The last part of the season
just flew by, with 16 days of competitive rounds in 25 days. That’s 64 percent of
the days of the FedEx Cup in the heat of competition. It’s perfectly fine for
football and hockey be battles of attrition—not golf.
But why is that a knee jerk
reaction? Do I have latent biases that prevent objective reporting? Of course I
One of my biases that I’m
getting over is the resistance to the rise of the golfer/athlete. Somehow, in a
traditionalist’s mind, the delicate touch of a golfer would be inversely
proportional to their brawn. This turns out to be not so true.
Regardless of what you think
of the politics of Glenn Greenwald (bias: I admire constitutional lawyers who
don’t pull punches) and the whole Edward Snowden affair, Mr. Greenwald has no
qualms decrying the fake objectivity of "traditional" journalism. In fact, he
posits, true objectivity is pretty much impossible. We all have biases, we all
interpret events through our own lenses, so let’s put them on the table and be
honest about it.
But, no matter how obvious a
media outlet bias is, the tone of its "reporting" or opinionating can define
the media conversation more broadly. I’m not sure what media conversations that
Golf Digest is trying to introduce these days, but I guess all is right in the
golf world again now that actual professional golfers are back on the cover of
Golf Digest (bias: I feel betrayed by new magazine redesign).
Yes, Michelle Wie is on the
cover, the epitome of golfer/athlete, and my pick, earlier this year, for having a breakout year (biases: Leadbetter fan
and defender of the persecuted—I’m looking at you, Michael Bamberger). Wie was just recognized with the Rolex Annika Major Award
for best performance across all five majors. If you didn’t know what that was,
don’t worry—it’s new.
And another superfit golfer of note is Suzann Pettersen
(bias: I love a woman who drops the F-bomb on live TV). I believe her best days
are still ahead, and she had 10 top-10 finishes in 18 tournaments this year.
Speaking of athletes,
javelin-thrower turned golfer Keegan Bradley (bias: Keegan is a cool name) has
demonstrated that he’s no flash in the pan. If you get to spectate a PGA event
next year, check out Keegan’s ball rainmaker ball flight. It’s impressive.
And Bernhard Langer (bias:
my maternal grandfather was German; Mercedes-Benz; Altbier)
was just unbelievable in the Senior Open Championship this summer. In case you
missed it, Mr. Langer topped off his victory with whipped cream and cherry on
top, with the classiest of finishes. On the impossibly hard and fast Royal Porthcawl Golf Club links in Wales, no one in the field had
been able to get close to the 18th pin on the approach—even with a wedge
in hand (bias: links-style golf is more fun to watch).
Already having lapped the
field, there was no need for theatrics. Nevertheless, he hit a perfect 9-iron
approach, landing just over a fairway bunker and releasing to about 20 feet
from the pin. An eagle might have been too much to ask for, but a tap-in birdie
seemed the right level of "I make this game look easy."
But I digress. Many have
biases about Golf Channel personalities, and for good reason. There is much
room for improvement, and sometimes a pretty face is just a pretty face. As for
Brandel and Frank, my bias is in favor of first-hand
expertise. For all their faults, they still bring a lot of knowledge to the
table. Steve Flesch and Charlie Rymer,
on the other hand, don’t seem to remember what playing professionally was like.
The Golf Channel dropped a
few notches in my esteem when I was looking for wrap-up analysis of the Women's
U.S. Open this summer—and found almost none. I imagine this was the
result of some television network executive bickering, but disappointing
Which brings us to the
golfer/athlete of the moment—Billy Horschel.
His phenomenal performance of back-to-back wins and 12 consecutive rounds in
the 60s was surely do in no small part to his fitness. So, the golfer/athlete
is here to stay, especially if the FedEx Cup system survives the critics. Even
Rory (bias: red hair like me/Ireland connection) is looking ripped these days
(bias: he’s shorter than you think).
And let’s give Billy a pass
on his loss of decorum when he did seven full Gator Chomps on the 18th green
after his FedEx Cup win. Oh yes, my bias is clear on Horschel:
My wife is a University of Florida alum. I deserve your sympathy, but for the
grace of God go you. In our house, patriotism for your country plays second
fiddle to allegiance to the Gator Nation. Chomp Chomp.
is principal of the brand, marketing, and packaging consultancy Romanik Communications (www.romanik.com), located in Elverson, PA. His full bio is here.
