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It's about time: Tour must address slow play

By Rex HoggardJanuary 29, 2018, 2:39 am

SAN DIEGO – As the day’s final twosome played into the early evening at Torrey Pines, the old joke lost its humor.

You know the one, when you’re grinding over a shot or a putt and a playing partner jabs, “Sometime today, sport.” Well, that oldie took an ugly turn on Sunday at the Farmers Insurance Open, where rounds drifted nearly six hours and a five-hole playoff decided nothing and sent the event into a Monday finish.

There’s a litany of reasons for slow play on the PGA Tour, from demanding courses to overly lax rules that would rather turn a blind eye toward habitual offenders, and Sunday’s showdown was slowed by Santa Ana winds that ballooned the scoring average to 74.77.

But if ever there was a reason to dust off the stopwatch, this was it.

J.B. Holmes didn’t invent slow play, and if you ask his fellow Tour types they’ll tell you he’s not even the most egregious offender, but as dusk turned to dark on Sunday he was an easy target for the circuit’s pace-of-play woes.

Playing alongside Ryan Palmer and Alex Noren in the day’s final group, Holmes – needing an eagle to match clubhouse leader Jason Day at 10 under – ruminated over his second shot into the par-5 18th hole for more than four minutes.

Go for the green with a 5-wood, go for the green with a 3-wood, lay up – he considered all his options, and then he considered them again.


Full-field scores from the Farmers Insurance Open

Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos


“It was between the 5-wood - I didn’t think it was going to get there - and the 3-wood would have gone back there where [Noren] was [long],” explained Holmes, who was unapologetic for the time it took him to play his second shot. “That pin being in the bowl, I thought I had a better chance of holing out with a wedge than I did trying to chip one in.”

After four minutes, Holmes decided to lay up, in the rough no less. Four minutes. People buy real-estate with less thought and angst.

If this sounds as if Holmes is being made out to be the fall guy for a painfully slow day that will now conclude with an anticlimactic finish, let the experts have their say.

“Anytime today J.B.,” Luke Donald tweeted. “Last group was over a hole behind, we can all blame J.B., and yes the player should take responsibility for their pace of play, but if they don’t that’s why we have Tour officials. They needed to step in a while ago.”

Holmes was playing for his fifth Tour title and a $1.24 million paycheck. Being prudent is baked into that cake. But then no other major sport operates without some sort of time element.

The NBA has a shot clock, the NFL has a play clock and even Major League Baseball, which has clung to its timeless nature for eons, seems destined to institute a pitch clock this season. It’s all a response to the world we live in and the demands on everyone’s time, yet the Tour – which allows 40 seconds for a player to play a shot, but only when they are being timed, which Holmes was obviously not – seems content to literally allow day to turn to night on the issue.

Holmes is the low-hanging fruit in this most recent episode, an easy target for a complicated problem. Should he have helped things along by maybe taking, say, only two minutes to pull the trigger? Absolutely. But that wouldn’t have spared the fans, sponsors and players from having to come back for the conclusion of the playoff.

No, on this Donald struck the perfect chord; it’s long past time for the Tour to do something meaningful to speed up play.

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Poulter offers explanation in dispute with marshal

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:47 pm

Ian Poulter took to Twitter to offer an explanation after the Englishman was accused of verbally abusing a volunteer during the third round of the Scottish Open.

Poulter hooked his drive on the opening hole at Gullane Golf Club into a bush, where Quintin Jardine was working as a marshal. Poulter went on to find the ball, wedge out and make bogey, but the details of the moments leading up to his second shot differ depending on who you ask.

Jardine wrote a letter to the tournament director that he also turned into a colorfully-titled blog post, accusing Poulter of berating him for not going into the bush "feet first" in search of the ball since Poulter would have received a free drop had his ball been stepped on by an official.


Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


"I stood and waited for the player. It turned out to be Mr. Poulter, who arrived in a shower of expletives and asked me where his ball was," Jardine wrote. "I told him and said that I had not ventured into the bush for fear of standing on it. I wasn't expecting thanks, but I wasn't expecting aggression, either."

Jardine added that Poulter stayed to exchange heated words with the volunteer even after wedging his ball back into the fairway. After shooting a final-round 69 to finish in a tie for 30th, Poulter tweeted his side of the story to his more than 2.3 million followers:

Poulter, 42, won earlier this year on the PGA Tour at the Houston Open and is exempt into The Open at Carnoustie, where he will make his 17th Open appearance. His record includes a runner-up at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and a T-3 finish at Muirfield in 2013.

