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Sunday
Mar302014

Video: Zach Johnson, Others On Valero's Tepid Pace Of Play

Just 71 players on Sunday at the Valero Open and it took them three hours to play the front nine, 5:32 for the last group, so naturally it's the old field size solution wheeled out by Zach Johnson in this Golf Central interview. He also makes some great points, but it was definitely a pot-kettle-black moment. Especially as he leaves out a mention of the players themselves, which is odd to say the least.

Johnson, says the issues are course setup, spacing of tee times, ripple effects, more daylight (!?) and the issue of putting the rules officials in a predicament in who to enforce the rules on and when. But the main solution he suggests entails reducing the size of fields. An oldie and not a very goodie, especially when Sunday proved that even a reduced field just can't get around a tough course quickly.

Great discussion between Ryan Burr, Steve Flesch and Tripp Isenhour follows the interview. Love the passion! Red phone will be ringing on Golf Channel Drive!

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Reader Comments (45)

Excuses. Excuses. Excuses.
03.30.2014 | Unregistered CommenterV60golfrrr
Slow play could be excised completely from the TV broadcast if the producer wanted to. Except for the last 3 holes of a tournament when there are only 3 or fewer groups left. When the pros play "clean and place" the viewer rarely gets to see them doing it.
What I really dislike on TV is short putts which pros simply don't miss. What I want to see is tee shots with the tracker stripe, shots to the green and up and downs.
Just get on with it boys....30-40 seconds is ALOT of time to make a decision, pull a club, set up to it, and then fire away. Tons of time not-counting any unusual circumstances.

Loupe's pre shot practice swings made me tired just watching them. Where does he find the energy to do that on almost every shot?
03.31.2014 | Unregistered Commenterjohnnnycz
And Mr. Johnson forgets that all the issues he raises, with the exception of the players (because he refuses to name names) who clearly are not the problem (ya....right), are a direct result of the needs of the television networks. Perhaps he should suggest that golf tournaments stop being broadcast? With no tv, field size is irrelevant, tee times too, for that matter so is the time of day (might fix his daylight issue) and with no one watching, who would care what the players shoot so course set up would be irrelevant.

Why wouldn't he suggest this? Let's start with prize money dropping to near nil and his precious sponsorship money drying up. We'll....let's just end there too. It's called prize money for a reason, it's a game. Check yourself Zach. For a guy who is supposedly a great guy, you seem to have lost perspective from your Cedar Rapids days.
03.31.2014 | Unregistered CommenterBigWazzy
Johnnnycz is right. 30-40 seconds is plenty of time. Painful to watch sometimes. The slow players are all indefinable. Most posters can name a handful that are easily recognized as "slow".

Until the TOUR hands out penalties, slow play will continue.

Rather watch NCAA basketball than the Valero Death March.
How soon they forget. I really like Johnson but I doubt he would have been saying this when he was struggling to make it as a Tour Pro. Field sizes are fine. It comes down to a percentage of guys who are slow players and set the tempo. Exposure of the slow players is good. Since the PGA Tour has a top ten for every other stat, why not a top 10 list for slowest times? Pressure from the other players and embarrassment is the only thing that MIGHT change most of the culprits. And penalties, but that's not going to happen on this tour.
03.31.2014 | Unregistered Commenterol Harv
Loupe could have been the only golfer out there yesterday and I still could have read war and peace during his pre shot tantrum
12 practice swings and 1:20 over the ball for a chip shot
I liked that they put individual players on the clock
Now go the next step and penalize
Loupe and na aren't the only ones by any means
03.31.2014 | Unregistered CommenterDuck!hooker
Let's start watching the ratings. If folks lose interest in watching zombie golf (as I did yesterday, really quickly) then the Tour might start realizing this is bad for their product. Bad ratings should also make sponsors want to raise hell with the Tour. That is, unless everyone is comfy in their situation, just like those Tour Stars who are out there on cruise-control, just playing for a check.
03.31.2014 | Unregistered CommenterHod
TV is actually pretty good at cutting out slow play, which is why nobody calls out Zach or Furyk (who might be the slowest guy on tour). Both those guys though have fairly consistent routines, it's harder for tv when they don't know when a guy is going to hit, so you see more of the pre shot routine.

