Fast Furious golf event bucks trend of five-hour rounds
A race-themed PGA West was the setting for the Fast & Furious golf event.
LA QUINTA, Calif. – Is there anything golfers hate more than slow play?
Four-putts, shanks, a bad polish sausage at the turn, you name it – nothing is less digestible than a five-hour round of golf.
It’s one of golf’s great conundrums. Equipment has evolved to make the game more enjoyable. Why hasn’t pace of play?
Last month we visited the first-annual Fast & Furious, an event out to prove that tournament golf doesn’t have to be a five-hour round played on lush, perfectly clipped grass. The event was created by Davis Sezna, president of La Quinta Resort in Palm Desert and his executive director Mike Kelly, who contend that golf can – and should – be played in less than four hours on a firm, fast surface.
Before a shotgun start at PGA West’s browned-out Greg Norman Course, each of the 80 participants signed a contract requiring them to complete all 18 holes in less than four hours. Those who failed to finish in the allotted time would be disqualified.
While PGA West certainly isn’t the first group to take a hard line approach to pace of play – most golf courses have some sort of policy on the matter – the Fast & Furious is the first event we’ve heard of to adopt a definitive start and finish time for a tournament.
“Pace of play is a hot button no matter where you go,” Kelly said. “With this event we feel like we’re taking a step toward solving one of golf’s biggest problems.”
Among the participants at the Fast & Furious was PGA Tour winner John Schroeder, a man who knows a thing or two about slow play. During CBS’ broadcast of the 1980 Heritage Classic at Harbour Town, an open mic caught Tom Kite chastising Schroeder for playing slowly in the group ahead.
“He said some very unflattering things about me,” Schroeder recalled, declining to specify exactly what Kite said. “When I played the Tour I was a slow player, I don’t dispute that. But he and [playing partner] Lanny Wadkins thought we were out of position that day when in fact we were not.”
Schroeder says nothing much ever came of the incident – other than CBS abandoning its plan to mic players – and the issue of slow play on Tour is actually worse now than it’s ever been.
“When you watch players on Tour today, they’re moving at a glacial pace,” Schroeder said. “When I watch those guys on TV I’m saying, ‘What is he thinking about?’ When the average golfer sees that, they go out and copy them.”
Despite his reputation as a pro, Schroeder says he plays much faster nowadays. He frequents The Palms Golf Club in La Quinta, where he says three- to three-and-a-half hour rounds are the norm. At the Fast & Furious, he never thought about playing fast in order to finish.
If a former slow-playing Tour player is on board with playing faster golf, it makes sense for amateurs as well. And while there are inherent roadblocks to playing faster – most notably the number of strokes a hacker hits over the course of a round – Schroeder believes the solution is simple.
“It comes down to playing ready golf,” he said. “If you can be ready to hit your ball when it’s your turn, you’ll play a lot faster.”
As golf navigates a sluggish economy, it can ill-afford golfers bailing on the game because it takes too long to play. It’s nice to see PGA West taking an active role in reversing the trend. Let’s hope other courses and tournament operators follow suit.
Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings
Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.
Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.
As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.
"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."
Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.
Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.
Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut
If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.
Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.
But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.
Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.
Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:
Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180
Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70
Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5
Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450
Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200
Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000
Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements
SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.
Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.
“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.
Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.
“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”
Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.
“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”
Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back
SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.
Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.
Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim.
Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.