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USGA must enforce pace of play at 2013 U.S. Open, says Annika Sorenstam

Annika Sorenstam wants the USGA to put some teeth behind its new slow-play campaign by penalizing plodders at U.S. Open.

Scott Halleran

Annika Sorenstam has a starring role in the “Caddyshack”-inspired “While We’re Young” campaign that the USGA launched on Wednesday, the eve of the U.S. Open. Now, the LPGA Tour Hall of Famer expects golf’s governing body to practice what it preaches if slow players clog up the fairways at Merion as they are wont do do during major championships.

“The USGA [has] to kind of follow through because it wouldn’t look good if it was extremely slow and then you have these campaigns running this week,” Sorenstam told SB Nation in a phone interview.

The USGA's rule 6-7 states, in part that a golfer who does not play "without undue delay" shall incur penalties that begin with a warning, may escalate to one and two strokes, and can eventually end with a disqualification.

Sorenstam, who retired from competitive golf after the 2008 season, knows a thing or two about how the pressures of the game at its highest level can stop the best in the world in their tracks. After all, the 10-time major champion has noted that regular tour events in her day would take up to five hours to complete.

That’s a snail-like pace for which there was -- and is -- no excuse. And no pontificating from on high will change things as long as recreational golfers emulate those on tour.

“We are role models. We need to set the standard and set the pace,” said Sorenstam. “If the professionals can’t do it [play quickly], why should amateurs do it? We have forecaddies, courses in immaculate shape; there’s no reason for us to be slow.”

Strong arguments, to be sure, and the USGA’s initiative -- presented in comedic fashion via PSAs with Sorenstam, Tiger Woods, Paula Creamer, Arnold Palmer, and actor/director Clint Eastwood -- intends to tackle the problem that plagues golf year after year.

The LPGA, which hands out penalties with some regularity on golfers Christina Kim has called “slower than evolution,” is on board with the USGA, as are the PGA of America and the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. The PGA Tour, which has not punished a Slowski in a regular event since 1995, is not.

“Although our industry has tried to address pace of play for decades,” USGA executive director Mike Davis said in a statement, “we believe the issue can be addressed successfully if we collaboratively pursue solutions that consider the full set of factors that influence pace -- the actions of golfers, the ways we design and manage golf courses, and the influence of the elite competitive game.”

With logistics already of serious concern at the cramped suburban Philadelphia site hosting this week’s major, it should be interesting to see how officials handle the turtles that are likely to plod along the soggy Merion Golf Club fairways.