PGA Tour continues to seek antidote to slow play

By Rex HoggardJune 21, 2013, 1:01 am

CROMWELL, Conn. – It’s the last day of spring at TPC River Highlands and Mark Russell, the PGA Tour’s vice president of rules and competitions, is parked under a tree between the fourth green and fifth tee watching the comings and goings of the 156-player field at the Travelers Championship.

As groups shuffle by, he keeps score, but it’s not each player’s relation to par but the group's relation to the threesome in front of them and a predetermined “time par.” At TPC River Highlands, that magic number is four hours and 18 minutes, and while groups routinely round the layout in times well over that allotment, Russell points out that no one is waiting.

“I just want everyone to play golf without waiting,” he says.

Here, at the high-profile epicenter of the game’s ongoing debate over pace of play, the reality of five-plus-hour rounds is not about slow play, at least not for Russell, as much as it is a numbers game.

Do the math, he will tell you.


June is Pace of Play month


“We don’t have a problem at all when we play 120 players,” says Russell, who joined the Tour as a rules official in 1980. “Go to Colonial or Arnold Palmer (Invitational), we don’t have a problem at all. When we play 156 players, we have eight more groups than you have holes.”

In practical terms, that means Thursday’s morning wave at the Travelers will likely race to the turn in a little over two hours and hit the Tour’s metaphorical time wall, the inevitable backup, Russell says, when you have 26 groups on an 18-hole golf course.

A day earlier in the TPC River Highlands clubhouse, however, the players tell a different story. It’s a tale of languid rounds and a system that encourages the slow players to remain slow, which results in rounds, like last week at the U.S. Open, that last well over five hours.

If the Tour sets the standard when it comes to pace of play, as many contend, the question, essentially, is whether the circuit’s current policy works or is simply not being implemented properly.

“It’s both,” said Lucas Glover.

Glover is one of the Tour’s fastest players, so much so that Clemson coach Larry Penley once said it was rare when Glover and Joe Ogilvie, who is equally fast, were playing together in college when there weren’t two golf balls in the air at one time.

“If the policy changed, it would be easier to implement,” Glover said. “I don’t think slow play will ever be fixed on our tour until we start penalizing shots, not money. A guy comes in, makes the cut on the number. An official is standing there and says, ‘You know what, actually you shot 1 over today, not even. You had a bad time on (No.) 14, and you missed the cut.’

“He would probably play faster next time.”

The Tour’s pace-of-play policy spans three pages in the player handbook but essentially states that a group or player is out of position when they “reach a par 3 that is open and free of play or reach a par 4 or par 5 and have not played a stroke from the teeing ground before the hole is open and free of play.”

When a player or group is deemed out of position, they are put on the clock and timed. They are allowed between 40 and 60 seconds, depending on the order of when they hit, per shot. On the first bad time a warning is issued, while the second results in a one-stroke penalty.

“Bad times” also accumulate during the season, and a player who receives 10 bad times is fined $10,000 and $5,000 for each subsequent violation after that.

But that policy doesn’t work, many players contend. A fine, which is considered a charitable donation, means little to players competing for millions. Nor do some players feel the policy is properly applied, considering that Glen Day is believed to be the last player penalized a stroke for slow play in Round 3 of the 1995 Honda Classic (the Tour doesn’t publish fines).

“Our pace-of-play policy is like putting up a sign, ‘Speed trap in 5 miles.’ That’s problematic,” said Paul Goydos, one of four player directors on the Tour’s policy board. “The problem is when you have two slow players with a fast player, and you put them all on the clock. That’s just patently unfair, but unless you have an official with every group, it is the only option, and right now that’s just not feasible.”

Slow play has always been an issue on the Tour, but it has become a talking point in recent weeks following the one-stroke penalty for slow play assessed to Chinese amateur Guan Tianlang during the Masters.

“We’ve been plagued by slow play for years, and it turns out it was a 14-year-old that was the problem,” Goydos said. “We should be embarrassed by that. I find that appalling that they did that. He was penalized for not knowing how to beat the system, not for slow play.”

But neither Goydos nor Glover dispute the trickle-down effect slow play in the Big Leagues is having at the grassroots level.

“You have your favorite players, and you want to emulate them. If that player has a two-minute pre-shot routine, that’s what you’re going to do,” Glover said.

So the question remains, how can the Tour speed up its sluggish image?

Cutting fields to 120 players would certainly help, but that doesn’t seem to be a viable option considering already reduced playing opportunities. Course setup, as evidenced at last week’s U.S. Open, is also an issue. Pins tucked four paces from a bunker and 4-inch rough is a recipe for slow play.

