PGA Tour pace of play issues hamper golf

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To call JB Holmes’ pace of play “deliberate” is to call Cameron Champ “long.” Holmes is painfully slow. But since he’s not one of the biggest names on the Tour, he stays under the radar most weeks. When he Is claim, fans are forced to put up with his blatant disregard for his playing partners, his insistence on pitting every putt not once but twice, and his reluctance to prepare for his own shot while others strike.

It happened last year at the Farmers Insurance Open, when Holmes took over four minutes (!) To hit his approach in the last hole. (His very possible it cost Alex Noren this tournament). And it happened again on Sunday at Riviera, when Holmes was the main reason the last group needed 5 hours and 30 minutes to complete 18 holes. Ice Speed ​​sent Golf Twitter into a frenzy. It was so newsworthy that even Jim Nantz couldn’t help but take a few hits. In other words: Holmes’ fifth PGA Tour victory was completely overshadowed by the time it took him to seal his fifth PGA Tour victory.

For the second Sunday in a row, the pace of play was the # 1 story of the day. Last week, Phil Mickelson had to return Monday morning to finalize his victory at AT&T Pebble Beach because his last group couldn’t finish in five hours. This week, Holmes & Co. made its way through the last nine meters of Riviera as the sun was setting. It was, in some ways, the end of a marathon week: the weather-disrupted tournament made it feel like it took forever to complete, so why would the bottom 18 be any different?

Holmes was asked about the tempo of the day.

“Well you play in 25 mph wind gusts and see how fast you play when you play for the kind of money and the points and whatever we play for,” he said. he declares.

Here’s the thing: Holmes isn’t wrong. Being able to take virtually unlimited time on a shot, or having the luxury of waiting for a particularly gusty breeze to set in, is a competitive advantage. Given the current status quo, he has every right to do so. Holmes didn’t break any rules on Sunday. His group was not even put on the clock. He’s slow, but we can’t say for sure he’s the slowest player on the Tour. It deserves to be called out, of course, but it’s a symptom, not the problem.

The problem is the PGA Tour’s terribly vague policy on pace of play. You will often hear that the pros have 40 seconds to play a shot, but this time limit only applies once a group is “out.” position ”, which means that they are far behind the group in front. As long as a player follows the group in front of them, they can take as long as they want. Holmes’ group (Justin Thomas and Adam Scott) actually had to wait to play a number of shots out of the first nine. They were never out of position and therefore never time-limited.

Players can only be penalized if they have been timed first then exceed 40 seconds. This exact scenario unfolded precisely twice in the past 24 years. This is a point worth repeating: the PGA Tour has imposed exactly two idle penalties in the past 24 years.

Why is this the case? There is always a justification: last week the blame was placed on the amateurs. Sunday in Riviera, it was the wind. After spending many afternoons watching frigidly slow tournament rounds, I’m here to tell you that it’s neither the fans’ fault nor the wind.

Let’s take a look at what causes slow play, why it’s a problem, and some potential fixes.

Causes of slow play

Do not prepare the shot while the others are playing. Too often, players don’t prepare while their playing partners strike their next shot. There are some explanations for this. Maybe the players are really indifferent to the pacing issues and just can’t be bothered. I suspect that more often than not they have been instructed to essentially disconnect between shots. Mind coaches will tell you that it’s impossible to stay focused on the laser for an entire turn, so it’s best to let your mind wander between shots and then refocus when the time comes. It looks real. But it’s still a cause of slow play.

Topographic (and mathematical) maps. Players have more information at their disposal than ever before, so players are processing more information than ever before when preparing for a shot. On the greens, this means studying topographic maps of the putting surface. Many players use some version of the Aimpoint putting system – when you see players raising their fingers in front of their face, it’s Aimpoint – which requires another calculation. Other guys use the old-fashioned “lead”, a method that requires you to hold your putter behind the ball with every putt. (Holmes does this even on the leads, and often twice as much as the leads). But the math isn’t all about putting on – just listen to everything Bryson DeChambeau talked about with his caddy before hitting a stock gap shim a few weeks ago in Saudi Arabia.

