Slow play in golf is not going away anytime soon

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2012, 6:28 pm

HONOLULU (AP)—Luke Donald took to Twitter to vent about a contentious issue onthe PGA Tour. If nothing else, it was refreshing to see golf with a No. 1 playerwho was willing to express his opinion freely and publicly.

As for that issue that stirred Donald from his holiday in Barbados?

Pace of play, a topic that is not going anywhere in a hurry.

Players can question whether the tour should change the FedEx Cup pointssystem. They can debate the merits of the world ranking. They can be disgustedwith the number of no-shows for the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua. And aweek from now, they might really get worked up when they hear details of aproposal to revamp Q-school.

Still, nothing gets them going like slow play.

Trouble is, no one has a reasonable solution.

Donald joined the fray during the final round at Kapalua, where the finalfour pairings featured Kevin Na , Ben Crane , Webb Simpson and Jonathan Byrd , noneof them part of Lanny Wadkins ’ dream foursome if speed were a factor.

It didn’t take long for Byrd and Steve Stricker to fall nearly two holesbehind.

“Sounds like slow play is already an issue 1st week of the (at)PGATOURseason and it’s 2 somes. Sort it out please …” came the first tweet fromDonald. He followed with some advice: “It’s not that hard, be ready when it’syour turn. Slow play is killing our sport.”

Two tweets later, Donald got off his soap box with a final thought: “Icould rant all day long, don’t think anything will ever change as the slowplayers don’t realize they are slow.”

Criticism is less meaningful when not accompanied by solutions, and there isno simple answer for slow play. If there were, it would have been fixed whenNixon occupied the White House.

Nonetheless, a few observations from the last month.

— Tim Herron took about two minutes to figure out how to play his second shotto the green on Friday of the Sony Open. His ball was in the rough, 187 yards toa flag tucked behind the bunker. Was the ball going to take off on him from thatlie? How much? 6-iron or 7-iron? If it had been in the fairway, caddie Lance TenBroeck told him it would be a smooth 6-iron. Aim at the corner of the trap andcut it back toward the flag? Play for the middle of the green?

The entire conversation took place while the group ahead was putting. Assoon as the group left the green, Herron’s shot was in the air. That’s how golfis meant to be played. Beautiful.

— It would be simple to blame the swing coach or mental gurus who preach theimportance of routines, which are fine as long as they don’t take too long.Regardless, it still comes down to a player not wanting to hit until he iscomfortable over the shot.

Think of it this way: How much damage could Tom Brady do if he stood behindcenter as long as he wanted, not having the ball snapped until he felteverything was in place? The penalty is 5 yards in football. Should golf moveplayers back 15 yards for every shot that takes them longer than 40 seconds?That would take even more time.

— This spring marks the 20-year anniversary of the last time a player wasgiven a one-shot penalty for pace of play. To change the policy and make it aone-shot penalty when a player is over his allotted time sounds simple, butwouldn’t work. There are too many extenuating circumstances. Golf doesn’t havemany gray areas; this would be loaded with them.

Until someone gets a penalty shot, the stiffest punishment starts with a$20,000 fine for the 10th time a player is part of a group that gets put on theclock. Yawn. How about docking him 50 points from the FedEx Cup standings?Consider that a year ago, 50 points marked the difference between 125th (andqualifying for the playoffs) and 143rd (and getting a month off).

— Consider the lay of the land. Tour officials allotted 4 hours, 15 minutesfor a twosome at Kapalua, built on a mountain with full-size SUVs used forshuttles between two holes. The final twosome at the Sony Open played in 3hours, 39 minutes. Waialae is old school—flat, with tees next to the greens.

— Television cannot be underestimated when it comes to slow play.

It would seem that TV could at least draw attention from the pace by notshowing a player until he is ready to pull the trigger. Two problems:

One, a number of players have perfected the art of backing off shots. Again.And again.

Furthermore, the beauty of television is spending time with the playerbefore the shot, allowing the fan to anticipate the possibilities. It workedwell when Nick Faldo took forever before deciding on a 2-iron to go for the 13thgreen, a key moment when he won the 1996 Masters. Padraig Harrington walking upto the 17th green to check the hole location at Brookline in the Ryder Cup? Notso much.

Here’s the bigger issue with TV. Mark Russell, one of the chief rulesofficials, showed off his atomic watch at Sherwood last month. The seconds wereticking toward 6 p.m. EST just as the last group on the last green was tappingin. The timing was perfect.

The next day? Not so much.

Despite being in twosomes, play took much longer because of a strong wind.That leads to more time in club selection and on the green. Yet tee times wereleft alone, thus the third round went well past four hours and the 6 p.m. finishtime on NBC Sports.

That wasn’t an accident.

The tour purposely wanted to go long on Saturday so that NBC could directviewers to Golf Channel for the conclusion of the third round. It was anotherexample of NBC Sports trying to help boost the visibility of Golf Channel nowthat both are owned by Comcast. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. Especiallynot when TV foots so much of the bill.

— Slow play at public courses has been attributed to amateurs trying to belike the pros. Maybe so. Russell made an observation about recreational golfyears ago that is worth considering: Slow play is only a problem when you haveto wait.

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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm