Slow play shows up at the worst time for PGA Tour

Associated Press  |  Last updated May 15, 2012
(Eds: With AP Photos.) By DOUG FERGUSON AP Golf Writer In more peaceful times, when Tiger Woods had gone six months without losing and golf seemed to revolve around him, he ended a monthly newsletter with a rare trip to the soap box to complain about the pace of play on the PGA Tour. ''Before I go, I would like to talk about slow play,'' Woods wrote. ''It's been an ongoing problem on the PGA Tour for a long time.'' That was in 2008. When he finished The Players Championship on Sunday, Woods measured progress with one word. ''Worse,'' he said. The focus last week at the TPC Sawgrass eventually returned to the guy holding the trophy, as it should. The PGA Tour had reason to celebrate for a couple of reasons. It had a worthy champion in Matt Kuchar, who won the money title two years ago and has an infectious smile that makes him a fan favorite. Also, the tournament finished on Sunday. Kevin Na was only joking - we think - when he spoke about his battle to pull the trigger and his bizarre habit of purposely whiffing on a swing so he could start over. ''But just bear with me, and hopefully we get that (Sunday) round in,'' Na said. In fact, the topic came up on the eve of The Players Championship when commissioner Tim Finchem was asked if the PGA Tour felt a sense of urgency to play faster and an obligation to set an example for golfers everywhere. His answer included this nugget that made little sense. ''I actually think we might want to experiment with penalty shots,'' Finchem said. ''But I don't think penalty shots make a difference, to be honest with you.'' How would he know? This week at the Byron Nelson Championship marks the 20-year anniversary of the last time a PGA Tour was assessed a one-shot penalty for taking too much time. That was Dillard Pruitt, now a rules official who carries a stopwatch. That one stroke wound up costing him $9,600 - when $9,600 actually meant something. He was fined $1,000, and he was relegated to play in the last group for the next two weeks. Stewart Cink was asked about progress with the pace of play. A few years ago, he was fined $20,000 for getting put on the clock 10 times in a season, and he has worked to improve. ''Is it because of the leader?'' Cink replied on Sunday as Na was headed to the practice range. Sure, it's easy to pick on Na. He is changing his swing and fighting some demons to get comfortable over the ball. He became a sympathetic figure to some in the media for his honesty and his pledge to try harder, though it should be pointed out that Na has been slow ever since he joined the PGA Tour. Not so sympathetic were some in the gallery who shouted out, ''Pull the trigger!'' and ''Hit it!'' to reverse effect. He had to back off shots and wound up taking even longer. Slow play has been part of the conversation all season. If golf were a presidential campaign, slow play would be the equivalent of the economy. Luke Donald was on holiday in Barbados when he was watching the final round of the season-opener in Hawaii, which featured Na, Jonathan Byrd, Ben Crane and Webb Simpson in the last four groups. He took to Twitter and ended one plea by saying, ''Slow play is killing our sport.'' Finchem addressed the broader problem, which represents somewhat of a Catch-22. Ask just about any rules official and they would say the size of fields make it nearly impossible to get around in a reasonable time. Can anyone remember the last time the cut was made on a Friday at Riviera? That's why the Masters gets nervous when its field size approaches 100 players. But to reduce the field is to take away playing opportunities, the very thing Finchem is determined to provide. It's not a simple solution. ''We elect not to do that,'' Finchem said. ''Because as much as we like to see a stronger pace of play, the playing opportunities for the number of players we have had are more important. We'll generate the playing opportunities first, and take our lumps second. It's as simple as that.'' Solutions are not that easy to find or this would have been fixed years ago. And it's not fair to compare the pace on tour with how long it takes to play golf at your local club. In recreational golf, the pins aren't four paces from the edge of the green, tucked behind bunkers. The greens aren't as firm as a hardwood floor. A putt isn't worth $399,000, which is what it cost Rickie Fowler when he missed that 8-footer on his last hole. The problem on the PGA Tour might be attitude. Donald said what annoys him most is when a player does not starting thinking about his next shot until it's his turn. The way it has gone for the last 20 years, why hurry when on one else does? ''We know when they drive up and tell us to hurry up, it means nothing,'' Geoff Ogilvy said. ''When I first came out and someone told me to hurry up, I got all flustered and was rushing. Now, it's a laugh. Yeah, we'll try. But some guys don't even try because they don't do anything. ''I bet if you polled the tour, half the fast players would say, `Give me penalties,' just to scare everyone.'' Or maybe the tour could try a perk instead of a punishment. ''You want to help slow play?'' said Roger Maltbie, the NBC Sports analyst and former PGA Tour winner. ''Hand them their cards on the first tee and say, `If you bring this back to us in less than four hours, you can take a stroke off your score.' Let's see how that works.'' It couldn't hurt.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

WATCH: Bubba Watson's caddie owns heckler at PGA Championship

NFL denies sending Donald Trump letter about schedule

Michael Bennett calls out NFL stars for not speaking up on social matters

Nationals make astute move in acquiring Melancon

Son of former NFL player Antonio Armstrong charged with death of parents

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

U.S. Senator “appalled” by Bettman’s stance on concussions

Team USA’s Opening Ceremony uniforms look a little treasonous

Lawyer who reps concussion lawsuit wants to speak with Bettman

Tyler Eifert says he will never play in the Pro Bowl again

Australian athletes evacuate the Olympic village after fire

Russian weightlifting team banned from Rio

Texans GM 'disappointed' in DeAndre Hopkins

Can Andre Johnson end his regression in Tennessee?

Favre opens up about painkiller addiction during career

Miami women’s basketball coach criticizes Texas A&M following slideshow

Twin Cities preparing for influx of sex trafficking during Super Bowl LII

WATCH: Bautista bat flip will be available as NHL 17 celebration

Former USMNT, current MLS forward Davies battled cancer, in remission

The definitive guide to U.S. Men's Basketball at Rio 2016

Tony Romo training camp picture leads to fat jokes, concern

Matt Cullen’s family eats cereal out of the Stanley Cup

Texas A&M suspends coaches for sexist slideshow

10 most dangerous college football defenders in 2016

Golf News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Dr. Phil calls out the Patriots for their cheating ways

Everything that's already gone wrong at the Rio Olympics

Amar'e Stoudemire's presence (and absence) changed the NBA

We asked Team USA: What other Olympic sport would you play?

Why Gary Bettman's CTE denial is cause for concern for NHL

WATCH: Inside the Nike SNKRS BOX in SF for Golden Air Celebration

WATCH: Five other uniforms Chris Sale should cut up

QUIZ: Name every Olympic event in which the USA has never won a gold medal

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

WATCH: What teams should join the Big 12?

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker