by Jeff Skinner
It isn’t too often that I can say I was fortunate in missing the final round of a PGA Tour event. But that’s the case this week. From all reports Sunday at The Valero Texas Open had all the joy of a root canal. And I am not sorry I missed it.
It was not the fact that the winner, Steven Bowditch shot a 76 to win it. Nor was it the fact that there were no superstars contending. A setup that when combined with the wind forced the players to look like hacks isn’t that unusual but yesterday’s final round suffered from the one fact that turns me off from watching golf, and I am a true fanatic. Slow play…extremely slow play caused the focus of the Valero to be the length of time the winner took, not the winner himself. It’s pathetic.
It took the final group three full hours to play…nine holes! They finished the back nine in a swift (cough, cough) two and a half hours. A five and a half hour round isn’t good for anyone, player, fans, sponsors, television and especially the game of golf.
Talk is cheap when it comes to speeding up golfers both professional and recreational and for decades nothing has worked. But from this narrow minded, old, fast playing, traditionalist comes the solution to slow play by the professionals.
The Masters is a mere nine days away and we all know the boys in the green jackets like to do things their way. If Masters Chairman Billy Payne wants to do something he can. Augusta National runs their own tournament. Not the PGA Tour or the USGA. If Payne wanted the players to wear shorts they would. If Payne wanted to use a pirate flag on the flagsticks he could. If Payne wanted to replace the pimento and cheese sandwiches with bologna he could. If Payne wants to speed up his invited guests that play in his tournament he can. It is simple: enforce the rules.
As old school as the members of Augusta National are believe it or not they are fairly progressive when they want to be. And if Payne wants to add to his legacy as improving the game of golf far beyond the gates of Augusta National he has his chance.
Payne should inform his team of international rules officials that yes, they will enforce the rules when it comes to pace of play. Yes, they will put players on the clock and most definitely yes, they will issue a stroke penalty when a player violates the rules.
Remember last year when they hit a 14 year old kid, Tianlang Guan with a penalty for slow play? So the precedent is set and the boys at The Masters can start a much needed revolution in the game.
A slow play penalty of one stroke at the most watched, most revered golf tournament in the world would have a greater effect than any “initiative” from golf’s ruling bodies. It would be the modern day shot heard round the world and have a very significant effect on changing the biggest problem in golf.
It’s not rocket science: issue a penalty on the biggest stage in golf and take a player down that hallowed leaderboard a bit and watch them pick up the pace.
Billy Payne has the chance to change the way the modern game is played. Viva la revolution!