there's a huge disconnect between how pro players play the
game and the rest of us.
Part of the reason is that the technological
advances made a bigger difference in length for higher swing speeds and club
speeds. These guys can FLY it 350 yards.
And then there's a trick that the PGA Tour has
been using more and more to rein in the distance problem. Many Tour courses
water the landing area of drives so that they bite and have, often, almost no
Recently, I saw Rory McIlroy
get so annoyed at the soft landing area that he attempted a short cut over
mammoth trees and a fairway bunker that was 310 to clear. It was the 16that the Quail Hollow Golf Club 16th hole,
and he cleared the bunker by 20 yards, and it ran out to 380 yards, 103 yards
to the hole, and a sand wedge. To illustrate my point, he proceeded to
three-putt from 20 feet.
At Memorial, Tiger hit 9-iron every day at the
16th. The hole is a little downhill, yes, but it's still 180-190 yards.
As a contrast, professional tennis is an
excellent TV spectator sport because of the character of the game, the
limitations of TV, and the lack of measurable comparisons. For many amateur
tennis players, the game looks and feels very similar on TV to the game they
play with their friends at the club. (Truth be told, in person, the pros hit
the ball at lightning speed.)
And finally, for the touring PGA pros, the
crazy long distances balls are flying makes more older, classic courses
obsolete each year. I can't imagine how tricked out Merion Golf Club is going
to have to be for the 2013 U.S. Open to compensate for its lack of length. I
wish there was a way I could bet on "Most Three-Putts in a Major, Ever."
Get Vegas on the line.
Ron Romanik is principal of the brand and PR
consultancy Romanik Communications (www.romanik.com).
His full bio is here.
Crazy luck: A true story of last chance skins game
Wednesday, May 23, 2012 By Ron Romanik
My craziest golf story is the day I won a
fistful of cash when I barely played well enough not to embarrass myself. But
sometimes one shot is all you need.
Every October in Lancaster County, Hawk Valley GC
and Foxchase GC coordinated a weekend of four rounds of better-ball, flighted
competition. Both courses were filled to near capacity (Hawk Valley on
Saturday; Foxchase on Sunday).
I've only played in the Hawk Valley event,
which was exceptionally well run, but I imagine the Foxchase event was
similarly structured. For instance, the flighting was done in such a way that
sandbagging was almost completely taken out of the equation. Of course, often
in these events, a skins pool is a habitual side bit of fun that you don’t give
much thought to. At $10 for each round, with over 100 golfers participating,
however, the potential upside was pretty high on this one.
Anyway, my partner and I were not particularly
"on" in any fashion the day in question. I can't remember if we made
any birdies in the morning round, but we were definitely floundering in the
afternoon round, partly because of the steady breeze that had picked up. We
rarely had a putt for birdie.
Convinced we were out of contention for any of
the paid spots in our flight, I dropped all pretenses and joked repeatedly to
my partner as we were nearing the end of our round: "Just go for
birdies." I thought it was funny; maybe my partner did as well. I'll never
know. Maybe he was smiling through his tears.
Our final hole for the shotgun event was Hawk
Valley's first hole. The subtle genius of the Hawk Valley layout, designed by
father-son team of William and David Gordon, is that the holes look benign from
the tee and fairway, but if you're not in the right position for the approach
shot, inexperience will goad you into an overly aggressive shot with
substantial risk. The Gordons also designed one of the all-time classic courses
in the region, the Grace Course at Saucon Valley CC.
The pin placement on the par 4, dogleg right
first hole that day was not characteristically subtle. The pin was cut very
close to the right front of the green, just over a deep bunker. I don't know if
I've ever seen that placement before or since. And as I mentioned earlier, a brisk
breeze had been stiffening all afternoon.
As I came close to my drive in the right side
of the fairway, I realized that the wind was quartering into me from the left
at the optimal angle to help an approach shot hold up against the steady breeze
and land softly just over the bunker. I thought for a moment: "This might
be a great skin hole with that pin placement."
I went for broke, with nothing to lose,
starting my fade shot a few feet left of the left edge of the green. The ball
rose higher than I expected, but started bending nicely, hung for a moment for
dramatic effect, then angled toward the left side of the bunker. I stuck it
right over the bunker. I had a ten-foot uphill putt for birdie and my only
chance of a skin for the day.
My partner didn't make it easy for me when he
confirmed my suspicion that a birdie on this hole would have a great chance for
a skin. I'm not the clutchest of putters, by any means, but I felt a growing
sensation that I was going to "will" this one into the hole. It was
an unusual feeling for me.
