PARALYSIS BY ANALYSIS
Ron Romanik 
Wednesday morning’s random thoughts at Merion
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
By Ron Romanik

The excitement is building rapidly here at the Open. A lot of anticipation builds up over 32 years of waiting for a Philadelphia berth. Here are some random observations so far:

 

Whenever I think about the PGA Tour, I'm amazed that it is all at once a traveling circus, a shrine to corporate excess, and a worthy non-profit charity. USGA events are a little different, to the organization's credit, because it tries very hard to bring discussions back to golf and its traditions.

 

On a similar topic, the more I hear Mike Davis speak, the more impressed I become. He's a judicious director, an even-handed diplomat, and an eloquent spokesman for the game of golf. Though some of the setups he was involved in on previous Opens bordered on ridiculous. I think (hope!) he's learned his lessons, or there are going to be more than a few four-putts out here at Merion.

 

Merion members recount stories of players' putts on the 5th green ending up in the creek. Hopefully, that green won't be double-rolled for the championship.

 

USGA naming a pace of play campaign "While We're Young": Awesome, just awesome.

 

One tends to forget what impact sounds like when these pros hit it. Tiger's has a different sound, for sure, but even a moderately long player like Peter Hanson, whom I followed briefly, knocks the piss out of it. On an uphill 150-yard shot with a nine-iron on No. 15, Hanson's towering, and accurate, approach sounded like an explosion as a toupee-sized divot flew 10 yards.

 

Let's give the Sergio/Tiger spat a rest this week. Nothing new is going to materialize. Quit asking the questions. I'm talking specifically to you, GolfChannel, but many others are complicit.

 

Logistics here getting in and out of the course are surprisingly smooth so far. Hope that holds up for tomorrow. Best of luck getting here, but come you should. It might be another 32 years after this. Even with all the stands, ropes, and spectators, the East Course still shines through.  

 

It's fun to see even seasoned pros stop at the two plaques on the course (Jones on 11 and and Hogan on 18) to savor the moments and history of this place.

 

More thoughts this afternoon...

 


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Ron Romanik 
The art of Merion architecture
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
By Ron Romanik

 

As the idiom goes, one could easily teach a Masters Class in golf course architecture with only the East Course at Merion as source material. The course possesses a maddening array of holes, lines of attack, strategic decisions, and demanding-yet-enticing shot values. Playing Merion sometimes makes one feel as if they never hit the same shot twice.

 

While the rains continued to soak the East Course at Merion, the USGA held an intimate forum on Architecture and Merion, hosted by Jimmy Roberts. In attendance were Tom Fazio, Curtis Strange, John Capers, Rick Ill, and Mike Davis, executive director of the USGA.

 

Fazio pointed out that, objectively, the holes don’t fit modern-day expectations of how to mix the variety of par-threes, -fours and -fives or how to mix the lengths of each par set. Yet, in the playing, there is an immersive flow to the holes that feels both natural and conniving. "The scorecard doesn't look logical, but the course is so special and unique," Fazio explained.


Of course, much mentioned is the fact that the only two par-fives are in the first four holes. Beyond that, though, are the surprisingly difficult short par-fours, the canted fairways and greens most receptive to shaped shots, and the many mind games the course presents.

 

Mike Davis pointed out that on close examination, one could say without exaggeration that there are literally 18 different green complexes facing the player. Davis sets up a course for a championship by working backward from the green, estimating the range of possible approach shots that will be coming into that green, and from what directions.

 

"Unlike many U.S. Opens, players have options off the tee," Davis explains. On many major championship courses of 7,200+ yards, players can’t give up yardage by going with less than driver on most par-fours and -fives. That will be not be the case at Merion.

 

Davis maintains that the reason the U.S. Open didn’t return to Merion for 32 years had almost nothing to do with its length. "It's always been a short course relative the other championship courses of the time," he says. The logistics of 20,000+ fans on 125 acres, the modern-day corporate tent expectations, and the neighborhood disruption the tournament brings were the primary reasons. In fact, Ardmore neighbors along the 14th and 15th fairways literally sacrificed their front lawns for the tourney. (One assumes the USGA offered a fair price to restore the lawns after the tourney.)

