PARALYSIS BY ANALYSIS
Ron Romanik 
Giving thanks all around
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
By Ron Romanik

Tis the season, so they say. So let’s be thankful for the moments of good times with friends and family and the good golf we’ve had this year. If we can remember any good golf, that is.

 

We should be thankful for the ability to be thankful. As it turns out, gratitude may cause happiness more than vice versa. (See the "Steindl-Rast" video below.)

Bah humbug, you say? Don’t knock it until you try it. The causes and effects of things are frequently mixed up by this linear, narrative English language we are willfully constrained by.

 

I am grateful that I can still knock a drive out there about 270, and I’m grateful that my handicap is not higher than an 8. The relatively low handicap is more a factor of the few rounds I got in this year than anything else, as a toddler has invaded my life, for which I’m most grateful.

 

I, for one, am also grateful that there was no Skins Game this past weekend. I found that exercise to be tiresome, as the players always seemed to be trying too hard to joke around. It was inauthentic, for lack of a better word.

 

A more interesting event might be an old-school "One-Club Challenge," such as was staged in 1984 at the Old Course at St. Andrews. The YouTube highlights show Trevino and Ballesteros at their creative best, working their way around the links with only a five-iron in hand (they all chose the same club). They teamed up to trounce the team of Nick Faldo and Isao Aoki for "The Epson Trophy." Good luck staging an event like that today. It’s my guess that there would be few players that would risk embarrassing themselves with poor-looking shots.

 

As you might expect, Ballesteros was impressive. Many will recall that Seve started playing the game as a youth with only a three-iron, knocking rocks around his back yard. Though Seve’s deft touch around the greens was impressive, so were his rope-hook drives that rolled out well past his fellow competitors. As YouTube user "stevepising" says: "If the game was only played with one club, Seve would have won 50 majors." Another commenter suggested, in detached objectivity, that 14 clubs did seem like an awful lot of tools for the game at hand. It’s hard to argue against the fact that fewer clubs would require greater skill and imagination, which are the true joys of the game.

 

I, for one, am grateful for the Internet in all its aggravating glory, including both the polite comments and the not-so-polite. You have to be grateful for the good and the bad. In fact, it’s possible you wouldn’t know pleasure unless you’re reminded what pain is from time to time.

 

Golf will happily supply that pain whenever you have the time. Pain and pleasure are relative to each other, as are varying levels of each. A wedge shot that stops more than 10 feet from the flag brings a certain kind of pain to Tiger, so when he goes really bad, it must feel like a dagger twisting into his heart. If you dare, empathize with his pain in this video that compiles the Top 10 of Tiger pain—and be thankful you’re not him.

 

But the best reason to be thankful of the Internet is that thousands of YouTubing apes will eventually, someday, ferret out the Hogan Secret that Ben never revealed. And I think we’re finally getting close. (More on that in a future post.)

 

Or, maybe the secret to the correct swing tempo could be honed by watching and imitating this mesmerizing GIF. (Wait until the GIF loads completely to see the full swing at the end.)

 

I am also grateful for the Internet because it gives us a personality like Leonard Nimoy in surprising candor. The best part about the former Mr. Spock is that he ends all his online posts with "LLAP." If you don’t know what that stands for, ask the nearest person to you—or, better yet, go to www.shopllap.com.

 

On November 14th, Leonard tweeted @TheRealNimoy: "I’m a happy guy. I want what I have. LLAP." He also appreciates inspirational, philosophical poetry that encourages a similar grateful outlook on life. This video features Mr. Nimoy reading "Desiderata" by Max Ehrmann.

 

In a TED Talk by David Steindl-Rast titled Want to be happy? Be grateful., the Benedictine monk endorses "the gentle power" of gratefulness, encouraging everyone to seek out opportunities for gratefulness in the mundane events of every day and to "Stop...Look...Go."

