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Thursday
May132010

"Slow play is a legitimate issue, but not to the point where I think we need to do something like that."

Another head-scratcher from Commissioner Tim Finchem, this time in John Feinstein's Golf World column on slow play:

Of course, it has been 18 years since a PGA Tour player received a stroke penalty for slow play -- and Finchem doesn't sound as though he wants to see it happen again anytime soon.

"Slow play is a legitimate issue," he said, "but not to the point where I think we need to do something like that. The real problem isn't how long it takes to play a round but when one player makes it uncomfortable for the other player or players because of his pace. That's just bad etiquette. And it's true, we do have some players who are in denial about being slow."

So is the Commissioner sending out word, or has sent out word that he does not want a stroke penalty assessed? We know he's not a fan of controversy, so it wouldn't be a stretch to think he's sent word that penalty shots are brand-averse.

Gary Van Sickle also tackled slow play this week for SI and did it in very entertaining fashion. Naturally, he picked the one week they actually played faster at The Players, but he still offers several insights into the problem and a glossary of slow play handbook.

Clockblocked - Forget Greenwich Mean Time. On the PGA Tour, Time Par (no relation to Old Man Par) is what matters. Time Par is the time it should take to play each hole, as determined by the rules crew after careful study. At the Players, for instance, Time Par was two hours, 14 minutes for the front nine and 2:15 for the back, plus five minutes to make the turn. Time Par for the entire round by a threesome was 4:34, 3:58 for a twosome.

The 40 Time - How cool would it be if golf, like basketball, had a shot clock? It would be handy too, because once a group has been alerted that it's on the clock, a player has 40 seconds to hit his shot once it's his turn. The first to play the tee shot on a par-3, a second shot on a par-4 or par-5, a third shot on a par-5 or a stroke near or on the green, gets an additional 20 seconds. If a player exceeds his allotted time, he receives a bad timing.

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Reader Comments (28)

they should track time per round of each player -- post that on pga tour stats -- and try and shame the worst offenders into improving -- as no-one wants reputation of being slow

the way they handled harrington last year at firestone when in final group with woods was example of how not to do it

there are too many intangibles to determine exact timing required for a shot -- penalty rulings, changes in wind conditions, waiting for crowds etc - so a shot clock isn't practical

maybe should ban waggles and practice shots
05.13.2010 | Unregistered CommenterAl
Al-all those things you mention are taken into account when doing timings.
If a player has to 'back off' a shot for a legitimate reason-noise,movement ,wind etc then the clock would be paused.
05.13.2010 | Unregistered Commenterchico
Shot Link has capability to record time stats. I have been to a couple of Tour events lately and it is easy to discern the slow players from others. Shot Link stats can remove subjectivity from the equation.

I do like the visual of, once a group is out of position, a golf cart with a huge shot clock appears and follows the group until they are back in position.
There's got to be a way to provide a positive incentive to make players faster. Maybe every second over 40 per shot leads to a corresponding decrease in the percentage of their earnings that they can keep?

But who am I kidding, they're never going to do anything.
05.13.2010 | Unregistered CommenterJim S
Slow play? . . . Use your DVR . . . 3 hour telecast . . . Start watching it 90 minutes in. . . Fast forward what you don't care about - Not, of course, the Costas, Roberts or Lerner commentaries. . . You will end your watching just about when the telecast ends. . . Even if Ben Crane is in the final group. . . Now that problem has been solved, any news about Tiger's new coach yet? . . . I am thinking maybe he will go with Mac O'Grady or Manuel de la Torre?
05.13.2010 | Unregistered CommenterWisconsin Reader
Forget pairings. Play as singles!
05.13.2010 | Unregistered CommenterMiss Priss!
Tim Finchem isn't a fan of controversy because he thinks it hurts the brand, but isn't slow play hurting the brand? Any time I mention to people that I like watching golf they always remark about how long it takes to watch a tournament, and how it is so slow compared to other sports, and on and on. I doubt the networks are thrilled about slow play. Is it possible he just doesn't want to incur the wrath of the players? I assume they are ultimately the ones who can have him removed from the job.
05.13.2010 | Unregistered Commenterlongtimegolffan
I'll bet it's not that we're so mad about slow play ... because if the network does an efficient job of showing a lot of shots and a lot of different folks then how do we really, really percieve the slow play on a TV broadcast? Sure we know that sexy hottie Furyk just putted out on the 16th green and whatever and we're keeping track of that in our mind and where he should be in ten minutes or wherever ... good lord ... I'm already dizzy.

Not ditzy. Dizzy. Thank you.

I think we're miffed because there aren't any truly interesting personalities on Tour any more and watching anybody these days is like watching watching grass grow ... under the feet of slow and boring golfers!
05.13.2010 | Unregistered CommenterMiss Priss!
Taser slow players.
05.13.2010 | Unregistered CommenterBuck
The shot clock should feature a buzzer. The penalty for not meeting the time is they have to hit the shot with the buzzer going.
05.13.2010 | Unregistered CommenterThe O
The approach by Finchem is exactly the wrong one.

He seems to be afraid to talk about it openly, while all sorts of goofly little metrics ideas float around about how to time things, and what sorts of extra rules, penalties, etc.

I think the opposite approach is actually the right way; treat it as a matter of etiquette, not rules. Shame the slow players. Talk about them. Encourage the network anchors to talk about the problem. But I cannot see how any shot-clock mechanisms will add to the game. I like to see Tour golf played by the Rules of Golf; and those Rules don't say much about the kind of slow play we see from Furyk and Crane and Glenn Day and others.

Johnny Miller comes in for a lot of abuse among us Shackelford devotees, and I may have contributed from time to time. But I give Miller big props for saying things, however occasionally, about slow play in general and slow players in particular.
05.13.2010 | Unregistered CommenterChuck
Ben Crane has been considered slowest for a while -- he was still top on 2010 SI pro poll recently

Who is the slowest player on Tour?
Ben Crane: 39%
Kevin Na: 31%
Other votes: Glen Day, J.B. Holmes, Jeff Klauk, Chris Tidland, Omar Uresti
Loose Lips: "Hate to say it's Ben Crane because he's trying really hard."
05.13.2010 | Unregistered CommenterAl
They should time how long it takes each player to take a shot or putt and then post the average. The clock starts as soon as your partner hits his shot.

The average will help smooth out any legit step aways or extra time taken on important shots or putts.

Some guys will be at 2+ minutes while others will be 1 minute - the shame idea is a good one - time to start clowning heavily on the slow players.
05.13.2010 | Unregistered Commenterwalking golfer
@AL, I read that Holmes was now way worse than Crane, although the articles imply Crane has gotten worse again (plus, that 17 point pre-shot grading system nonsense can't be helping).

I've seen a lot of guys play live on both the Nationwide and PGA. There are essentially two types: those who can't make a decision on club, etc. This might be understanable when it is windy, but on a calm day, it is completely maddening. At some level, these players are not as annoying. They are having a discussion, considering the shot, etc. I'm not sure why they need 8 minutes to hit a shot from the center of the fairway, but at least they clearly do something. Then there are the fidgeters and pre-shot routine nuts. They are intolerable. I watched a guy on the first tee of a Nationwide event take 6 practice swings, 2 half practice take aways and then a number of sergio-milkings, and then a countless infintesimal shifts going right up his body (you could actually see it moving up his body), he was ostensibly making sure everything was where he wanted it.
05.13.2010 | Unregistered CommenterThe O
The next time a player does a Rory Sabbatini and shows up a slow player (which I hope happens again), let's not all get shirty about the angered fast player. Let's applaud him.
05.13.2010 | Unregistered CommenterHod
"Sergio-milkings"--Ha! I will never view re-gripping the same again.
05.13.2010 | Unregistered CommenterEllert
You forget Hubie Green.
05.13.2010 | Unregistered CommenterSquire
Why do "they" and "we" bother with all this nonsense. This problem, like most problems, is easily fixed. Tim Finchem, Ben Crane and any other person who plays the game could fix it tomorrow if they truly wanted to but, for whatever reason, they don't. All that's required is a firm time limit on either the round, per hole or each shot. If the players exceed the time limit they are DQ'd. Problem solved. What's next on the agenda?

