En­light­en­ing fo­rum shows drive to speed up golf is fi­nally gath­er­ing pace

The Herald - Sport - - FINAL SAY - NICK RODGER

A ROGUE’S gallery, a hall of in­famy? Call it what you like, there ap­pears to be a de­sire to have golf’s slow coaches pub­licly outed. “There is maybe a fear to pub­lish,” sug­gested Martin Slum­bers, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Royal & An­cient, dur­ing day two of the Time for Golf fo­rum on pace of play at St An­drews. Fun­nily enough, those are the same words the sports ed­i­tor mut­ters when por­ing over this scribe’s copy.

While the names of golfers who have racked up so-called ‘bad times’ on the Euro­pean Tour are pinned up in the tour­na­ment of­fice at each event, they are not made read­ily avail­able to all and sundry. Over two en­light­en­ing days, in which a host of slow play re­lated so­lu­tions have been kicked about, Slum­bers ex­pressed an en­thu­si­asm for a bit of nam­ing and sham­ing.

Of­fi­cials on the Euro­pean men’s cir­cuit have dished out 24 penalty shots on the tour since 1998, which doesn’t ap­pear to be that many. In com­par­i­son with PGA Tour events in the US, though, it’s size­able. There hasn’t been one player pe­nalised in a reg­u­lar event there since 1995.

There is a gen­eral be­lief it is only the rank and file play­ers who are tar­geted by ref­er­ees but Kevin Feeney, a tour­na­ment di­rec­tor with the Euro­pean Tour, in­sisted that was not the case. “At the Open this year, I moved in on a group with Jor­dan Spi­eth and Ser­gio Gar­cia,” said Feeney. “Ser­gio made an ef­fort to speed up and I thanked him but Jor­dan, who is usu­ally pretty quick, didn’t and I said ‘you’re on the clock’. We are tar­get­ing in­di­vid­u­als.”

Feeney re­vealed the num­ber of bad times on the Euro­pean Tour this year was 51 com­pared to 65 in 2014 and 67 in 2013. “The mes­sage is get­ting across but it’s taken a Her­culean ef­fort,” he said.

Those ef­forts are not helped by play­ers who rou­tinely play slow, speed up when the ref­eree ar­rives and then re­vert to a fu­ne­real pace when the of­fi­cial de­parts. “Ex­treme self­ish­ness,” is how the re­spected coach, De­nis Pugh, put it. Stephen Gal­lacher, the Scot­tish tour­ing pro, was more damn­ing. “It’s a form of cheating,” he de­clared.

Whether it’s re­duc­ing the time al­lowed to look for a ball from five min­utes to three or al­low­ing play­ers to keep the flag in while putting, to re­ward­ing recre­ational golfers who up the pace with a free pint and a sand­wich, the cam­paign to get the game mov­ing seems to be gath­er­ing pace.

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