 

And finally, a "Philadelphia Boy," if you will, released a fascinating book this year called Give and Take. Adam Grant is a young tenured professor at Philadelphia’s Wharton School at Penn (my alma mater). His premise is that in professional interactions, most people are either "givers," "matchers," or "takers." One surprising finding that he elaborates on in the book is the fate of givers in the business world. Although some "givers" get taken advantage of and burn out, many become extraordinary successes in a variety of industries.

 

So, this holiday season... maybe we’d all be a little better off if we expected a little less, gave a little more, and were a little more grateful for what we have.

 

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

 


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Ron Romanik 
Come on, while we’re young
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
By Ron Romanik

There’s really no question that the biggest issue in today’s golf industry is slow play. It just takes too much time out of any day. Even sneaking out for nine holes often feels like a chore.

 

And the most frustrating part about the current situation is that it is caused to a good degree by player attitudes that are just plain wrong. One such attitude is that taking more time over a shot will lead to a better result. In fact, the opposite is more likely true.

 

The more time you spend thinking about or standing over a shot, the more likely you'll hit a bad shot. And it’s not even "paralysis from analysis." It’s more a matter of tension in the muscles. Keeping muscles moving and keeping your mind distracted prevent unnecessary tensions in full swings as well as putts.

 

Exacerbating this behavior is the obsession with score. In Great Britain and Ireland, there’s less of this obsession, and play moves nicely along. A common match format is four ball, or better ball of partners, where no one complains when they have to pick up because they’re "out of the hole."

 

Sadly, outside of private clubs, in the U.S. these player attitudes are unlikely to change for a long time. And it has a lot to do with what they see Tour players do on TV. In writing this piece, I realized that one of the reasons I like playing with honors, or first off the tee, is that I jump up to the tee box ready to hit, stick the peg in the ground and just go. It may also be why "ready golf" is so appealing to me—enough that it’s a frequent first hole agreement, even in tournaments.

 

As I mentioned in a previous post, Lee Trevino tried everything possible to keep tensions from constricting his golf swing. He fidgeted, he talked, he waggled—whatever it took to stay loose. In the prime of his career, he would even be replanting his feet moments before a swing.

 

And the bigger the moment, the quicker he played. He recounted his walk to the 18th tee on Sunday at Muirfield in the dual with Jack for the 1972 Open Championship. He told his caddy to give him the driver as fast as possible so he could load and fire before any doubts could creep into his head.

 

So it is up against monumental inertial forces that the USGA is trying to make a dent in round durations with several concurrent campaigns trying to guilt players into speeding up play. It’s impossible to say whether the "While We’re Young" commercials, while amusing, will have any effect long-term. People are amazingly un-self-aware when it comes to these things. Many slow players will watch those ads and think they’re talking about someone else they know who is worse.

 

The USGA announced it will hold a symposium focusing solely on slow play this week. Some key figures in the industry will meet to discuss new strategies and campaigns to cut down typical round times. Whatever you think of the speed of USGA policy making, at least there’s some movement in the right direction. If you’re bored, go to the USGA website to sign a pledge to be part of the solution, not the problem. Nearly 175,000 have signed to date, including yours truly.

 

As reported by Golf Channel, Tiger heard about the symposium and commented that it’s a big problem during tournament play for threesomes and for average golfers slogging around public courses. His practice rounds at Isleworth are a different story altogether. I imagine his souped up cart can top out close to 50 mph, because he claimed he frequently gets in 36 holes in less than three hours, and sometimes finishes 18 in under one hour.

 

Faster than fast

Taking faster play to another level is Speedgolf. A couple of weeks ago at Bandon Dunes in Oregon, Irishman Rob Hogan shot two sub-80 rounds in about 40 minutes each to win the Speedgolf World Championship. Combining golf with competitive distance running is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, but it is entertaining to watch nonetheless.

 

Earlier this year, I caught a special about the 2012 World Championship that was aired Masters weekend. That event was won by recent Notre Dame grad Chris Walker, who has aspirations for a professional career. This year, he finished 4th with rounds of 74 and 73, but both times were over 50 minutes.

 

The interesting part about scoring well under the demanding conditions of Speedgolf is that you have to do your best with four to six clubs. There’s no club limit per se in the Speedgolf, but the weight of more clubs would cut significantly into the top speed running down the fairway.

 

Other rules modifications to speed things along include the option of leaving the flagstick in when putting and a lost ball rule that would drive rules purists mad. When a ball is lost, the player has the option, after a one-stroke penalty, of dropping anywhere along the line of flight of the previous shot.

 

But there is a nice purity in the scoring system. A player’s SGS (Speedgolf score) is simply a total of strokes plus minutes. The current world record in Speedgolf was established in October 2005 when Christopher Smith shot a five under par 65 in 44:06 for a Speedgolf score (SGS) of 109:06 at a tournament in the Chicago Speedgolf Classic at Jackson Park Golf Course.

 

Watch the two principal officers of Speedgolf, Smith and Tim Scott, battle it out in the last few holes of a local Speedgolf event here. Full results of the 2013 World Championship are here. Go to the very helpful site www.speedgolfinternational.com to learn how to start your own league.

 

Plenty of blame to go around

Golf Channel did a great service to golf this year in its Greatest Rounds series. One of the best was the Trevino/Nicklaus dual at Merion for the 1971 U.S. Open. The broadcast was fascinating on many levels, and I hope to finish a future blog about all the annotations I made.

 

One surprising part of the broadcast was the amazing tediously slow play of one Jack Nicklaus. He was known as a slow player, for sure, but it seemed he was attempting new personal bests (or worsts) at Merion. In retrospect, I have to wonder if it wasn’t gamesmanship aimed specifically at Trevino during the playoff round.

 

Trevino, to his credit, never pointed it out. But there were some telling inset TV camera clips of Trevino watching Jack putt from greenside. Fidgety as always, Lee looked perturbed and frustrated. And for good reason, because I timed Jack. Several times, Jack would take 30 seconds after address before hitting a putt. During that time, Jack would glance at the hole eight or nine times, maddeningly lengthening the time between each successive glance, like Chinese water torture.

 

That rant aside, I’ll finish on a positive note, observing that Lee Buck Trevino was also a pioneer in Speedgolf. In preparing for Muirfield in 1972, Lee wanted to get fit and trim and also hone his instinctual game. Good friend Orville Moody found an out-of-the-way course in Texas where he could do this.

 

Cameron Morfit of Golf Magazine recounts the scenario:

Camp Killeen opened at first light. The superintendent's daughter drove Trevino's cart, and although she was deaf, she could read lips, and they worked out a routine. Trevino would hit his shot, hand her the club, and sprint to the ball, where she would be waiting with his clubs. Run. Point. Shoot. Repeat. "She could understand me," Trevino says. "She became a friend of the family, a friend of the kids—beautiful girl. I'd break into a dead run between shots. I wouldn't jog. I'd run. That's where I got my exercise."

 

In a few years I can compete in the 50+ division of the Speedgolf Championship. This year’s winner was David Harding of Oregon who carded a 89 in 54:11. That’s something to shoot for.

 

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

 


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Ron Romanik 
Five Fundamentals and Then Some
Friday, September 13, 2013
By Ron Romanik

You know the THE BOOK. To many, Hogan’s Five Lessons is the one indispensible golf instruction book in existence—still. Fifty-six years after its publication.

 

If you recheck your copy, I’d bet many of you would find passages you underlined, notes you scribbled in the margins, and question marks next to sections you intended to revisit later with a clearer mind.

 

Ben Hogan’s seminal book ushered in a whole new era of "position" swing theory and instruction. The chapter on the grip may be the best and most thorough ever written on the topic, but you may wonder how the waggle could warrant 4½ dedicated pages.

 

One of my contentions has long been that parts of the book might not be entirely applicable for the taller golfer. After all, the "wee ice mon" was only 5’6", with the compact frame of a welterweight boxer and a flatter swing plane than most.