The irony of my argument
here is that the Greatest Open Champion Ever (G.O.C.E., if you will) earned
that title by not becoming the "Champion Golfer" of 2009. He lost, instead, in
an illegitimate playoff format.
(18 holes on Monday is the
proper way to decide a Champion, and I am confident he would have fared much
This man’s second place
finish, though, should still be considered one of the greatest sporting
achievements of all time. To some, though, that "loss" five years ago was very disappointing.
I don’t quite understand this. Even Tom Watson himself bemoans his fate: "It
was in my grasp, and it hurts, it really hurts. It was a huge disappointment."
But I ask you, how many
golfers on this planet would not have gladly exchanged places with Mr. Watson
at that moment? He had a glorious run that week, and at age 59! This week, at
64, he made the Open cut again at Royal Liverpool.
And what was the final
obstacle the thwarted his sixth Open title? A two-foot diameter "nose" on the
front of the 18th green that deflected an otherwise perfect approach, and sent
it careening off the back of the green.
But my real question is: Why
would he, or anyone, now look back on that week with sadness or disappointment?
Why not instead admire his performance in isolation and wonder at the amazing
athletic and sporting feat that it was and always will be?
Watson does admit that he
was comforted by the outpouring of support and notes thanking him for his
inspiring performance. By why isn’t that the rule, rather than the exception in
fans’ hearts and the media’s recollections? For many, he "lost."
Not to be melodramatic, but
is this damning evidence of our societies’ ill-founded emphasis on "winning is
the only thing"? (Thanks a lot, Red
Sanders.) I, for one, don’t think it is human nature to look at the
runner-up as the "first loser."
On this past Thursday
evening, GolfChannel’ Kelly Tilghman
introduced a segment on Tom Watson’s run in 2009 with a "sad face" grimace,
saying: "It’s no exaggeration to say that he was on the verge of producing what
could have perhaps been known as the greatest sporting accomplishment of all
time." I posit that—win or lose—his accomplishment was equally as impressive—and
Other circumstances or facts
could have made it truly tragic. If he hadn’t already won five Opens, for
instance. If his career might be defined by this single losing event. Or if
this loss irrevocably damaged his psyche in the prime of his career. But none
of these scenarios apply.
I would prefer to look back
on Watson’s performance as a crowning coda to a full and rewarding career. Or a
swan song, victory lap, or farewell tour.
If you want golf drama that
is truly tragic, I invite you to look back on the 1939 U.S. Open in
Philadelphia. Sam Snead, by all reasonable estimations, should have won several
U.S. Opens. He had the perfect opportunity to close out the deal on the final
hole of the Philadelphia Country Club in 1939. A miscommunication may have
caused Snead to be more aggressive than the situation required, and the snowman
he carded on that hole took him out of contention. (Here’s
a subjective list of the top 10 real
U.S. Open disappointments.)
Perceptive readers will no
doubt suspect that I have a soft spot for Mr. Watson. Watching him win his
Opens as an adolescent, I was both fascinated by the traditions of the game and
intrigued by the way the Scottish and English fans embraced their likeable
American Champion. Too bad fans don’t raise golf champions on their shoulders anymore
like they used to in Bobby Jones’ era. That would have been a fitting tribute
for Mr. Watson.
I admired Watson for
categorically conquering the quirky and whimsical nuances of the game in its
original form that is, in many ways, foreign to the American style of play. And
I always liked how the knowledgeable golf fans across the pond reacted to action
with the right amount respect and gravity correspondent to the situation.
Of course, the crowd energy
instantly deflated when they saw Watson’s approach to 18 skip through the green
in 2009. The faithful had been pulling for him to win the whole week. And I
won’t begrudge anyone for questioning his decision to use putter for his third
shot. I might defer to the caddie, though, who believes 100% that the putter
was the right choice.
But the larger begrudgement still remains. In my rewriting of history, the
R&A never adopts the abomination of a four-hole playoff, allowing Watson
glory on Monday. For the record, the R&A only abandoned the 18-hole playoff
in 1985, two years after Watson won his fifth Open Championship. I’m sure he
would have prevailed in a "real" playoff.
