In a crime-and-punishment edition, golf’s rule makers grant a reprieve for would-be violators of a confusing new rule, while some question if Sergio Garcia got off too easy in Saudi Arabia.
A voice that carries. Anyone who has visited this space (or any golf media, really) knows our disdain for slow play and it’s become increasingly clear that at the highest level the decision makers have no real interest in speeding things up, despite frequent calls for action.
It’s the PGA Tour’s policy, not the policing, that’s inadequate when it comes to picking up the pace, and no amount of media or fan indignation is going to change that policy.
What will change that thinking, however, is push back from players and this week Brooks Koepka didn’t pull any punches when asked about the game’s sluggish pace.
“Some of these guys are so slow, I'll take my sweet time getting to the ball. I don't have to go to the bathroom. [I] just go to the restroom and just kind of chill in there for five minutes, so we get on the clock, and now we're playing at my pace,” Koepka told Sirius XM radio. “It's probably not the right thing, but it is what I do.”
Koepka’s not the first player to try to ice the slow out of another frat brother but he’s the most high-profile member to speak out. Maybe the Tour will listen to the reigning Player of the Year.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Curious Choi-ce. Everyone can agree that Hosung Choi is entertaining and his exemption into this week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am was widely applauded, but not everyone was willing to jump on the bandwagon.
At last month’s Farmers Insurance Open, Rory McIlroy was asked about Choi, a late-blooming Korean professional with arguably the game’s most animated swing.
“I'm not sure a golf shot should mean that much to you that you're doing that after you hit it, like it's just trying a little too hard,” McIlroy said before adding, “Whether that means he should be taking a spot away from a PGA Tour player at a PGA Tour event, I'm not so sure.”
Choi received an “unrestricted” exemption into Pebble Beach, which is a spot often used by sponsors to spruce up fields. Whether another player deserved the coveted spot more than Choi is a debate no one can win. What is obvious is that the line between competitive relevance and entertainment value can be far too thin.
Open approaching. There are golf course setups and then there are U.S. Open setups. This year’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach is still a few months away, but players got a glimpse - and just a glimpse - at what may await in June at this week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
“The fairways being taken in is what you notice immediately,” said Jordan Spieth following a practice round at Pebble Beach. “You’re starting to see the fairways that we're going to see. You will see the fairways this week that we'll see for the U.S. Open. It just certainly will play wider given how soft it is. The ball's not rolling. And I assume in June it will be pretty firm and fast.”
Spieth wasn’t around the last time the national championship was played on the Monterey Peninsula in 2010, but he nailed this assessment. On Thursday Pebble Beach played about a half stroke (71.404) under par. For four rounds at the ’10 U.S. Open the scoring average was 74.983.
As clear as mud. The new rules that descended on golf this year had, until last week, been met with a mixture of disdain and indifference, but those emotions were cranked up to outright anger following a series of high-profile miscues last week at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Denny McCarthy was penalized two strokes on Friday for violating Rule 10.2b(4), which deals with restrictions on caddies standing behind players. Justin Thomas also found himself in a similar situation before the Tour stepped in with its own interpretation of the rule.
The USGA and R&A quickly sent out a “clarification” explaining, “a player can now back away from his or her stance anywhere on the course and avoid a breach of [the rule] if the caddie had been standing in a location behind the ball.”
Although the clarification appears to be a step in the right direction there still seems to be some confusion.
“[Caddie Kenny Comboy] and I have been together for 13 years, and he’s never lined me up. It’s not part of our routine, but the fear factor that comes in when you’re not trying to get any sort of advantage is difficult,” Graeme McDowell said this week at Pebble Beach.
Tweet of the week. @KipHenley (Kip Henley who caddies for Austin Cook) “It’s kind of weird that I can stand in front of my player and give him all the alignment and swing path advice I want but I can’t stand behind him. Why change this rule? Maybe one guy on [the] men’s tour, 20 on [the] ladies tour and no one else in the world does it.”
El No-no. Sergio Garcia’s temper tantrum at last week’s Saudi International prompted officials to disqualify the Spaniard from the event. Maybe that penalty wasn’t harsh enough.
A few days after El Nino’s implosion during the third round when he damaged several greens a video surfaced of Garcia going all Lou Piniella following a poor bunker shot during the second round.
Garcia did apologize for his behavior on Saturday. “In frustration, I damaged a couple of greens, for which I apologize, and I have informed my fellow players it will never happen again,” he said in a statement.
Given the extent of Garcia’s meltdown and his history with on-course anger issues, a DQ from an event he was likely receiving an appearance fee to play feels a lot like a slap on the wrist.