I was out walking the course at the AT&T National on Thursday when I
happened to witness up close one of those shots that serves a reminder as to why
I type for living and those guys inside the ropes play golf for a living.
Technically, I suppose, Andres Romeo was outside
the ropes when he hit the shot in question, which is why I and a few others
were so close. But you get my point.
It happened at the 18th
at Aronimink, a 436-yard uphill par 4, where Romeo had hit his tee ball 296 yards, according to ShotLink.But he had sprayed it to the right, and
it come to rest in the trampled, light rough between the 18th and the adjoining
9th fairways.Romeo, an Argentinianwith one win on Tour, had 156 yards to the hole, and he was hemmed in by trees,
plus there was a bunker in the distance to negotiate.
I’m no PGA
Tour pro, but I’m a not half-bad amateur, and over the years I have watched
my share of PGA Tour pros hit
roughly a million golf shots in all kinds of situations. So I feel like I have a pretty decent
feel for what they can do, as opposed to I (and most amateurs), can do in these
To me, standing five feet from the ball, Romeo’s options appeared limited.Trying to go for the green by hitting
the ball up and over the trees was out of the question.The trees were way too close and too
tall.Tiger in his heyday, at his best,could not have hit that ball over those trees.
I also quickly dismissed the likelihood that Romero would try to thread the needle
of trees in the distance.For one
thing, they were too far off, and they were too close together.
(Don’t be fooled by the accompanying photo. I shot it with a telephoto lens, which
makes the trees appear closer than they really were.)
In my judgment, the only high-percentage chance
for Romero to save par was to take
his medicine and pitch back to the fairway to the left, at a 45-degree angle,
leaving him maybe 50 yards to the green.From there, he would have a decent chance of getting up-and-down for par,
or at least avoiding double-bogey.
If I or most amateurs I know were to attempt some
kind of hero shot from where his ball lay, the outcome would likely be one lf
(1) Bounce it off one of those trees, sending
it careening to the right, into the 18th fairway
(2) Hit it too high, straight into the trees,
whereupon the ball would drop straight down, most likely behind a tree trunk
(3) If I tried to thread the needle, in the unlikely
event that I kept it between the tree trunks and beneath the canopy of limbs
and leaves, I would have hit it directly into the bunker, which is 20 or 30
yards short of the green. No way I could hit a frozen-rope shot 125 yards,
eight feet off the ground.
and his caddie talked among themselves, it was clear from where they were
looking that my recommended safe play was not on their radar screen.At first, I thought Romeo was considering playing it out to the right, up the 18th
fairway, which didn’t make much sense to me.But no, as he settled in over the ball,
it became clear he was going for broke – he was going to try to thread
the needle of trees.
This should be good, I thought.Or bad.I gave him a 5- or 10-percent chance of
pulling it off.
Romero had what appeared to be a 7-
or 8-iron, and he hit a kind of punch shot.It only it took off like a rocket, low,
beneath the trees, and it was bending from right to left.
To my amazement, the ball split the trees
perfectly, and it had the oomph to clear the bunker in the distance; when it
hit the ground, it took off running, coming to rest in the rough behind the
I was stunned.So were the guys watching with me.Did he just do that?There was zero chance I or any of us could
have hit that shot. I would never even have attempted it.Plenty of Tour pros wouldn’t have chanced that shot. Yet, Romero shrugged at the result, as if it
came off exactly as he expected.
From there, he pitched to within six feet of
the hole and sank the putt to save par.
I’ll tell you what, sitting
through a Tiger Woods press
conference isn’t what it used to be.
Back in his heyday, the
media would assemble early, because seats in Tiger’s audience were at a premium, even at those big-tent major
championships.A back door to the
media center would open and in Tiger
would sweep, trailed by an entourage worthy of a hip-hop mogul: agents, swing
coaches, family, friends, security and at least a couple of people whose
purpose and connection were anybody’s guess.
would take his place at the head table and face the media like the royal family
looking out from that balcony at Will
and Kate’s wedding.When stirrings in the room settled down,
his agent, Mark Steinberg, over in
the corner, would offer a slight nod to the interview moderator as a signal to
No matter what the event
– the U.S. Open, the PGA Championship or some lesser event
that he was gracing with his presence – it was merely the stage for Tiger’s superhuman heroics.Even at Ryder Cups, where Tiger
would file in with his teammates, it will still pretty much about him.We knew that.He knew that.It was Tiger’s world and we were just living in it, watching in awe,
grateful for a seat.