By the way, the ageless 64-year-old
wonder shot 68 today at the Open in Liverpool, and finished at +1, three better
than Stewart Cink. But Cink
will always be able to brag about the crowning achievement of his career, the
day he stared down a man 23 years his senior and trounced him fairly and
squarely—for four holes.
is principal of the brand, marketing, and packaging consultancy Romanik Communications (www.romanik.com),
located in Elverson, PA. His full bio is here.
There are many reasons to pull for Bubba Watson
as a favorite to win the U.S. Open. And there are a few reasons that I can
understand that he might not be everyone's cup of "T," if you know
what I'm getting at. His limited range of beverage choices aside, and his
occasional temper tantrums aside, the best reason to love Bubba is his utter
uniqueness. He is the John Daly of this era, a sort of anti- anti-hero.
Bubba's swing is an affront to all that the
established golf elite wants to convince you about the golf swing. It's a
self-made wonder that defies a great deal of logic, tradition, and physics.
That is also effective at winning majors is an amazing bonus.
Winning the U.S. Open at Pinehurst would be the
equivalent of a thumbed nose to tradition in a way that John Daly didn't even
achieve at The Open Championship at St. Andrews, though Daly deserves all the
kudos he receives. Some call Pinehurst the St. Andrews of America, and for good
reason. The resort represents some of the best qualities of American golf. What
a perfect place to throw shade over the stuffy ideals of the establishment.
Instead of Waffle House for a victory breakfast the morning after, after a U.S.
Open win, he should order Dominos delivered to the pressroom.
And Pinehurst just might be the ideal venue for
a Bubba U.S. Open win. No rough at Pinehurst means it's possible to get lucky
and find a few good lies in the waste areas the line the fairways. Bubba will
also be able to hit less club off par-four tees to keep the ball in play.
But again, the fact that no golf teaching pro
in the known universe would teach a swing like Bubba's is enough reason to root
for him. And several corollary sub-reasons: 1) Bubba proves that established
and fashionable teaching philosophies of the current and past ages are not the
answer for everyone; 2) golf needs more personalities; 3) golf needs more
creatively played shots; 4) he's not afraid to be whoever he wants to be; 5)
he’s a lot more fun to watch than Adam Scott.
It was easy to shrug off Bubba before his
second Masters win this year. Many, many top golfers have only one major. But
now that he's got two under his white belt, and now that he's within striking
distance of No. 1 in the world, he can no longer be dismissed so easily.
Simply said, I'm pulling for Bubba because he
doesn't fit anyone's definition of a pro golfer. I like to pull for the
underdog, the outsider, the misunderstood. He is all of those, and he has no
reason to apologize.
In the picture here, Bubba has just hit one of
the defining shots of his career. A shot only he would attempt. A shot only he
could pull off in that situation. Okay, maybe Tiger and maybe Dustin Johnson
could pull it off.
Nevertheless, Bubba’s follow-through at 13 at
Augusta on Sunday epitomizes his appeal. After carving a high, controlled slice
over the corner trees of the dogleg, his right foot has moved a full foot from
its starting position. Just amazing. The shot came off, and Bubba was on his
way to his second green jacket.
I'm rooting for Bubba because if he bucks
tradition and wins the U.S. Open with his wild style, I can't wait to see the
look on the faces of the USGA elite hell bound to protect an unnecessary level
of decorum and tradition that can put casual golf fans off.
Which brings us to the idea of tradition and
Pinehurst and the USGA. I hope this experiment in a "no-rough" open is not a
one-off. The fact is, preparing U.S. Open courses with thick, high rough is a
tradition that is not traditional. Well, that depends on your definition of
tradition, I suppose, and how many years it take before something becomes
I believe the impossibly high rough trend took
hold mid-20th century, when Hogan was at one of his peaks. He remarked after
one U.S. Open round that he didn’t miss one fairway, but his shoes and pant
cuffs were still soaking wet. This side anecdote illustrates the newness of the
high rough concept, because they hadn’t yet realized that a walking path through
the rough from tee to fairway made more than a little sense.
