Welcome to Teeing Off, where Devil Ball editor Jay Busbee and head writer Shane Bacon take a day's topic and smack it all over the course. Suggest a future topic by writing email@example.com, or hit us on Twitter at @jaybusbee and @shanebacon. Slow play has been a hot topic the last few weeks, but it is something that could truly harm the PGA Tour?
Bacon: I thought this was the age of the athletic golfer? The years of the youthful? So why is it that with all the svelte golfers come super slow play? The PGA Tour has become a hare and tortoise race, just minus the one with the floppy ears. Is slow play killing golf? I say yes. These rounds are lasting five hours, and they're twosomes! We are watching golfers take practice swings ... after practice swings ... after PLEASEJUSTHITTHEBALL practice swings. Jim Furyk actually does a fake-out putting stroke before hitting his putts. More and more guys are making the 2002 Bethpage version of Sergio Garcia look like one of those contestants on "Shop Till Ya Drop." Something has to be done. More penalties, more officials putting groups on the clock, and more sticking to the actual rules of the game. As we've seen in basketball, if you stop enforcing the traveling call on most players, it eventually stops being a rule.
Busbee: One ... moment ... I'm ... finding ... my ... Backspace ... key ... Yeah, I agree with you in the abstract. Absolutely, death to slow players ought to be the norm. Except, here's the thing: Let's step back and ask WHY they're playing so slowly. It's because there's so much riding on every single shot. One missed putt, one errant drive can be a six-figure difference in payday, a chance at immortality missed (Kenny Perry @ Augusta, 2009), a career derailed. That's an awful lot on the line to rush a shot, wouldn't you say?
Bacon: Yeah, I agree, the money is huge, etc., but that shouldn't make these guys play so slow that even retirement home audiences are annoyed. There are rules in place to keep the pace respectable, and I think the tour needs to do a better job at enforcing them. Again, if you are allowed to bend the rules a little, you'll just keep bending them until someone says something. That's what the players have done with slow play, and until someone slaps some hands, it'll keep going down the slow path.
Busbee: One example. That's all it'll take. One example. You lay down a warning, and then you find some poor (well, rich) sap who decides to plumb the green for a good 15 minutes, and you slap him with a one- or two-stroke penalty. Of course, a determination like this will invite cries of favoritism, so it's essential that golf treat all of its stars the same as its Thursday-leader journeymen. How about a shot clock on the corner of the screen? That'd liven matters up. "Putt, Holmes, putt! You've got only two seconds to start your backswing!"
Bacon: I LOVE this idea! Have a clock boy that walks along with the sign boy, and right when it is their turn, start the minute counting down? It would at least give the viewers more of a chance to call in penalties. Seems we don't get to do that very much anymore.
Also, you're right about making an example out of someone, but I find it really strange whenever people get warned on tour for slow play, they always seem to get mad at the officials instead of understanding that they are playing like a SNAIL. Padraig is the most recent example I can think of here, but if you get warned, how hard is it to understand that they're doing it because it is part of the rules?
OK, your thoughts ... is slow play a real issue?