Slow play problems comparable to driving a car

By Jason SobelJune 2, 2013, 1:00 pm

Whenever the topic of slow play comes up, I always compare it with traffic problems. To wit: Rarely do individuals own up to being part of the problem; instead, it’s the guy up ahead who is to blame. And the guy ahead of him. And the guy ahead of that guy. But hardly ever do people look in at themselves in the rearview mirror and find the person staring back at fault.

That’s true for drivers and it’s true for golfers. It’s always someone else guilty of rubbernecking at an accident or changing lanes for no reason at all – or checking the wind for a sixth time or dawdling over a 2-footer.

With Golf Channel’s Pace of Play Month getting its motor running and heading out on the highway, I decided to take this analogy for a test drive.

“The big word that comes up is rhythm. Once you’re in rhythm and one little thing happens, it botches everything up. So in that sense, I think there is a comparison,” explained Phil Caruso, the deputy director for technical problems at the Institute of Transportation Engineers. “You tee off, have a certain harmony and rhythm and then – boom! – someone is taking their time and your rhythm gets thrown off. It’s a ripple effect. When you’re talking congestion, there could be a fender bender that affects traffic flow, so there is a comparison there from that perspective.”

It felt good to have my comparison vindicated, but not good enough.

No, simply claiming that slow play in golf is like traffic counts only as the first piece in a much larger puzzle. Where this analogy can be most effective is investigating problem-solving techniques on the roads and attempting to apply them toward alleviating this issue on the course.

“In terms of mobility and in terms of trying to maintain a momentum, there are a lot of variables,” Caruso continues. “The pedestrian enters into it, taxis, delivery trucks, bicyclists, freight operators. All of it affects congestion. And you get the same type of thing on the golf course with different kinds of golfers.”

“We use something called the 85th percentile – the best speed is what 85 percent of the drivers feel comfortable driving at,” said William Bombard, city engineer for Providence, R.I. “A rural setting on a two-lane road with a shoulder, depending on the amount of curves and dips, the 85th percentile may drive it 47 miles per hour, so that tells us we should set that limit at no more than 50. How can we apply that to the links? I’ve been on some courses where it says, ‘If you’re here now and you’ve been on the course for more than an hour, you’re too slow.’ Signs like that might be appropriate.”

All good ideas, but these bastions of the fast lanes have nothing on the Ohio Department of Transportation District 1, which is apparently the David Letterman of all Department of Transportation Districts. The good folks presiding over many roads in the Buckeye State offered a Top 10 list on “How Being a Good Driver Can Translate Into Being a Faster Golfer”:

10. Observe the speed limit: Reduce slow play by observing the honors rule. The person in your group who had the lowest score on the previous hole tees off first, the second lowest tees off second and so on.

9. Be aware of your travel time: Observe appropriate time limits when looking for lost balls. Taking too much time is directly related to “congestion” and “backups” building upstream.

8. Be an alert driver: As you watch your drive travel down the fairway, take note of the landing area to identify physical features nearby that will help you locate your ball quicker as you move up to take your next shot. Other “passengers” in your group should do the same which can shorten “travel time.”

7. Check your rearview mirror: While your ultimate destination lies ahead of you on the green, periodically look behind you at the fairway and the tee box. Other groups standing around waiting to hit their approach shot or to tee off is an indication of slow play.

6. Be patient: People often think they sit forever at a traffic signal. In reality, the average time a driver is held at a traffic signal is 30-45 seconds. Perhaps slow play is, at times, only a matter of perception.

5. Don’t drive distracted: As with driving a vehicle, stay focused and keep moving. Don’t step up on the tee and start telling a story about last night’s dinner. Don’t take a call or start texting on your phone. Don’t overdo the practice swings. Just hit the ball.

4. Obey the signs: Traffic jams are in part attributed to drivers waiting until the last minute to merge when travel lanes are taken out of service. Merging at the first opportunity rather than at the last helps maintain better traffic flow. On the course, be aware of changing circumstances and do your part to keep things moving.

3. Travel with passengers: Having multiple passengers in a car is good for reducing traffic congestion on the highway, but having more than four in your golf group can significantly slow play. Just as highways are designed for a particular volume of traffic, golf courses are designed for groups of four golfers. A twosome works fine, but you should expect to be slowed by the group of four in front of you.

2. Quick Clear: There is an initiative in the state of Ohio called Quick Clear, which encourages first responders, tow truck operators and drivers to quickly remove vehicles involved in a crash out of travel lanes and off to the side of the road. The reason? Crashes cause major traffic delays and also contribute to secondary crashes. In golf, the Quick Clear concept can also apply. Avoid those major delays and secondary crashes on the course.

