News & Opinion

Got insomnia? Nod off with Solheim Cup

Normally, the discussion about slow play tires me

GLENEAGLES, Scotland – Normally, the discussion about slow play tires me. I’ve heard it for years, and I’ve seen it on the golf course enough to know that it is part of the game.

Is slow play a cancer, as many have said? I never thought so until I saw the most egregious evidence of it at the Solheim Cup last week.

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Americans Marina Alex (left) and Day 1 foursomes partner Morgan Pressel strike a familiar pose during the Solheim Cup.

© GOLFFILE/THOS CAFFREY
Americans Marina Alex (left) and Day 1 foursomes partner Morgan Pressel strike a familiar pose during the Solheim Cup.

The phrase slow play took on a new definition here Saturday in the afternoon four-balls as Americans Brittany Altomare and Annie Park and Europeans Suzann Pettersen and Anne Van Dam needed 5½ hours to complete a 1-up U.S. victory (scores).

That’s 5½ hours of my life that I won’t get back. To make things worse, there was very little suspense, even though the match finished on the 18th hole. I was too fatigued to care.

I’ve always maintained that golf is inherently boring and would put many people to sleep. Last weekend at the Solheim Cup, any over-the-counter sleep aid would have been redundant.

“Yes, it's painfully slow out there,” U.S. captain Juli Inkster conceded after Friday’s opening day of play. “I know we had maybe a couple on our side that are maybe a little bit slower, but they have a few on their side, too, that are a little slow. So, I don't know. I don't know what to do.”

A cattle prod would be out of the question, but the problem remains systemic in golf. Though the men’s European Tour has made suggestions about addressing it, changing hearts and minds is difficult.

Fines and stroke penalties have been threatened but rarely enforced, and they have done nothing to stem the growing tide of slow play.

I’ve maintained that simply defining slow play is not easy, but educating the players about what constitutes slow play is imperative.

How many players admit that they are slow? It’s like asking them whether they cheat.

By getting everyone to buy into a definition, the game’s governing bodies and professional tours can then prescribe solutions that will help eradicate the cancer.

“I wouldn't consider myself a slow player in general, probably like medium-paced,” American Marina Alex said after her Saturday afternoon four-balls match. “But out there, there's just so many things going on. I mean, gusting winds and raining. Every shot matters so much. So, if you're not fully committed to what it is you're doing, you're going to hit a poor golf shot, and you can't really afford that. So, I'm sorry for people who are watching who maybe felt like the pace of play was a little slow. It was really difficult.”

While I can understand Alex’s point, I can’t agree with her totally, that people that are watching have to understand.

Those people watching are the ones paying the bills, either by buying tickets and coming to Gleneagles or watching on TV. They are the customers.

Golf has turned into a TV sport, and if it is boring on the telecasts, then the golden goose will be dead, and with it, so will professional golf.

On the PGA Tour, if no one walks through the gates, the players still would play for $6 million-$8 million because the game is tied to TV and sponsorship.

But if the game is as slow as it was this week at the Solheim Cup, plenty of other sports are on television to replace golf.

It’s a competition out there for the eyes of fans, every major sport is doing what they can to speed up their game for a viewership that is changing and has little interest in investing hours on a sport that has made watching paint dry a legitimate alternative.

Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: alex@morningread.com; Twitter: @AlexMiceli


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