Tee-k Tock: The ‘appalling’ slow play controversy riling golf’s biggest stars | CNN

Tee-k Tock: The ‘appalling’ slow play controversy riling golf’s biggest stars | CNN

CNN  — 

There are many tasks that can be accomplished in less than three minutes.

You have the option to play “Speed of Life” by David Bowie, relive Usain Bolt’s 100m world record run 18 times, and, if you are an incredibly skilled Premier League footballer, you could even fit in a hat-trick.

Alternatively, you have the option to observe a golfer hitting one ball.

During the final round of the PGA Tour event, a fan used his iPhone to time Patrick Cantlay’s shot at the RBC Heritage last month.

@patrick_cantlay ⏰ pic.twitter.com/xUrRehTRGd

The user “tap_it_in_golf” tweeted about enjoying a beer while playing golf on April 17, 2023.

As the American finally swung, the clock was already past two minutes and 50 seconds.

In Cantlay’s defense, the video wasn’t without caveats. It was an awkward looking lie, the ball lodged in the rough behind a tree, and – with the timer at 90 seconds when first shown – it is impossible to know exactly how long the world No. 4 spent over his shot.

Bathroom breaks

Unfortunately for Cantlay, this was not an isolated event and it was not the most displeased response.

The video of the golfer taking almost a minute to line up a four-foot putt on the same day became popular on Twitter among the sport’s satirical community. They edited the footage with clips from the final moments of the popular golf comedy “Happy Gilmore.”

According to a tweet from a parody account called Tour Golf, the main character successfully made a winning putt during the championship. The ball bounced off a car’s windshield and leisurely rolled around some debris from a collapsed tower before ultimately going into the hole, just as Cantlay was attempting his own putt.

During the final round of The Masters, Cantlay had been playing ahead of the leaders, Brooks Koepka and eventual champion Jon Rahm, for a week leading up to the deciding round.

Koepka openly expressed his frustrations with slow play, which sparked a heated feud with fellow golfer Bryson DeChambeau in 2019.

Koepka informed reporters that the group ahead of them was extremely slow.

“Jon made seven trips to the bathroom during the round while we were still waiting.”

Koepka and Rahm wait by the 2nd tee during the final round of The Masters at Augusta National.

It feels like repeatedly running into a solid barrier.

However, Koepka’s remarks were overshadowed by the statements made by Matt Fitzpatrick, one of Cantlay’s partners during the crucial round at the RBC Heritage. Despite eventually winning the tournament in a playoff against Jordan Spieth, the English golfer was not completely content with his performance at Hilton Head.

As one of the quickest players on the tour, Fitzpatrick believes that a round with three players should not exceed four and a half hours. Going beyond this time frame is deemed a “disgrace,” while significantly exceeding it is considered “truly appalling.”

Fitzpatrick expressed frustration with the ongoing conversation about this issue, stating that it has been ongoing for many years without any action being taken. Therefore, he believes discussing it further is futile.

My viewpoints are firm, but there is no action being taken. It feels futile, like repeatedly hitting your head against a solid wall. There are never any consequences.

“I believe it is a significant problem that requires immediate action. While I have great respect for the referees here who are wonderful individuals, I did not encounter a single referee throughout the day. We were left waiting for several shots and it is perplexing as to their whereabouts. It can become quite frustrating having to wait for such a long time.”

Additional grievances were expressed from outside of the PGA Tour.

In reference to the fan’s timing of Cantlay on Twitter, Anya Alvarez, a former LPGA professional, described it as “shocking.”

Alvarez questioned the necessity of a pace of play rule if it is not going to be enforced. She shared her experience of being penalized for slow play on the LPGA and how it motivated her to increase her speed.

Some of the top players in the game, including Jack Nicklaus and Annika Sörenstam, are acknowledging that the PGA Tour is facing a problem.

Nicklaus stated to Golfweek prior to the PGA Tour of Champions’ Greats of Golf event on Saturday that fairness is important, but consistency in setting an example is necessary.