Rupert
05.13.2010 | Unregistered CommenterRupert
What about Furyk's nonsense?

The PGAT slow play spills over to slow play for recreational golfers.

How about mandatory continuous putting?
05.13.2010 | Unregistered CommenterSteven T.
I played in a golf league once with a novice player who on every shot would take four practice swings, squat twice, take his right hand off the club to push his glasses back up on the bridge of his nose, take one more practice swing, look twice at his target and then proceed to hit a reverse-pivot vermicidal 60-yard shot somewhere. We were friendly acquaintances, so one day I told him if he took more than one practice swing he was going to have a reverse Titleist tattoo impressed on his forehead. He then proceeded to play faster and his scores dropped from 120-something to 95-100. Think threats of bodily harm with a 7-iron will work on TOUR? Or maybe my previous suggestion: Just yell at them to "hit the f*ckin' ball!" I'm kind of partial to Rupert's suggestion. Just DQ the slowpokes. Slugger will have to do that only once or twice and the problem will be solved.
KLG - Good point.

I played with an engineer who went through a Crane like pre-shot checklist everytime he hit the ball. Finally I told him that if he didn't speed it up, I simply could not play with him anymore because it was beyond aggravating. He sped up his routine, dropped a couple practice swings, and started to play a lot better. It has been refreshing to watch.
05.13.2010 | Unregistered Commenterwalking golfer
One other thing. Whoever it was (I'm thinking tighthead or thusgone) who recommended the Srixon AD333, it sure worked for me. I played with a found AD333 this afternoon and shot a 74 with a double on the last hole. Spins just fine and will stop where you want it when struck properly. Behaves well around the greens. Goodbye $45/dozen golf balls! In no time I'll have that rangefinder...heh.
Buck, Love the taser call ! Why not...low frequency setting...one warning ...then let him have it!
If they can taser a fan who won't cooperate...why not a player?
05.13.2010 | Unregistered Commentersir real
Is Finchem actually suggesting that no player has ever complained about the slow play of playing partners and that this is the reason why nothing gets done about it?

I don't think penalty strokes are "brand-averse" but I do think cutting down the time to push the product by speeding up play might be.

I was quite pleased when Sky got back tv rights for the pga tour. Silly me. I'd forgotten just how little golf one actually sees and when it's diluted further by having to endure watching a golfer go through a tourette-like pre-shot routine, watching paint dry becomes the preferred spectator sport.
let them use rangefinders too.

technology exists, so why make caddy or player walk off yardages to sprinklers or like - or stand in fairway for 5 mins looking at a book.

waste of time.
05.14.2010 | Unregistered CommenterAl
This illustrates a total disregard for the game in general. If Mr. Finchem wants to concentrate on his revenue stream, that's his right, but, he's short sighted in thinking that the pros actions have little affect on the 99.9 % of golfers who have to live with him tolerating slow play/.
05.14.2010 | Unregistered CommenterAdam Clayman
What I hate to see is when the player is 50-60 yards from the green, then they walk al the way to the green to study it so they hit their approach shot to the right spot. I understand players want to know everything about the course, but that is what practice rounds and yardage books are for. It's one thing for a player to do it from just off the green...but the 40-50 yard walk up to get there should not be allowed.
05.14.2010 | Unregistered CommenterSteve
Agreed Steve and Al.
I reffed a PGA event in the UK where rangefinders were allowed and theres no doubt the players with them were quicker.
Skycaddie types quickest,then the Bushnell type with yardage charts way behind.
05.14.2010 | Unregistered Commenterchico

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