Welcome to the new season of Teeing Off, where Devil Ball editor Jay Busbee and head writer Jonathan Wall take a day’s topic and smack it all over the course. Suggest a future topic by writing firstname.lastname@example.org, or hit us on Twitter at @jaybusbee and @jonathanrwall. Today, we tackle the horror that is slow play. Settle in.
Busbee: So this weekend we had another … opportunity … to … see … Kevin … Na in action. And with him, he dragged along the albatross of slow play. We’re told that it’s the bane of the game, that it’s worse than a beverage cart without any beer. Let’s examine this topic today, shall we? Your thoughts on slow play, sir? Is it as much of a problem as its detractors suggest?
Wall: Slow play … if there’s one topic in golf that makes my blood boil more than any other, it’s talking about Mr. Na and his slow play compatriots. Let’s get this out of the way first: Slow play won’t kill the game. Despite what some are saying, the PGA Tour won’t disappear if guys play five-plus-hour rounds. But you have to wonder when tour officials are going to draw the line and starting taking some action against the worst offenders. This can’t go on for much longer. I understand these guys are playing for million-dollar paydays each week, but it can’t take you a minute to set up and hit a shot. Unless we’re talking a double-breaker to win, guys need to assess the shot, step up, and smack the ball down the fairway. It seems so easy, you wonder why guys can’t get it through their thick skulls. Hit the ball. Is it really that hard?
Busbee: Sweet heaven, my friend, the next time you and I play I’m going to run at every ball like a polo pony. I get you, without a doubt. I too think this is the PGA Tour’s culture of privilege run amok. It’s the logical outgrowth of the whole players-run-the-show “we’re independent contractors” mentality–we’ll take as long as we damn well please to play. I feel for Kevin Na, I do–the guy clearly has some issues between the ears that are keeping him from just stepping up and smacking it. Still, I have to think that a lot of those issues would vanish into the wind with a quick one-stroke penalty. And you?
Wall: I couldn’t agree more. I think it was our boy Ryan Ballengee over at the Golf Channel who mentioned giving each group a wireless LED shot clock to keep everyone honest. I know it sounds silly to turn the PGA Tour into the NBA, but why not force them to be ready at all times. As you said, this really is privilege run amok. The PGA Tour can’t survive without the players, but the fans, and those guys on tour already playing at a quick clip, deserve better. Playing at a such a slow pace is just plain rude. It pretty much tells your playing partner, in so many words, that you could give a crap about maintaing a decent pace. And hey, if a shot clock doesn’t, we could always put a taser in play for the worst offenders. Pretty sure that would speed guys up … or knock them out.
Busbee: There’s still a same-as-it-ever-was mentality among certain segments in the PGA Tour (to say nothing of, oh, Augusta), but here’s a case where the players and the Tour alike need to recognize that what was working before isn’t working now. All it will take is one player getting knocked out of the lead, or losing a few digits off their purse check, for a crime he obviously committed, and you’ll see plenty of guys snapping into line in a hurry.
So, you ever hit into the group ahead of you to get ‘em moving? I haven’t, but oh, have I been tempted.
Wall: If I admit and say I’ve hit into the group in front plenty of time, does that make me a jerk? As you can tell, I’m a stickler for pace of play. I’ve never aimed at a group with an intent to injure one of the guys, but I have, on occasion, let one loose as they were getting into their carts. Sometimes it works; other times it turns me into public enemy number one. Truthfully, I should probably cut it out in the future. After reading some of these stories about guys getting stabbed and run over with carts, due to slow play, it’s probably best if I enjoy the weather and the company and forget about trying to finish in under four hours.
Busbee: Maybe a few more beers from the beverage cart…?
All right, your turn. What do we do about slow play? Any and all suggestions welcome.