 

That point aside, many concepts in the book resonate with readers for years and decades, while others leave even teaching pros scratching their heads. If you’re anything like me, one of the nagging contentions you might have with THE BOOK is its preoccupation with the left side of the body at the exclusion, nearly, of the right side.

 

In Hogan’s lessons, the left hand dominates the grip, the waggle sets the left wrist, the left arm pushes the club away on the backswing, the left side keeps the club on plane, the left hip starts the downswing, and the left wrist pronates, supinates... and equivocates, for all I know.

 

Seeing is Believing

 

Admittedly, it’s pretty easy to get sucked into the vortex of prognosticating swing-analysis videos on the YouTube, and much of it is spurious. My own ADHD tendencies aside, I have noticed a minor trend in the last few years. Many instructors are rediscovering the wisdom of talking about the right side of the body, especially at the beginning of the downswing.

 

Even Hogan himself, in a clip from 1963, unintentionally hints at the how the right side falls into place at the beginning of the downswing, albeit still only in relation to how the lower part of the body should ideally move to initiate the downswing.

 

If you really want to go down the rabbit hole of swing analysis, check out the bio-kinetic theories of Dariusz J.'s YT BioChannel on YouTube. He seems to be a nice, obsessive fellow from Poland with an avocation of theorizing about the mysterious forces behind Hogan’s magical swing. He also has deep respect for many other great ball-strikers of days gone by, which he chronicles in a series he calls Forgotten Great Theorists, both on YouTube and on his own blog site.

 

Dariusz has a very interesting interpretation and analysis of Hogan’s swing where he applies his Sagittal Plane Compression concept. That video explains the optimal biometrics of a person swinging a golf club in a "macroscale." Also not to be missed is a compilation video of the game’s greats starting the downswing with the right side in optimal position, or what he calls the Early Elbow Plane position. This position "...is a logical result of benefitting from one of the golden rules of (bio)physics concerning the perpendicularity of the distal parts motion to the spine (core)."

 

More Right Side Love

 

Teaching pro Kip Puterbaugh, at the Aviara Golf Academy in Sunny Carlsbad, CA, makes his case for paying attention to the right side of the body during the downswing, especially the right elbow.

 

Of course, if you want to learn Hogan’s Five Lessons with a more attractive teacher, there’s always Kendra Vallone’s super smooth motion. Blond, statuesque and certainly easy on the eyes, Kendra is nonetheless a diligent, lifelong student of Hogan’s little book. She revisits Hogan’s fundamentals with reverence, and her right-side positions at the start of the downswing are a thing of beauty all their own.

 

My favorite passage in THE BOOK still has to be the following, which must be as maddening for beginners today as it was for me as a 15-year-old:

"Actually, the hands start the clubhead back a split second before the arms start back. And the arms begin their movement a split second before the shoulders begin to turn. As a golfer acquires feel and rhythm through practice, the hands arms and shoulders will instinctively tie in on this split-second schedule."

 

As crazy as this sounds, and as difficult as it would be to copy as a beginner, I invite you to www.pgatour.com, where they have dozens of the top touring pros captured in super-slow-motion video of driver swings. Look closely at Tiger’s and Adam Scott’s swings, and tell me Hogan hasn’t been right all along about the split-second hands/arms/shoulders takeaway sequence.

 

If you’ve been living under a rock this summer, you’ve missed the emergence of an amazing talent out of Pennsylvania. Brandon Matthews, a sophomore at Temple University, has had an incredible run. Watch this tournament roundup to witness the blur of his powerful swing—at :33 and 1:20.

 

If you still haven’t had enough of Hogan, here’s one opinion of how Hogan and Moe Norman might have shared a "move" at the start of the downswing. And I couldn’t leave you without sharing the beautiful right side motion of Jack Nicklaus at age 15. Hope your Fall is full of good viewing, good swinging and good scores!