“It’s rather unpleasant to observe someone standing over the ball for thirty minutes.”

Nicklaus is not a fan of slow play.

Sörenstam stated that nobody enjoys the current situation and it is unfair. Time is valuable, therefore it is important to start teaching early and ensure readiness before proceeding.

“As we continuously ponder, the situation becomes increasingly intricate, therefore simply act and move forward.”

Joel Beall, Alex Myers, and Luke Kerr-Dineen, analysts for Golf Digest, all agreed that Fitzpatrick’s outburst was straightforward but accurate.

Furthermore, in addition to negatively impacting other groups due to the slow player, similar to how braking on a highway can cause a chain reaction and result in traffic jams, this could also result in the Tour losing valuable viewers.

“The speed of the game has been a concern for many years,” Beall stated in an interview with CNN Sport.

The sports industry is beginning to acknowledge that fans have limited time available for their interests and are making changes to accommodate this. Golf has not addressed this issue, which has only made it worse.

Fitzpatrick (center) saw off Spieth (left) and Cantlay (right) to clinch the RBC Heritage title.

Carefree Cantlay

Cantlay appears to be undisturbed. Following his impressive hole-in-one in the second round of the RBC Heritage, the American shared a video of his shot with the comment: “Speeding up the game!”

When asked about Fitzpatrick’s critiques before the upcoming Zurich Classic, Cantlay responded that his time on the PGA Tour’s Player Advisory Council (PAC) has taught him that round times have remained consistent over the past ten years.

Cantlay expressed interest in knowing how they plan to increase the speed.

“I have participated in the past two tournaments and my group has not received any warnings. I am unsure of how to improve our pace of play since we are keeping up with the group ahead of us.”

“I have always been slower than the average person throughout my career. I like to take my time and do things at my own pace. Although no one has approached me or discussed it with me, I am open to discussing it if anyone is interested.”

Cantlay made no apologies for his speed of play.

Cantlay and fellow American Xander Schauffele were speaking together, with Schauffele defending his compatriot.

Schauffele stated that all recent occurrences have followed the Tour’s guidelines and expectations.

No individuals have faced consequences for playing slowly or any other violations, therefore we are all following the guidelines set by the Tour. If there is a significant amount of complaints, the Tour will need to address the issue and potentially make adjustments to speed up play or modify the time limit.

“We are not playing at the level of a typical municipal course that the average person uses as a benchmark for our pace – we are competing for a significant amount of money. If taking an extra minute to ensure we position ourselves correctly is necessary, then we will do so.”

What are the regulations?

Surprisingly, the PGA Tour’s handbook on Tournament Regulations dedicates a significant amount of attention to guidelines for maintaining a steady pace of play.

The chapter specifically focuses on the topic, starting with a reference to the Rules of Golf from R&A and USGA. These rules state that golf should be played at a timely pace. This pace is defined as taking 40 seconds for a stroke, with a 10-second allowance for special situations, such as the first player on a par-3 hole or putting on the green.

According to the guidelines, players are expected to play at a faster pace and are encouraged to do so. Golfers who take longer than 40 seconds, also known as “bad time,” will be notified promptly by a tournament official.

If a player commits an infraction during a round, they will receive a penalty of one or two strokes depending on whether it is their second or third offense. A fourth offense will result in disqualification. A second infraction will result in a $50,000 fine, with subsequent infractions resulting in a $20,000 fine each.

Golfers who consistently take more than 45 seconds per stroke over a period of 10 tournaments will be informed that they have been placed on The Observation List. This means they will be closely watched by the Rules Committee. These golfers must complete each stroke within 60 seconds.

Cantlay said nobody had approached him regarding his pace of play.

If a player takes longer than two minutes to make a shot without a valid reason, they will receive an Excessive Shot Time penalty. The first instance will not be punished, but repeated offenses will result in being placed on The Observation List and charged a monetary fine, beginning at $10,000.

