Slow Play Not Bad Manners Ruins Golf

By Associated PressJune 14, 2005, 4:00 pm
PINEHURST, N.C. -- Paul Azinger was nearly apoplectic when Rory Sabbatini staged his one-man protest against slow play on the 17th green Sunday in the Booz Allen Classic.
All Sabbatini did was putt out and go to the 18th tee before Ben Crane finally meandered up to the green. But in golf circles, at least the ones Azinger runs in, his breach of conduct was akin to burning the flag.
'As inconsiderate as anything I've seen,' sniffed Azinger, who as a television commentator now fancies himself as one of the guardians of the game. Sabbatini, he said, has 'gone psycho. That's crazy!'
Good thing Azinger wasn't around Fulton Allem a few years ago when Allem, disgusted over the pokey play of Bob Estes, left him a parting message when they finished 18 holes.
'You are too slow,' Allem wrote across Estes' scorecard.
Golf, of course, is the ultimate gentleman's game. No one speaks ill of his fellow player, disputes are settled behind closed doors and everyone makes up over a snifter of brandy.
It doesn't always work that way, of course, but the people who run the PGA Tour and the players themselves try their best to pretend they're one big happy family with only the good of golf - not the millions they're making - foremost in their minds.
That's why Phil Mickelson blamed the press for cooking up stories about tension between himself and Vijay Singh at the Masters. This was a day after Mickelson issued a statement saying he and Singh had a confrontation in the champion's locker room over the length of Phil's spikes.
Sabbatini's conduct at Congressional Country Club was remarkable, coming on a Sunday before a national television audience. He couldn't have aired the tour's dirty laundry any better than if he had strung it out on a line in front of the White House.
The timing was even better because it came on the eve of the U.S. Open, where early rounds can become six-hour marathons and not even the summer sun sticks around long enough for some players to finish.
Of course, the knee-jerk reaction of Azinger and others was to bash Sabbatini for violating golf etiquette. And it didn't take long for Sabbatini to issue a statement saying he had reacted 'inappropriately.'
OK, so maybe you shouldn't leave your playing partner and stroll onto the next hole. But anyone who has suffered through 5 1/2-hour rounds at the local muni on a Saturday can certainly sympathize with being stuck with the notoriously slow Crane.
It didn't help that Sabbatini had already been paired with Crane on Thursday and Friday, then found himself in the group behind him on Saturday. This is a guy who, in Las Vegas a few years ago, actually pulled out his yardage book and studied the contours sketched in it before putting.
'I need to work on picking it up,' Crane admitted.
He does, and he's not alone. The tour is full of players who aren't much quicker. And, if walking off on your playing partner is a breach of etiquette, playing at a snail's pace is even worse.
Look at the USGA rulebook and there's almost an entire page devoted to the proper pace of play. 'Play at a good pace and keep up,' one blue headline reads. 'Be ready to play,' says another.
'At the end of the day, slow play is the bane of the game,' USGA executive director David Fay said.
That the USGA recognizes slow play for what it is doesn't mean the first two rounds this week on Pinehurst No. 2 will move quickly. Crane isn't here, so that helps. But these are U.S. Open conditions, the field is huge, and players are conditioned to take their time.
'You can't put 156 players on the golf course and expect us to be able to play in four hours and 15 minutes,' Jim Furyk said. 'It can't be done.'
Ultimately, the responsibility for slow play rests with the PGA Tour, which talks a good game but seldom does anything about it. Players are put on the clock and warned if they get behind, with the vague threat of a possible fine if they do it too much.
But, as Allem once said, that's like a highway patrolman pulling a car over for doing 100 mph and telling the driver he'll be watching him the next three miles and give him a ticket if he does it again.
Want to get tough with players? Start passing out two-stroke penalties every time a group falls too far behind. Make them finish under a certain time or add a stroke to their score for every 15 minutes they go over.
The trickle-down effect would be immediate. Players would stop reading putts from 14 different directions, stop taking repeated practice swings, and stop throwing grass in the air to see if the wind has changed in the last 10 seconds.
Even better for golf, the guys in the foursome in front of you at your favorite course might stop doing the same things.
Related links:
  • Full Coverage - 105th U.S. Open

  • Tee Times - U.S. Open

  • Photo Gallery from Pinehurst

    Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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    Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

    Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

    ''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

    Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

    First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

    ''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

    David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

    The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    ''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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    The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

    By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

    Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

    Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

    I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

    One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

    So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

    You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

    Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

    I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

    This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

    Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

    On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

    The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

    “What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

    Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

    Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

    Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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    Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

    Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

    Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

    In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

    Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

    After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

    Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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    Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

    Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

    “I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

    After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

    Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

    The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.