When golf becomes a real turn off
I didn’t make it to the end of the final day’s WGC–Dell Technologies Match Play telecast from Austin, Texas. I’ve got better things to do with my life than watch professional golfers impersonating glaciers.
I made it through the slow-motion semi-finals and then switched off when Scottie Scheffler faced a 75-yard pitch to the first hole. Scheffler made the recommended 40 seconds to play his shot impossible when he and his caddie walked almost all the way to the flag to survey the green. A 150-yard walk as pre-shot routine isn’t conducive to fast play.
Scheffler could have had the decency to hit his pitch close. He didn’t. According to shot link, he hit his ball 64 yards and was left with a putt of 30 feet, four inches. Walking all the up to the green was a complete waste of time in more ways than one.
I switched over to the football. Scotland v Israel may not be the most appealing match for many, but at least the players were moving with some sort of pace. If only many professional golfers could do likewise.
Six-time European Tour winner Tony Johnstone switched his television off too, as he intimated on his Twitter feed.
Ditto for Legends Tour player Gary Evans.
Catriona Matthew wasn’t impressed either, as her own tweet makes obvious:
As friend and fellow golf writer John Huggan said, well done Ewen Murray and Paul McGinley for calling out the funereal pace of play. Actually, that’s an insult to funerals: I’m been to a few where the pall bearers moved faster than some players in Austin.
Colin Montgomerie also wasted no time in laying into the pace of play or lack thereof.
Say what you want about Montgomerie, but one thing you couldn’t accuse him of was slow play. He spoke out about it during his days on the main tour – including one Seve Trophy when rounds were taking nearly six hours! Little did he know then that pace of play would be just as bad or worse now than in his halcyon days.
Back in Monty’s day, players didn’t have green reading books to consult before they hit a putt. How often do you see a player with, say, a 10-foot putt reach into his back pocket and pull out one of those infernal books. Sometime not just once, but twice. Bryson DeChambeau can’t seem to hit any putt without reference to his book. It’s almost become the 15th club in his bag. He doesn’t seem too worried that the whole process sometimes takes over two minutes.
Aimpoint didn’t exist either in Montgomerie’s day, so he didn’t have to stand and watch a player or caddie straddle the line of an eight-foot putt three times, then consult the green reading book before hitting the putt. And the joke is if Aimpoint is done correctly then it should actually speed up play!
I’m sure many other genuine golf fans switched off their TV sets too. That’s the worry for the game’s authorities at a time when golf participation seems to be booming. Not just for golf’s governing bodies but professional tours and sponsors. Thomas Bjorn is on the record as admitting pace of play is a commercial concern for the European Tour:
“We’ve got to come down on it hard because we have a product to sell,” Bjorn said. “People have to turn on the TV to watch us play, and if it takes too long there’s too many alternatives. That’s destroying the game commercially. You’ve got to have a commercial hat on and say we’ve got to make our game better. People don’t have all that time to sit and watch a round of golf. Especially young people, and those are the ones we want to try and attract to our game."
That was two years ago at the British Masters. Nearly 24 months on and it’s still a problem.
The game’s authorities are spineless to do anything. If they had any backbone whatsoever then loss of hole penalties would have been flying around Austin like confetti at a wedding.
Just what were the referees doing in Austin? Maybe they were watching football too.
Sometimes golf can be a real turn off.
#JustSaying: “The problem is players don’t care if they are five, 10 or 20 minutes behind. They just play at their own pace. If they make €1.5 million a year and they pay a few thousand in fines then they don’t care. When you have some players with that attitude then it spoils it for everyone else.” Edoardo Molinari