Keeping Score

From the Morning Read inbox

Make matchup of stars a Black Friday tradition
I want to throw some support for the Black Friday match (“Don’t zone out yet on Woods-Mickelson,” Nov. 15).

The concept of watching two star-name touring pros battle it out in a friendly match on a sweet course with full access is fun. Regardless of the current form they're in, that's not the point. It’s different from what we see every week on the PGA Tour, but its real golf and potentially entertaining. That's a good thing. Organizers need to find more of this stuff and not chase it away.

I hope this event goes well and becomes a Black Friday tradition. Or maybe Golf Channel picks it up. Every year, grab two or even four different interesting big names, a sweet eye-candy course that can't traditionally host a PGA Tour event for whatever reason and turn the cameras on. Imagine …

  • Brooks Koepka vs. Dustin Johnson at an interesting, challenging 6,000-yard gem where both can drive half the greens from the back tees but would be crazy to try … but would anyway.
  • Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Smylie Kaufman, playing Wolf on some tropical paradise.
  • Jon Rahm, Tyrrell Hatton, Patrick Reed and Bubba Watson. Throw them on a dog track with $9 million to fight over, and turn on the mics.

Maybe there's a market for this. Competitive golf that looks more like what we play and less like the Tour events we have so many of already.
Hans Mahler
Leesburg, Va.

Colonoscopy wins out over Woods-Mickelson
As a huge golf fan who watches every event, whether it's PGA Tour, LPGA or Champions Tour every weekend, I will be going to the mall with the wife on Nov. 23 during the Tiger Woods-Phil Mickelson match (“Don’t zone out yet on Woods-Mickelson,” Nov. 15).

I work every tournament played in the Chicago area, through heat waves and pouring rain, for no pay. But I'd rather schedule a colonoscopy instead of watching those two play golf.

Steve Chessin
Waukegan, Ill.

Woods-Mickelson match appeals on many levels
I love the Morning Read columns generally, but I'm getting a bit tired of the repeated critiques of the Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson match. I realize there isn't that much relevant PGA Tour news to opine about these days, but I think these golf writers can do better (“Don’t zone out yet on Woods-Mickelson,” Nov. 15).

Woods vs. Mickelson is relevant because of its timing and the situational access it reportedly is planning to give the viewer. These types of exhibition matches haven't been around for some time, and many of us don't recall what happened during the last editions of them, quite frankly: Woods, Sergio Garcia, David Duval and even Annika Sorenstam. I had mostly forgotten about them. Woods and Mickelson certainly haven't been paired up all that often over the years during tournament play, despite the obvious appeal.

But more importantly, there is a curiosity about the program that's undeniable for me and my golf circle. What smack will these guys talk about while playing? What discussions between player and caddie go down when Woods, as artistic of an iron player as we've seen, is deciding what to hit on a 209-yard forced carry on his par-5 approach? I could type out a dozen more.

I can't always get this information during tournament play, if at all. So just hearing the soundtrack of a round of golf with Mickelson or Woods has interest for me.

I'll probably never get a chance to tee it up with a touring pro, least of all a golfing legend (or two).

The $9 million? To me, that just gets the The Match some publicity in a world already crowded with sports events. For the reasons mentioned, I'd watch these guys tee it up for $100 a hole or a $100 Nassau.

So, can we get a little moderation of the evident sanctimony from some of these writers about The Match? I'm sure the golf curmudgeons of our day aren't interested in seeing or hearing Woods vs. Mickelson. Or at least they'd prefer not to admit it. Many of us golf fans remain interested, despite the hollow efforts of some to appear above it all.

Tim Hahn
Raleigh, N.C.

What’s next? More pay-per-view sports events?
No way, no how am I going to pony up a single dime to this experimental cash grab to see if it's viable to start moving big golf events to pay-per-view (“Don’t zone out yet on Woods-Mickelson,” Nov. 15). Next thing you know, the final rounds of major championships and the match-play cups will cost you, as well. I already pay for TV.

Remember when paying for TV meant no ads? How has that worked out for us?

If we continue down this road, we are going to end up paying for each big sporting event, and they will look exactly like they do today: with long breaks for TV timeouts.

David Williams
Graham, N.C.

Just like Pro Bowl, The Match will be unwatchable
I don't know why John Hawkins feels compelled to watch the dog-and-pony show from Las Vegas (“Don’t zone out yet on Woods-Mickelson,” Nov. 15).

I am a big fan of professional football, but I manage to avoid the Pro Bowl every year.

Jim Kavanagh
St. Augustine, Fla.

It’s time to publish Tour stats on pace of play
There is a simple solution to slow play (“Pros explain slow play: It’s the other guy,” Nov. 14). Time every shot and include it along with the plethora of stats that already are published for the PGA Tour.