 
Not that Merion hasn’t been lengthened, fairways narrowed, and fairways moved since its previous Open hosting in 1981. But the greens remain remarkably of the same character as they were, even further back, for the 1971 Open. The beguiling greens, of course, remain the course’s main defense against par.

 

But Fazio was looking forward to this week proving that the game’s preoccupation with length is unwarranted. "Seven days from now, we are going to have a different discussion about distance," Fazio boldly predicted.


Quick Predictions:

 

You’ll see more OB penalties than in any other major. The edges of some fairways are mere steps from OB. You’ll see more 5-irons off par-four tees than in any other major. Curtis Strange understands that mentality because Rule #1 is: "Use whatever keeps me in the fairway." You’ll see long knockers attack more short par-fours than any major, because of a carefully calculated risk-reward equation. And you will see more perplexed faces after misjudged chips and putts than ever before.

 

Nevertheless, someone will go low, for a winning score of double-digits under par.


Tiger Watch:

 

Tiger got in five holes on Monday, and looked (IMHO) in complete control of his game. Both long game and short game. A perfectly faded three-wood on the 16th literally dissected the fairway. On the seventeenth green, when is putter wasn’t quite doing the trick judging the dramatic rise of the false front, Tiger opted for low chips with an amazing amount of spin to clear the ridge and check up quickly. And out of deep greenside bunkers, his touch was equally deft. I’m tempted to change my mind about Tiger’s chances.

 

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

 


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the ghosts of merion[6/17/2013 4:43:19 PM]
Nice call on the winning score, lol.

Ron Romanik 
Ode to Merion
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
By Ron Romanik

Watching Golf Channel’s rebroadcast of the Sunday and Playoff rounds of the 1971 Open at Merion stirred memories of my first turn around Merion Golf Club, in my early 20s. It was other-worldly to me at the time, to say the least. I recall almost birdieing the 1st, and an heroic up-and-down from the deep bunker right of the 12th, but there were also some mighty struggles. But the poor golf could not come close to eclipsing the immersive, transformative experience that is Merion, a true Philadelphia treasure.

 

Ode to Merion

 

O eternal Merion, panoply of paradoxes,

Unearthed, and hewn, from spent farm and quarry,

Yet sacred as a cathedral, bestowing godless glory,

Aligning souls to Earth on misaligned tee boxes.

 

Sculpted by a neophyte, legends did engineer

A bricolage of holes ancient, modern, and mature.

The now-seasoned patina belies an honest nature,

Brutish yet cerebral, and unyieldingly severe.

 

O merciless Merion, singular in reason,

To cast dreams and realities in shadowy lights,

And separate what will be from the mights,

Purposely frustrating the charms of each season.

 

The grounds a perfection less tidy than raw,

In acreage, condensed; in imagination, immense,

Fierce in anticipation, expect no later recompense

From strokes suffered from flouting natural law.

 

O Merion the enigma, a silent juggernaut,

Seaside links ambiance with no sea to be found,

Shoehorned into town, yet a welcome neighbor,

Twisting through itself like a tight sailor’s knot.

 

Her mystique hangs in the air like a parched fog,

In discourse, no adjectives ever surround the name,

For she is definitive, resolute, a museum frame,

Art for art’s sake, or the manifesto of an ideologue.

 

O perplexing Merion, your lustre ever shines,

Of American links, a pure, august grande dame,

Approached only in earnest, demeanor calm,

To discover her wiles, rewards, and truest lines.

 

Hidden in plain sight, unassuming yet proud,

Obliging matriarch of the Philadelphia School,

A golf club frozen in a time, an idea sublime,

Preserving a game like-minded purists endowed.

 

Revered and feared equally in two breaths,

Her demands mount before one’s talents aspire,

Creek to quarry, where even the strongest spirits tire,

And the weaker brood over countless small deaths.