In April 2020, the PGA Tour implemented the Observation List and Excessive Shot Time as measures to improve the speed of play.

Tyler Dennis, who was the chief of operations for the PGA Tour at the time, shared that in his interactions with players, readings of articles, and conversations with fans, he noticed that what truly resonates with people are their unique habits. These tendencies often leave a lasting impact on individuals.

“It is considered impolite and distracting. We are focusing on addressing these instances to support our fellow competitors and aid our media partners in their presentation.”

“Our main priority is to maintain our focus on creating top-quality shots.”

Solutions: Golf’s shot clock era

How can one address slow play?

A suggestion proposed by professional golfer Michael Kim is to publicly identify and criticize the slowest players through a monthly report.

@PGATOUR. Using public shaming as a tactic may not be effective for Cantlay, but it could be effective for others.— Michael S. Kim (@Mike_kim714) April 24, 2023

In 2019, Edoardo Molinari, the winner of the 2010 Ryder Cup, implemented a tactic that he had previously tested. As an Italian golfer who had expressed displeasure with the slow pace of play on the European Tour, he delivered on his promise to share a spreadsheet on Twitter that listed the slowest players on the Tour.

One of the most frequently proposed solutions is to implement a shot clock, similar to those used in the NBA and Major League Baseball. However, there has been some confusion among players since the latter introduced it recently.

pitch clock split

The implementation of the MLB pitch clock has created difficulties for batters.

In 2018, The European Tour tested out a new rule at The Shot Clock Masters. It involved giving out red cards and one-shot penalties for rule infractions, and players were allowed two “time-outs” during each round.

According to Kerr-Dineen, implementing a shot clock in golf would be difficult to enforce. Instead, he suggests that the PGA Tour should look to the American Junior Golf Association for inspiration. The AJGA has successfully sped up play by introducing “time par” checkpoints every three holes for young players.

“Each team must reach the designated checkpoint within a given time frame. If a team is slow, they will receive two warnings. Any subsequent delays will result in a one-stroke penalty for each infraction,” clarified Kerr-Dineen.

“The system is easy to comprehend and has been proven to be effective.”

Mikko Korhonen tees off at the 2018 Shot Clock Masters in Atzenbrugg, Austria.

Golf Digest’s Beall acknowledges the potential benefits of implementing shot clocks and publicly calling out players, but also emphasizes the role of those in charge of hole placement.

Beall stated that the individuals responsible for organizing the weekly course have consistently placed pins in challenging positions on greens that are faster than ever before.

Adjusting the placement of the pins and slightly decreasing the speed of the greens may help alleviate the issue.

Myers’ solution to the issue has been obvious to the PGA Tour from the start: strictly enforce the current regulations.

It has been 28 years since the last time an individual was penalized for slow play at a regular PGA Tour event. The last instance was in 1995 at the Honda Classic when Glen Daly received a one-stroke penalty.

Myers questioned the purpose of putting someone on the clock if there is no intention of following through.

“When you begin to include additional points to the scores of players, you will notice that those individuals start to take longer breaks in their pre-shot routines.”

PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO - APRIL 30: Tony Finau of the United States, his wife Alyna and their children pose for a picture after the final round of the Mexico Open at Vidanta on April 30, 2023 in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)

On April 30, 2023 in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Tony Finau of the United States and his wife Alyna, along with their children, posed for a photo after the conclusion of the Mexico Open at Vidanta. Finau also caddied for his young sons shortly after his victory in the tournament.

This alteration would be welcomed by Koepka, who was incredibly exasperated in 2019 and even volunteered to act as a martyr.

Koepka expressed frustration in his attempt to be put on the clock, as no one is enforcing penalties. He even suggested that he be penalized if he takes longer than 40 seconds.

“I am willing to be the test subject, it is not a problem. It is necessary.”

Source: cnn.com