Every shot or putt on the Tour already is recorded, so it should be possible to record what happens between shots. Publishing this information would speed up play. No one wants to be in the top 10 on the slow list.

Also, let them use rangefinders. The course yardage books are so detailed anyway, so players already have their distances. Rangefinders would end all the calculating going on between caddie and player.

Too often, pros do not prepare to play until it is their turn. There is nothing wrong with getting ready for your shot while your playing competitor is hitting. I was in the lead group at the U.S. Senior Amateur this year and we played in just over four hours both rounds. Rangefinders are allowed by the USGA in that event.

Mitch Wilson
Kalamazoo, Mich.

The other side of the push for faster play
Let's look at the reverse issue on slow play (“Pros explain slow play: It’s the other guy,” Nov. 14). As we try to grow the game, we encourage people to spend their hard-earned money on clubs, green fees, etc. Yet, when they do, they're barraged with pressure to play fast, move on, pick up the pace.

A few years ago, we had two couples make the big decision to join our club. They went out for their first round that afternoon, and were playing at a 4:20 pace. Not bad for beginners who were new at the game and didn't know the course.

Twice, however, a ranger warned them to pick up the pace, even though no one was being held up or complaining. The second time, they picked up their balls, went straight to the clubhouse, got their checks back and canceled their membership.

Golf is a hard game to learn and love. Nobody wants to tolerate true dawdlers, but a realistic approach benefits all.

I'm a 2 handicap and play more than 30 senior amateur tournaments a year. I abhor slow play as much as anyone at that level, but recognize that the game is difficult and patience is essential.

My key suggestions for maintaining a good balance on pace:

  • Put a time par in your club's scorecard. It's on tournament cards, and it is a gentle reminder.
  • Encourage patience for all through training for club personnel and direct communication with members.
  • Set up blocks of tee times at non-peak hours for new members and families, and have club personnel encourage those who should use them to do so.

It's a challenge for everyone in the game.
Neil Monroe
Sharpsburg, Ga.

Think pros plod? Check your local prep team
I really don’t care about how slowly the pros play (“Pros explain slow play: It’s the other guy,” Nov. 14).

TV switched back and forth amongst the players, so my watching isn’t really slow . . . unless TV insists on showing Jason Day’s or Keegan Bradley’s whole pre-shot routine. TV could just show the shot, even if it’s 10 seconds after the fact, instead of letting us see the whole routine live. That would eliminate the influence those routines have on young golfers who want to play like the pros.

You think that’s not a factor? Just try playing behind a group of players on your local high school team. You’ll be in for the most agonizing round of your life, and it’s not because of the occasional bad shot.

Steve Schmidt
Anderson, Ind.

Slow-play fix: Assign a finish time with tee time
Give everyone a finish time as well as a tee time, and penalize everyone who exceeds their finish time with a penalty of one shot per minute over that time (“Pros explain slow play: It’s the other guy,” Nov. 14).

Peer pressure from quicker players and groups behind will then ensure that golfers hit their finish time.

A three-ball should take no more than 3 hours, 45 minutes, and a two-ball 3:30.

Andy Glen
Wokingham, England

Today’s pros have nothing on Cyril Walker
Slow play by professional golfers isn’t new, but it has been dealt with effectively in the past. Take the case of Cyril Walker, the 1924 U.S. Open champion.

Walker was notoriously slow. He inspected every lie, checked and rechecked the wind and routinely took a dozen practice swings before each shot. It was not uncommon for his group to be two or three holes behind the group in front. His fellow professionals began to refuse to be paired with him. It was jokingly said that his playing competitor would be given a deck of cards to play solitaire while waiting for Walker to hit his shot.

His slow play in tournaments got so bad that Walker frequently was sent out last, by himself, with only a marker to keep score.

At the 1929 Los Angeles Open, Walker’s slow play came to a head. He had several holes open in front of him after he had played the sixth hole and was warned by officials to speed up. Walker, of England, responded, “I’m a U.S. Open champion, and I’ve come 5,000 miles to play in your diddly-bump tournament, and I’ll play as slow as I damn well please.” Walker then proceeded to walk 300 paces to the green to check the pin position and 300 paces back, and then took a dozen or so practice swings before hitting his shot.

Walker didn’t gain on the group in front of him and, after the ninth hole, he was told that he was disqualified. “The hell I am,” Walker said. “I came to play, and I’m going to play.” At this point, the officials had two police officers physically carry Walker off the course and threatened him with arrest if he returned. And that was that.

Now, there’s a reaction to slow play that would get attention. Jay Monahan, take note!

John Fischer
(Fischer, a retired attorney, is a golf historian who is a past president of the Golf Collectors Society and a longtime member of the USGA’s Museum and Library Committee.)

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