 

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

 


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The ad in question 
Cadillacs and Unwanted Macs
Friday, May 3, 2013
By Ron Romanik

It seems GM and Cadillac have thrown away a decade of advertising strategy aimed at a younger demo with one ill-timed—but telling—detail they inserted into a recent commercial for their XTS model. The slick commercial highlights the functionality of the tablet-like touch-screen dashboard controller, named "Q." It’s funny and sad at the same time.

 

In the middle of the ad (here on YouTube), which has been out for some months, the driver’s finger selects satellite radio, scrolls down past a number of sports channels and then selects—you guessed it—PGA Tour Radio (high-res version here). I’m sure this makes perfect sense to Madison Avenue executives, or junior executives, or somebody up there. I’d love to hear them explain their reasoning to me sometime.

 

Even if you listen to PGA Tour Radio, which I don’t, no one admits to listening to it. Not to their friends, spouse, priest, therapist, barber, or themself.

 

The moment in question flashes by in less than two seconds, but the comic effect is lasting. Ironically, if it were more subliminal, I posit, the product placement might have been more effective in connecting Cadillac to PGA Tour watchers. I only hope the PGA Tour didn’t win (or lose?) a bidding war for the placement opportunity.

 

Lighten up, Nick

 

I hope my faux-curmudgeonliness on this website comes off as faux. If it doesn’t, I apologize. I wish to make light of the inconsistent attitudes about golf while simultaneously defending real traditions passionately, and vice versa.

 

The thing is, there are many easy solutions to golf’s problems, both in playing and in observing, but individuals’ interpretation of "tradition" gets in the way too frequently. Nevertheless, I hope my deference to humor doesn’t fade in inverse proportional to my age, as seems to happen for many.

 

Which brings us to one proper Sir Nick Faldo, who had an axe to grind with one less-than-proper, less-than-sir Bubba Watson. Golf Digest’s John Strege said Faldo "had fun" with Bubba’s Masters Champions Dinner menu choices, first with a tweet and then with some on-air ribbing.

 

The tweet: "@bubbawatson you had a year to decide on, grilled chicken, mashed potatoes, corn, macaroni & cheese!!! #HappyMeal #PlayLikeaChampion"

On air: "I was a little stunned that we didn't get a coloring book with the menu, as well. We had chicken, we had mashed potatoes, corn, and mac and cheese. And my daughter Emma was gutted that she wasn't there, my nine-year old."

 

When I heard the on-air comment live (without knowledge of the tweet), I didn’t take as just lighthearted ribbing. And neither did my wife. We looked at each other and said: "That was a little weird." It may have been the way the Knighted One said "mac and cheese" with such disdain. As if it wasn’t even food!

 

Because I was in disbelief that Sir Nick would veer off into personal attacks on the air, I even double-checked that it was Sir Nick who said it by consulting his Wikipedia page and confirming that he had a daughter named Emma. There was a definite edge to his comment—one of serious disapproval, or offense. I’d never known the man to be mean-spirited. Why start now? ...over something so petty?

 

And, to my defense, I wouldn’t have mentioned it here if Sir Nick hadn’t brought it up yet again this past weekend at Harbour Town, repeating the same sentiment. How disappointed he must have been! He was still brooding over it 10 days later! For all I know, he’s grumbling about it again to his bartender in New Orleans this week: "Can you believe it?! ...Mac and cheese!!

 

And, speaking of old curmudgeons, do Australian newspapers call Greg Norman every day to get his opinion of every... single... topic? Or, maybe... does he call the newspapers? His twitter account is entertaining, I’ll admit (@SharkGregNorman). He called the Boston bombers "pernicious pusillanimous bastards."

 

For your viewing pleasure, a reference infographic:

Masters Champions Dinner Menus since 1992 – with calorie counts, no less!

BTW, Sir Nick in 1997 (before he was a Sir) served fish and chips and tomato soup.

Pre 1992...

1991: Nick chose steak and kidney pie.

1990: Nick chose... wait for it... shepherd's pie.

And, the kicker...

1989: Sandy Lyle chose haggis with neeps and taddies (I don’t want to know).

 

Twitter: Follow me @RonMyPhillyGolf. Looking forward to updating followers frequently at the #usopen at #merion.