A ten-foot uphill, right-edge putt is not the
most difficult putt to execute, but I felt serious pressure that my and my
partner's suspicions were correct--a big skin might be at stake. The putt had
plenty speed to get there, entering the hole right-center. What a relief.
The waiting game at the scoreboard was fun, yet
excruciating. I didn't do the math before, but most of the 120 or so
participants drop $20 for skins -- $10 for the morning round and $10 for the
afternoon round. Each round had a pot of over $1,000. One by one the holes were
canceled with multiple birdies or eagles. Long story shortened abruptly -- I
won the whole $1,000-plus pot.
That's my craziest golf story -- and one of my
best shots in the heat of "competition," as it was. Now let me help you share
your amazing story by emailing a brief summary to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The question of whether long
putters should be banned or not is a curious case of when push eventually comes
to shove. The funny thing about it is that for the subject to warrant serious
debate, a long putter had to be involved in a Major victory.
I can understand this,
because history shows that many unrighteous acts can be ignored for a long time
just because they are marginalized by the majority. Even I believed that it
would be an abomination if someone won a Major with a long putter. But until
that happened, most could tolerate the growing presence of long putters as a
mere nuisance, but not an assault on the traditions of the game.
In fact, because it took so
long for a long putter to win a Major was a sort of justification for the
marginalization. As in: "A long putter can't help that much, or be a true
threat, if it doesn't hold up to the highest competitive demands of a Major
Well, now the cat's out of
the bag. With Keegan Bradley's win at the PGA Championship, Adam Scott's strong
resurgence, and Matt Kuchar's win at the Players
Championship, the topic is causing heated debates by the water cooler.
Buying a long putter has
crossed my mind, but I think now that will never happen. Even though I've never
been a good enough putter to even tell if I got the yips (yes, you can be an
awful putter and have the yips, I now believe), I have to say I don't think
I'll ever succumb to the temptation. My sporadically spasmodic back was a handy
excuse I had in my back pocket for when the day might come for me to give in,
but even that now seems morally expedient.
The reason for my renewed
resolve might be traced to Tiger's decision to be the front man for the issue that no one else really wanted to touch. As AP Golf
Writer Doug Ferguson reported in February, Tiger revealed that he had spoken
about the subject of banning long putters with the chief of the Royal &
Ancient over the past few years then spoke bluntly yet diplomatically about it
at Pebble Beach this past winter.
The argument isn't
necessarily one of "traditionalism," but rather a consistency in the
act of golfing that no part of the club be anchored to the golfer's torso in
any way. Maybe Ernie Els revealed the most telling
sentiment when he temporarily tested the long wand, one I'm sure shared by many
professionals and amateurs alike: "As long as it's legal, I'll keep
cheating like the rest of them." Conscience can be a useful guide
sometimes. If it feels like cheating, it probably is.
It's long past due to retire
a few of professional golf TV commentator cliches
that are annoyingly inaccurate: "This is a makeable chip."
Guess what, PGA pros think
they can make every chip and bunker shot.
"He's taking the pin out on
this chip. That means he thinks he can make it."
What this actually means is
that either: A) The pin might prevent the ball from entering the hole from the
angle of attack (caused by slope or wind); or, more often, B) There is little
risk of running the shot far by, therefore the added benefit of stopping a
fast-running shot by hitting the pin is not worth the possible negative of the
pin deflecting the ball out of the hole. So, the more accurate thing to say
would be: "He’s not worried about this chip getting away from him."
"This final twosome has
turned into match play."
No, match play is match
play. Stroke play is stroke play. They’re different.
"That was a misread."
If a TV announcer can tell
unequivocally when a player makes the perfect putting stroke, with putter blade
in the perfect position, at the intended tempo for the precise putt they are
trying to make, then they have Superman-like vision, mind-reading abilities,
and are wasting their enormous talents commenting on golf.
"What a courageous shot!"
Not at all. Wrong word.
There is no personal risk to body or soul when executing any golf shot. Well,
maybe if the player were trying to "play it as it lies" inside the open mouth
of an alligator.
"Never up, never in.
I'll let the legendary Bobby
Jones chime in on this one (tongue-in-cheek): "While it is true that most balls
that fall short of reaching the hole do not go in, it is certain that every
ball that rolls past does not."
Or, more directly: The only
thing you can say for sure about a putt that went past the hole is that it did notgo in.