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Immelman misses Open bid via OWGR tiebreaker

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:25 pm

A resurgent performance at the Scottish Open gave Trevor Immelman his first top-10 finish in more than four years, but it left him short of a return to The Open by the slimmest of margins.

The former Masters champ turned back the clock this week at Gullane Golf Club, carding four straight rounds of 68 or better. That run included a 5-under 65 in the final round, which gave him a tie for third and left him five shots behind winner Brandon Stone. It was his first worldwide top-10 since a T-10 finish at the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open.

There were three spots available into The Open for players not otherwise exempt, and for a brief moment it appeared Immelman, 38, might sneak the third and final invite.


Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


But with Stone and runner-up Eddie Pepperell both not qualified, that left the final spot to be decided between Immelman and Sweden's Jens Dantorp who, like Immelman, tied for third at 15 under.

As has been the case with other stops along the Open Qualifying Series, the tiebreaker to determine invites is the players' standing in the Official World Golf Rankings entering the week. Dantorp is currently No. 322 in the world, but with Immelman ranked No. 1380 the Swede got the nod.

This will mark Dantorp's first-ever major championship appearance. Immelman, who hasn't made the cut in a major since the 2013 Masters, was looking to return to The Open for 10th time and first since a missed cut at Royal Lytham six years ago. He will instead work the week at Carnoustie as part of Golf Channel and NBC's coverage of The Open.

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Stone (60) wins Scottish Open, invite to Carnoustie

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:06 pm

There's never a bad time to shoot a 60, but Brandon Stone certainly picked an opportune moment to do so.

Facing a jammed leaderboard in the final round of the Scottish Open, Stone fired a 10-under 60 to leave a stacked field in his wake and win the biggest tournament of his career. His 20-under 260 total left him four shots clear of Eddie Pepperell and five shots in front of a group that tied for third.

Stone had a mid-range birdie putt on No. 18 that would have given him the first 59 in European Tour history. But even after missing the putt on the left, Stone tapped in to close out a stellar round that included eight birdies, nine pars and an eagle. It's his third career European Tour title but first since the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December 2016.


Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


Stone started the day three shots behind overnight leader Jens Dantorp, but he made an early move with three birdies over his first five holes and five over his first 10. Stone added a birdie on the par-3 12th, then took command with a three-hole run from Nos. 14-16 that included two birdies and an eagle.

The eye-popping score from the 25-year-old South African was even more surprising considering his lack of form entering the week. Stone is currently ranked No. 371 in the world and had missed four of his last seven worldwide cuts without finishing better than T-60.

Stone was not yet qualified for The Open, and as a result of his performance at Gullane Golf Club he will tee it up next week at Carnoustie. Stone headlined a group of three Open qualifiers, as Pepperell and Dantorp (T-3) also earned invites by virtue of their performance this week. The final spot in the Open will go to the top finisher not otherwise qualified from the John Deere Classic.

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Daly (knee) replaced by Bradley in Open field

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 12:13 pm

Former champion John Daly has withdrawn from The Open because of a right knee injury and will be replaced in the field at Carnoustie by another major winner, Keegan Bradley.

Daly, 52, defeated Costantino Rocca in a memorable playoff to win the claret jug at St. Andrews in 1995. His lingering knee pain led him to request a cart during last month's U.S. Senior Open, and when that request was denied he subsequently withdrew from the tournament.

Daly then received treatment on the knee and played in a PGA Tour event last week at The Greenbrier without the use of a cart, missing the cut with rounds of 77-67. But on the eve of the season's third major, he posted to Twitter that his pain remains "unbearable" and that a second request for a cart was turned down:

This will be just the second time since 2000 that Daly has missed The Open, having also sat out the 2013 event at Muirfield. He last made the cut in 2012, when he tied for 81st at Royal Lytham. He could still have a few more chances to improve upon that record, given that past Open champions remain fully exempt until age 60.

Taking his place will be Bradley, who was first alternate based on his world ranking. Bradley missed the event last year but recorded three top-20 finishes in five appearances from 2012-16, including a T-18 finish two years ago at Royal Troon.

The next three alternates, in order, are Spain's Adrian Otaegui and Americans Aaron Wise and J.B. Holmes.