Slow play not an easy fix on the PGA Tour

By Doug FergusonMay 4, 2017, 1:54 am

WILMINGTON, N.C. – In a recent magazine survey of PGA Tour players, 84 percent said they believe slow play is a problem.

That might suggest the 16 percent who don't are the only ones causing the problem.

And it leads to a broader question: Just how big is the problem?

Bill Haas contemplated this Tuesday at the Wells Fargo Championship, and he didn't have an answer. Haas is supremely qualified to discuss the subject because if everyone played tournament golf like Haas, no one would be talking about it.

Instead, that's all anyone does - talk.

''My dad has said it's been talked about in player meetings since he was a rookie,'' Haas said. His father, Jay Haas, was a PGA Tour rookie in 1977. ''What are we going to do about it?''

Oddly enough, it took the tour doing something to get everyone talking about it again.

Tour officials assessed a one-shot penalty for slow play last week at the Zurich Classic, the first one at a regular PGA Tour event since 1995. This one was peculiar because it happened at the first team event in 36 years in a format (alternate shot) that had never been used at an official tournament.

Miguel Angel Carballo was given a bad time on the 12th hole at the TPC Louisiana. His partner, Brian Campbell, received a bad time on the 14th hole. Typically, it takes two bad times for a player to receive a penalty shot, but the Rules of Golf defines partners in foursomes as one player.

Once the shock wore off, the dialogue shifted from ''it's about time'' to ''what took so long?''

All that was missing was a solution.

The problem is with the policy. The reason some of the notoriously slow players on the PGA Tour have escaped penalties for taking too long to play their shots (50 seconds for the first to play, 40 seconds for the others in the group) is because they know the system, and it's easy to beat.

Players are timed only when they are out of position, either based on the suggested time it should take or if the hole ahead of them is open. Once they are notified the group is ''on the clock,'' one bad time is a warning, the next one is a penalty.

Here's what is not in the book - when players are put on the clock, that's not their first interaction with a rules official. They first are asked to pick up the pace, a courtesy to allow for outside circumstances (such as a lost ball). Secondly, while timing is not an exact science, players are not given a bad time if they go a few seconds over the limit. A bad time generally is a really bad time.

Either way, it's a bad policy.

''If a slow player gets behind and they're asked to pick it up, the first question they ask is, 'Am I on the clock?' Because if they're not on the clock, they're not going to change,'' Haas said. ''If they are on the clock, they change. I don't like that. Because then all they do is run down the fairway.''

No one explained this better than Fulton Allem at The Players Championship way back in 2000.

''It would be like you going down the highway 100 mph,'' Allem said. ''A cop says: 'Listen, bud, you are doing 100. I am going to follow you now. I am going to measure your speed.' You're not going to go over the speed limit. You're going to drive perfectly.''

Maybe the answer is no mention of being on the clock, and no warning.

Pat Perez suggested putting an official with every group and timing all players regardless if they're out of position. That would work. That also would be an additional 52 officials for a 156-man field, and that's not very practical.

There are other factors that make golf at the highest level different.

Total prize money this week is $7.5 million. That cannot be overlooked. Neither can the size of the field, which this week is 156 players. Because the Zurich Classic was a team event, there were 160 players. That's the largest field on the PGA Tour played over one course.

The greens are faster than ever and the pins are cut closer to edges. Putts on fast greens run 3 or 4 feet by holes when they miss. Those are marked and given as much care as the original putt. That adds to the time.

''Until the greens are slower, there's nothing you can do,'' said Brian Harman, another lightning-quick player. ''I don't have the answer other than making the golf course easier.''

Perez says he isn't bothered by slow play because after 16 years on the PGA Tour, he's used to it. Everyone seems slow compared with him. Perez also doesn't expect change because of the nature of televised golf. More than a game, it's entertainment.

''Until a tournament doesn't finish because of slow play, that's when it will change,'' he said. ''We always finish on time, somehow.''

Minus drastic measures that could do more harm than good, it's not a simple fix. And the longer it goes without a solution raises the question of how big the problem really is.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.