• Alistair Tait

A token gesture on slow play?


What do Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama, Guan Tianlang and John Catlin have in common? They’re the only three players in the last eight years of men’s major tournaments to be penalised for slow play.


Isn’t it great that golf in the tournaments that matter in the men’s game isn’t plagued by slow play? Imagine, just three players in eight years to have breached the recommended 40 seconds to play a golf shot.


Ha, ha, ha.


Three time European Tour winner Catlin was penalised a one-shot penalty in the opening round of the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island. On the third hole (his 12th), he was discovered to be impersonating a snail for the second time in the round. The American was warned five holes earlier, and then docked a shot when he took 63 seconds to play his second shot to the third.


Both shots were from the fairway. So much for the PGA of America’s bright idea to allow range finders in the 103rd running of the PGA to speed up play.


Matsuyama picked up a slow play penalty at Muirfield during the 2013 Open Championship. Guan Tianlang was famously nailed when, aged 14, he played in the Masters earlier that year.


Anyone know the last player to be penalised for slow play in the U.S. Open? Was it this century, or last, or perhaps it was the 19th?


Well done the PGA of America for acting against Catlin. However, does anyone else get the feeling there’s a bit of tokenism going on here? I do. What about the plethora of other snails slithering around Kiawah on the opening day?


Steve Scott, the Courier’s excellent golf writer, gets it spot on when he writes:

“If the American is the only player in eight years of majors to have had two time breaches, then JB Holmes is the bleeping Roadrunner.
“As usual with these things, it smacks of a gesture against slow play rather than actual intent to stop it. Catlin is sufficiently obscure (at least to American eyes) and not a PGA Tour player (which has a huge problem with slow play, even though it largely ignores it).
“I’ll be much happier when they apply these so-called stringent regulations those players in the top 25 players who habitually break them.”

Me too.


It must frustrate the hell out of fast players like Brooks Koepka, Matt Jones, Ian Poulter, Tommy Fleetwood, and many others to be paired with Catlin, JB Holmes, Bryson DeChambeau and so many others who approach golf shots as if they are about to sit Mensa tests. How Koepka and company keep their composure is beyond me. I’d blow a gasket.


I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve covered golf tournaments and found groups stacked up on tees like airplanes circling over Heathrow. I’ve also lost count of the times I’ve watched officials walking with a group, witness players taking forever, and do absolutely nothing about it. Some officials don’t seem to realise they carry that stopwatch for a reason.


I suppose we should cut Matsuyama and Tianlang some slack. After all, the recommended 40 seconds to play a shot only came into existence when the new Rules of Golf were published on 1 January 2019. The actual rule is Rule 5.6B, Prompt Pace of Play.


We were told Rule 5.6B would eradicate arguably the number one factor in turning people away from this game. However, most tour players don’t seem to have read this rule, and the professional tours, especially the PGA Tour, have taken it for what it is, a recommendation, and have decided to largely ignore it.


As I’ve said many times, too bad 5.6B isn’t a hard and fast rule. Maybe then organisations like the PGA of America would be handing out slow play penalties like confetti instead of making token gestures, and less people would be turning off their televisions to find better things to do with their time.


#JustSaying: “Hey Gene, hurry up, I’ve got a date tonight!” Walter Hagen encouraging Gene Sarazen to get on with it

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