I keep looking for something not to like about
Bubba Watson, but I can't find anything. It can be exhausting, so I think I'll
hang it up and get back to my day job.
But...I have to admit that I find it kind of
frustrating. There must be something
that gets under my skin. If you're really trying not to like someone, it's
usually not this hard. (I'm trying not out of spite, mind you, but for sport,
as a counterbalance to the excessive Bubba Love sweeping the nation.)
His overly casual, lanky gait. His humility.
The top button unnecessarily buttoned on his polo shirt. The pink driver. His
overuse of the word "awesome." These all could be potential deal-breakers.
But with Bubba, they all seem, well, sort of genuine. There really isn't much
pretense. What you see is what you get.
He wants to sign autographs. He want his fans
to like him. Is he trying too hard? He was born in an ungodly place named
Bagdad. Is he Muslim? Can he produce a long-form birth certificate? (Yes, there
is a town called Bagdad in Florida’s Panhandle.)
Then there's that big tuft of hair escaping his
golf hat. But it always looks exactly the same. Like Ricky Fowler, the casual
unkempt look needs to be meticulously maintained, so it seems. At least Bubba
is an order of magnitude more kempt than one other pro golf champion crowned on
that same Masters Sunday, first-time Nationwide
Tour winner Andres Gonzales.
On second thought, humility can be such a
turn-off. And that buttoned top button on the shirt is a little mock-formal.
And what kind of nickname is Bubba, anyway? (He's had it since birth, actually,
so it's hard to blame him for that one. Oh well. Struck out again.)
Okay, I found something not to like, seriously:
How dare he be that good -- and play a style of golf so uniquely and splendidly
his own -- without lessons! That's
the kind of thing a polite person would keep secret.
All kidding aside, Bubba is a guy that's just
plain hard not to like. And it's even harder to argue that the fresh attitude,
creative shot-making, and self-described "awesome" style are not a
welcome addition to a sport in need of more intriguing -- or at least more colorful
The graphic shows a
sampling of the outpouring of Bubba Love:
"Congrats. Fantastic creativity. Now how creative will the champions
dinner be next year?"
Bubba is a prolific Tweeter
(40,000 Tweets). Follow him: @BubbaWatson
Tiger advising the Masters Champion on what to serve at next yearís Champions dinner. Thatís ironic.
Play it as it lies!
Tuesday, April 24, 2012 By Ron Romanik
The golf community of
Philadelphia is probably one of the top five active and interactive golf
communities in the world. I’m excited to increase my participation here in
cooperation with my good friend Joe Logan. Not that it needs my help, but I
hope to add to the community’s health and well-being with frequent blog posts
about recent events, storied lore, and contentious debates.
The number of quality golf
courses in southeastern Pennsylvania is impressive, with a variety of
attractive options in any budget range. I was lucky enough to sample many of
them during my stint as Editor-in-Chief of Pennsylvania
Golfer. I try to see the best features in the courses I play, but I have a
particular fond spot in my heart for the Golden Age of Design—the 1920s
and 1930s. And if I had to pick one golf course designer that embodies the
finest realization of the game, I’d have to pick William Flynn.
Then there’s the community of
golfers itself. The GAP Team Matches, for instance, have no equal that I know
of, run by the Golf Association of Philadelphia. On three Sundays each April
and May, nearly 4,000 golfers are engaged in spirited interclub matches. And
there are also a plethora of public leagues, tours, and charity events.
In this Imperfect Lies Blog, I look forward to writing about a wide range
of topics, intending to be a mix of informative, thought-provoking, and
slightly irreverent discussions. I consider the greatest moment in sports
history—in any sport—was when Jack Nicklaus conceded the putt of
Tony Jacklin to end the Ryder Cup of 1969. I will revisit that moment in
history later this year in a blog post.
You can look forward to other
future column topics that will include "The $1,000 Skin on a $10 Stake,"
"Tips on How to Play Private Clubs for Free," "My Short-Lived, Semi-Official
Course Record," and a "Somewhere, Out There, Is a Golf Course" moment on the
northern shores of Ireland.
Just as a counter-position, I
consider the lowest moment in all of golf history the moment when Boo Weekley
decided to ride his driver like a horse. That was bad enough. Showing the world
that he was wearing white socks added insult to injury. I will not be
revisiting that moment in history ever again—here or anywhere else.
So, please feel free to tell
us your golf stories, heartfelt opinions, or pet peeves... I’m at email@example.com.