News & Opinion

Slow play has forever been an issue on the PGA Tour. Is it a serious problem or a pesky annoyance?

Hawk's Take: We can’t refer to something that has gone on forever as a serious problem, but shame on Camp Ponte Vedra for failing to enforce its pace-of-play policy—and shame on all the slowpoke millionaires who contribute to the dilemma. A veteran caddie recently told me that he’d overheard tournament officials deciding not to time players during the final round at Riviera.

Their reason? The weather-inflicted tournament wasn’t going to conclude on CBS, anyway. Why rush the final groups when the telecast would run well past its time slot on the major network?

That’s what a lot of this is about. The longer it takes to complete a round, the more TV time the tour gets for its product. More national exposure. More commercial time for its corporate partners, even if it gets transferred to Golf Channel, especially on the weekend. The PGA Tour is a business first, a sports league second or third. And that is very annoying.

Rude's Take: Slow play seemingly has been an issue in golf since Old Tom Morris was young. It’s a serious problem on the PGA Tour because (1) no one wants to watch slo-mo and (2) poor pace-of-pokey role models trickles down to the recreational game. So it infects spectating and playability.

It’s a problem, too, because the Tour doesn’t realize it’s a problem. Based on its actions, the Tour doesn’t care that too many players are slow. It hands out stroke penalties every couple of decades — or once in about eight blue moons. It knows the repeat violators, but arrests no one. The Tour has talked about improving pace for decades, but play has become slower in recent years. Read my lips: Lip service.

Rules are in effect but aren’t enforced, like traveling and palming in the NBA. So there’s no urgency for a player to speed up. Sadly, unless there’s a shot clock, many more stroke penalties or complaints from title sponsors, don’t expect a change.

John Hawkins is a longtime sportswriter who spent 14 years covering the PGA Tour for Golf World magazine. From 2007 to 2011, he was a regular on Golf Channel’s “Grey Goose 19th Hole.”

Jeff Rude has covered golf for more than 30 years, most notably for two decades with Golfweek, and has hosted multiple national TV and radio shows. He covered 82 consecutive major championships.
Twitter: @JeffRudeGolf