Granted, not everyone is DeChambeau, but it gives you a little insight into all that can be, and often is, considered.

This is JB Holmes taking a minute to hit a putt.

If you can watch this without saying it hit the damn ball, you have more patience than me.

Brutally deliberate pre-firing routines. When players finally decide they’re ready to, you know, hit the golf ball, it also tends to take way too long. Patrick Cantlay’s pre-shot jiggers are probably the best illustration of this.

Taking a little more time on the ball might seem negligible, but if a player takes an extra 20 seconds out of 70 shots throughout a round, that’s another 23 minutes. If all three players in a group do this, it’s over an hour difference. These seconds add up.

Why is it a problem

TV shows you can’t watch. First of all, it makes the TV show limit unpleasant. No one has the time or the patience to sit on their couch and watch 330 straight minutes of golf. Maybe the odds aren’t going down now – Commissioner Jay Monahan has a certain Tiger to thank for that – but golf will see its popularity wane as its aging fan base ages and the Instagram generation, who clamors for content. small, will become the target of public advertisers.

Competitive advantages. Having to do something quickly makes it exponentially more difficult. This is why standardized tests like the SAT, LSAT and GMAT are timed. Shouldn’t golf be the same? Should a player have the luxury of waiting for a gust of wind almost as long as they want? Should he be able to analyze all the possible factors in a three-foot putt? Or should he have to pull the trigger, even if he doesn’t feel absolutely ready to do it?

Poor example. Weekend warriors and junior golfers look to the pros to lead by example, and I don’t mean that in the sense of a role model. Fans are watching the PGA Tour pros hoping to pick up something they can use to help their games. So when they see the best players in the world throwing 13 looks at the hole before a shot, they can do the same. Or when they see a guy playing on an 18 inch putt, they might do the same.

“The problem spills over into amateur and college play,” said Billy Horschel United States today. “When I play pro-ams it’s amazing how long some of these players take. We’re such big influencers in the game that whatever we do people are going to copy us.”

Yes– and we’ll get to that in a second – the Tour really wants to speed things up, here’s what they can do.

Potential remedies

Apply the 40 second rule to each shot. This should apply to every shot, not just when a group is put on the clock. It sounds simple enough, and it would require players to permanently change their routines before shooting.

Ban on green reading books. It would certainly speed things up, but the Tour would receive a massive reaction from the players if they took away a key part of their arsenal. Whether green reading books should have been allowed in the first place is another conversation – isn’t green reading one of the challenges of golf? those of the game.

Lower the standards to put a group on the clock. From now on, the Tour will only place a group on the clock if it is obviously, wildly, enormously late, like two holes behind. Getting groups on time earlier and more often would give them no choice but to pick it up.

Penalize players. It all really comes down to this. Until the Tour begins to penalize players for slow play, nothing will change. Brooks Koepka said it a few weeks ago:

“I think it’s weird how we have rules where we have to make sure it falls from knee height or the caddy can’t be behind you and then they also have a rule where you have to. hit in 40 seconds, but this one isn’t You apply some but you don’t apply others.

“[Slow players are] breaking the rules but no one ever has the balls to actually penalize them.

Put yourself in the shoes of a slow PGA Tour pro. You arrive in the home stretch with a real chance of winning for the first time in years. You are more comfortable playing at a creepy pace, and you feel that your playing partner, who you are fighting with, is uncomfortable with all the waiting. You know you won’t be penalized.

Why the hell would you speed it up?

So will something happen?

Probably not. The PGA Tour, perhaps more than any of the major sports leagues, is run by the players. For doing something that is going to piss off a lot of players – and any change in the pace of the game would cause utter outrage from many, even if guys like Koepka would welcome it with open arms – there should be a compelling reason. to do. Indignation on social media is not admissible. As long as ratings stay high, as long as advertising dollars keep pouring in, the Tour won’t need do anything.


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