Once the press conference
began, Tiger would make an opening
statement but he never said anything...Blah,
Even when the floor was
opened to questions, Tiger never
said anything provocative or revealing.But he was so smooth in saying nothing, you didn’t much notice until you
sat down at your laptop and started going over your notes.Is
there one usable quote here?
But it was okay, because Tiger had that aura of invincibility,
that ability to leave us shaking our heads in amazement.He did his talking with his golf
clubs.That gave you all the material you needed.
Cut to now.
At Aronimink, Tiger didn’t so much sweep into the press conference as he limped
in the side door.The entourage is
smaller, down to agent Mark Steinberg,
who recently got axed from IMG; and Tiger’s
spokesman, Glenn Greenspan, who left
Augusta National for this job
shortly before the Tiger Apocalypse.
press conferences are few and far between these days, and the audiences are
smaller.Some of it has to do with
the shrinking of the media due to the economy.More of it has to do with Tiger’s downfall, his disgrace, his
loss of popularity – and, of course, with the fact that he is not winning
and not even playing.
The first question at Aronimink was
about when he would return to competitive golf.The British
Open in two weeks?
didn’t know.Last time, he came
back too soon and he ended up quitting after nine holes at the Players Championship.This time, he is taking no chances,
taking his doctors’ advice, setting no timetables.He’ll come back when he’s ready and no
sooner, whenever that turns out to be.
He still tries to look and
talk and project like the Tiger of
old, but it’s not working.Very
unconvincing.It’s as if the air
has gone out of him. He seems
sapped, scared.There was something
approaching sadness in the room, like a funeral.
As I sat there, I couldn’t
help but think the whole thing would be more interesting and more productive if
Tiger had had to answer the "thought
bubble" questions hanging over people’s heads, not the questions they actually
Say, Tiger, did you see that latest poll where a
majority of golf fans think your career is toast?
Does it bother you knowing that every 20-something on
Tour these days thinks he can kick your ass?
One of the financial magazines says you’re still
making $70 million a year in endorsements.I don’t see it.Other than
Nike and EA, who is left?
Ah, do you ever lie in bed at night and ask yourself,
"How did I manage to screw up my life this bad?"
A couple of hours before Tiger’s press conference, I bumped into
a powerful agent who represents several top players.Quickly, the talk turned to Tiger.We shook our heads, neither of us able
to believe the gory details of one of the most spectacular downfalls in the
history of sports.
"The thing is, I don’t think
Tiger or Mark (Steinberg) understands how much the world has changed since
he hit that fire hydrant," said the agent. "I don’t think they get it.But believe me, the world has changed."
It has, and it’s a shame for
Tiger, for golf and for golf fans.
I try to keep MyPhillyGolf free of
politics.With all the mind-numbing
debate and name-calling that goes on between liberals and conservatives in the
country these days, I figure this website ought to be one place where you can
take refuge.You come here for
golf, not politics.
But then somebody emailed me a link to this column
on Townhall.com, a conservative
It didn’t come as news to me that most of the
guys on the PGA Tour are conservative.Talk to one of them for five minutes and you’re likely to hear the
gospel according to Rush Lumbaugh or Sean
Even the Tour pros who grew up cushy, living
the country club life in the suburbs, tend to see themselves as lone wolves,
survivors, guys who eat only what they kill, metaphorically speaking. Unlike
most other pro sports, Tour pros don’t get signing bonuses or no-cut contracts.
Still, I was a little surprised to read that
the comments of the unnamed pro quoted in this column.He worries that Golf Channel is going to be influenced, infiltrated, infected by he
sees as the too-liberal mothership, NBC.
Here’s columnist Douglas MacKinnon quoting an unnamed Tour pro:
"I will speak for myself here. As a
conservative, one of the things that has most bothered me is The Golf Channel
partnering with ultraliberal NBC. CNBC is dominated by the liberal agenda,
MSNBC is the liberal agenda and the NBC-controlled Weather Channel is driven by
the religion of global warming and believes in smearing all who don't bow down
to the 'settled science' of global warming. And now The Golf Channel is being
big-footed by those with a liberal agenda, and no one seems to care.