And of course Zach doesn't want to blame the players, the dude is slow.
03.31.2014 | Unregistered CommenterElf
It is a commercial enterprise and advertisers using logos appreciate and compensate for the air time. Eliminate logos on equipment (including bags and balls) and players clothing (hats included). Allow their use during postgame interviews after the networks have split.
Example of a good plug : 5 hour energy during the Open in SF that flagged out on the 17th hole. The duck hook was blamed on the player not a weak product or one that doesn't last a minute over 5 hours.
03.31.2014 | Unregistered Commenterpanco
I'll call out furyk any day in fact I fave just named his routine "the cliffhanger"
Just when you (used to) think he's going to pull the trigger he goes to commercial break aka american idol
03.31.2014 | Unregistered CommenterDuck!hooker
I didn't get to see this Valero Open slogfest over the weekend, as I was watching the Devdog play in a local junior tournament, which also, coincidentally, produced rounds averaging 5:32 each. A 40 minute backup on a reachable par 5 because players couldn't find their balls in the arroyos if they missed the fairway, and they refused to hit provisionals. Players not being ready to hit when it is their turn in general. Players (and their caddies) stalking putts from 16 different angles before the player pulled the trigger. Players not looking at their putts on the green until it is their time, preferring to stand off on the side of the green until it is their turn. 12 inch putts being marked, just inside the 15 inch marked putts of fellow competitors. No one will tap in until it is their turn. 30-60 second pre-shot routines on putts once they actually have read the putts, including one kid in front of us for two days who made Furyk's routine look positively speedy. I am not exaggerating - I saw this kid spend over 30 seconds after replacing his ball on a 6 inch putt before he holed it. Gotta keep with the routine. The group in front of us on Saturday finished two full holes behind the group in front of them - and there was no penalties assessed but there was a "strong warning" of maybe, possibly, someday, sometime getting a penalty. The threat made no difference, as the player and caddie/father knew they would not be penalized.

Jeebus - I wonder where all these kids learn this?
03.31.2014 | Unregistered CommenterRickABQ
Obviously there are chronically slow players, like Holmes, Na, Loupe, Crane, etc. but most of these guys are slow. Matt Kuchar was slow yesterday. Now was he slow because he felt like the best way to cope with a miserably slow playing partner was to adjust and slow things down himself? Or is Kuchar a slow player?

Pace has been an issue for so long now that the quicker players know that nothing is going to be done about it. What do they do? They adjust. They cope with the issue by slowing down, trying to find some sort of consistent playing rhythm. This isn't rocket surgery, these players have been taught to cope, they know they're going to play better golf if they conform to the situation they're put in. That's what Kuchar did yesterday afternoon - he tried to find a way to cope with a chronically slow partner in a manner that wouldn't completely disrupt his round anymore than it had already affected him.

All of this leads to indifference. This leads to veteran players like Zach Johnson making the remarks that he made on camera yesterday, refusing to point blame at one player in particular, because at the end of the day - he knows that what happened Sunday will continue the following Sunday, the Sunday after that, the Sunday after that... If the tour commissioner and his rules officials aren't going to call people out for playing slow and hold them accountable, then what's the use?

The other key point that was overlooked yesterday is the fact that it's much too late to start timing players once their group has already fallen 2 holes behind! This happened yesterday as the final group headed to the 9th hole. And to make matters worse - this happened with Kevin Na playing a few groups up ahead! That is much too late to react to a slow player, the damage has already happened.