But tradition is, of course, not only a matter
of years. If it were, major championship courses should be set up more
rough-hewn and natural, like Scottish links courses. But if you believe that
the USGA has started a valid new tradition with impossibly high and thick
rough, I can grant you that as well, and that is their right.
Tradition is as much a consensus of "what is
right." It would be quite a dramatic turnaround if the USGA would adopt a new
Pinehurst-inspired model for most future U.S. Opens, but anything is possible.
More likely, with the tanker-steering agility of the USGA, the tournament
committee will gradually introduce more and more variety in their concept of
rough in future venues.
And that bodes well for a future U.S. Open win
for Bubba, that is, if he doesn’t win a British Open first and celebrate with a
breakfast of haggis—or a KFC Double Down.
Ron Romanik is
principal of the brand and PR consultancy Romanik
located in Elverson, PA. His full bio is here.
What to get the golfer who
has everything? Silly, useless knickknacks of course.
Luckily for everyone, one
man has taken on the responsibility to collect links to every "Ridiculous
Golf Item" he can find.
From the bizarre to the
sublime, these items can clearly identify you as a golf fanatic, or just
someone who likes to have a little fun, or someone who is just plain "off."
Whether or not you wish to advertise to your boss where golf is on your
priority list with a desktop golf curio is a separate issue you have to decide
for yourself. Or, if you’re the gift giver, it might be a clever way to
embarrass a golfer who would be compelled to actually use, say, a golf-bag-and-pull-cart
golf-club pen set just because you gave it to them.
I have read that one of the
fastest and easiest ways to endear yourself to a new colleague, acquaintance,
or friend is to be self-deprecating. Golf, it turns out, provides countless
opportunities for this, both on the course and off. These fun golf gift items
add yet another layer to that noble life goal. Of course, constant
self-deprecation can make you look pitiful, so beware of that fine line.
I already own one of these orange
hats. And it’s good quality. But if you’re wondering... no, I haven’t had the
courage to actually wear it on the course yet. It’s like wearing a bow tie on
TV. Only a small percentage of the population can pull it off with style or
The excuse I tell myself for
not wearing the Bushwood hat is that it still looks
too new, too bright orange, and too obvious. It’s a Catch-22: You have to wear
it so it will look worn, but you don’t want to wear it and look obvious. Maybe
I’ll run it over with my car a few dozen times or leave it out in the sun for a
So, I bought the hat in an
effort not to take myself too seriously, and be endearingly self-deprecating. But
I still can’t help but wonder if fellow golfers would see it as an innocent act
of self-deprecation or a pitiful ploy for self-attention.
I imagine this is an ongoing
internal struggle for many (or maybe not). Whereas I’m frequently
self-deprecating on the course, both during idle teebox
chatter and during my pitiful short game, in golf attire I’m much more
On second thought, in honor
of Payne Stewart’s win at Pinehurst 15 years ago, I’m going to get me some tartan
plus fours. I’ve toyed with the idea for decades, and now is the time. But you
already know... whether I’ll actually wear them is a completely
separate—and extremely heart-wrenching—moral dilemma.
is principal of the brand, packaging and PR consultancy Romanik
Communications (www.romanik.com), located
in Elverson, PA. His full bio is here.
No, not "The Shark." The
euphemistic shark expression is aimed at the redesigned and repositioned Golf Digest debuting in the June 2014
In recent months, Golf Digest has been edging toward an
edgier tone, daring itself to follow through on its slogan promise of "Think
Young, Play Hard," introduced over two years ago. But with the current issue,
the magazine has fully committed to a new voice, a new attitude, and—one
might deduce—a new audience.
That’s where this initiative
gets dicey. If there were a resurgence of interest in the game among Millennials, for instance, this attitude adjustment might
make sense. I’ve heard little buzz of this youthful sea change, nor seen any
compelling data, but I might be out of the loop, so to speak.
Having been founding
Editor-in-Chief of several magazines, I certainly appreciate the delicate
balance between developing a strong voice and adapting with the times. Above
all, though, a magazine’s voice must remain authentic. It is not authentic, for
instance, if you have to ask yourself, or explain yourself, in your own
magazine, time after time, why a certain person is on the cover.
In the current print issue,
the Golf Digest editors ask "What’s
Jimmy Fallon doing on my cover?" at the end of the Editor’s Letter (p. 24),
almost hidden, in small, light green type, in the bottom right of the page.
That is the headline that formally introduces the philosophy behind the
material realization of the "Think Hard, Play Young" slogan. Sorry, reverse
But the "my" in this
headline is not the projected reader; it is the personified magazine itself, as
the New Golf Digest speaks to readers
from the first person. A bit presumptuous, maybe?
He or she proceeds to some
up his or her philosophies of golf and life in 140 words. As he or she
reintroduces himself or herself, he or she turns out to be a complicated
conundrum of contradictions, positing, for instance: "I like old U.S. Open
venues but still enjoy my golf on a simulator." (Since this print introduction
is not online but I find it interesting and amusing enough to "get" or "assess"
the new Golf Digest, the complete text appears at the end of this post.)
In danger of sounding like
an old fuddy-duddy (I swear, I’m not! I admire what mags
like Golf Punk are trying to do!), I
have to say that I already miss the authentic, authoritative tone of the old Golf Digest. Sure, it was a bit stuffy
at times, but it was at least self-aware enough to acknowledge that fact with
knowing, proverbial winks to the reader when appropriate.
But I’ll let you decide for
yourself by listing here just a few objective, objectionable observations on
the current June Issue:
Camouflage patterns on golf clothing occur in two different parts of the
issue. First on golf pants of Billy Horschel’s swing
analysis spread, and then on two pair of shorts and a shirt (not together,
thank God!) in a fashion spread titled: "Rock This."
-- A bare woman’s derriere. No, not
Kate’s or Paulina’s. It appears in a full-page ad on page 23, for those keeping
score at home.
-- This sentence appears in the magazine
("Ask Golf Digest"; page 80) about
finding your ball out of bounds: "With rare exceptions, nobody goes back and
reloads." Bad enough, yes. But even worse, there is also no accompanying
encouragement to play provisional balls when in doubt.
-- One suggestion to revive your love of
the game: "Listen to music while you play." Which, I suppose, goes well with
the article in the June issue that would be least likely to appear in the "old"
-- "Where There’s Smoke": An immersive
study about smoking pot on the golf course. I grant that one welcome side effect
of this trend would be the promotion of early evening golf, because, as the
saying goes, it’s always 4:20 somewhere.
An obvious turn at this
juncture would be to quote Bob Dylan, and I’m not above that, so there’s this
apt snippet from "Ballad of a Thin Man": "Something is happening here, and you
don’t know what it is. Do you, Conde Nast?"
Editor-in-Chief Jerry Tarde’sonline
"defense" of the new Golf Digest sounds desperate. You’re really not
authentic when your explanation of why Jimmy Fallon is on the cover is "because
he’s cool and golf is cool." And if Mr. Tarde
believes that the new direction of the magazine makes Golf Digest "more surprising," well, it’s a tall order to be
continually surprising month after month. Keep believing you can hit a 300-yard
drive, under the right conditions. But you’re probably trying too hard.
Regardless of all my
ranting, it comes down to the voice. To me, as anti-establishment as I am in my
mind, Golf Digest always represented
the establishment in some of the best ways. It was golf’s paternal conscience,
to a degree. That was its role to play, and it often fulfilled its duty with
I could forgive many of old Golf Digest’s faults, because they were
predictable and rooted in history and tradition. The magazine was an authority
with a consistent level of integrity, and more than any of its competitors.
That doesn’t mean that the integrity always led down righteous paths. There are
infinite shades of gray in what constitutes "what’s best for the game of golf,"
and many opinions deserve to be heard, but integrity can be its own reward.
I already miss the
exhaustive major tournament previews, the hand wringing over minor changes in
the game, and the historical perspective that informed many articles. Golf is a
game that is always enriched by looking to the past. I will have to find these
articles elsewhere now.
There are many, many more
observations that I could make about the design elements of the new Golf Digest, the length and depth of
editorial content, and the compromises that publishers must make with
advertisers these days. And these observations would not all be negative, by
However, one sin that
compelled me to cancel a magazine subscription previously is when a dramatic
redesign made the editorial look and feel far too much like the ads on the
opposite page. Having the two pages look distinctly different does not
necessarily reduce the eye-time on the ads, as Conde Nast seems to believe. In
fact, making them look the same may have the opposite effect—that the
reader suspects neither the ad nor the editorial on a two-page spread are worth
closer inspection, and quickly moves on.
