Time for the PGA Tour to act on slow play

Tiger fuming after nine holes takes more than three hours at Farmers Insurance Open

Andy Roberts's picture
By Andy Roberts on Tue, 29 Jan 2013 - 04:01

It wasn’t just the fog that slowed things down at Torrey Pines. 

With a Monday finish on the cards due to mist that descended over the scenic California course at the weekend, you would have hoped the players and officials would have wanted to get The Farmers Tournament completed as quickly as possible ahead of the Phoenix Open starting on Thursday.

Apparently not.

Despite spraying his tee shots into hospitality tents and generally playing ‘like a $3 violin’, in the words of David Feherty, on the closing holes, eventual champion Tiger Woods must have felt like he was in a Ferrari following a tractor down a one-way street as he waited on nearly all of his 47 shots (excluding putts) played yesterday.

No wonder the World No.2, who despite being eight shots clear at one point in the final round, cited losing his patience in the final group of the day alongside Billy Horschel and Casey Wittenburg – the former playing holes 11 to 14 in 6-over.

“It was so slow out there,” said Woods, who was more prepared to reflect on the pace of his round rather than an historic eighth Torrey Pines victory.

“We played nine holes in over three hours and three of them are par-3s. It was brutal.”

I appreciate there are lucrative FedEx Cup points to be won and every stroke counts out there but when you consider the final group played nine holes in roughly the same amount of time it takes my better half to browse Topshop, surely enough is enough?

It certainly was for me as I forced myself to switch channels and watch my colleague Alex’s beloved Torquay hold on for deserved 1-0 win at Devon rivals Exeter. After 90 minutes of fast-flowing football and half hour of post-match drivel, it was back to the lovely Sarah Stirk who kindly informed me that Woods had played just six holes in two hours. 

Had it not been for the fact Tiger was leading and on the verge of creating history at Torrey Pines I probably would have hit the sack.

The TV coverage finished more than 30 minutes over time last night and when Woods eventually tapped home for par at the last for a four-shot win, special guest Oliver Wilson in the Sky Sports studio echoed what the rest of us had all been thinking: “Thank God that’s over.”

But while the pace of play was excruciatingly slow during the final round last night, we can’t just point the blame at the players. After all, Keegan Bradley had missed the cut and the likes of Webb Simpson, Ben Crane and Kevin Na were sitting on the couch.

The blame also lies with PGA Tour officials. I couldn’t believe they decided to let players choose whether they wanted to finish a hole or pack things up where they were on Sunday night. They were asking for trouble.

Tiger’s group and the match in front both finished their seventh hole on Sunday before stopping for the night, but the group in front of them decided not to finish the eighth, ensuring there was a three-group-pile-up when they re-started.

But even with the mind-boggling decision from the PGA Tour to let them do what they wanted, you have to feel some of these players need a kick up the backside. Time and time again, Steve Marino - in the group ahead of Tiger - was backing off putts and approach shots, yet nothing was being done by the match referee. Marino was by no means the only player taking an age. 

Nearly 18 years have passed since Glen Day received the last penalty stroke doled out by the PGA Tour for slow play. It’s ridiculous how nothing has been done since. Forget burning a player’s wallet. Deducting shots is the only way forward.

The European Tour acted when Ross Fisher transgressed last year, and so did the LPGA with Morgan Pressel. The PGA Tour may well be ahead of other Tours in terms of prize money and prestige of tournaments but it’s quickly falling behind when it comes to the good of the game.

It will be amazing how quick players move when the Tour finally begins to dock shots. 

We say it's time for the PGA Tour to clamp down on slow play. Tell us what you think in the forum, or you can tweet us @Golfmagic.