 

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

 


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Ron Romanik 
Tick off Tiger at your own peril
Monday, August 26, 2013
By Ron Romanik

 

 

A small piece of advice: Choose your words carefully, Adam Scott.

From the media rumblings about Scott this past week, I had thought we had another Stephen Ames incident on our hands.

 

There have been more than a few times in Tiger’s career when some pretender spoke out of line about Tiger’s abilities, then quickly paid the consequence. Most dramatically was when Stephen Ames suggested Tiger’s erratic driver was making him vulnerable in Match Play. The venue was 2006 World Match Play Championship at La Costa. The day before Tiger and Ames squared off in the first day of matches, Ames casually said: "Anything can happen, especially where [Tiger's] hitting the ball." The next day, Tiger dismissed Ames 9 and 8. (A virtual shutout, as the only more lopsided score possible is 10 and 8.)

 

Tiger even admitted that Ames’ comment motivated him, with a smile and nod, though his only comment about it was: "Nine and eight."

 

So, before The Barclays, Adam Scott was asked: "Would you rather have your season or Tiger's, and do you think Tiger would rather have his or yours?" Adam replied with a smile: "I'd rather have mine, that's for sure. I really don't know. He may want mine."

 

Did he know he was lighting a fire under El Tigre? Did he dare have the arrogance to compare himself to Tiger?

 

The truth of the matter is a lot less dramatic if you look at the rest of the interview transcript. As most golf fans know, Adam is a mostly humble man. Earlier in the same interview, he was asked: "Who would you say has had the best year on the Tour so far?"

 

Adam replied flatly: "Tiger. Five wins? Has he won five times? Tiger's had the best year." And, to another question about the criteria for Player of the Year, Adam said: "I don't think one major makes up for five tournaments."

 

Adam’s comment about Tiger wanting Adam’s year was specifically about Tiger’s top priority of winning 19 majors, and Adam’s season would have given Tiger No. 15, and he’d be one step closer.

 

Either way, Adam’s comment couldn’t have been better for setting up a little rivalry going into the FedEx Playoffs, especially how the Barclay’s finished up Sunday, with Woods fighting to the last putt.

 

The media will over-hype the rivalry, as it always does, and that’s fine. But that doesn’t mean you should discount the fiery motivation that Tiger will use to shrug off another pretender to the throne. If his back doesn’t literally fall out of his body, I think Tiger’s a safe bet to take the FedEx Cup and Player of the Year.

 

Just for fun, here’s a Golf.com list of Tiger’s Enemies and Rivals over the years.

 

Which brings us to another topic: Tiger’s perennial health problems. I remember announcers like Johnny Miller and Curtis Strange doing the slow motion analysis of Tiger’s swing in his prime and just being dumbfounded at how fast his hips turned ahead of his shoulders. The speed and the timing that the speed required were otherworldly to them. The announcers wondered over and over: "How long can his body could take that torque?"

 

Well, as it turns out, not so long after all. Because Tiger often disappears from media view when dealing with a medical problem, it’s easy to forget how many different issues he has dealt with in his career. Again, courtesy of Golf.com, we have a litany of his injuries/surgeries over the years. It’s getting pretty long.

 

And if Tiger’s current troubles were really triggered by a hotel mattress, as he claims, those old rumors of Tiger installing his own furniture in every house he rented during tournaments will be coming back.

 

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


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You have to admire a man who wears a hat with another hat on it 
Lee Trevinio is my new hero
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
By Ron Romanik

 

 

Lee Trevino is my new hero

 

Where is the Lee Trevino of today? There may never be another like him. He faced a hardscrabble life taken one day at a time, with positive thoughts and energy all the way.

 

Lee Buck Trevino is my new hero for a number of reasons. Off the course, it’s easy to admire his humility, enthusiasm, and class. On the course, of course, are his unusual swing, fast play, mental fortitude, pure love of the game, and inimitable personality.

