by Jeff Skinner
The PGA Tour has taken to trying to market its younger generation of players to entice a younger generation of fans to tune in. Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson are just a few of the “Twitter Generation” that the tour tries to promote to this generation of fast moving, got to have it now fans.
Unfortunately, all their commercials and marketing plans go for naught when the pace of play on the tour rivals a hundred yard dash at a senior citizens home. Gene Wojciechowski gives us an insightful and hysterical piece on following slow playing Kevin Na during his first round of the Arnold Palmer Bay Hill Invitational. “Time doesn’t stand still when Na plays; it goes backward. The only thing brief about him is his last name.”
Wojciechowski put a stop watch to one of the slowest players in the world. It wasn’t pretty. “Should it take 1 minute and 28 seconds to hit a single putt? It does if you’re Na. To watch Na and his caddie, Kenny Harms, obsess over a putt is to watch two bumblebees circle a flower stem. A typical Na putting routine: Place ball at marker … look at line from front … look at line from back … pick up ball … caddie lines up putt … caddie plumb bobs with wedge … place ball back at marker … line up putt … caddie plumb bobs again … two practice strokes … pick up mark and put in right pocket … two more practice strokes … putt.”
Kevin Na is a good golfer, he is 62nd in the world golf rankings but watching him is enough to make you scream, “Noonan.” He and his partners played in 4 hours and 46 minutes. They never had to wait to hit a shot all day. I bet the group behind them couldn’t say that. By the eighth hole there was an entire hole open ahead of them. If that was the case at one of the courses I play you’d be in big trouble. The rangers would “move you into position” and if you fell behind again the next hole would be the nineteenth.
Most PGA Tour players are well aware of the slow players on tour but they are convinced that the tour will never take any real action. Fast playing Pat Perez says, “I’ve gotten over the fact of fast, slow, this and that. It’s just an unenforceable thing. In the end, everybody finishes.” Bubba Watson has a solution, “I’d tell them to start handing out strokes.” That may do it, but that looks about as likely as John Daly winning The Masters (he’s not invited).
Now some of you out there will hear 4 hours and 46 minutes and think, “That’s not bad…it takes my group about the same time.” Well think again. A group of four hackers, on carts, looking for balls in the woods, splashing balls in the ponds, taking three strokes in a bunker, with a few six packs for refreshment, shooting in the nineties could very well take that long (it’s still way too long). But these are three professionals, shooting in the 70’s on a pristine course, with no lost balls, rulings or cart girls to distract them. That’s pathetic and definitely no way to keep fans tuned in.
Slow play has haunted the PGA Tour for a long time but they take no action. It could have a backlash. I rarely root against a player. I do however take a little joy in watching those slow players miss a putt after taking an eternity to line it up. “On the 18th green, Na readied himself for his 5-foot par putt. Line it up … walk toward the hole … caddie plumb bob … mark ball … two practice strokes … caddie plumb bob … caddie line up putt … pull marker and put in pocket … line up putt … two practice strokes … putt. And miss by 3½ feet.”