Golf’s original rabbit played at a gallop
Slow play is back in the news again, this time centered on J.B. Holmes in his recent Genesis Open victory, but it seems there’s always somebody playing too slowly each week on the PGA Tour (“Holmes’ dawdling brings pace to slow boil,” Feb. 20); (“From the Morning Read inbox,” Feb. 21 and Feb. 22).
Instead of identifying the slow players, maybe the focus should be on fast players and how they approach the game. The slow players could learn something. One of history’s fastest golfers was Scotland’s George Duncan, Ryder Cup player and winner of the 1920 British Open. He had a style of his own.
Walter Hagen played Duncan in the 1929 Ryder Cup, and Hagen’s caddie, Ernest Hargreaves, saw Duncan’s style close-up: “Duncan walked to his ball, dropped his limbs into his stance immediately, without even a hint of a shuffle, and hit the ball. If he ever studied the line and shape of his shot, he had done it before he reached his ball, for there was no pause when he got to it. As for practice swings, he regarded them as totally unnecessary and barely legal — close to practicing on the course!” And Duncan’s quick play worked; he won his scheduled 36-hole singles match against Hagen by an astounding 10 and 8.
Bill Mehlhorn, a contemporary of Duncan’s, said, “[Duncan] hit the ball faster than anyone. . . . He never even addressed the ball before he swung at it. . . . He hit it on the walk all the time. He started his backswing before his left foot even came down on the ground. He hit it like a baseball player. You toss a ball in the air and step into it.”
Duncan’s quick play worked well for him. He not only won the British Open but finished in the top 10 of the Open 11 times from 1908 to 1924, including his 1920 Claret Jug, and also won the 1913 British PGA Match Play. Duncan, who died in 1964, was considered an expert on the golf swing, and his advice was frequently sought by fellow professionals, a “pro’s pro.”
Today’s tour professionals should take Duncan’s succinct advice: “The right way to play golf is to go up and hit the bloody thing.” To fill any gaps, they can buy a copy of Duncan’s book, “Golf at the Gallop.”
(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.)
Rangefinders fail to hasten pace in college game
As a former assistant college golf coach and a rules official, I can tell you that rangefinders are not the answer as a way to speed up play on the PGA Tour (“From the Morning Read inbox,” Feb. 22). Go to any college tournament or junior event and see that the pace is slow.
Slow play comes from golf instructors and college coaches. The players are told to take countless items into consideration before pulling a club. College coaches preach walking as much as 60 yards to a green to check the contours and pin placement. With scholarships and jobs on the line, this isn’t changing. And the time it takes for players to putt is mind-numbing.
Perry Hall, Md.
(Tignanelli is a former assistant coach for the Towson University women’s team and works as a rules official for the Maryland State Golf Association and the Middle Atlantic Golf Association.)
A way to motivate hard-shelled dawdlers
Here is how to solve the slow-play issue on the PGA Tour: Every course has a set time to finish for twosomes, threesomes and foursomes. Let's say it is 4 hours and 15 minutes for a threesome at Pinehurst No. 2. There is a set tee-off time, and a time for when each group’s last putt should be holed. If the time played exceeds 4:15, then assess the group two strokes each.
Now, the official scorekeeper easily could add time to the 4:15 for every instance that the threesome had to wait to play; thus, other threesomes don't get penalized due to no fault of their own. Yet possibly up to two players in the offending threesome would get penalized due to no fault of their own. If one of them is me, I would have a few choice words for the slow-play idiot that would
motivate even a turtle.
Hit slow-play offenders where it hurts
It looks like there is an effort to solve a simple, growing problem with complex solutions.
A very simple solution would be to put an observer with a slow group. First offense: warning; second offense: two-stroke penalty; third offense: disqualification. Simple solution, with no appeals.
Slow play would be gone when their pockets come into play.
Start clock on PGA Tour players
In every tournament at every level, players are timed. Starting this year, players are allowed only 3 minutes to look for a lost ball. If the player can’t find the ball in 3 minutes, he must go back to the original spot and replay the shot.