 

Many of these qualities were on display at Merion in 1971. If Golf Channel ever plays its "Greatest Rounds" Merion U.S. Open episode again, don’t miss it. The tournament went to a Monday playoff, but the 72nd hole was most dramatic. While watching Jack try to make a putt to win it outright on Sunday, an interviewer caught up with Trevino out of earshot.

 

When Trevino played 18 just a few moments earlier, he was obviously thrown off when a sound made him back off his par putt, which he missed. As it turned out, one of the 19,000 fans fell from a spectating perch on the scoreboard. Trevino shrugged it off.

 

"These people are so wonderful out here," he said. "I don’t want to use any excuses. I probably would have missed the putt anyway. The putter felt like it weighed 50 pounds...I didn’t hit a good drive...I deserved a bogey."

 

Earlier in the round, Jack’s tediously slow play was pushing the limits of Lee’s patience, though. As Jack would take 30 seconds after address before hitting a putt, Lee would be off the green fidgeting and fidgeting, unable to keep still.

 

His demeanor is always one of gratitude, as if he’s just happy to be there. Which you believe he is. Even when he says he wasn’t fearful of Jack before the Open Championship at Muirfield in 1972, as Trevino wrote Wednesday in Today’s Golfer, it doesn’t sound arrogant in the least. Or, he goes on, "In those days, I expected to chip in every time." Well, he did have four chip-ins that week.

 

Subconscious vs. conscious

 

This year has been a sort of delayed victory lap for Trevino, with Merion and Muirfield falling in the same year. Much has been written about his game and personality, and how he suppressed his conscious mind to let his subconscious mind golf, as is summarized pretty well by Cameron Morfit of Golf Magazine.

Of the four chip-ins that week, the 16th on Saturday was the biggest "gift from the gods" as Lee put it in Today’s Golfer. From an impossible lie in a greenside bunker, not even hoping to get it close, he flew his shot right in the hole.

 

Of course, the 17th hole on Sunday was the chip in everyone remembers, even though Lee was still mad after making it, because he thought the hole ruined his chances. But that chip is an illustration of the subconscious golfer being more proficient than any over-analytical conscious mind might be. If you watch the tape, he kind of stabs at the ball in resigned desperation, not conscious at all. Nevertheless, I’m sure, he expected to make it.

 

Being a highly analytical person, I have difficulty letting my subconscious mind take over on the course. And falling on the reserved scale of personality, I don’t automatically treat everyone as a good friend. However, I’m asking myself more and more: "What would Lee do?"

 

I’m even trying to copy his swing. I’ve decided to stop fighting my "bad" tendencies, and instead work them into my swing. I always preferred an open stance and fade as a youth, why should I fight against my instinct? Though I can’t match his cupped wrist at the top, I’m working a strong right-side-under move like Lee’s that lets me get through the ball straight down the line more consistently.

 

Someday, I’ll be able to suppress my analytical conscious mind enough to play a freer form of golf. Until that day, I want to build a swing that, like Trevino used to say, gets better the more pressure is put on it. And though I’ve never tried to talk during my own swing, as Lee sometimes did, now I think: Why not?

 

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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Goood

Ron Romanik 
How great was that Open?
Monday, June 17, 2013
By Ron Romanik

 

After the Open champion was crowned, Colin Montgomerie on Golf Channel had the audacity to compare Justin Rose’s 18th hole finish with Ben Hogan’s in 1950 finish. Was that so outrageous? I say no.

 

Justin’s two shots were perfectly and confidently struck, knowing that par was likely necessary to win the tourney. And he gave himself an excellent chance for birdie, which he nearly converted. Just a reminder here, no one birdied 18 on Sunday, and there were only 11 birdies all week. Regardless, Justin was a half-ball-roll from jarring it for an exclamation point on his victory. An exclamation point, though, is not necessary if you still get the job done with utmost efficiency, as Justin did on Sunday.

