News item: “World No. 1 Jordan Spieth becomes first high-profile player to be handed ‘monitoring’ warning for slow play.”
This may not be the classic definition of irony but it’s a close relative.
In 2000, mere days after he played his final U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, Jack Nicklaus flew to Kelowna for the official opening of The Bear, the course his company had designed at Okanagan Golf Club.
The event was taped for telecast on TSN, and the National Post, where I worked at the time, had held a contest, from which the winning entrant got to play with Nicklaus that day.
I caddied for The Golden Bear, and the foursome included Nicklaus, the contest winner, the president of TSN, and two others who played just nine holes each.
Jack had a limited amount of time, so he gathered all the participants on the first tee and said, “We’re going to play in four hours, so if you all wouldn’t mind, if you hit a ball into the woods, don’t go searching for it, just drop a ball and play it like a lateral hazard, and we’ll keep moving. OK?”
Everyone nodded. A couple of holes later, the TSN executive hit a hook deep in the woods and he and his caddie went in after it. Time passed.
Out in the fairway, Nicklaus turned to me and said: “What part of ‘Don’t look for your ball’ do you suppose he didn’t understand?”
Cut to late November, 2015, and the new commissioner of the European Tour declares war on slow play.
“Slow play drives me mad,” Keith Pelley, former president of TSN, told Golf.com. “I have had the chance to talk to a number of players at all levels — the elite, the medium and low-ranked players — and one of the things that keeps coming up, and which we are going to address, is slow play.”
Now, this anecdote may seem unduly harsh, but give Pelley credit. He’s seen the light, and he’s acting on it. People change. I used to throw clubs; now I break them in a firm but dignified manner over my knee and tuck the pieces into a side pocket of my golf bag.
Thursday, Abu Dhabi time, Spieth became the first victim of Pelley’s attempt to trim 15 minutes off the length of rounds on the European Tour, and God bless The Commish if he can do it, because maybe it will be contagious.
But not likely.
To take root on this side of the pond, it’s going to have to be more than the European fine, 2,000 British pounds (US$2,860), and that’s for a second warning. The first one is free.
Spieth made more than US$22-million in prize money alone in 2015.
It has been said a thousand times, but the only penalty that will get a player’s attention is adding a stroke to his score. But the PGA Tour doesn’t have the gumption to assess really meaningful penalties, and so they plod on, in their turtle-like fashion, teaching the generations coming up behind them the following:
(a) Only begin your examination of the yardage book, discussion with your caddie, evaluation of the breeze and pondering of club selection when it’s your turn. Never actually be ready to, you know, hit the flippin’ ball.
(b) While on the green, examine the grain, slope and moisture level from a complete 360-degree survey before placing the ball, squatting behind the hole, then behind the ball, remarking it, adjusting the alignment by the line drawn on the ball, picking out a spot on the intended line, and … oh yes, putting.
(c) Add one false start to (b) if you’re Jim Furyk.
(d) Add 30 seconds of conversation with the caddie if you’re Zach Johnson, or with yourself if you’re Jordan Spieth. Add 15 seconds of eyes-closed visualization if you’re Jason Day.
The three mentioned in item (d) won all the majors last season. That’s not a very good sign.
Listen, they’re all nice guys. As far as we can tell, a tendency to over-converse may be the worst thing anyone has ever had to say about Spieth.
And yes, maybe it was an overreaction by the European rules official, veteran John Paramor, who issued the warning to Spieth on the 8th green at Abu Dhabi, considering the group behind had not fully reached the fairway on the par-5 hole.
Then again, the admonition most clubs post for their members is: “Keep up to the group ahead, not ahead of the group behind.”
Pace of play is a big topic with every major golf organization in the world. So it’s something Spieth needs to get on top of. If he wants to be the avatar of everything good about the game, he needs to be a leader in the pace-of-play issue, too.
Oh, and one more irony. Jack Nicklaus, in his day, was known as a slow player. So Keith Pelley: you’re off the hook.
Source: nationalpost golf news