Tours have to take blame for slow play

Noth­ing will change un­til play­ers get pe­nalised, writes Rob McGarr.

Golf World (UK) - - XXXXXXXXXXXX -

It’s al­ways the play­ers that get the blame for slow play. Makes sense, right? Af­ter all, it is them that are play­ing slowly.

But the rea­son slow play is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly com­mon – and ex­treme – is that the play­ers have no onus to speed up. “I don’t un­der­stand what the big hoopla is all about,” said JB Holmes af­ter be­ing crit­i­cised for tak­ing over four min­utes to hit a shot on the 72nd hole of the Farm­ers In­sur­ance Open, leav­ing play­ing part­ner Alex Noren, who had a gen­uine chance to win the tour­na­ment, stew­ing on the other side of the fair­way. “I was just try­ing to give my­self the best chance to win the tour­na­ment.”

That’s what ev­ery player is do­ing, and if that means tak­ing an eter­nity, they will do just that as long as the gov­ern­ing bod­ies con­tinue to turn a blind eye to slow play.

“We can all blame JB, and yes the player should take re­spon­si­bil­ity for their pace of play,” says Luke Don­ald, “but if they don’t, that’s why we have Tour of­fi­cials. They needed to step in a while ago.”

Last month’s Shot Clock Mas­ters on the Eu­ro­pean Tour gave play­ers 40 or 50 sec­onds to hit their shot, de­pend­ing on whether or not they were first to play. Ex­ceed your time limit, which was tick­ing down on a large dig­i­tal screen, and you got a one-shot penalty. Round times dropped by 45 min­utes and the qual­ity of golf ac­tu­ally im­proved, with scores lower than last year’s event, which was run without shot clocks.

“I think this is the way we should play golf,” said Peter Han­son, while lots of PGA Tour play­ers looked on en­vi­ously. “Amaz­ing how fast rounds go when play­ers play within the rules,” said Billy Horschel. “Wish we had some­thing like this on the PGA Tour.”

The stupid thing is, they do have some­thing like this on the PGA Tour. The Tour al­lows 40 sec­onds to play a shot, but this is only rel­e­vant when play­ers are be­ing timed, which is rare. Even groups that are put ‘on the clock’ tend to speed up for a cou­ple of holes un­til they’re no longer un­der scru­tiny, then re­turn to their usual pace. There has been only one in­ci­dent of a penalty be­ing given out in the last 22 years.

Only four penal­ties were ad­min­is­tered dur­ing the Shot Clock Mas­ters, but the gen­uine threat, and the fair­ness and clar­ity of it, was enough to trans­form the pace of play.

If we want to speed things up, we need the PGA and Eu­ro­pean Tour to take the ini­tia­tive, rather than ig­nor­ing the prob­lem.

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