Golf Expert & Columnist
Governing bodies must do more to penalise golfers for slow play
Last Updated: 19/02/19 3:28pm
David Livingstone criticises golf's governing bodies for not stopping slow play and warns of the dangers it could have on the sport's younger fans...
No wonder too many kids think golf's a boring game!
Any of them allowed to stay up late in the UK on Sunday night would have been excited about Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods trying to chase down Justin Thomas.
Holmes wins Riviera marathon
Report and highlights from a weather-extended final round at the Genesis Open.
Instead, they got JB Holmes staring interminably at yardage books and green readers. After he'd sent them off to bed early, he went on to cure a nation's insomnia.
Yes, JB deserves tremendous credit for winning an A-list event, keeping his head when others around him were losing theirs in trying conditions. But he followed another tournament winner before him this year, Bryson DeChambeau, in making a nonsense of a major rules rewrite designed to make golf a simpler and more attractive game.
Sorry folks, you forgot new rule number one - get on with it! If golf doesn't speed up, growth in the game will get slower than JB Holmes himself. And that's not funny.
Holmes and DeChambeau have both been getting away with it for too long, JB because he doesn't get much TV time and Bryson because he's a charismatic novelty act.
They're not the only culprits but they're early-season targets for good reason, having both devalued the entertainment of a winning final round. What makes it worse is they know perfectly well what they're doing and don't have any plans to change.
Even in the face of criticism from fellow professionals, both of them stubbornly refuse to change the way they do things. If anything, Holmes, who was at the centre of an even more blatant slow play issue a year ago, seemed to be at his most obtuse on Sunday night.
Time and again, he started his laboured process of calculation only after his opponents had played their shots instead of taking advantage of their preparation time for his own benefit.
Why does he do it? Because he's allowed to. Because the game's ruling bodies have no stomach for a messy public row they can't micro manage.
When PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan was questioned last year about JB Holmes taking four minutes to hit a shot at Torrey Pines, he talked in circles.
"We're always trying to get better…pace of play is an important issue in our game…you have to address it…it's been something that garners a lot of attention inside our offices…it's not something that's going to come overnight…"
Mr Monahan will no doubt be asked about Sunday but don't expect any sudden moves. As he said, nothing happens overnight. The European Tour have at least shown a willingness to tackle slow play - even introducing a shot-clock tournament - but the rules they're working with are simply not strict enough.
DeChambeau pushed those rules to the very limit during his win in Dubai and yet still emerged smelling of roses. When he was called out by the media at the next tournament he came over all melodramatic saying: "I understand… but we're playing for our livelihoods out here."
He displayed an obvious disregard for the impact of his behaviour on his fellow competitors and the image of the game.
Brooks Koepka spoke for many in the field when he said: "I just don't understand how it takes a minute and 20 seconds, a minute and 15 to hit a golf ball; it's not that hard."
Then, at Riviera last week, Adam Scott made an impassioned plea for action against slow play. He said he'd actually asked the PGA Tour to make an example of him and penalise him. He said he'd be happy to be the victim if it proved the rules would be enforced. By the end of the week, Scott was less sure.
"My thing on slow play is it's never going to change,'' he said. "Just get over it. Until television and sponsors say, 'No more money', slow play ain't gonna change.''
A depressing conclusion from a player known to care about the game and its future, but I think he could be wrong. I think the players themselves have the power to affect change, always assuming that's what the majority want. The trouble is we'll probably never know exactly what the majority want.
Golfers are independent contractors who organise themselves in a necessarily selfish way. They're not big on committees or working groups or think-tanks. That's fair enough, but if they want to convince us they genuinely want to do something about slow play then it's time for them to get directly involved.
If they decide to leave it to golf's ruling bodies, they'll be waiting a long time. A lot longer than Holmes hitting a shot.
And, more worryingly, some kids in the UK will be getting to bed earlier on Sunday nights and dreaming of other, more exciting sports.
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