Dirty Little Secret

By Rex HoggardJune 10, 2010, 1:12 am

On Tuesday Washington Naitonals’ prospect-tuned-promise keeper Stephen Strasburg accomplished a rare professional sports double, exceeding the hype with his 7-inning, 2-run, 14-strikeout performance and doing so in a brisk 2 hours, 19 minutes.

Strasburg’s gem was perfection condensed, reversing a trend in Major League Baseball of drawn-out games that last four hours, or more. If only golf could be so unfortunate.

On Sunday at Muirfield Village Rickie Fowler, one of the PGA Tour’s fastest players, teed off at 12:45 p.m. (ET) and didn’t putt out for the silver medal until almost 6 p.m., and – all things considered – it wasn’t a terribly sluggish day by Tour standards, and that’s a shame.

Players like Fowler, and Lucas Glover and Joe Ogilvie before him, arrive on Tour with every tool to succeed, including an accelerator. Clemson coach Larry Penley once said that when Glover, who played golf for Clemson, and Ogilvie, a Duke grad, were paired together at college events it was an oddity when there weren’t two golf balls in the air at the same time.

But, like Glover and Ogilvie before him, Fowler will learn to slow down. He must if he is going to survive on the Snail Tour, and that’s a shame.

The pace of play on Tour is glacial and instead of addressing the problem officials lob stop-gap solutions at the symptoms.

Fields are cut in the fall and spring because, they say, it’s impossible to get 156 players around in limited sunlight. A few years back officials initiated a secondary cut on Saturday because anything more than 78 players is unmanageable.

In response to slow play, the Tour’s solutions only seem to facilitate a more languid pace. On Sunday, before Fowler and eventual champion Justin Rose even teed off, Jack Nicklaus innocently seemed to stumble onto the root of the problem.

In 1962, Jack Nicklaus was on his way to his second consecutive victory at the Portland Open Invitational when Tour official Joe Black walked into the scoring trailer. “Add two (strokes) to your card,” Black told the young phenom.

Nicklaus won the Portland event, and more importantly he learned a valuable lesson.

“It was one of the best things that ever happened to me,” Nicklaus recalled. “They wouldn’t give you a slow-play penalty if you weren’t slow.”

When informed that Dillard Pruitt was the last Tour player to incur a one-stroke penalty for slow play at the 1992 Byron Nelson Classic Nicklaus’ reaction was equally telling.

“Really?” he asked, silent for a moment as he considered the grim statistic.

The current Tour policy regarding slow play is as convoluted as it is archaic. The first time a player is given a bad time there is no penalty, if it happens twice in a round he is assessed a one-shot penalty and a third time is worth two strokes. If a player is given two bad times in a single season they are fined $5,000 and a third and subsequent offenses cost $10,000 per.

Now there are plenty of fines, rumor is habitually slow players put aside a few grand just to budget for the inevitable, but it’s much easier to write a check than it is to “add two,” as Black would say.

“(A stroke penalty is) absolutely more impactful,” Nicklaus said.

The Golden Bear, who was penalized twice for slow play in his Hall of Fame career, in ’62 in Portland and again in ’65 in Houston, would know. Nicklaus’ run-in with Black was more than just a random encounter. It was an integral chapter in the development of the game’s great player.

“I always took my time and was meticulous over the shot, so I had to figure out how am I going to make up that time? Either walking (faster) or in my preparation,” Nicklaus said. “Joe told me not to change the way you play your shot, that’s you.”

In the name of historical accuracy it must be pointed out that Nicklaus became the game’s greatest player, but not the fastest. Some, in fact, only half jokingly say he invented slow play, or at least the modern version of it. But the essence of Nicklaus’ story became clear as Sunday’s threesomes inched their way around Muirfield Village.

Early enough in Nicklaus’ development, 1962 was his rookie year, Black took the time to teach him a lesson, likely a touchy endeavor considering just two years earlier the Golden Bear finished runner-up at the U.S. Open as an amateur.

“Joe (Black) said you have to be ready to play when it’s your turn,” Nicklaus remembered. “When I first started, like a lot of kids, I would sit there and watch everybody else play and then when it was my turn to play then I’d start getting my yardage.”

It’s a lesson nearly four decades old that seemed apropos on Sunday as Ricky Barnes, among the Tour’s more-deliberate types, stalked his 10-footer for birdie from every conceivable angle on the 14th hole.

Barnes missed the putt, for what it’s worth, and many of today’s younger players seem to be missing the point. There is no need for a Tour full of Fowlers and Glovers, but Black’s definition of “ready golf” should be as much a standard of play as fixing divots and signing scorecards.

“The pace that I played when I started there’s a ton of them that play at that pace right now. It’s pretty slow, of course they are also playing a course that’s 7,500 yards long compared to 6,700 yards when I played,” Nicklaus said. “(But) play could be faster.”

And with that Nicklaus entertained another 20 minutes of questions from the gathered scribes. It was, after all, a Tour Sunday so he had plenty of time. And that’s a shame.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.