And the No. 1 way being a good driver can translate into being a faster golfer …

1. Let faster traffic pass: We all know how irritating it is when a slower vehicle stays in the passing lane while traffic backs up behind. Remember that feeling when you’re playing golf. If you’re slowing play, let the faster, more skilled group behind play through. There’s no shame in that. In fact, it’s courteous and proper.

So there you have it. Not only is slow play analogous to traffic, but we can use solutions to the latter as ideas for fixing the former. What began as a simple comparison could actually be applied to real-world logistics on the golf course, employing the mentality of the roads to fairways and greens.

As for me, I’m going to play fast no matter what. I hear the next airing of “Late Show with Ohio Department of Transportation District 1” is coming on soon.

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U.S. captures Junior Ryder Cup

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 26, 2018, 12:29 am

The U.S. defeated Europe, 12 ½ to 11 ½, in the Junior Ryder Cup at Golf Disneyland at Disneyland Paris.

Rachel Heck, 16, of Memphis, Tenn., clinched the winning half-point on the 18th hole with a 12-foot birdie putt that halved her match with Annabell Fuller, 16, of England.

"It was the most incredible experience of my life," said Heck, a Stanford commit who last week made the cut in her second LPGA major, the Evian Masters.

Michael Thorbjornsen, 16, of Wellesley, Mass., the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, drove the green on the 315-yard 18th hole, the ball stopping within 5 feet of the pin. His eagle putt completed 2-up win over 15-year-old Spaniard David Puig and ensured that the U.S. would retain the Junior Ryder Cup, as the defending champion needs only a tie (12 points) to maintain possession of the trophy.

Singles results

Match 1 - Lucy Li (USA) def. Amanda Linner (EUR), 4 and 3

Match 2 — Rasmus Hojgaard (EUR) def. William Moll (USA), 1 up

Match 3 —  Ingrid Lindblad (EUR) halved Rose Zhang (USA)

Match 4 – Nicolai Hojgaard (USA) def. Canon Claycomb (USA), 4 and 2

Match 5 — Yealimi Noh (USA) def. Emma Spitz (EUR), 3 and 2

Match 6 —  Ricky Castillo (USA) def. Eduard Rousaud Sabate (EUR), 3 and 1

Match 7 – Emilie Alba-Paltrinieri (EUR) def. Erica Shepherd (USA), 2 up

Match 8 — Michael Thorbjornsen (USA) def. David Puig (EUR), 2 up

Match 9 – Alessia Nobilio (EUR) def. Alexa Pano (USA), 2 and 1

Match 10 —  Robin Tiger Williams (EUR) def. Cole Ponich (USA), 2 and 1

Match 11 – Annabell Fuller (EUR) halved Rachel Heck (USA)

Match 12 — Conor Gough (EUR) def. Akshay Bhatia (USA), 1 up


TOUR Championship Final Round Becomes Most-Watched FedExCup Playoffs Telecast Ever and Most-Watched PGA TOUR Telecast of 2018

By Golf Channel Public RelationsSeptember 25, 2018, 6:48 pm

ORLANDO, Fla., (Sept. 25, 2018) – NBC Sports Group’s final round coverage of the TOUR Championship on Sunday (3:00-6:19 p.m. ET) garnered a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 7.8 million average viewers, as Tiger Woods claimed his 80th career victory, and his first in five years. The telecast’s TAD was up 212% vs. 2017 (2.5m). Television viewership posted 7.18 million average viewers, up 192% YOY (2.46m) and a 4.45 U.S. household rating, up 178% vs. 2017 (1.60). It also becomes the most-watched telecast in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs (2007-2018) and the most-watched PGA TOUR telecast in 2018 (excludes majors).

Coverage peaked from 5:45-6 p.m. ET with 10.84 million average viewers as Woods finished his TOUR Championship-winning round and Justin Rose sealed his season-long victory as the FedExCup champion. The peak viewership number trails only the Masters (16.84m) and PGA Championship (12.39m) in 2018. The extended coverage window (1:30-6:19 p.m. ET) drew 5.89 million average viewers and a 3.69 U.S. household rating to become the most-watched and highest-rated TOUR Championship telecast on record (1991-2018).

Sunday’s final round saw 18.4 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports Digital platforms (+561% year-over-year), and becomes NBC Sports’ most-streamed Sunday round (excluding majors) on record (2013-’18).

Sunday’s lead-in coverage on Golf Channel (11:54 a.m.-1:25 p.m. ET) also garnered a Total Audience Delivery of 829K average viewers and posted a .56 U.S. household rating, becoming the most-watched and highest rated lead-in telecast of the TOUR Championship ever (2007-2018). Golf Channel was the No. 2 Sports Network during this window and No. 7 out of all Nielsen-rated cable networks during that span.

