PGA Tour rules officials: start your stopwatches. Golf’s newest symbol of slow play, Kevin Na, is in the field at this week’s Crowne Plaza International event, which will likely provide regulators with the chance to man up to the pace-of-play issue plaguing their game.
After all, with the LPGA cracking down on Morgan Pressel for taking too long to play her semifinal contest in Sunday’s Sybase Match Play Championship, surely the suits in Ponte Vedra issued an alert to the feet on the ground to move Na and his brethren around with all due speed, right?
Well, probably not.
While Pressel was the third LPGA golfer this season to receive a penalty for slow play (in her case, loss of a hole and -- eventually -- the match she seemed well on her way to winning), the last time the PGA Tour meted out a similar punishment was in 1995. Commissioner Tim Finchem, sounding tone deaf about the matter during a recent press conference, blamed weekend warriors who emulate the pros, but, you know, with a bunch more strokes on the scorecards.
For sure, Finchem does all he can do to speed up play. "I like to play a two‑ball game, to be honest with you, and take 2 1/2 hours to play," he told reporters prior to The Players Championship, during which Na’s seizure-inducing pre-shot routine took center stage. "If I can go off first, better."
Anyone who’s ever been stuck behind the everyday hacker version of Na, Ben Crane and other renowned PGA plodders knows exactly how frustrating slow play can be -- apparently so does Finchem. So how about lighting a few fires under the so-called role models, who convene coffee klatches with their caddies, take a few dozen practice swings, settle into their shots, back off, wiggle and waggle some more and painstakingly stalk putts from every conceivable angle?
Not my concern, The Commish averred.
"I don't think PGA Tour golf is the culprit here," said Finchem, who must be tuned into a different frequency than the rest of us. "I think the culprit is taking steps to drive the pace of play for the average player, and if we can be helpful in that regard, we're open to it."
Then how about enforcing the PGA’s slow-play rules, which involve putting players who fall off the pace "on the clock," and then giving them 40 seconds to play each shot (with several exceptions that allow 60 seconds)? A golfer who fails to play within that generous timeframe incurs a "bad time," which hypothetically could result in penalty strokes and disqualification.
Tiger Woods, who’s had his own run-ins with officials regarding slow play, believes one-stroke penalties for turtles would quicken the tempo on tour. "Strokes is money," he said after finishing The Players a little more than a week ago.
He reiterated his sentiments on Monday.
"I certainly think that we need to speed up play and we need to get a little bit faster," Woods told the media during a press conference for next month's AT&T National tournament at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. "We are the figureheads of our sport, and if we are taking, you know, 5 1/2‑plus, sometimes close to six hours, to play a three-ball, that's not acceptable."
As of last week, Finchem remained unconvinced, pointing to challenging course designs, the number of players in each tourney, and the magnitude of what was riding on each shot as the reasons for on-course backups. For sure, the commissioner made it clear he was no fan of adding strokes for golfers clogging the fairways.
Not so, says Finchem, who pointed out that challenging course designs, the number of players in each tourney, and the magnitude of what was riding on each shot were responsible for backups. For sure, the commissioner made it clear he was no fan of adding strokes for golfers clogging the fairways.
"I actually think we might want to experiment with penalty shots," he said. "But I don’t think penalty shots make a difference, to be honest with you."
Tell that to Morgan Pressel.