And lastly, and obviously... idle threats resolve nothing. Loupe should've been penalized yesterday, but wasn't. After getting "off the clock" he regressed back into the slow player that he is. The only consequence was having to be encouraged by a rules official to play more quickly, end of story. Stop encouraging. Start enforcing. The European Tour doesn't have this issue. Not because their fields each week are smaller or the venues are less challenging, but because they routinely penalize players for playing slow. Just ask Ross Fisher.

We've gotten long past the point now to blame the players. Finchem is to blame. His inaction encourages it.
03.31.2014 | Unregistered CommenterPA PLAYA
You people should have been watching the NCAA Tournament instead.
03.31.2014 | Unregistered Commenterrgw
ZACH IS JUST AS BAD AS SIMPSON, NOT EVEN STARTING TO LOOK AT HIS LITTLE BOOK TILL THE PREVIOUS PLAYER HAS HIT AND THE BALL HAS LANDED.

ZACH, you are a joke.

Another pet peeve of mine is the figging shoes. If they are not gonna let them wear shorts, then don'tt let them wear semi tennis shoes.

These clowns in the non traditional shoes wearing slacks look like the guy at a funeral who hasn't dressed up since his HS prom.

If you are going to allow these shoes, then let them wear shorts, where they look reasonable.
03.31.2014 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
The tour(s) could end slow play tomorrow if they implemented an over-arching rule that said: "Each player has 60 seconds to hit their shot." Period. Make use of the myriad of people who walk in the ropes and time each and every player on every shot. When they to beyond their time, penalty.
The reason it won't happen is because the players won't let it happen. They would kick up such a whining stink, we would never hear the end of it.
Also we need to separate 'slow play' from 'annoying pre-shot routines.' Some of the guys have extremely annoying pre-shot routines, but are actually fairly speedy players when you calculate how long it takes them to play the hole. Some players 'appear' to be fast players because their routine isn't bad, but they have spent 5 minutes analysis the wind and barometric pressure etc.
03.31.2014 | Unregistered CommenterPress Agent
Sorry, missed what digsouth had said, spot on for sure!!

Start analyzing your shot while the other guy is hitting. Nothing says you can't start your analysis before everyone else is done. Tiger will sometimes do absolutely nothing while all the other guys are putting, then when they are all done, he starts his 5 minute routine of looking at a putt from all angles....
03.31.2014 | Unregistered CommenterPress Agent
Penalty stroke, 2 penalty strokes, disqualify. Done. 45 seconds from the time the group in front has cleared is plenty of time to hit a golf ball. Finchem, jeezus h kriste, WTF :-(
03.31.2014 | Unregistered Commentermeefer
A perfect "enhanced interrogation" technique for Gitmo: video of a round with Loupe, Bradley, Na, and Crane announced by Dan Hicks saying, "While we have a moment..." before plugging the tv show "Crisis -- how far would you go to save your loved ones?" during every one of every player's player's each and every pre-shot routines...

Come to think of it, the tour Suits should be locked in a Ponte Vedra room without air conditioning and forced to watch this until they emerge with a new rule on time penalties.
03.31.2014 | Unregistered CommenterRLL
Its a shame, I am a golf fanatic. I play all the time both competively in Mid Am events and for fun. I do not really enjoy to watch golf on TV anymore, with the exception of the majors, a great tournament venue ( Aussie Masters), or when there is an intriguing leaderboard or pairing. I can't get enough of golf and yet it is so boring to watch these guys play at a snails pace. If the tour is not going to fix it, they should consider only showing players right as they are about to hit a shot. Granted, I do enjoy sometimes getting to see and hear a player and caddy discuss and calculate an important shot, but the players deliberations now are just unbearable. They need to fix this or they will loose their fanbase eventually.
03.31.2014 | Unregistered CommenterKC
Andrew Loupe is slower than molasses. I'd rather watch grass grow.
03.31.2014 | Unregistered CommenterNick
The Loupe routine was certainly difficult to watch. I assumed he was trying to visualize the shot and then feel the swing before he set up to the ball. I saw on Saturday's round that Na was being heckled when we walked up to tap in a putt. is that because NBC mentioned how slow he plays last year? I certainly don't want to single out Na when the whole field is slow.