To end on a positive note, I
do like the new stencil-type Golf Digest
banner logo. And I mean it. I admire design that blends modern and traditional
seamlessly. If only the rest of the magazine could follow through on that
Here’s the print "Introduction"
to the "New Golf Digest":
The mantra for Golf Digest is Think Young, Play Hard.
With our redesign of the June issue, that spirit comes to every page. I’m taken
with the way youth, surprise, humor, edginess, innovation and athleticism can
energize the game. I love 18 or 36 holes but sometimes have only 30 or 90
minutes. I like old U.S. Open venues but still enjoy my golf on a simulator. I
want the right to wear cargo shorts, but frankly I’m into performance apparel.
Love my smartphone because it lets me escape the office, can’t stand guys who
make phone calls on-course. Life is all about my buddies and me, trying to play
better and trash talking like Tiger and Duf. State of
the art doesn’t equal stodgy. It also doesn’t ignore sexy—as Arnie taught
us. Welcome to the new Golf Digest.
is principal of the brand, packaging, and PR consultancy Romanik
Communications (www.romanik.com), located
in Elverson, PA. His full bio is here.
The Players postpartum. Is it really that exciting?
Tuesday, May 13, 2014 By Ron Romanik
Every year after The Players, I consider the
tournament’s merits and its place in the pantheon of great tournaments, just
for fun. I really want to know why the hype seems to overshoot the reality in
It’s fitting that TPC Sawgrass
is the PGA headquarters, because the closing three holes is the prototype for
PGA Tour stops nowadays. Lots of water on the closing holes makes for
"dramatic" finishes. Even Doral didn’t have enough water before 2014.
Of course, The Players is exciting. It has all that water. And excitement is what TV is all
Yes, there have been some great shots, chips,
and putts under pressure that have won The Players tournament. Fine.
Sure, it has one of the best fields by purely
world rankings criteria. That makes it competitive. Fine.
But when I think back from a Monday armchair quarterback
position, all I can remember are three holes. It’s like the first 15 holes are
just window dressing. Or a pregame show.
I’ve been watching golf on TV for 40 years now.
I can describe the nuances of almost every hole at Merion, Olympic, Augusta, Oakmont,
St. Andrews, Muirfield, Muirfield
Village. But, at this very moment, I can’t tell you anything about holes 1-15
at Sawgrass. As soon as the week is over, those holes
fade out of memory. Or, more accurately, those holes get jumbled up in my
memory to become indistinct.
(To be completely honest, the par-three 13th is
one that I have begun to find memorable in the last few years. So, let’s say 14
of 18 holes fade out of memory.)
I challenge you: Without looking up the
scorecard, describe the nuances of the 10th hole at Sawgrass.
Now describe the nuances of the 10th hole at Augusta. Exactly my point.
Just my personal taste, but give me more
"interesting" holes instead of "exciting" holes and "dramatic" finishes.
Ron Romanik is
principal of the brand, packaging and PR consultancy RomanikCommunications (www.romanik.com), located in Elverson, PA. His
full bio is here.
It’s the end of an era.
Admit it, you feel it too. There’s an aching void that—you suspect—will
never again be filled. And you’re right.
It’s okay to admit it. Let
yourself mourn. Tiger is on the way out. Not "done," per se, but moving toward
The Masters this past
weekend had an empty feeling to it. Of course, Tiger has missed majors before.
But it’s different this time. Life and the game are moving on. Even if he comes
back, expectations will be different. You’ll be happy to see some continued
success, but you won’t expect magic every time like in the past.
And all good things do come
to an end. His standard was impossibly high. The wins and the majors were one
thing, but the rabbit-out-of-the-hat shots were out of this world. David Feherty once said: "Of the 10 best shots I ever saw, Tiger hit
eight of them." That was some time ago, by now he might adjust those numbers to
be 18 of the best 20.
His imprint on the game is
permanent, even if he never plays again. And part of me wishes he’d consider
that. Maybe it’s time to move on to greater challenges in new arenas. In the
winter of 1997, before his first Masters win, I wondered if Tiger wouldn’t grow
tired of the game, as it can become tedious if you can no longer achieve
previous heights of mastery. Two of the greats—Bobby Jones and Byron
Nelson—walked away while they were still competitive.
It's a sad feeling, and I
promised myself that I would never stop predicting incredible achievements from
the man until I saw the writing on the wall. Well now it feels as if the
metaphorical wall-writer is uncapping his pen. Previously, whenever someone
would so carelessly imply that a "slump" meant washed-up, I'd quickly retort: "He'll
be back...just you wait and see."
In that same missive I wrote
in 1997, I wrote: "The look in Tiger’s eyes has an intensity that I’ve seen
only a couple of times before. To me, it appears that winning isn’t enough; he
wants to drive his opponents into submission, to bury any doubts of his
supremacy, to lap the fields of mortals, and to reveal the weaknesses of his
opponents so that they’ll limp home broken men." He no longer has that intensity,
and I miss it.
Of course, I was being
hyperbolic to make a point of the greatness that was already unfolding in
Tiger’s charge up the golf rankings. Tongue-in-cheek, I pressed hyperbole to
satirize the blind adulation and undeserved idolization of some sports fans: "We
are witnessing the flowering of a talent so pure and honed, and a spirit so competitive
and fiery, that analogies to other sports legends may very quickly become tired
But back to present day and
the realities of now. The truth is that many questions still remain. If he
comes back, how much will he "adjust" to take care of his body and avoid
further injury? He has already scaled back his game to a large degree. I don't
have much interest in watching Tiger play at 80 percent, as I wouldn't have
much interest in watching John McEnroe or Jimmy Connors at 80 percent, either.
And how many small injuries
and aches and pains are there that we don’t know about? Heck, he kept a broken
bone a secret for three months leading up to the 2008 U.S. Open. And what toll
did the Navy SEAL training take on his body?
It’s sad but also
liberating. I don't feel compelled to defend Tiger's greatness anymore. And I
never thought I'd say this: I don't think he will surpass Jack's record. And I
have a reason I can use in polite conversation. The human body has limits, and
Tiger has exceeded them too many times.
Tiger isn't the greatest to ever play the game. He is. There's really no question. But I won't feel
the need to explain why. If you witnessed the bulk of Jack's
and Tiger's careers, you have eyes. And if you still doubt, just review tape again.
So where do we go from here?
This past week at the Masters was a fun ride. Youth, experience, and a wild man
with an uncanny feel in his hands. Bubba is a mix of Paul Bunyan and John
Henry, a perfect antidote to the stuffiness of Augusta National.
Why Bubba can't win
elsewhere on tour is a bit of a puzzler, but not really. A long driver has a
big advantage at Augusta National because off-target drives are not penalized
There are lots of great
young players, no doubt. I still have high expectations of Rory, and Jordan Speith is incredibly solid for his age.
But Tiger will be a side show. And that's okay. Now is the time for the PGA Tour
to put effort into the defining characteristics of the main show. Does the Tour
merely determine who is hot—or gets the good bounces—that week? Is
it just a putting contest? Does the game have to be presented so
I used to be a pretty
staunch traditionalist. I’m growing less conservative with age—about
golf, at least. The game should be fun, it should be easy and fast to play, and
you shouldn’t feel like you’re at a boarding school when you play.
There is also room to
improve the watch-ability of the game, and there are ways to bring out the
personalities of the players (and the "Golf Boys" is not what I mean). It's
time to innovate now, because Tiger's ability to draw will continue to slide. I
once dreaded the Fox network taking over the reins of the U.S. Open. Now, I’m
thinking: "Let’s see what they can do."
I can't see Tiger winning more
than two majors in a single season, but there's no doubt he can still win one
or two here or there. But five more is a tall order for a man nearing 40 with
all the injuries his body has withstood, and will continue to withstand.
It was a good run, and it
was fun to watch, but change is the only inevitable in life. To quote the poet Percy
Shelley, "Man's yesterday may ne'er be like his morrow; Nought
may endure but Mutability."
is principal of the brand, packaging and PR consultancy Romanik
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