 This week, NBC Sports Group will offer weeklong coverage of the biennial Ryder Cup from Le Golf National outside of Paris. Live From the Ryder Cup continues all week on Golf Channel, surrounding nearly 30 hours of NBC Sports’ Emmy-nominated live event coverage, spanning from Friday morning’s opening tee shot just after 2 a.m. ET through the clinching point on Sunday. The United States will look to retain the Ryder Cup after defeating Europe in 2016 (17-11), and aim to win for the first time on European soil in 25 years, since 1993.


-NBC Sports Group-

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Tiger Woods names his Mount Rushmore of golf

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 25, 2018, 6:29 pm
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Mickelson savoring his (likely) last road game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 25, 2018, 3:49 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Phil Mickelson lingered behind as his foursome made its way to the ninth tee during Tuesday’s practice round.

He needed the extra practice, no doubt. He’s one of just six players on the U.S. Ryder Cup team with even a modicum of knowledge about Le Golf National, but the likely reason for Lefty’s leisurely tempo was more personal.

The 2019 Ryder Cup will likely be Mickelson’s last road game as a player.

He’ll be 52 when the U.S. team pegs it up at the 2022 matches in Rome. Although there’s been players who have participated in the biennial event into their golden years – most notably Raymond Floyd who was 51 when he played the ’93 matches – given Mickelson’s play in recent years and the influx of younger players the odds are against him.

“I am aware this is most likely the last one on European soil and my last opportunity to be part of a team that would be victorious here, and that would mean a lot to me personally,” Mickelson said on Tuesday.

It’s understandable that Mickelson would want to linger a little longer in the spotlight of golf’s most intense event.

For the first time in his Ryder Cup career Mickelson needed to be a captain's pick, and he didn’t exactly roar into Paris, finishing 30th out of 30 players at last week’s Tour Championship. He’s also four months removed from his last top-10 finish on the PGA Tour.

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Although he’s reluctant to admit it for Mickelson Le Golf National looks every bit a swansong for the most accomplished U.S. Ryder Cup player of his generation.

In 11 starts at the Ryder Cup, Mickelson has a 26-16-13 record. Perhaps more telling is his 7-3-1 mark since 2012 and he holds the U.S. record for most matches played (45) and is third on the all-time list for most points won (21.5), just two shy of the record held by Billy Casper.

Mickelson’s record will always be defined by what he’s done at the Masters and not done at the U.S. Open, but his status as an anchor for two generations of American teams may never be matched.

For this U.S. team - which is trying to win a road Ryder Cup for the first time since 1993 - Lefty is wearing many hats.

“You know Phil and you know he's always trying to find a way to poke fun, trying to mess with someone,” Furyk said. “He's telling a story. Sometimes you're not sure if they are true or not. Sometimes there's little bits of pieces in each of those, but he provides some humor, provides some levity.”

But there is another side to Mickelson’s appeal in the team room. Although he’s never held the title of vice captain he’s served as a de facto member of the management for some time.

“At the right times, he understands when a team needs a kick in the butt or they need an arm around their shoulder, and he's been good in that atmosphere,” Furyk said. “He's a good speaker and good motivator, and he's been able to take some young players under his wing at times and really get a lot out of them from a partner standpoint.”

In recent years Mickelson has become something of a mentor for young players, first at the ’08 matches with Anthony Kim and again in ’12 with Keegan Bradley.

His role as a team leader in the twilight of his career can’t be overstated and will undoubtedly continue this week if Tuesday’s practice groupings are any indication, with Lefty playing with rookie Bryson DeChambeau.

As DeChambeau was finishing his press conference on Tuesday he was asked about the dynamic in the U.S. team room.

“We're going to try and do our absolute best to get the cup back,” he said.

“Keep the cup,” Lefty shouted from the back of the room, noting that the U.S. won the last Ryder Cup.

It was so Mickelson not to miss a teaching moment or a chance to send a subtle jab delivered with a wry smile.

Mickelson will also be remembered for his role in what has turned out to be an American Ryder Cup resurgence.

“Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best,” Mickelson said in the Scottish gloom at the ’14 matches. “Nobody here was in any decision.”

If Mickelson doesn’t step to the microphone in ’14 at Gleneagles in the wake of another U.S. loss and, honestly, break some china there probably wouldn’t have been a task force. Davis Love III likely wouldn’t have gotten a second turn as captain in ’16 and the U.S. is probably still mired in a victory drought.

Lefty’s Ryder Cup career is far from over. The early line is that he’ll take his turn as captain in 2024 at Bethpage Black – the People’s Champion riding in to become the People’s Captain.

Before he moves on to a new role, however, he’ll savor this week and an opportunity to win his first road game. If he wants to hang back and relish the moment so be it.