 

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

 

 

 


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Ron Romanik 
The new rule Tiger really needs
Thursday, April 18, 2013
By Ron Romanik

All this Masters talk about Tiger’s illegal drop was about the wrong rule change. I propose a new rule: The expansion of the "interference" clause of Rule 435-3.3.6e.t (decision 242-6, sub 4.2). Don’t look for it in your copy of the rules. It’s not there.

 

Yet I ask: Why should Tiger be penalized for being too good, too accurate? The flag and the pin are the problem!

 

Of course, at Augusta National, it’s advisable to aim away from the pins more than on any other golf course on the planet. But that’s a divergent point to the thesis here.

 

In many other sports, "interference" by an unnatural force is often remedied with a "do-over." A piece of trash whipped by the wind interrupts a pitcher’s move to the plate, a power outage occurs right before the snap of the football, a loud noise distracts tennis players during a point. The referees in all of these situations might call "time," and give the players the option of a do-over, or even mandate a do-over, for fairness.

 

Let’s be honest, the flag and pin are unnatural elements of a game that promises a communal return to carefully cultivated nature. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that any good fortune be removed along with the bad fortune of hitting a pin. Let’s just be grateful for the occasional good luck while we eliminate an extremely rare, but potentially devastating negative influence, on the competition. If you hit the pin, you get the option of a do-over. It’s your choice.

 

Believe me, I am under no delusion that this rule would make it very far with the R&A or USGA.

 

Let’s try another tack

 

An even better solution doesn’t require a rules change, only a change in tournament policy, if you’ll stay with me. It’s still debatable, I’ll remind you, whether it’s best to leave the pin in on a chip around the green. To me, it’s not whether you think you can make it when you take out the pin. It’s more that you feel the shot will be under control and you won’t need help from an off-chance, runaway "backstop."

 

Nevertheless, over the years, some have argued that there is a reason Ben Hogan didn’t have as many holes-in-one or eagles from the fairway. He wasn’t aiming at the hole. The argument is that he was so accurate that he was actually hitting the ball to a spot where he would have the easiest putt for birdie. On average, that would usually be an uphill or flat putt, short or to one side of the pin. Ben even admitted that on one hole at a U.S. Open, he purposely left the ball short of the green so that he’d have an uphill approach putt/chip.

 

Similarly, there have been reports that sometimes Steve Williams was purposely deceptive with Tiger. Steve claims he "adjusted" the yardages to pins in order to give Tiger the best chance to get it close. Even at the height of his powers, Tiger’s marginal lack of distance control led him to over-shoot a few pins. Who knows, Williams might have even reduced the yardage on a short-iron approach so that Tiger would have less chance to hit the pin and get into trouble on the ricochet.

 

There’s another story I recall from the inter-webs some years ago that backs this up, but I can’t seem to locate it today for the life of me. (Please, if anyone can find it, email me at ron@romanik.com, and I’ll insert the link into this article.)

 

The story went something like this (details sketchy): Tiger’s warm-up session at the 2005 Open Championship at St. Andrews was particularly sharp for the final round. Steve Williams even thought of mentioning it as a potential liability on the course, as he watched Tiger target, and hit, the second "0" on the 100-yard marker repeatedly. When Tiger did, in fact, hit a pin on the outward nine and suffered a frustrating ricochet, Steve mentioned his pre-round thoughts. Tiger (understandably?) was a little peeved at Steve.

 

An easy way out

 

The best solution then, I posit here, is for Tiger to have his caddie run up ahead to the green and remove the pin on all shots inside 100 yards. But would that be enough? Or maybe 150 yards. Or maybe 200 yards. Or... oh, never mind.

 

In the interest of time, I don’t see why a dedicated marshal at each green couldn’t be the "designated pin remover," signaled with a hand or arm signal from the fairway when any player (not just Tiger) wants to play his shot ricochet-risk-free. Problem solved!

