Huggan On Slow Play Disease

John Huggan serves up plenty of fun anecdotes in focusing his Sunday column on slow play, starting with Nicholas Fasth:
Fasth, who is easily golf's most inappropriately-named player, is the sort of guy who spends five minutes boiling a three-minute egg, who takes an hour-and-a-half to watch 60 Minutes and who, on the course, is basically unwatchable. And, sadly, he's not alone. Plenty of others, by dint of their ponderousness under pressure, make viewing golf on television about as much fun as putting on Ryvita-like greens at Dunbar.

Indeed, the European Tour, on the face of it at least, has done more than most to combat the spread of this insidious disease. Exactly one year ago, Simon Khan was fined £8,000 for taking 16 seconds too long over a tee-shot. During the previous 12 months, the Englishman had been penalised one shot and fined twice more for the same offence. Which is fine until one realises that more prominent names, Faldo and Langer, for example, have never been subjected to that level of scrutiny.

The players are not the only direct causes of slow play at elite level. The advances in club and ball technology and the extraordinary distances even the most ordinary professional can hit shots these days have only added to the amount of time it takes to complete 18 holes. During last year's Buick Classic at the Westchester Country Club, weekend rounds were taking five hours - for two-balls. All because one of the most historic courses in America has a couple of par-4s that a field of professionals can potentially reach in one shot and par-5s they can cover in two.

Hot drivers and balls are no excuse for the nonsenses perpetrated by players on the greens, though. Take the insanely-pedantic pre-putt routines of Phil "round and round the clock" Mickelson and Jim "hang on while I line this one up again" Furyk. Both are enough to drive any spectator away from the course or television. Such contrivances have but one redeeming quality - they are still not as tedious as watching Graeme Dott and Peter Ebdon play snooker.