"So now professional golf, where at least a
majority of the U.S. players still believe in traditional values, is falling
under the same control of the far left much like the entertainment world, the
mainstream media and our colleges and universities. It's a disgrace, but many
golfers are simply afraid to speak up.
The pro is not
"Now The Golf Channel
is using the NBC-employed or -approved likes of Jimmy Roberts, John Feinstein
or Tim Rosaforte — nonathletes
that many of us believe have a liberal agenda or openly espouse their liberal
beliefs or allegiance to the Democratic party."
Okay, I have no idea what Jimmy Roberts’ politics are, and I don’t
think anybody else does either, at least not from watching what he does and
says on NBC and Golf Channel.
As for John Feinstein and Tim Rosaforte,
if the unnamed Tour pro doesn’t like them, don’t blame NBC. Both were
working for Golf Channel long before Comcast, which already owned
Golf Channel, bought NBC and joined them at the hip.
I know Feinstein and Rosaforte
and I can tell you that both of them are smart enough to know that viewers of Golf
Channel, like visitors to MyPhillyGolf,
aren’t tuning in for their personal takes on politics.
Smartest of all in that regard is Philadelphia’s own Brian Roberts,
chairman of Comcast and therefore the boss of NBC and Golf
Channel.Word is, last Sunday,
when NBC aired the package with the edited version of the Pledge of
Allegiance, Roberts was not happy and he was quickly on the phone trying
to find out who approved this bone-headed move.
"Traditional values?" How about "Freedom of speech?" If this conservative golfer doesnít like NBC,CNBC, MSNBC or even The Weather Channel, then donít watch them. Geez....The Golf Channel has already had that doofus Rush Limbaugh on Hank Haneyís show. Maybe Glenn Beck will be the next politico there. That should be fair and balanced enough for him.
[6/24/2011 3:10:52 PM]
Even if the whiner were right about the liberal bias, surely there are worse things than being, Heaven forbid, liberal.
If you missed last night’s premier preview of Feherty on Golf Channel, you’ve
got another chance to watch it tonight from 9-10 p.m., when it officially
debuts.It’s worth checking out.
For candid, insightful golf commentary, Brandel Chamblee has overtaken Johnny Miller in my book.But when it comes to wit, humor and
entertainment value, nobody on the scene today can touch David Feherty.
Except for the over-the-top intros that have
the star acting and looking goofy, Fehertyis the freshest thing on Golf
Channel.In the span of a
half-hour, the CBS and Golf Channel analyst is funny, brutally
candid, somber, loosey-goosey and reverential.
Most of the premier episode is devoted to Feherty
interviewing and essentially kneeling at the alter of Lee Trevino.That’s
okay, because Trevino is also an
engaging character, with a great story to explore.Besides, during his prime, Trevino never quite got the attention and
respect he deserved, laboring in the shadows of Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson
and the still competitive Arnold Palmer.Feherty readily admits that he is perhaps Trevino’s biggest fan.
For years, Feherty was clever but largely
unseen foot soldier for CBS, spouting
hilarious one-liners as he walked the fairways.Then, out of the blue, the funnyman revealed
that he had spent years hiding the fact that he was a drug addict, a barely functional
alcoholic, not to mention fighting a losing battle to depression.Those close to him surely knew,
but not the rest of us.
We didn’t find out until after the fact, when Feherty sobered
up, lost what must have been 40 pounds, grew a goatee that makes him look like a
smiling Lucifer – and reintroduced himself as a more complicated and
These days,Feherty can still do goofball quite handily when
he wants to, but he can turn on a dime, growing serious as he lays bare his
demons to the point you feel awkward watching from the distance and safety of
your easy chair.
When I heard the news that he was a reformed
alcoholic, I immediately recalled one night several years ago at Masters.Each year during Masters week, CBS rents
a big house with a sprawling yard in the Augusta suburbs; one night of the
tournament, they throw a party for the media, network types, golf officials and
all manner of movers and shakers.