           

Sad to say, this propensity for pin ricochets is yet another reason that the U.S. Open at Merion GC will be an especially hard place for Tiger to win. I’ve already explained Tiger’s difficulty with par-70 courses. But the pin thing may be even a bigger obstacle to overcome. Not only might the wicker-basket-topped pins at Merion prove to be a ricochet obstacle, but the pins themselves are also thicker, more rigid poles than common pins. Not only will they be easier to hit for Tiger, the ricochets will be much more pronounced. Or maybe by then he’ll decide to aim away from pins the way Hogan did, or take a few yards off the number like he did on his second approach to No. 15 at Augusta.

 

Twitter: Follow me @RonMyPhillyGolf. Looking forward to updating followers frequently at the #usopen at #merion.

 

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

 


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Ron Romanik 
Wall Street Journal claims golf didn’t miss Tiger. Wha?
Thursday, April 11, 2013
By Ron Romanik

I read an odd article in the Wall Street Journal this week. Well, that statement in itself is not a shocker. Maybe I should say... a humorous article, instead. Unintentionally humorous, and those are the best kind.

 

What was surprising was that it was about the business end of the PGA Tour, and the headline was: "Tiger Woods Is No. 1 Again, But Golf Hardly Missed Him."

 

It seems the writer, one Matthew Futterman, was given the task of arguing that the PGA Tour did quite well, thank you, while Tiger recovered from injuries physical, emotional, spiritual, etc., etc. Ratings have been rising, revenue has been rising, all without Tiger. That’s interesting, but funny as well.

 

And, furthermore, you might want to know, the reason the PGA Tour did so well without Tiger was the confluence of the sage wisdom of PGA Tour senior executives, the savvy of the Austin-based GSD&M advertising firm, and the luck of having the right bright new stars win at the right time. Huzzahs all around!

 

There are so many points patently off-mark in this article that I won’t bore you with all of them here. The funniest part of the article, though, is that the writer uses stats, facts, and charts that make one argument quite compellingly—that would be the opposite argument.

 

And this might make you chuckle: "Defying predictions, the post-Tiger collapse never happened..." You might even belly laugh when you notice that the chart they provide shows average CBS final round viewership went down over 30% from 2009 to 2010, when Tiger was pretty much out of commission.

 

Okay, so there wasn’t a revenue "collapse," per se, but total revenue growth was almost flat from 2007 through 2010 after a nearly 10% increase from 2006 to 2007. But who can say what the growth might have been in an alternate universe?

 

In addition, the writer seems to be under the impression that Tiger just came back to competitive form a few weeks ago at Bay Hill. The article remarks at how final round viewing was up pretty dramatically in 2012 over 2011. News flash: Last year Tiger had nine top tens and three wins, and two of the wins were on CBS, whose data they reference.

 

The recovery from the down year of 2010 could, in fact, be just as easily traced to the gradual reemergence of Tiger on weekends. But the article posits that an ad campaign begun in 2010 called "Vs." saved the tour with stars-to-be Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, and Dustin Johnson. And, somehow, Keegan Bradley’s PGA Championship win in 2011 was pivotal.

 

"Golf had found a new story to tell," the article goes on, "and with the economy recovering, sponsors and television partners were ready to listen." It was a nice story, amusing even, but one ready for its own collapse had not Tiger reemerged.

 

And to finish off on a completely self-contradictory note, the writer first claims that Tiger probably isn’t making as much money these days (which is sad, what with those lost sponsors and all), but then closes with a quote from Woods’ agent saying he is getting a lot more endorsement calls these days. Stick to one storyline, please!

 

Ah, the media... trying to create angles that just aren’t there using numbers quite selectively. In my snooping around on the inter-webs, I found another funny claim, this one made in the June 9, 2011, issue of The Economist, in an article entitled "Beyond Tiger."

 

The article claimed the Tour was "thriving" in 2011 without Tiger because (prepare yourself!) "The average prize money for a PGA Tour event nearly doubled between 2000 and 2010, from $3.3m to $6m." Haha, as they say mockingly in the texts these days. Now, I wonder, what was responsible for that increase?

 

Twitter: Follow me @RonMyPhillyGolf. Looking forward to updating followers frequently at the #usopen at #merion and sharing incredibly insightful (?) comments tuning into the #Masters.

