Written under the nom de plume, M.L. Gneier
Since it's been almost two years since the last time I wrote about slow play, I feel wholly justified in pointing out how this is still a serious problem, and that the PGA Tour has done nothing to help things get any better.
The most recent incident found legendary Irish Tortoise, Padraig Harrington and Tiger Woods on the clock near the end of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. It is admirable that Tiger Woods came to Harrington's defense after his sad finish but can either Woods or Harrington explain being as much as 17 minutes behind the group in front of them?
The tour is so careful to make sure their players are seen as role models, but is falling 17 minutes behind really something a tour (any tour, for that matter) wants to hold up as exemplary?
Is it possible that the PGA Tour hasn't enforced their slow play penalty in 17 years? It is sadly more than possible; it's true. There are a couple of possible explanations for this. The first is that the tour is afraid of what would be likely be the relentless whining of each and every other touring turtle. Their cries would easily drown out the satisfied chuckles of every tour player who can actually play a shot without 10 minutes of quiet, self-validating meditation.
The other explanation lay in the possibility that the tour may actuallyprefer slow play. Think about it. More minutes on the golf course means more minutes of coverage equals more opportunity to sell air time. Also, I think it's easier for golf fans to tolerate the slow play tendencies of their favorite tour players because of the editing power of TV. The guys in the van aren't going to cut to a shot of Harrington until he's pretty much ready to play. If the people who enjoy watching Harrington on TV saw him live they would likely fall asleep standing up.
No matter what the excuse, the tour's failure to protect the interests of pace of play trickles down all too efficiently. Slow play, especially during this economy, is bad for golf. Perhaps the tour was wrong to put Woods and Harrington on the clock when they did, owing to the fact that there was no one behind them to slow down. But, in the countless other cases where slow players negatively affect the play of players behind them the tour should do something, anything, to move things along. The effect would be immediate on the tour and we could truly see a change on our local courses as well.
Slow play is not a fact of life. It is nothing more than a bad habit and the PGA Tour has been a big part of the problem for a very, very long time.
It's time the tour became part of the solution.