New PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan probably took a few aspirin when he saw that world No. 1 Jason Day returned from time off and, unprompted, proudly touted plans to play slower in 2017.
After all, the new Commish has more on his plate than you'd expect given the supposedly great product Saint Finchem left behind. Big picture stuff like trying to fix a confusing schedule, repairing relations with sponsors and keeping FedEx around should be Monahan's first-month priority instead of jumping in on the slow play debate.
But did Day just hand Monahan the perfect opening to attack the slow play problem?
Because of Finchem's many blind spots related to the actual product of PGA Tour golf, none was more perverse and damaging as his desire to see pace of play policies ignored. Finchem prioritized protecting the gentleman's game imagery above the gentlemanly behavior of playing golf at a considerate pace. Finchem never shied from bragging about his players taking hats off and shaking hands for the 18th green cameras.
Slow players? That could be swept under the rug because television wouldn't show someone rudely taking three minutes to play a shot, until they started showing such antics down the stretch because they had no choice. Then a Sean O'Hair or Kevin Na or Jason Day made it apparent how ungentlemanly it is for someone with PGA Tour level talent to take that long to hit a shot, and the Commissioner openly resisted penalty shots.
It is no coincidence that in the nearly 20 years Finchem was in office, the last penalty occurred in his first months on the job and never since. He also worked to undermine the stature of his officials by prolonging contract negotiations and underpaying the unionized force charged with enforcing the rules. And don't think players were oblivious to this neutralization of the referees or the amount of time that has passed since the last penalty (1995).
Even the USGA appeared has bowed to Finchem, implementing its very effective pace of play system at all but the one of its championships. It just happens to be the one where coddled PGA Tour players play: the U.S. Open.
Now that Finchem is retired, the PGA Tour slowpokes' sense of taking as much time as they'd like came flooding out of Day's mouth prior to Kapalua's 2017 season kickoff event. With no fear of being penalized and a rumored $10 million a year from Nike to pay any minor fines, Day made clear he's not going to rush himself.
The full comment:
Jason Day on slow pace of play in golf ... pic.twitter.com/u2wfqW0BmF— Brian Wacker (@brianwacker1) January 3, 2017
Imagine a pitcher declaring that he will not throw a pitch until he's ready or a free-throw shooter backing off five times before taking a free shot? The leagues would crack down.
In an era when no sport can afford to be seen as slowing down, the PGA Tour has shied away from enforcement that might help solve the problem. However, a new commissioner is in town and he's just been given a natural opening to push back.
Monahan shied away from taking a strong stand on slow play in a Q&A at PGATour.com earlier this week, understandably not needing to start his tenure off on a combative foot. Yet Jason Day has uttered comments far removed from the simple reality that the PGA Tour survives on its entertainment value, not on how it pads Day's bank account. The suggestion he will back off until he's ready made clear Day's entitlement level runs so deep that even his truest believers might not feel sorry to see a PGA Tour rules official stalking him around Kapalua. And Torrey Pines. Or any fairway he pitches his tent upon to indulge himself at the expense of our viewing pleasure.