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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TT postscript: This 65 better than Aronimink 62

By Tiger TrackerSeptember 20, 2018, 9:21 pm

ATLANTA – The start wasn’t much to look at, but that finish was something else. Tiger Woods eagled the final hole on Thursday and shares the 18-hole lead at the Tour Championship. Here are the things you know you want to know:

• First of all, let’s give a pat on the back to the man who most deserves it today: Me. Early this morning, I sent this tweet:

Never doubt my good feelings. Ben Crenshaw doesn’t have my good feelings. We may have 54 holes to play, but I gotta good feeling we’re going to be changing that Tiger Tracker avatar Sunday night.

• Now onto Tiger. After all, he did hit 10 of 14 fairways, 14 of 18 greens in regulation and took 28 putts. It wasn’t looking good early when he had nine putts through four holes and was 1 over par. But he birdied Nos. 5 and 6, turned in 1 under, and really turned it on down the stretch with two birdies and an eagle over his final seven holes. And if you take a good look at the scorecard below you’ll notice he didn’t make a bogey after the first hole.

• How good is a 65 at East Lake? Better than his opening 62 at Aronimink, according to Woods: “This was by far better than the 62 at Aronimink. Conditions were soft there. This is – it's hard to get the ball closer. There's so much chase in it. If you drive the ball in the rough, you know you can't get the ball close.”

Woods added that you had to play “conservatively” and be patient – take what the course allowed. Tiger missed five putts – four of them for birdie – inside 15 feet. But in the 93-degree heat, he kept his composure and made putts of 26 and 28 feet for birdie, and 28 feet for eagle.

• This week feels different. It feels like Tiger is really ready to win again. He seems very serious, very focused. He talked about “getting the W” on Wednesday and said on Thursday, “[T]he objective is to always win.”

After shooting 65, Woods signed a few autographs and eventually made his way to the putting green. If he gets those 15-footer to fall, we’re going to be two wins away from tying Sammy.

• So, what about that eagle on 18, you ask? Tiger said he “hammered” a driver – which was listed at 320 yards – and then hit a 5-wood from 256 yards to 28 feet. As for the putt: “It took forever for that putt to start breaking, grain coming down off the left. But once it snagged it, it was going straight right.”

Right into the cup. Right into the lead. Our man is making history this week.

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Watch: Highlights from Tiger's first round at East Lake

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 20, 2018, 8:30 pm

Tiger Woods is back at the season-ending Tour Championship for the first time since 2013, and he provided the fans in Atlanta with some highlights on the first day of competition.

Still looking for his first win of the year after coming close on numerous occasions, Woods started the day off by splitting the fairway on the first hole with the driver, not even bothering to watch his ball land.

Despite the picture-perfect opening tee shot, Woods would go on to bogey the first hole, but he rebounded with back-to-back birdies on 5 and 6, making putts from 26 and 15 feet.

Tiger's best shot on the front nine came on the par-4 seventh hole after he found the pine straw behind a tree with his drive. The 14-time major champ punched one under the tree limbs and onto the green, then calmly two-putted for par from about 40 feet en route to a front-side 1-under 34.

Woods added two more birdies on the par-4 12th and 14th holes, rolling in putts of 3 feet and 7 feet after a couple of great looking approach shots.

Woods finished his round with a vintage eagle on the par-5 18th hole, finding the green with a 5-wood from 256 yards out and then sinking the 28-foot putt.

The eagle at the last gave Woods a share of the early first-round lead with Rickie Fowler at 5-under 65.

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Tiger Tracker: Tour Championship

By Tiger TrackerSeptember 20, 2018, 8:20 pm

Tiger Woods is looking to close his season with a win at the Tour Championship. We're tracking him this week at East Lake Golf Club.

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Garcia (66) peaking for Ryder Cup?

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 20, 2018, 6:17 pm

Sergio Garcia might be finding his form just in time to terrorize the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

Garcia made seven birdies during an opening round of 5-under 66 to sit just two shots off the early lead at the European Tour’s Portugal Masters.

It was Garcia’s fifth consecutive round of par or better, a stretch that includes rounds of 66-65-67-70-66. That solid play at the Wyndham Championship wasn’t enough to extend his PGA Tour season – he didn’t qualify for the FedExCup playoffs – but the Spaniard is starting to round into form with the Ryder Cup on deck.

Full-field scores from the Portugal Masters

A few weeks ago he was a controversial selection by European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn. After missing the cut in all four majors, Garcia could have been left at home in favor of such players as Rafa Cabrera Bello, Matt Wallace (a three-time winner this season who, once again, is at the top of the leaderboard in Portugal), Matt Fitzpatrick or Thomas Pieters. But Bjorn tabbed Garcia, noting his Ryder Cup experience, his sterling foursomes record and his influence in the team room. If Phil Mickelson is the U.S. player under the most pressure to perform in Paris, all eyes will be on Garcia next week – especially since it could be one of his final opportunities to wear a European uniform, as he’ll be 40 for the 2020 matches.

Garcia’s 66 matched his lowest opening round of the year and puts him in position to secure just his second top-10 since March.