 

Of course, one could argue that he came up short on his eagle attempt, as the 18th hole was essentially a par-five for the week, averaging 4.7 strokes for competitors. Maybe scoring average would be a better way to determine the par for a hole. If, for example, you applied this concept comparably from Merion to Augusta National, The Masters would be a par-68, as none of the par-fives in 2013 had scoring averages over 4.7. So, conversely, applying the same criterion retroactively from Augusta to Merion would make the East Course a par 72, and the winner was actually seven under par.

 

All that aside, kudos to the USGA for a fine job orchestrating the event. And thanks to all the neighbors who gave up their front lawns for the event, as I’m sure the grass won’t completely recover from the abuse until next year.

 

I also feel for Jason Dufner, and I’m glad that his triple-bogey on 15 did not lose him the tournament, per se. A par on that hole would have still left him one shot back. Needless to say, six birdies on the East Course, in contention, in U.S. Open conditions, was incredible. Justin, for the record, made five birdies on the day for the trophy.

 

Maybe the best part of this Open was how so many players spent time near or on top of the leaderboard on the weekend, and how bunched up they were. Players with hot hands would claim the lead and then lose it just as quickly, sometimes more than once or twice. And having Phil in the mix is always adds an extra element of excitement.

 

My dark horse pick

 

As 18 was essentially a par-five all week, so was the par-four fifth hole, which also averaged 4.7 strokes for the week. The hole was played 456 times last week, and birdied only 12 times. Amazingly, there was one fellow who birdied it twice, in the second and third rounds. That would be my dark horse pick for the week, Edward Loar, who followed up a 4-iron to 15 feet on Friday with a 3-iron to four feet on Saturday.

 

"Yeah! How about that!" Loar enthused, amused at his own good fortune on No. 5. "Playing that hole in one-under-par for the week is pretty good!"

 

I picked Loar because he appears to be one of the few players that is actually enjoying playing the game at this level, even after a 76 on a "brutally difficult course," as was the consensus. "What a great week, what a blast to play in the Open," Loar mused on an upbeat note.

 

"Obviously, I’m going to take a lot of positives," he continued. "I played really good most of the time. What I’m probably going to take mostly for me is how comfortable I was with everything. Even when I got on the leaderboard Saturday...I didn’t get nervous."

 

Loar finished a respectable T32 at +13, in decent company with Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson, and defending champion Webb Simpson. He now heads back to the Web.com Tour, where he is second on the money list and in a safe position to regain his PGA Tour card for 2014.

 

However, as most players echoed late Sunday afternoon, Loar admitted the Open can just plain wear you out. "To be honest with you, I’m kind of glad I’m done," he chuckled.

 

Phil’s several nemeses

 

The Driver: Reintroduce yourself, Phil. The fifth and the eighteenth holes required a driver to have decent chances at birdie or par.

 

Himself: Self-delusion is not a long-term strategy, and blind confidence is not a prudent U.S. Open strategy. When the confidence is producing incredible shots, I admit, it’s certainly fun to watch. But the other side of the spectrum is painful to watch.

 

The 16th green: On both Saturday and Sunday, Phil had very makeable 15-foot birdie putts that fooled him just enough to slide by the edge.

 

Wait a minute...

 

Do these Golf Channel guys know more than everyone else?

 

Rich Lerner: "...Merion, back in the U.S. Open rotation..."

 

Tim Rosaforte: "...If you’re looking down the road...I think it’s safe to say that we will be back at Merion Golf Club."

 

We’ll just have to see...

 

Twitter: @RonMyPhillyGolf.

 

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 
Merion from a different angle
Sunday, June 16, 2013
By Ron Romanik

I understand the logistical and player considerations for not letting spectators behind the 16th green and 17th tee. The disruption to the flow of the round would have exacerbated the slowness of the rounds and the chaotic atmosphere would have been difficult for the players to tolerate.