So, tell me why PGA Tour pros can’t be timed when it’s their turn to play. How many strokes would J.B. Holmes have been penalized at the Genesis Open this year or that fiasco last year at Torrey Pines because he couldn’t hit the shot in less than three minutes?
Maybe someone else’s name might have been on that trophy instead of his.
Azinger whiffs on split decision
I watched the final round of the WGC Mexico Championship and still cannot believe the discrepancy that I witnessed regarding application of the Rules of Golf.
Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy each found his ball lodged behind a tree (different tree, different hole), and each tree was adjacent to a concrete cart path. Both players petitioned for free relief from the cart path, asserting that it interfered with their next shot. Surprisingly, Johnson was granted relief, and McIlroy was denied. How could this happen, you might wonder.
These situations are addressed in Rule 16.1a(3), which is not one of the new 2019 rules. Boiling it down, if the cart path were not there, and the player would be stymied, he is not entitled to free relief from the situation. If the ball is under a bush and otherwise not playable, it really does not make any difference that the player would be standing on a cart path or an ant hill or a sprinkler head. Relief is not available because there is no play on the ball anyway.
In Johnson's case, the TV coverage went away, so we were unable to listen to the official's explanation. From the view on the telecast, it appeared that Johnson could do nothing with the ball as it was against the tree; nevertheless, he was given immunity from the condition and proceeded to make par. The relief procedure gave him an unobstructed shot to the green.
As for McIlroy, we were able to hear his pleading with the rules official from start to finish. His reason for seeking relief really pointed out the reason for which relief was not granted. McIlroy repeatedly stated that, with his foot on the cart path, the tree was in his way. That fact is precisely why the referee correctly denied his request. Even if the cart path had not been there, the tree would have prevented the shot that he wanted to hit.
These two incidents are so similar that I was surprised that the announcing team did not do more with it during the coverage. I think it would have been appropriate, at the very least, to reach out to the PGA Tour or the USGA for some clarification. It certainly appeared that Johnson, the eventual winner by five strokes, was given preferential treatment over McIlroy, the eventual runner-up. McIlroy's official was identified as being from the European Tour. We do not know who made the favorable ruling for Johnson.
Regarding the TV coverage, I am disappointed with NBC analyst Paul Azinger's treatment of these two incidents. From his brief commentary, it was apparent that he was unaware that the cart path does not mitigate an unplayable ball. Furthermore, he was insistent that he would have requested another ruling, not satisfied with the facts at hand. Johnny Miller, Azinger’s predecessor, surely would have been all over the discrepancy rather than whining about getting another official's opinion.
Azinger correctly presented the player's point of view, but he owes the audience more than that. As a former player, he should know this basic rule.
St. Augustine, Fla.
(Kavanagh is a senior rules official with the Florida State Golf Association.)
Stewart piece elicits chills, eerie recall
The piece that Gary Van Sickle wrote on the Payne Stewart book was dynamite (“20 years later, Stewart saga still haunts,” Feb 22). I sat with chills reading it as I recalled exactly how the day progressed.
It happened to be my day off, and we had the TV on nonstop to keep abreast of the event, though we all knew the outcome.
We mourned then with Stewart’s kids, wife, friends and peers. It seems like yesterday. Van Sickle’s piece is a fitting tribute, because Stewart is remembered.
The Villages, Fla.
Tiger Rule 1.0: Televise him ad nauseam
As I watch most of the golf tournaments on TV, I think I have discovered another new rule, or maybe a continuation of an old rule: Tiger Woods must be shown at least 50 percent of the allotted broadcast time. Every shot and every putt, without exception. Also, all announcers must spend the majority of their time gushing over Woods. “Tiger did this” . . . “Tiger did that” . . . “Tiger is so wonderful” . . . ad nauseam. You would think we were witnessing the second coming of Christ.
I must concede that I had a smile when David Feherty stated Saturday that Woods hit a “horrible” shot. I wonder whether Feherty will face a fine or banishment from NBC, as CBS’ Gary McCord received from Augusta National after his "bikini wax" comment many years ago.
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