 

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


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Ron Romanik 
Tiger’s problem at Merion
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
By Ron Romanik

 

I’m not the first to point this out, but it bears repeating. Tiger’s advantage over mere mortals is lessened on par-70 golf courses, especially in the majors. This is why I don’t predict a win for Tiger this June at Merion.

 

Let it be duly noted: This is the first time I’ve ever underestimated Tiger’s ability in any realm, situation or scenario. It will probably be the last. Not because he’ll win, but because once-in-a-lifetime is all the risk I can take betting against Tiger.

 

Nevertheless, the facts back up the argument. Tiger’s biggest separation from the field comes from medium to long par-fives. Eliminate two of those par-fives, and you’ve taken away some of his advantage.

 

More accurately, it’s the number of par-fives, not the total par for the course, that makes the difference. It’s a fine distinction that is often moot, because most par-70 courses have four par-threes and two par-fives; par-71s usually have three par-fives; and par-72s usually have four par-fives. There are, of course, anomalies. The Carnoustie Golf Links, for instance, has three par-threes and only two par-fives to make 71—for the Open Championships, at least.

 

Ken Venturi may have said it best a few years back: "If every course was made up of 18 par-fives of 580 yards, Tiger would win every tournament."

 

Of course, that advantage has been on the decline, on average. But when Tiger has his "A game," there’s no denying his dominance of the par-fives. According to the Golf Channel, from 1997 to 2003, Tiger led every year in the birdie-or-better percentage on par-fives. In 2000, he shot birdie or better on 62% of the par-fives he played. He’s now averaging about 50% in that stat.

 

Length with accuracy is surely the primary factor, but so is Tiger’s exceptional short game. Even at 600-yards or over, Tiger can get it on the green or close, and then his short game takes over.

 

Remember how pivotal the par-five 12th at Doral was in the overly ballyhooed Tiger/Phil duel in 2005? Tiger was consistently around the green through the week, and on Sunday, Tiger was the only player in the field to hit the green on the 603-yard hole. With a 295-yard 3-wood to the back of the green. And he made an easy birdie. Easy from that point!

 

The best way to neutralize Tiger, truth be told, would be a course setup that would force Tiger to hit approach clubs similar to the field into all the greens. He would still have a statistical advantage, but players with hot putters would be more of a threat.

 

In the hypothetical, and in the logical opposite to Venturi’s hypothesis, that would mean 18 holes of 150-yard par-threes. In more practical reality, a Tiger-neutralizing setup should have only two par-fives of medium length, four short- to medium-length par-threes, and as many sharp doglegged par-fours as possible, as long as there is no way to cut off the corner.

 

The most effective Tiger-proofing to date was probably The Open Championship at Carnoustie in 2007. The setup "pinched in" the rough on fairways at the landing area of the longer hitters. This made using driver a poor risk/reward equation for them on those holes, and they often chose 3-woods—and less—even on long par fours.

 

Plus Carnoustie, as mentioned, had only two par-fives in its par of 71. Tiger finished five shots back, in a tie for 12th, even though he was 50% on birdie-or-better on the eight par-fives that week—and five-under with three birdies and an eagle.

 

More evidence of the par-72 advantage is the courses where Tiger has won seven times. Yes, they’re all 72s—Firestone, Doral, Bay Hill, and Torrey Pines. (For those about to object: Yes, Torrey Pines North and South both play to par 72 when it’s not a U.S. Open venue.)

 

Which brings us to Bay Hill. Through the first six par-fives in rounds No.1 and No. 2, he was 7-under. He was back on his rate of 67 percent on par-five birdie-or-betters. After a poor par-five performance the Friday back nine, he closed out the tournament by going eight-under on the eight weekend par-fives. Nothing to it. For 2013, he’s at 64.3 percent on birdie or better on par-fives.

 

But it’s okay if he doesn’t win at Merion. He’ll have his fifth green jacket from the par-72 Augusta National Golf Club by then. Bet on it.

 

Twitter: Follow me @RonMyPhillyGolf. Looking forward to updating followers frequently at the #usopen at #merion.

 

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

 

 

 


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