 

I was lucky enough to get access to a spot behind the 17th tee late in the day on Saturday. As cool as it is to watch players shape drivers off of the par-fives this week, it was quite an eye-opener to watch the variety of shots that these golfers tried to get it close on 17.

 

Some of the variety came from the fact that each golfer has his own natural ball flight, but a good deal of variety was also caused by the particular demands of that hole. Of the 20 shots I witnessed, none were the same shape.

 

The pin position was back and to the right, below a slight ridge both in front and from the left. All the players knew the pin was going to be there, as during practice rounds many were gauging the speed they needed to negotiate the ridges. From the left side of the green, for instance, putts had to delicately and slowly cross the crest of the ridge to settle down near the pin. Any extra oomph, and the comebacker could be five feet.

 

To generalize, the biggest hitters tried to high fades that landed just short of the ridge, in hopes that it would release over the ridge and settle near the pin. Two of the best were by Rory McIlroy and Nicolas Colsaerts, which started perfectly at the left side of the green, landed center, and wound up nicely near the hole. Colsaerts’ was higher, probably the highest of the day. What was also similar about these two shots was the club. Both hit it with old-school, 3- or 2-iron forged blades.

 

By contrast, Padraig Harrington hit a low, frozen rope three-wood, I believe, trying to skip it through the false front. One of the most inventive shots came from Tiger, with a choked down 3-wood. He set up facing the left grandstand and hit the kind of controlled slice that only Tiger attempts regularly in competition. The ball started left of the left bunkers curved about 30 yards and landed softly left-center of the green, settling less than 20 feet from the pin.

 

As he has sometimes done before with shorter clubs, Tiger this time was trying to roll the most makeable putt—from the tee 254 yards away! If the ball had landed only 10 feet deeper into the green, he probably would have been inside Rory.

 

Mickelson’s shot, which he called his best of the day, was a nicely rounded draw that achieved a similar result to McIlroy’s and Colsaerts’.

 

If you get a chance on Sunday, stand behind a Billy Horschel drive or long-iron. His trajectory is so consistently high and straight, it’s no wonder he expects to hit every green in regulation.

 

Earlier in the day, it was nice to see a player not take himself too seriously on the 17th. After an adventurous romp through hill and dale, Welshman Jamie Donaldson holed out for a six, turned to the crowd, and raised his hands for a victorious double fist-pump. The grandstand crowd ate it up.

 

Putting it out there

 

If you’re watching on TV, it’s impossible to appreciate the difficulty of putting Merion’s greens. There are so many small contours that only show up when a player misses a six-footer by three-inches.

 

Watching players negotiate the seemingly benign sixteenth green pin position, I was able to formulate a new way to explain players’ struggles on these tricky greens. Because they are so fast and slopey, the strategic analysis of each is different that normal, even for these guys.

 

Normally, you pick a line you think will get you too the hole, then you pick a speed to match that line. If the two don’t match up in your imagination or by closer inspection of the green or slope, you adjust.

 

On these greens, and at many major championship and A-level tour events, players must pick the speed first, then figure out if there’s a line that can get them to the hole. Actually, "pick" the speed is not always accurate, especially on downhill putts. There’s often only one option—it’s the speed the putt necessitates. And, many times, there might not be a line, at that speed, that they can hit it on to stop it near the hole.

For instance, if there’s a crest, even a subtle one, running between the ball and the hole at a diagonal on a downhill putt, there may simply not be a line where you can aim far enough down the ridge and not risk a long putt coming back. Either from running it by or from getting on the wrong side of the ridge. That’s why you see the ball settle a few inches to the low side of the hole so many times. And the farther you are from the hole, the more often this happens on these greens.

 

To put it bluntly, there are some downhill 20-foot putts that are, for all intents and purposes, impossible to make under tournament conditions. That’s because the players won’t risk the high probability of a three-putt by taking a line that only has a slight chance of success anyway.

 

Spectator tip

 

This is the last time I’m saying it: Bring binoculars!!

 

Twitter: @RonMyPhillyGolf.

 

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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