Somebody’s got to do it. Not that Steve needs
my help; he’s doing all right by himself.
It’s been a full year since Steve helped Adam
Scott win at Firestone CC in the 2011 WGC event there. Okay, so Steve
overstepped his bounds there, and once or twice elsewhere, when his mouth got
ahead of his brain. But he had a legitimate reason to be angry (more on that
I just find it funny that so many of the same
people that admire the strong drive of competitors who reach the pinnacle of
their profession turn so quickly on those same competitors when they reveal how
truly competitive they are.
There are very few competitors that achieve
dominance of a sport without a little arrogance. Even Jack Nicklaus was
presumptuous enough to speak as the second-highest authority on golf (next to
God or Bobby Jones, depending on your religious beliefs). And I couldn’t fault
him for that.
The point is that you have to accept the bad
with the good. Taking it further, one could argue that many competitors would
not achieve as highly as they have without the belief that they’re better than
everyone else. Especially in golf, where you have to believe you can pull off a
shot before you can actually perform it. Sometimes, confidence is everything.
And stop yourself if you’re inclined to say,
"Steve Williams is just a caddie." Some caddies on tour are just caddies, but
Steve is about as highly involved in the decisions made with the pro he’s
caddying for as any other caddie out there. And, at the PGA Tour level of
competition, there’s such a fine line between a great shot and disaster that
club selection and course management are critical. And finally, the caddie’s
most important job may be making his pro stay focused and feel confident in the
club and shot selection that has been decided on.
So, Steve Williams is the ideal caddie and as
competitive as they come. He chose his profession at a young age (13-years-old)
and never looked back. He’s also an accomplished racecar driver, a Member of the
New Zealand Order of Merit and a charitable man to boot $1 million New
Zealand dollars, or about$807,000
U.S., to a youth golf program.).
When he says "I’m a good frontrunner," as he did
after celebrating Adam Scott’s win in the WGC Bridgestone last year, he was
merely expressing his competitiveness, as if he has part ownership of his pros’
wins and losses. I would think that would be a valuable trait.
How much did he contribute to Tiger’s wins in
his prime? That’s immeasurable, as in not measurable. Just remember that Steve
has had more wins without Tiger than with Tiger. There’s no way to know how
many majors Tiger would have won without Steve. I surmise that, in my mind,
this much is indisputable: fewer.
In defense of Steve being angry at Tiger after
being "let go," a review
of the tape might make you rethink your knee-jerk reaction to what was
reported. If you follow Steve’s argument, he waited patiently after the Tiger
scandal passed over and after recoveries from injuries. He was loyal. That
loyalty was not returned. Not because he was sacked at all, but because of the
timing. If Tiger had any inkling that he might let Steve go anywhere in that
18-month period, he suggests, he should have been courteous to Steve to let him
go earlier so he could get on with his own life. A valid point, I grant.
Steve could be the best caddie ever, and he
goes above and beyond the call of duty. He famously protects his players and
fends off distractions, once grabbing a $7,000 camera and tossing it into a
lake. I don’t know which would be harder, defending Tiger from dangerous,
trigger-happy photographers or defending Adam from the dangerous,
skirt-flirting gold-diggers that Adam seem to attract like vultures to road
So, I don’t blame Steve Williams either for
fleeing right after the 2012 British Open concluded, after Adam Scott’s epic
collapse. Being a true competitor, he felt partly responsible for the
loss—maybe even wholly responsible. Right or wrong, that’s how
hyper-competitive individuals feel. The worst "decision" he was a part of was
the club selection at 18, where Adam hit a 3-wood into a fairway bunker. But he
probably felt more responsible for not getting Adam’s head in the right place
for his approaches to 15, 16 and 17, which appeared hurried to many observers.
Talking to the media after that collapse would
be a no-win situation. Well, pretty much any more contact between Steve and the
media is a no-win situation. He’s damned if he takes any credit, and damned if
Ron Romanik is principal of the brand
and PR consultancy Romanik Communications (www.romanik.com),
located in Elverson, PA. His full bio is here.
show just keeps getting better and better. If you can forgive David Feherty for putting himself too
much into a show that’s supposed to be an interview format, there’s not too
much to dislike. Well, the hokey "Yoo-Hoo" theme song might stick in your head
into the next day, which can certainly be annoying.
Feherty is just one more argument in
favor of the claim that the Irish make great storytellers. Aside from his
commentary on TV golf broadcasts, he is also a writer. He has four bestselling
books and has been a regular contributor to Golf Magazine for many years. He deftly walks the tight wire fine
line between embellishment and truth. And he’s just plain funny. Whereas Gary McCord often tries too hard to
create mini-controversies, Feherty’s
observations are self-contained and pithy.
What makes Feherty
especially endearing is that he competed at, or near, the highest professional
level, so he knows of where he treads. He is also one of the most honest and
forthright commentators on TV. For instance, some years ago, he shared one of
the most telling assessments of Tiger’s
greatness: "Of the ten best golf shots I ever witnessed, eight of them were Tiger’s."
It is a shame when Feherty crosses a line of tactfulness, as he did with Ernie
Els recently during the introductions at the Tavistock Cup. However, his
apology appeared in the same Golf
Magazine article: "I gave everybody a hard time at the Tavistock Cup, and I did it in proportion to how much affection I
have for the person. If that backfired with Ernie, I unreservedly apologize, because I love the guy."
Two typically revealing Feherty segments came in the recent Roger Maltbie episode. Maltbie
recalls Jack Nicklaus’s philosophy about
winning tournaments and majors as: "I only wanted to win by one." He tells a
great anecdote about Nicklaus at the
1975 PGA Championship at Firestone CC (but gets one forgivable detail
After two rounds at Firestone, Bruce Crampton
was 6-under and, Maltbie thought,
capable of running away from the field. (Maltbie
recalled erroneously that it was Philly native Ed Dougherty, who was actually only at 1-under.) Maltbie asks Jack if he is worried that, at 2-under, he might be letting the
tournament slip away. Jack says: "It
doesn’t matter, 5-under will win it." Jack
finishes 4-under and wins by two over Crampton.
The other anecdote is by Feherty himself. He recalls the 1991 Ryder Cup "War at the Shore." In my humble opinion, this was the
moment the Ryder Cup became too
little about the golf and too much about rowdy fans. As Bernard Langer was lining up the now infamous five-foot putt to tie
up the score and retain the trophy for Europe, Feherty conferred with longtime PGA photographer Lawrence Levy, who quipped: "The last
German under this kind of pressure shot himself in a bunker."
Ron Romanik is principal of the brand and
PR consultancy Romanik Communications (www.romanik.com).
His full bio is here.
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 email@example.com.
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.