PARALYSIS BY ANALYSIS
Ron Romanik 
In defense of Steve Williams
Friday, August 10, 2012
By Ron Romanik

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 later).

 

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 kill.

 

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 he doesn’t.

 

Ron Romanik is principal of the brand and PR consultancy Romanik Communications (www.romanik.com), located in Elverson, PA. His full bio is here.

 

 


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Ron Romanik 
Feherty just keeps getting better
Monday, July 2, 2012
By Ron Romanik

Golf Channel’s Feherty 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 wrong).

 

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.

 


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Ron Romanik 
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?

 

White Pants – They’re nice once in a while, but this trend may be reaching a saturation point. Of course, maybe everyone is trying to emulate Jack Nicklaus at the height of his fashion sense.

 

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 plain tacky.

 

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, yes.

 

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 decades.

 

Ron Romanik is principal of the brand and PR consultancy Romanik Communications (www.romanik.com). His full bio is here.


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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:

-- Longer ball flight encourages building of longer courses

-- Longer courses = longer time to play rounds

-- Longer time = more expensive golf and less golfers

-- Longer 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 roll.

 

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 16th  at 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.


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Ron Romanik 
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 ron@romanik.com.

 

Ron Romanik is principal of the PR and brand consultancy Romanik Communications. His full bio is here.


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Ron Romanik 
Long putters: The long and the short of it
Monday, May 14, 2012
By Ron Romanik

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 win."

 

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.

 

Ron Romanik is principal of the PR and brand consultancy Romanik Communications. His full bio is here.


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Ron Romanik 
Cliches that need to be retired from golf
Monday, May 7, 2012
By Ron Romanik

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 not go in.

BONUS: A discussion of philosophical approaches to putting at puttingzone.com.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Last month, Brian Gay’s caddie poked at an alligator during the RBC Heritage – with a sand trap rake!

 

Ron Romanik is principal of the PR and brand consultancy Romanik Communications. His full bio is here.

 


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