Kevin Na is finally off the hook.
The player formerly known as the world’s slowest golfer ceded his title on Sunday to J.B. Holmes, the human traffic jam who single-handedly brought Tiger Woods Revival Week — er, the Farmers Insurance Open — to a standstill Sunday evening.
The fun began when the final threesome of Holmes, Alex Noren, and Ryan Palmer reached the fairway on the par-5 18th hole on Torrey Pines’ South Course. All three were still in contention when Holmes, who needed an eagle to share the lead with Jason Day at 10-under while his playing partners each had to make birdie to force overtime, fiddled and diddled with his club choice and whether or not to go for the green in two from 239 yards or lay up.
Four minutes and 10 seconds later — certainly long past the ambiguous “without undue delay” that the USGA provides as a guideline for the time a golfer has to play a shot — Holmes finally clubbed down and laid up into the rough.
“It was between the 5-wood — I didn’t think it was going to get there — and the 3-wood would have gone back there where [Noren] was over the green,” Holmes told GolfChannel.com after he failed to make the three-man playoff. “That pin being in the bowl, I thought I had a better chance of holing out with a wedge than I did trying to chip one in.”
Holmes’ shenanigans came at the end of an excruciatingly long, six-hour round for the final threesome, as well as a tedious day that included Woods cooling his heels for 25 minutes on a par-3.
Twitter was not amused, with many of Holmes’ peers chastising the four-time PGA Tour winner (as well as tour officials for their absenteeism) for his unsportsmanlike delay of game. Luke Donald was one of the most vociferous in slamming Holmes.
Anytime today JB... ♂️— Luke Donald (@LukeDonald) January 28, 2018
Last group was over a hole behind, we can all blame JB...and yes the player should take responsibility for their pace of play, but if they don’t that’s why we have Tour officials - they needed to step in a while ago IMO.— Luke Donald (@LukeDonald) January 28, 2018
But Donald was certainly not alone in his criticism, as Daniel Berger resented Holmes giving his fellow competitors a bad name.
Most tour players aren’t slow but because of a handful of slow ones we all get a bad rep— Daniel Berger (@DanielBerger59) January 28, 2018
Mark Calcavecchia called for sanctions against Holmes as he castigated him for his final decision.
1. JB needs to be fined or better yet given 2 shots— Mark Calcavecchia (@MarkCalc) January 28, 2018
2 Needs eagle to tie. After all that lays up? Really???
3 Horrendous sportsmanship to Noren and Palmer
Steve Flesch wondered why officials steered clear of the pileup on 18.
Just to make everyone complaining about how long JB took to hit that shot on 18, 4 min and 10 sec to be exact, he could have taken 6 minutes and nothing would have been done. Last hole, last group. Something should have been said way earlier.— InTheFlesch (@Steve_Flesch) January 29, 2018
Still others ripped Holmes for treating Noren the way opposing football coaches often try to mess with placekickers’ heads.
JB Holmes with one of the most egregious 72nd-hole icings that I can remember.— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) January 28, 2018
All of which had no impact on Holmes, who justified his slow play by saying he remained in contention.
“I was still trying to win,” he said. “That’s part of it.”
The end result of Holmes’ selfishness ought to be a strict enforcement of pace-of-play rules but the suits in Ponte Vedra have been infamously loathe to penalize players, with Glen Day in 1995 and Brian Campbell and partner Miguel Angel Carballo at last year’s Zurich Classic the notable exceptions.
Perhaps the new tour commissioner could take a page from his European colleagues. In an experiment slated for a June tournament in Austria, the Euro Tour will allow the first player in a group 50 seconds to hit a shot and each succeeding golfer no more than 40 seconds. Should a golfer breach the rules, he will receive a warning for the first offense and a one-shot penalty for each subsequent violation.
The Euros first deployed a shot clock on one hole at the GolfSixes tourney in England.
The effort received high marks and, after the Holmes fiasco, all eyes will be on the appropriately — and humorously — named Shot Clock Masters.
While we don’t foresee such common sense rearing its head stateside, the PGA Tour should, at the very least, enforce its own slow-play rules or risk another Holmes-ian nightmare spoiling an event for everyone.