Here's the fun thing about this bizarro trend of men's professional golfers leaving their chip shots around the hole, all in the name of slow play: they are getting more brazen. Even better, this is going to help us bring back the stymie!
The backstopping/sideboarding practice of leaving your ball down--in the name of speeding up play of course--used to be something that only happened in lower profile situations. Increasingly though big name players in big name pairings have been so eager to speed up play, they are willing to not protect the field by leaving their ball in a place that might help their fellow PGA Tour brother competitor. Of course to do so knowingly results in disqualification under the Rules.
And for those who say it doesn't happen, may I refresh your memories here.
This was Saturday with the Spieth-DJ pairing at the 2017 Dell Technologies (link here if the embed doesn't work):
The practice, which only seems to be happening in men's pro golf, is also continuing in Europe. This was Saturday and an all timer given the proximity of the playing partners who just couldn't take that extra 7 seconds to mark their ball.
Here's the bad news: as this strange, buddy-buddy, backscratching practice picks up steam, someone will stand fifteen feet from his ball, watch his ball get hit by another player who then makes par instead of bogey. That player will ends up winning a tournament by a shot or costing someone his card and will be publicly shamed. His reputation might even be ruined. And all for just doing what everyone does every day on the tour because that's how they play the game out there.
And play will still be slow. This practice might be cutting 20-30 seconds a round.
Yet guys will still mark 18 inchers to not step in a through line, but they'll leave their ball down 18 inches from the hole to help out a buddy who might help them later in the round.
I know shining a light on suspect behavior is upsetting for many in a sport where the players are generally the most honest and upstanding in all of sports. But as a clubby sport by nature that values protecting those who have joined the gang, suggests image of those who stick together over good, old-fashioned competition. As a sport, if fans sense the players are just playing week to week hoping for their shot and helping their buddies out at other times, pro golf will ultimately lose a certain edge and purity if a practice like this continues.
Oh, and there is also the "what other rules are they bending" question that is so dangerous to a sport's reputation.
Brandel Chamblee engaged with readers on the topic Saturday after the above incident. The original questioner deleted his question, but it's a nice mix of those who see this for what it is (some bizarre tacit agreement that has festered) and those who believe the guys just are trying to speed things up.