Slow play is bad, but what can be done?

By Doug FergusonJanuary 17, 2012, 9:04 pm

HONOLULU - Luke Donald took to Twitter to vent about a contentious issue on the PGA Tour. If nothing else, it was refreshing to see golf with a No. 1 player who 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 points system. They can debate the merits of the world ranking. They can be disgusted with the number of no-shows for the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua. And a week from now, they might really get worked up when they hear details of a proposal 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 final four pairings featured Kevin Na, Ben Crane, Webb Simpson and Jonathan Byrd, none of them part of Lanny Wadkins dream foursome if speed were a factor.

It didnt take long for Byrd and Steve Stricker to fall nearly two holes behind.

Sounds like slow play is already an issue 1st week of the (at)PGATOUR season and its 2 somes. Sort it out please came the first tweet from Donald. He followed with some advice: Its not that hard, be ready when its your turn. Slow play is killing our sport.

Two tweets later, Donald got off his soap box with a final thought: I could rant all day long, dont think anything will ever change as the slow players dont realize they are slow.

Criticism is less meaningful when not accompanied by solutions, and there is no simple answer for slow play. If there were, it would have been fixed when Nixon 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 shot to the green on Friday of the Sony Open in Hawaii. His ball was in the rough, 187 yards to a flag tucked behind the bunker. Was the ball going to take off on him from that lie? How much? 6-iron or 7-iron? If it had been in the fairway, caddie Lance Ten Broeck told him it would be a smooth 6-iron. Aim at the corner of the trap and cut it back toward the flag? Play for the middle of the green?

The entire conversation took place while the group ahead was putting. As soon as the group left the green, Herrons shot was in the air. Thats how golf is meant to be played. Beautiful.

' It would be simple to blame the swing coach or mental gurus who preach the importance of routines, which are fine as long as they dont take too long. Regardless, it still comes down to a player not wanting to hit until he is comfortable over the shot.

Think of it this way: How much damage could Tom Brady do if he stood behind center as long as he wanted, not having the ball snapped until he felt everything was in place? The penalty is 5 yards in football. Should golf move players 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 was given a one-shot penalty for pace of play. To change the policy and make it a one-shot penalty when a player is over his allotted time sounds simple but wouldnt work. There are too many extenuating circumstances. Golf doesnt have many 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 the clock. Yawn. How about docking him 50 points from the FedEx Cup standings? Consider that a year ago, 50 points marked the difference between 125th (and qualifying for the playoffs) and 143rd (and getting a month off).

' Consider the lay of the land. Tour officials allotted 4 hours, 15 minutes for a twosome at Kapalua, built on a mountain with full-size SUVs used for shuttles between two holes. The final twosome at the Sony Open played in 3 hours, 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 not showing 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 player before the shot, allowing the fan to anticipate the possibilities. It worked well when Nick Faldo took forever before deciding on a 2-iron to go for the 13th green, a key moment when he won the 1996 Masters. Padraig Harrington walking up to the 17th green to check the hole location at Brookline in the Ryder Cup? Not so much.

Heres the bigger issue with TV. Mark Russell, one of the chief rules officials, showed off his atomic watch at Sherwood last month. The seconds were ticking toward 6 p.m. EST, just as the last group on the last green was tapping in. 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 were left alone, thus the third round went well past four hours and the 6 p.m. finish time on NBC Sports.

That wasnt an accident.

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

' Slow play at public courses has been attributed to amateurs trying to be like the pros. Maybe so. Russell made an observation about recreational golf years ago that is worth considering: Slow play is only a problem when you have to wait.

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McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Web.com Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Web.com Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

 

 

Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."


Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout


Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.