One year, a small cluster of us writer types were
out in the yard, sipping beers and shooting the bull, when Feherty walked up and joined the
conversation.He probably had a
beer in his hand, I don’t recall, but he certainly didn’t appear to be drunk.
Then, for whatever reason, he launched into an
story about a well-known player (not Tiger) that was so out-of-school and
raunchy that it made a bunch of hardly prudish middle-aged sportswriters
blanche.I remember thinking the CBS brass would croak if they knew he
was out working the party with stories like that.
A couple of years later, when he went public with
his problems, it all made sense.Feherty must’ve
been in the tank that night, even if he hid it well.
These days, Feherty is a different guy.I’ve got to believe he has removed that
story from his repertoire.Today,
he would shake his head at the embarrassment of it all.
Feherty was a far better golfer
during his career than he lets on today – self-deprecation is part of his
shtick; he’s a hell of a golf commentator now, and he’s a polished and funny
writer.He’s also got a weekly show
of his own that will likely get better by the week.
Watching Rory McIlroy
rewrite the U.S. Open record book
and establish himself as the new darling of golf, it was hard not to wonder
whether Tiger Woods was watching.
Was Tiger at home, lying on the couch, with his bum leg elevated,
staring into some 70-inch plasma high-def, knowing
that millions of his old fans have found
a new fave – a likeable young fresh face, not
unlike Tiger in 1997, when he blew
minds as he blew away the field in the Masters
by 12 shots?
Was Tiger lying there gnashing his teeth, aching for the moment when he
is healthy again and able to get back out there to re-establish himself as the
king of the golfing jungle?
Or was he sweating bullets.He’s 35 now, not the kid he once was, not
the same guy that used to cast the long shadow as he strode to the first
tee.With McIlroy’s herculean victory at Congressional, all four major
championship trophies are now held by 20-somethings.Rory
McIlroy was 8 when Tiger won the ’97 Masters;
Jason Day, the other superstar
aborning, was 9.
But as the day wore on and Johnny Miller and the NBC team hailed McIlroy’s amazing
performance at Congressional, my
curiosity about Tiger was eventually
supplanted by concern that the media is already hailing this kid is the new Tiger.
McIlroy is obviously a big, big talent, and a terrific and humble young man
with a very bright future, but he has won exactly one major.He hasn’t lost sight of that and neither
should we.Let’s not saddle him
with impossible expectations.Let’s
not set him up for failure, if he doesn’t begin winning majors at the rate of a
The next major is the British Open, in July.You don’t have to be a genius to know
what the story line will be:Can
this budding superstar deliver again?Is he as good as we thought? If Tiger
is in the field, the British Open
will be billed as a showdown between the old star and the new kid on the block
– i.e. Old Tiger vs. New Tiger.
For the media, the
temptation is impossible to resist.They need a story to tell.Let’s just hope McIlroy
doesn’t turn out to be collateral damage.
This is certainly nothing new. How many young golfers who won majors or big tournaments in the early 1980s were dubbed "The Next Nicklaus"? Hal Sutton and Jeff Sluman come to mind. Both had nice careers, but fell far short of expectations. I agree with you Joe, letís let Rory be Rory...
How about a major tip of the visor to Michael Tobiason Jr., the local club
pro, for his first-round 75 in the U.S. Open at Congressional CC.Okay, he’s not on the leaderboard, but
what he did Thursday was huge.Scorecard.
27, from Wilmington, a teaching pro at Applecross CC in Downingtown, told me the other day
that he had never been to a PGA Tour
event, let alone played in one, I
silently winced on the other end of the phone.Teeing it up in the U.S. Open, arguably the grandest stage in golf, for your first
big-time tournament is to suffocating pressure.
Having seen club pro after club pro shoot 85 in
the same situation, then bury their face in their hands in the locker room, humiliated,
I fully expected Tobiason to wilt under
the pressure at Congressional.To
his credit, Tobiason did no such
As I write this, shortly after 6 p.m., a bunch
of golfers are still on the course for the first round.Tobiason
is currently T-96th and looking better all the time.By the end of the day, he could be
hovering around the cut line.
I don’t know about you but I’m pulling for Michael Tobiason.