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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Minjee Lee birdies 18 to win on her birthday

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:59 pm

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Minjee Lee birdied the 18th hole Sunday for a one-stroke victory over In-Kyung Kim at the LPGA Volvik Championship.

Lee, who turned 22 on Sunday, three-putted for a bogey on No. 17, dropping into a tie with Kim, who finished her round around the same time. So Lee needed a birdie to win on 18, a reachable par 5. Her second shot landed a few feet to the right of the green, and she calmly chipped to about 3 feet

She made the putt to finish at 4-under 68 and 16 under for the tournament. It was the Australian standout's fourth career victory and first since 2016.

Kim (67) shot a 32 on the back nine and birdied No. 18, but it wasn't enough to force a playoff at Travis Pointe Country Club.

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Spieth: Improvement is 'right around the corner'

By Al TaysMay 27, 2018, 10:50 pm

Not that Dallas native Jordan Spieth didn't enjoy the two-week home game that is the AT&T Byron Nelson and the Fort Worth Invitational - he certainly did. But he's eager to get out of town, too.

"It was a great showing these last couple weeks by the fans," Spieth said after closing with a 2-under 68, a 5-under total and a T-32 finish. "Obviously extremely appreciative here in DFW. Wish I could do more. These couple weeks can be a bit taxing, and it's awesome to kind of have that support to carry you through.

"So, you know, I had a great time these couple weeks on and off the golf course as I always do, but I'm also really excited to kind of get out of town and kind of be able to just go back to the room and have nothing to do at night except for get ready to play the next day."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Spieth will have that experience this coming week in Dublin, Ohio, site of the Memorial. He's hopeful of improving on his T-21, T-32 finishes the past two weeks, and he thinks the main thing holding him back - his putting - is ready for a turnaround.

"I think good things are about to come," he said. "I feel a good run coming for the second half of the season. Today was - each day I've felt better and better with the wedges and the putter and the short game; today was no different. My only bogey being just kind of trying to do too much on a par-5; 3-wood into the hazard.

"So, you know, I'm getting into where I'm not making bogeys, and then soon - the not making bogeys is great, and soon I'll get back to the five, six birdies around and shoot some low rounds.

"So I know it's right around the corner."

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Broadhurst fires 63 to easily win Senior PGA

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:45 pm

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – Paul Broadhurst shot an 8-under 63 on Sunday to win the Senior PGA Championship by four strokes and match the best 72-hole score in tournament history.

The 52-year-old Englishman finished at 19-under 265 at Harbor Shores for his second senior major victory. The 63 was the best fourth-round score by a winner. Rocco Mediate also shot 19 under at Harbor Shores in 2016.

Also the 2016 British Senior Open winner, Broadhurst led the field with 26 birdies and passed third-round Tim Petrovic and Mark McCarron with a 4-under 31 on the back nine.

Petrovic was second after a 69. McCarron had a 70 to tie for third at 14 under with Jerry Kelly (65).

Broadhurst earned a career-high $585,000 for his fourth PGA Tour Champions victory. He won six times on the European Tour and has three European Senior Tour victories.

BYU men's golf team BYU

Sunday rule proves no advantage for BYU at NCAAs

By Ryan LavnerMay 27, 2018, 10:06 pm

STILLWATER, Okla. – For all the kvetching about the advantage BYU would gain by not playing on Sunday with the other teams at the NCAA Championship, one small thing was conveniently forgotten.

What happens if the Cougars were actually disadvantaged?

That’s what appears to have happened here at Karsten Creek.

Because the Mormon-run school prohibits athletics on Sunday, the NCAA accommodated BYU using its “Sunday Play” rule for the first time in the match-play era. (It was the team’s first NCAA berth since 2006.) That meant that BYU played its practice round last Wednesday, before the start of the final match of the NCAA Women’s Championship. The next day, the Cougars played their Sunday round – the third round of stroke-play qualifying – a half hour after the other 29 teams completed their practice round.

Some coaches grumbled about the issue of competitive fairness: What if BYU played in calm conditions for its third round on Thursday, while everybody else competed in rain and 30-mph winds come Sunday?

BYU coach Bruce Brockbank has been on the NCAA competition committee for the past four years, but even he was curious about how it would all play out.

For the practice round, the NCAA informed the Cougars that they needed to be off the course by 1:30 p.m. local time, a little more than a half hour before the start of the women’s final between Arizona and Alabama. All six players got a look at the course in 5 hours and 30 minutes – or an hour and 15 minutes less than the official Thursday practice round – and needed to run between shots on the 17th and 18th holes to finish on time.

Brockbank tried to prepare his players for what they would face Thursday. It’s a different experience without a playing marker – not seeing another shot affected by the wind, not watching another ball break on the greens, not falling into a rhythm with pace – but perhaps no amount of simulated rounds would have helped.

Playing as singles, with only a rules official and a walking scorer by its side, BYU began its NCAA Championship at 4 p.m. local time Thursday. The Cougars got in only a few holes before the horn sounded to suspend play. It turned out to be a two-hour weather delay, and players slapped it around a sloppy, soggy course until dark, with their last single on the 11th hole.

They returned the next morning, at 6:55, and wrapped up their round in an hour and a half before turning around for another 18.

Their final tally? They shot 24-over 312 – easily the worst third-round score of any team.

“We obviously didn’t handle it very well,” Brockbank said, “but it definitely wasn’t an advantage.”

BYU rebounded the next two rounds, with scores of 298-286, putting the team squarely inside the top-15 cut line.

“And six or seven hours,” he said, “we were right there with the best teams in the country.”

But then the third-round scores got posted, and it was clear that they had no chance of advancing past the 54-hole cut.

“It was pretty frustrating to watch our guys,” he said. “We just didn’t handle it very well.”

The same was true for the team’s best player, senior Patrick Fishburn. With just the first and second round counting, Fishburn (67-72) was in a tie for second, one shot off the individual lead, heading into Sunday. Then his third-round 78 from Thursday was posted, and he tumbled down the leaderboard, needing help just to advance to the final round of stroke-play qualifying.

“I’d rather have it this way,” Brockbank said. “If we had shot 5 under par and everyone else is over par, I don’t want to hear that wrath. The coaches wouldn’t put up with that. The fact that we’re not a factor, it’ll go away. But if the day did go well, it would have been a different story.”

Still, it was a strange dynamic Sunday, as a team competing in the NCAA Championship never even made it to the course – Brockbank preferred that the guys stay away from Karsten Creek, if only for appearances.

They went to a local church for three hours, then ate lunch and retired to the team hotel, where they watched TV and studied and played chess. Fishburn has another round to play Monday, but he didn’t even hit balls.

“I don’t think he’s even concerned about that – it’s just a nice, quiet Sabbath day,” Brockbank said. “But as a coach, it’s definitely a little odd.”