Golf course design is also an issue. Putting a par 5 that is reachable in two shots after a par 3 all but guarantees backups.

But it’s the implementation of the current policy, be it real or perceived, that many players say is the root of the problem.

On Thursday, for example, the group of Ben Curtis, Tommy Gainey and John Huh technically fell out of position as they made the turn because of a ruling on the 18th hole (they started on No. 10) and needed two holes to catch up to the group in front of them. The group was never put on the clock.

Rules officials are allowed a great amount of latitude under the current policy as to when groups are considered out of position and when to start the stopwatch when a player is being timed.

“We give them a couple of moments when they reach their ball to let the crowd settle down (before starting the clock),” Russell said.

Russell also said that slow play is nothing new and that the debate has raged at least since the Tour began playing 156-man fields in the mid-1970s, but given recent initiatives by the PGA of America and USGA to stamp out slow play, the issue has become a hot-button topic.

“Look at all of the things that have changed on Tour because of slow play,” Glover said. “We now have a second cut (on Saturdays if more than 78 players advance to the weekend). We are now having to really focus on finish and start times on Sundays and worry about twosomes or threesomes ... The evidence speaks for itself because of the progression of slow play in the last 20 years.”

There is no debating whether the Tour has a slow-play issue, either by Russell or any of the players interviewed. What is debatable is what, if anything, can be done about it. As decades of debate has shown, there may not be a fix, at least not at the game’s highest level.

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Golf Channel Ramps Up Six Weeks of Comprehensive College Golf Coverage Culminating With The NCAA Women's and Men's Golf Championships, May 18-30

By Golf Channel Public RelationsApril 24, 2018, 9:00 pm

Golf Channel to Announce NCAA Division I Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships Regional Selections on Wednesday, April 25 and Wednesday, May 2

 Golf Channel to Expand Coverage of NCAA Women’s and Men’s Regional Championships  

Driven: Oklahoma State Cowboys, a Four-Part Docu-Series Executive Produced by Rickie Fowler, Premieres on Golf Channel Monday, May 7

 More than 100 News and Tournament Hours Planned for Women’s and Men’s Championships, Back-to-Back Weeks at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.

 

ORLANDO, Fla., April 24, 2018 – With conference championships underway, golf fans will be able to follow their favorite college golf programs and alma maters as they attempt to qualify and compete in the 2018 NCAA Division I Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships in May at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., as Golf Channel expands its comprehensive on-air and digital collegiate golf coverage the next six weeks.

“Through our new long-term partnership, the NCAA and Golf Channel are successfully raising the profile of college golf by shining a spotlight on the game’s future stars and the passion these programs have in competing for national championships,” said Molly Solomon, Golf Channel executive vice president of content and executive producer. “With our expanded coverage of the regional championships and partnering with OSU alum Rickie Fowler for Driven, our viewers will be treated to the most college golf coverage in network history leading into the NCAA Golf National Championships.”

REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS SELECTION ANNOUNCEMENTS: On Wednesday, April 25 at 5:30 p.m. ET (women) and continuing Wednesday, May 2 at 5:30 p.m. ET (men), Golf Channel will announce the teams and individuals selected by the NCAA to participate in the women’s and men’s regional championships, the first step on the road to the NCAA Golf Championships. Live streaming coverage of selection shows will be available through the Golf Channel Mobile App or GolfChannel.com, and Golf Channel will aggregate social content for the shows using the hashtag #NCAAGolf. 

  • Women’s Golf Championships Regional Selections, Wednesday, April 25, 5:30 p.m. ET: Golf Central will announce (live) the 72 teams and24 individuals selected to compete in the four NCAA Women’s Regional Championships, May 7-9 (18 teams and six individuals per regional). 24 teams and 12 individuals will advance from regional sites to the national championships.
  • Men’s Golf Championships Regional Selections, Wednesday, May 2, 5:30 p.m. ET: Golf Central will announce the 81 teams and 45 individuals selected to compete in the six NCAA Men’s Regional Championships, May 14-16 (13 teams and 10 individuals at three regionals and 14 teams and five individuals at three regionals). 30 teams and six individuals will advance from regional sites to the national championships.

GOLF CHANNEL TO EXPAND REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS COVERAGE: New for 2018, Golf Channel will feature expanded coverage of the final day of the NCAA women’s and men’s regional championships, Wednesday May 9 and Wednesday, May 16, respectively. Beginning within Morning Drive, Golf Channel’s daily lifestyle news show, and continuing hourly throughout the day via live Golf Central news updates from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. ET that will be published to Golf Channel Digital and Golf Channel’s social media handles. Coverage will conclude with live news segments, featuring highlights and interviews, announcing the teams and individuals who qualified for the women’s and men’s national championships.

RICKIE FOWLER AND NBC SPORTS COLLABORATE ON FOUR-PART DOCU-SERIES DRIVEN: OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS: NBC Sports Group is teaming up with PGA TOUR superstar Rickie Fowler to give viewers a dramatic behind-the-scenes look into Fowler’s alma mater in a four-part documentary series – Driven: Oklahoma State Cowboys. Driven, executive produced by Fowler, will premiere Monday, May 7 at 10 p.m. ET and continue Monday, May 14 (10 p.m. ET) and Monday, May 21 (8 p.m. ET). The finale will air on NBC on Saturday, June 16, recapping their season that culminates with a run at a potential 11th national championship, taking place on their home turf.

NCAA GOLF NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS COVERAGE: Contested in back-to-back weeks, May 18-30 at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., Golf Channel will dedicate its full suite of production resources to the NCAA Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships, featuring nearly 30 combined hours of live tournament coverage. In addition, Golf Central will feature nearly 30 hours of combined pre-and post-event live news coverage produced on location, as well as daily news updates on Morning Drive and Golf Channel Digital.                                             

Golf Channel NCAA Women’s Golf Championships Coverage

Monday, May   21       

Individual National   Championship  

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

Tuesday, May   22          

Quarterfinals, Team   Match Play  

11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. ET   (Live)

Tuesday, May   22                 

Semifinals, Team Match   Play 

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

Wednesday, May   23            

Team National   Championship  

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

 

Golf Channel NCAA Men’s Golf Championships Coverage

Monday, May   28      

Individual National   Championship  

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

Tuesday, May   29          

Quarterfinals, Team   Match Play  

11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. ET   (Live)

Tuesday, May   29                 

Semifinals, Team Match   Play 

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

Wednesday, May   30            

Team National   Championship  

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

 

COLLEGE CENTRAL – GOLF CHANNEL DIGITAL COVERAGE: Golf Channel is providing comprehensive coverage leading up to and during the NCAA Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships as part of College Central,Golf Channel Digital’s home for college golf. Led by Jay Coffin, Ryan Lavner and Steve Burkowski, College Central will be the source for all things college golf, including tournament results and scores, features and columns, video highlights and breaking news.

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS NEWS COVERAGE: Golf Channel will cover the conference championships with scores and analysis across its on-air news platforms - Morning Drive and Golf Central – and online within College Central.

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With help from partner, Burns could secure Tour status

By Ryan LavnerApril 24, 2018, 8:33 pm

AVONDALE, La. – This week Sam Burns has yet another chance to secure special temporary membership for the rest of the PGA Tour season, but his partner may determine whether he’s ultimately successful.

In an interesting twist, Burns is burning one of his seven available sponsor exemptions this week at the Zurich Classic. He is 80 non-member points shy of securing special temporary membership, which would allow him to receive unlimited sponsor exemptions for the rest of the season.

Burns needs at least a two-way tie for fourth to earn the necessary points, but it won’t all depend on how he plays this week. The Zurich is a two-man game, with two rounds apiece of fourballs and alternate shot.

Burns' partner this week is William McGirt. Their games couldn’t be more different – Burns ranks eighth on Tour in driving distance, at 309 yards per pop, while McGirt is 143rd (290) – but they hope to compliment each other over four days at TPC Louisiana.


Zurich Classic of New Orleans: Articles, photos and videos


“I got a good pair of spurs sharpened up last week while I was in San Antonio,” joked McGirt, who is looking for his first top-10 since the fall. “I told him I was going to ride him hard this week. It’ll be fun.”

Burns will have at least two (and maybe three) more opportunities to earn status, with starts lined up next week at the Wells Fargo Championship and also at the Memorial. He doesn’t face quite as much pressure because he won earlier this month on the Web.com Tour and currently sits fourth on the money list, essentially locking up his PGA Tour card for next season.

“It’s obviously nice to have that win,” he said, “but at the same time you have to be careful and make sure you play enough out there to where you’re secure for sure. You don’t want to get at the end of the year and then have two or three events left and you have to make a certain amount of money to get your card.

“So I’m just going step by step, tournament by tournament, and trying to figure out what’s the best route.”   

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Spieth-Palmer draw Rahm-Bryan early at Zurich

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 24, 2018, 7:49 pm

AVONDALE, La. – The PGA Tour’s only team event gets underway Thursday at the Zurich Classic. Here are some featured groups to watch at TPC Louisiana.

Justin Thomas-Bud Cauley/Daniel Berger-Gary Woodland: 8:39 a.m. ET Thursday off 10 tee, 2:08 p.m. Friday off 1: 

The Bama boys, Thomas and Cauley, team up for the second consecutive year, after tying for fifth a year ago on the strength of a final-round 61. Berger teamed with Thomas Pieters a year ago but missed the cut, so he’ll try his luck with Woodland, who also shares a management team at Excel Sports.

Jordan Spieth-Ryan Palmer/Jon Rahm-Wesley Bryan: 8:52 a.m. Thursday off 10, 2:19 p.m. Friday off 1: 

Spieth and Palmer finished fourth a year ago, five shots back of the leaders. Spieth is making his first start since his epic Sunday run at the Masters. Rahm and Bryan have opposite strengths – Rahm is one of the game’s preeminent drivers, while Bryan, statistically, is one of the worst – but the Spaniard is coming off a European Tour victory at home. Another wrinkle here: Even though no world-ranking points are on offer this week, Rahm is set to supplant Spieth as the third-ranked player in the world.

Jason Day-Ryan Ruffels/Brooks Koepka-Marc Turnesa: 1:31 p.m. Thursday off 1, 9:42 a.m. Friday off 10: 

Two stars with questionable sidekicks. Ruffels is an up-and-coming Australian who has been playing primarily in Latin America. (He also shares a manager with Day.) Turnesa, meanwhile, got the call late last week from Koepka, who is finally ready to return from a 15-week layoff because of a wrist injury. They both play out of Medalist in South Florida, but Turnesa, 40, has turned his attention to real estate instead of professional golf.

Patrick Reed-Patrick Cantlay/Jonas Blixt-Cameron Smith: 1:44 p.m. Thursday off 1, 9:53 a.m. Friday off 10: 

Reed makes his first start as Masters champion after taking off the past two weeks. This duo tied for 14th last year, undone by a Saturday 75 in foursomes play. Blixt and Smith are the defending champions, after shooting 27 under par last year and holding off Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown in a playoff. Blixt doesn’t have a top-10 on Tour since then, while Smith tied for fifth at the Match Play and the Masters.

Justin Rose-Henrik Stenson/Bubba Watson-Matt Kuchar: 1:57 p.m. Thursday off 1, 10:04 a.m. Friday off 10:

Rose and Stenson, who have proved to be a formidable pairing in the Ryder Cup, were a stunning missed cut last year, after shooting 6 under par for two rounds. Watson teamed up with J.B. Holmes to finish fifth last year, while Kuchar is making his first start in this event since 2009.

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Zurich Classic: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 24, 2018, 7:09 pm

The PGA Tour tries team competition for the second year in a row at the Zurich Classic. Here are the key stats and information for play at TPC LouisianaClick here for full-field tee times.

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 2:30-6:30PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 2:30-6:30PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.


Purse: $7,200,000 ($1,036,800 to each winner)

Course: TPC Louisiana (par 72; 7,425 yards)

Defending champions: Cameron Smith and Jonas Blixt (-27) in a playoff over Scott Brown and Kevin Kisner


News and notes

• All four reigning major champions - Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Patrick Reed - are in the field this week. This is the first time all four reigning major winners have played this event since 1984 (Ben Crenshaw, Larry Nelson, Tom Watson, Hall Sutton).

 Both members of winning team this week will earn an official PGA Tour victory, two-year Tour exemptions, and exemptions into the Players and PGA Championships.

• That said, no Official World Golf Ranking points are awarded from this event and winners will not earn exemptions into the 2019 Masters.


Notable teams in the field 

Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson

 Rose won this event in 2014, when it was individual stroke play. From 2012-16, he was a combined 60 under at TPC Louisiana in stroke play, seven shots better than any other player.

 Rose has dramatically improved his performance on the greens from last season, moving from 123rd in strokes gained-putting to 10th.

 Stenson's last three starts look like this: solo 4th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, T-6 at the Houston Open, and T-5 at the Masters.

Jon Rahm and Wesley Bryan

 Rahm is coming off a victory at the Spanish Open, his second worldwide win in 2018 and fifth since Jan. 2017.

 Rahm outdrives Bryan by an average of 30 yards off the tee, 305.1 to 276.3.

 Rahm is second on Tour in the strokes gained-off the tee, while Bryan is 210th, last among qualifying players.

Patrick Reed and Patrick Cantlay

 Reed is just the fifth reigning Masters champ to play the Zurich since 2000, joining Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson (twice), and Bubba Watson.

 Reed has gone T-2, T-7, T-9, WIN in his last four starts.

 Cantlay broke through for his maiden PGA Tour win earlier this season at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas.