Penalizing slow play a matter of time, common sense

By Jason SobelMay 21, 2012, 5:55 pm

There is a rule about traveling with the ball in the NBA. Buried somewhere within the confines of its thick rulebook is stated that taking more than two steps as a continuation will be deemed illegal and an automatic turnover of possession.

Which means players can’t do it. No warnings. No grey areas. No ifs, ands or buts.

And yet, watch any NBA game and you’ll be able to pick out traveling violations like hunting for hay in a haystack. It’s the ones that are actually whistled, though, which take on Abominable Snowman-like proportions. Spot one and you’ll have a conversation icebreaker for weeks on end.

Golf has a similar rules violation. For so long, on so many tours around the world, the penalty for slow play has most often been the following message: “You’d better not do it, but if you do, well … just don't, please.”

That was the directive from PGA Tour officials two weeks ago when Kevin Na turned TPC Sawgrass into his personal waiting room, hesitating and waggling and even backing off on many of his shots.

Video: Pressel on the controversies

Discussion: Penalty fair or unreasonable?

Perhaps the backlash against the lack of a stroke penalty made an impact on the women’s game this past weekend. Maybe it simply brought the issue to the forefront of consciousness once again. Or possibly it had no effect at all. Whatever the case, the issue reared its head once again this past weekend, with Morgan Pressel being assessed a loss-of-hole penalty during her semifinal match against Azahara Munoz in the Sybase Match Play Championship.

It’s not the fact that Pressel was given a penalty that caused such an uproar; it’s that the situation hardly made it a necessity.

Playing as the second of two matches with nobody waiting behind them, both Pressel and Munoz admitted they were playing slowly, but it was the former who received the disciplinary measure after taking too long to hit her shots on the 12th hole. It turned an apparent 3-up lead for Pressel into a mere 1-up lead, which she later parlayed into a match loss in one of the more bizarre turnabouts we’ll ever witness.

It’s impossible to argue that this wasn’t the proper action taken against Pressel. The rule is in place, she broke the rule and therefore she was subject to the subsequent penalty. Case closed.

Or is it? Surely there have been many other times – very possibly even other times during the Sybase matches – when players were on the clock and continued to play too slowly. All of which makes the enforcement of such a policy subjective at best.

Look at it this way: Considering the number of slow-play penalties on the LPGA has numbered in single-digits during the past three-plus seasons, this seemed like an awfully quizzical time to start keeping players beholden to the rule.

Really, the issue comes down to a philosophical difference: Either rules are rules and they should be enforced at all times, anytime or there are certainly unwritten stipulations and interpretations to the rules. The latter theory would suggest that some semblance of common sense be addressed as part of the rules.

To employ the aforementioned analogy, this would be like NBA referees constantly allowing traveling during the course of play – until, say, LeBron James took an extra step toward the basket with two minutes to play in a tied playoff game.

The real shame of the entire situation is that the LPGA – desperately in need of more players with superstar potential – furnished a champion on Sunday who has the youth, the look and, most importantly, the talent to be a top-level global star. And yet, Munoz’s victory has been easily and completely overshadowed by the incident with Pressel, negating the marketing power of winning a prestigious event in the New York area.

It was either the right call at the wrong time or the wrong call at the right time. The witch hunt to eradicate slow play within the game’s elite ranks is growing by the day and this occurrence served to pacify the masses seeking retribution against the sin.

What remains to be seen is whether this ruling will open the floodgates for more slow play penalties in the future, enduring as a tipping point for the issue, or simply live as a one-off circumstance that forever leaves lingering questions as to when, where, why and how it’s acceptable to break a rule without being properly penalized.

Much like an NBA traveling call, Pressel broke a rule. The punishment fit the crime. It just didn’t fit so many of the other nonexistent punishments that preceded it.

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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.

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Wie takes shot at LPGA dress code in crop top

By Grill Room TeamDecember 10, 2017, 5:33 pm

The new LPGA dress code got mixed reviews when it was announced in July, and Michelle Wie is taking full advantage of her offseason with no restrictions.

The 28-year-old former U.S. Women's Open champion is keeping her game sharp while back in her home state of Hawaii, but couldn't help taking a shot at the rules while doing it, posting a photo to Instagram of her playing golf in a crop top with the caption, "Offseason = No dress code fine."

Offseason = No dress code fines #croptopdroptop

A post shared by Michelle Wie (@themichellewie) on

Wie isn't the first to voice her displeasure with the rules. Lexi Thompson posted a similar photo and caption to Instagram shortly after the policy was announced.

Lexi, Finau 3 back going into final QBE round

By Associated PressDecember 9, 2017, 11:58 pm

NAPLES, Fla. - Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry shot an 8-under 64 in modified alternate shot and shared the lead Saturday with Steve Stricker and Sean O'Hair going into the final round of the QBE Shootout.

McDowell (Northern Ireland) and Lowry (Ireland), the only international players among the 12 teams at Tiburon Golf Club, began to erase a five-shot deficit with an eagle and birdie on the opening two holes and they dropped only one shot all day in blustery conditions.

Stricker and O'Hair started the back nine with a pair of bogeys, rallied with three straight birdies and then dropped one last shot from the bunker on the 17th.

The teams were tied at 18-under 126.

Lexi Thompson, the lone LPGA player in the field, teamed with Tony Finau for a 66 that put them in the hunt going into the final round. Thompson and Finau were three shots behind.

McDowell and Lowry tied for ninth in the World Cup last year. They grew up playing Irish junior golf and appreciate the difficulty of alternate shot, even the modified version when both players hit tee shots.

Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

''To go out and shoot 8 under in that format in these conditions today, I think it speaks volumes about the fact we're both playing pretty well,'' McDowell said. ''We both had an opportunity to hit some good shots out there today and make some good putts, and it gives you a little bit of momentum going in there tomorrow.''

The format for the final round is better ball.

Stricker and O'Hair have each won the QBE Shootout, but not as partners.

Stricker, captain of the winning American team at the Presidents Cup, said he couldn't get comfortable and put O'Hair in some tough spots.

''We should have probably been two or three shots better than what we were,'' Stricker said. ''Sean played another good round of golf and made some great putts in there to keep us going, but all in all, we're in good shape.''

Keegan Bradley and Brendan Steele shot 70 and were two shots out of the lead.

Defending champions Matt Kuchar and Harris English had a 72 and were tied for last place with Zach Johnson and Charley Hoffman, who shot 70. They were nine shots out of the lead.