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  • Alistair Tait

The problem golf just can't solve

Charles Osborne probably wasn’t facing the same challenge in the U.S. Amateur final as Stacy Lewis was as she prepared for in the final round of the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open.

The problem golf just can't solve: slow play.

Osborne can probably thank his lucky stars he avoided Aman Gupta in the final at Bandon Dunes. As former Golfweek colleague Geoff Shackleford noted:

“Aman Gupta’s dreadful pace of play had already won him few fans.”

Probably poetic justice Gupta lost his semi-final match to Tyler Strafaci, who won by one hole to stake his place against Osborne. Concord, North Carolina native Gupta clearly hasn’t read Rule 5.6b, Prompt Pace of Play, and its clear advice:

“It is recommended that the player make the stroke in no more than 40 seconds after he or she is (or should be) able to play without interference or distraction.”

Azahara Munoz and Jennifer Song don’t seem to have read the recommendation either. Lewis can attest to that. She played with the pair in the third round at the Renaissance Club and was looking at a return match in the final round. She faced an unnecessary challenge in her bid to win Scotland’s national title.

“The biggest challenge for me tomorrow is staying in what I'm doing. The pace of play is dreadfully slow, and that doesn't play into my favour,” Lewis said. “People I'm playing with are pretty slow. So that's honestly going to be my biggest challenge is to figure out with that pace of play how I can get into a good rhythm and how to keep myself in a rhythm of playing golf and not feeling like you're waiting so long in between holes and shots and different things.”

Two great championships thousands of miles apart affected by golf's perennial problem. Why do we have to keep talking about pace of play?

Lewis isn’t alone in having to deal with slow play. It happens on all tours, and at all levels. Both the PGA Tour and European Tour saw play almost grind to a halt at times last season. Remember Bryson DeChambeau taking a month to hit a putt? Okay it was “only” a little over two minutes. It just felt like a month.

DeChambeau played with Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Thomas on that occasion, leading outspoken Eddie Pepperell to tweet:

“Just look at Tommy and Justin, both looking completely bored. Slow player do this to their playing partners making the game less enjoyable. Problem is, the unaffected single minded twit in this instance doesn’t care for others.”

In another case of poetic justice, DeChambeau missed the putt.

Edoardo Molinari brought the matter to a head last year when he took five and a half hours to play a round in Morocco. The Italian went further and tweeted a photo from the European Tour’s tournament office of a list of serial slow play offenders. Molinari was instrumental in instigating a new pace of play policy the tour put into effect this season.

Slow play was evident at last year’s Walker and Solheim Cups, with the latter particularly affected.

No doubt there will be those who accuse me of focussing on the negative yet again. Well, I’m going to keep doing so until something’s done about it. Lewis shouldn’t have to highlight the problem. Ditto for Molinari. Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka, both fast players, spoke candidly on the matter last year, calling for stiffer penalties for the snails.

Yet a year on players are still having to deal with it.

Pepperell’s right: fast players like Lewis, himself, McIlroy, Koepka and others are the ones who suffer, not the slowpokes. It's the same at club level.

The 40 second recommendation clearly isn’t working.

#JustSaying: “The right way to play golf is to go up and hit the bloody thing.” 1920 Open champion George Duncan

Photo courtesy of the Ladies European Tour

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Aug 16, 2020

Deliberate players never bother me. What bothers me are those who are never ready to play when it's their turn... They don't even begin to plan their shot or read their putt until it's their turn. "Hey, you've been standing there a couple of minutes already. What have you been doing?"

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