Agree with PA PLAYER, all the players have to cope with the overall slow pace of the field. I wouldn't want to watch someone move to the ball and back up while chipping or putting.
03.31.2014 | Unregistered CommenterMatt H.
I am curious - question for those who have spent time on the ground with the PGA tour, inside the ropes as refs or spotters or caddies or players or whatever: have you ever heard any players or caddies discussing "catching up" when they fall behind? The first rule I was ever taught was that you have to keep up with the group in front of you. On the rare occasion that you spend 5 minutes searching for a ball, you find a way to catch up, either by increasing your walking pace or playing shots in close succession or some other means..
03.31.2014 | Unregistered CommenterPGT
Last night was the first time I had ever seen Loupe play. If that was the speeded up version then god help us all!!
03.31.2014 | Unregistered CommenterChico
@ Nick When you watch Loupe hit you probably are watching grass grow.
03.31.2014 | Unregistered CommenterRon
Ron a big +2- you said exactly what I was thinking.
03.31.2014 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
Let's face it, we're living in the era of the "pre-shot routine." Any golfer -- from hacker to pro -- cannot pick up a newspaper, magazine, article on the internet, or watch anything golf related on television or video without being lectured on the importance of the pre-shot routine. You MUST visualize, establish a routine, a pattern that you follow EVERY SINGLE TIME before hitting any shot, whether it's a drive off the tee or a six inch putt... THIS IS THE WAY TO PLAY BETTER GOLF!

Is it? Really? Or is it the way you end up with OCD rug rats like Loupe and Bradley who have grown up "visualizing" everything through the virtual reality of the online experience from the time of the cradle...?

The fact is, most people have trouble visualizing anything beyond raising a fork to their mouth with food on the end of it. And most pro's can visualize a golf shot in less time than it takes to say, Fore.

I think the most instructive thing any golfer can do to understand how to speed up play is to walk a golf course with one or two clubs and a putter, and just hit balls and play the game. Not only does everyone who does this get better at the game -- as opposed to all the BS that has grown up around the game -- but you hear over and over again how it's amazing that you shoot pretty much the same score as you would with a full bag and all the accoutrements sold to you by the golf media and its yammering heads.

Come to think of it, maybe there should be a big money mandatory walking 3-club tournament to start the Tour out every year, and it should be televised with shot clocks and immediate elimination for delays. You'd probably grow the game more with the broadcast of one of these events than all the PGA brochures, ads, and lectures combined -- PLUS everyone would enjoy the game more!
03.31.2014 | Unregistered CommenterRLL
@ Matt H; Kevin Na is being heckled because of a hatchet job Golf Digest.com did on him. Absolute garbage that cherry picked stats and tried to show that playing with Na cost other players strokes. It was horrifically bad and ignored the fact you could show stats that would show playing with Tiger did the same thing, but much worse. The ones who put it together should be ashamed of themselves.
03.31.2014 | Unregistered CommenterPress Agent
The first thing a teaching pro tells a beginning golfer that he needs is the same thing that has ruined the game:

The pre-shot routine.

It's morphed into a significant 90-second life event that has accomplished little more than making the game miserable at every level.
03.31.2014 | Unregistered CommenterPA PLAYA
I watch a lot of tennis, and it too was getting difficult to watch due to slow players like Nadal, Sharapova and my favorite Djokovic. I started dvr-ing it so I could FF, but then I'd miss the commentary. They started enforcing the 20/25 second rule and now it's once again enjoyable to watch. Golf needs to learn a lesson from tennis.
03.31.2014 | Unregistered CommenterLadyH
Initially I started recording the telecasts and watching them about 90 minutes behind to breeze through the commercials. Then I started breezing through the boring chit-chat between the analysts that wasn't golf-related. Now I'm using it primarily to breeze through the 2-minute minimum for a player to pull a club or the 5-minute survey to figure out a way to miss a 2-footer from 4 different angles.

In essence, I watch televised golf ONLY because I have DVR. Without it, there's no way I could do it. And even using DVR Sunday, it still took nearly 4 hours to get through the coverage. That's how bad the pace was Sunday - DVR couldn't help.
03.31.2014 | Unregistered CommenterPA PLAYA
@ABQ, I would love to see junior tours and tournaments ban parents from caddying for their kids. I realize most are fine, but I have seen some incredible stuff over the years. Why not let the kids be on their own, talking to other players, not their dad, between shots. I see more and more events doing this and I applaud them.
03.31.2014 | Unregistered Commenterol Harv
Tepid? Fetid!
03.31.2014 | Unregistered Commenterstymie
Ban caddies, period, for juniors for all events except national championships! And encourage the younger players to use a 3-wheeler to cart the clubs, easier on the back. Eventually put a crimp in the bottom lines of Club Car and EZ Go. Win, win, win.
03.31.2014 | Unregistered CommenterKLG
@digsouth: Texan fashionista? A wondrous anomaly!
03.31.2014 | Unregistered CommenterYTH
@Harv -

The junior tours around these parts vary as well in their use of parent caddies, or caddies in general (and in rangefinder/DMD use). The Junior Am does not allow parents as caddies IIRC, and that is probably a good thing. Devdog and I have decided that in order to remain on speaking terms for the rest of his high school career and beyond, neither of us will caddy for the other! :-)
03.31.2014 | Unregistered CommenterRickABQ
Yeah, that worked for this Ghost and Ghost, Jr., too. Good move.
03.31.2014 | Unregistered CommenterKLG
@KLG, I agree. From what I see at the golf course, kids almost expect to take a cart now. When the hell did that start? If I wasn't playing with my old man or the pro, I walked. I've even been to a few collegiate events where the players are riding in golf carts.
03.31.2014 | Unregistered Commenterol Harv
The best I remember it was Azinger describing Crane's addressing his role in the Crane-Sabbatini affair. Crane (per Azinger) admitted, "I'm slow. I know I'm slow. I'm trying to get better. But it's gonna take time."
Classic.
03.31.2014 | Unregistered Commentergov. lepetomane
Harv, Last year summer I had a young (now) friend who is our current Junior Club Champion drive up to the 6th green and park next to the 7th tee. While I was getting water from the cooler he asks very politely if he can ask a question. Yes, I say. "Can you tell me how old you are?" I told him; I've been eligible for the Senior Amateur for a few years. His response, and I quote, was, "That's ridiculous! You're walking and I'm riding!" I just laughed. When the kids turn 16 they can take a cart. The only time Ghost, Jr. could take a cart was the summer he was a cart boy and they were free. The younger kids seem to play only when Dad or Mom drive them around, sometimes while both are playing, sometimes when only Junior is playing. That's ridiculous. Yes, the course is as hilly as ANGC. But just as walkable even with three semi-substantial hikes from green to tee. But one of those is a non-cart path shortcut through the back yard of a member who gets downright insulted if you don't take a beer/Coke/water/Gatorade out of the refrigerator if his garage is open. AFAIK there is only one other "adult" who is an occasional walker. They all just wave and shake their heads and laugh at me when finishing up while I tee off at 2:00. The other thing that is ridiculous is each rider pays $17 for the privilege. I suppose the bottom line needs it. But I take some satisfaction that I very seldom do more damage to the course than the occasional shot with a BMI of 50. Most of my misses are quite anorexic. Not to minimize the burden of eating disorders, of course. What I really need is a Walking Club Championship that excludes the local college gunners who have student memberships. Most of the high school golfers start to lose it when they realize the really old guy just might beat them since 250 more or less down the middle usually trumps 310 into the woods. I could retire that trophy! Maybe.
03.31.2014 | Unregistered CommenterKLG

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