Speeding up golfers on the PGA Tour during tournament rounds has merit: no fans - nor competitors - want to sit around and watch a player take upwards of 5 hours to complete a golf round. But then again, the longer a golfer is on the course, the longer television broadcasts have to be, which means more commercials for participating sponsors.
Could there actually be two sides to this "slow play" story, after all? Let's take a look.
PRO: Enforcing faster golf rounds is a good idea for the PGA Tour.
Supporters on this side of the coin are the vast majority. As eluded to above, sports fans prefer fast-paced exciting action to slow-motion, mind-numbing snooze fests. Nothing could be more true when watching professional golf. Most fans prefer to catch the final two rounds on Saturday and Sunday, and especially if a big-name player is leading the tournament. The faster those fans can see the next great shot by Tiger, Phil, Rory, or Rickie the better.
Players prefer faster rounds as well. While being out in the sun on a beautiful day playing the world's greatest courses sounds like any golfer's dream, playing a 6-hour round in the wind, rain, and cold can be a nightmare. Golf is also a game of routine and rhythm, so a slower pace-of-play can throw most players out of whack and down the leaderboard. Players deserve to play in conditions and at the pace they prefer.
CON: Slow play on Tour is simply the nature of the beast.
I'm going out on a limb here, so bear with me a bit.
Perhaps slow play on the PGA Tour is simply the product of the high-risk (and high paycheck) nature of the sport? Many players have admitted that the anxiety of hitting a putt or tee-shot (literally) worth hundreds of thousands of dollars can prove to be downright paralyizing for some. The emotional toll is amplified when a player is simply trying to make the cut in a tournament. When was the last time you had to sink a three-footer to put food on your table for the month?
Could strictly-enforcing the rules on slow play actually damage the integrity of the game? If players were forced to step out of their comfort zones and rush more shots during a round, would we be graced with memories like Phil at Augusta or Tiger at... well, anywhere Tiger has been great? Padraig Harrington certainly has an impressive career resume of golf achievement; but do we all remember what happened to him when he was put on the clock?
For the most part, speeding up play on Tour is a good idea (after all, it is in the rule book). Timing players during a round is also pretty damn objective; you can't really argue with a stopwatch. Furthermore, the Kevin Na's, Ben Crane's, and Morgan Pressel's in the world certainly need to be coached.
However, the real key to successfully implementing faster play among all touring pros is not in the rules themselves, but rather in how purposefully those rules are enforced.