Player confidential: The truth about slow play in golf and how to fix it

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Everyone complains about slow play. It’s definitely the easiest subject to get people to threaten they will stop watching golf. So what’s the truth from inside the ropes?

This week, the PGA Tour announced some changes with the intention of getting players to pick up the pace. Will it work?

We recently asked a player to give us the honest truth about slow play, with some ideas on how to fix this mess:

Collins: What should people know that they don’t know or understand about slow play on the PGA Tour?

Player: The PGA Tour is trying to give as many players access to the tour events as possible. That’s why we have all these opposite-field events. That’s why we have so many tournaments throughout the world. Our brand is always on TV. [People] are down on us for being on TV 45 weeks a year. If you’re going to give all this access, the fields better be large. If you go watch 156 guys trying to play 18 holes on fast, difficult greens with hole locations that most (amateurs) couldn’t finish the hole on, it’s going to take some time.

Collins: What slows golf down more — rain or wind?

Player: Wind! Wind is the only thing that matters in golf.

Collins: Because it brings so many factors in?

Player: Yeah, because you’re never quite sure. “How much is it [the wind] gonna take it? How much hurt do I play? How much help am I playing? Am I trying to miss where I can chip into the wind or downwind?” Now, I’m saying in a downpour where you’re having to go umbrella on and off, wiping stuff down with towels, that takes time, too. Wind affects the golf ball the most and that’s what we’re always worried about — where the wind is coming from. So much that even when it’s not blowing 1 mph we’re still asking the caddie “Where’s the wind?”

Collins: That’s why the worst weather forecast for a caddie is winds that are “light and variable.”

Player: That’s right. My favorite is when the caddie says, “The weatherman says the wind is supposed to be off the right.”

Collins: What’s your honest take on slow play and can there realistically be anything done about it?

Player: My take on slow play is: With 156 players in most fields, there’s just nowhere to go. So slow play is going to be slow with the size of our fields. You look at the tournament like the Hero World Challenge that had twosomes and they were playing in 3½ hours. Only 18 players, it changes the whole dynamic of slow play. In the whole scheme of things, what’s the goal? Is the goal to save 15 minutes? Who really gives a s— about 15 minutes. Right? So, in my eyes, we don’t need “Slow play” being the headline in the New York Times instead of the guy winning the golf tournament. Whatever we can do to not (have that) headline be about slow play, we need to try to do. But also with the amount of access people have (to coverage), they can see entire rounds and (the tour) can time a player on every shot. Not enough people understand the rules in that it doesn’t really matter how long it takes you to hit a shot if you’re not on the clock.

Collins: Exactly

Player: And that’s not a PGA Tour rule, that’s a USGA rule. You got people yelling at the PGA Tour and they’re not the ones making the rules.

Collins: Two things there stick out to me. As far as the headlines go: First, Pat Perez has said on a few occasions, “When has a tournament not finished on Sunday because of play?”

Player: 100 percent. We never take longer than we’re supposed to. Especially on weekends when you put [the groups] in twosomes.

Collins: Even if there’s a weather delay on Thursday and/or Friday, they can still finish on Sunday making that time up.

Player: The issue, I think, it all kind of came to a head with the Bryson [DeChambeau] thing at Liberty National when he took so long to hit that shot. That was the headline in the paper in the biggest city in the country instead of being FedEx Cup playoffs.

Collins: True. And Bryson said the same thing that you said when it happened — he wasn’t ever on the clock.

Player: He was totally (within his right) to take that long. As far as I know. I know you only have so long to hit it, but nobody’s monitoring it until you’re on the clock, right? Nobody gives a s— how long they take. If you’re not out of position or over time, there’s no “time” to hit a shot.

Collins: The other thing to your point about field size … if you’re waiting on the group in front of yours every hole and you take two minutes on a shot, does it matter?

Player: Not one bit.

Collins: At the Hero, Henrik Stenson‘s group, a twosome, was a full hole and a half behind the group in front and no one said a word about it.

Player: That’s (probably) because they weren’t over their time par. If they set a time par of 3:45 you can be out of position. As long as you’re going to finish [the round] in under that, they can’t say anything to you. So the group in front of him is 30 minutes under their time par, and (his group) is 15 minutes under their time par so he’s not really out of position.

In reality, slow play only affects the guys you’re playing with. It’s annoying as s— to play with a guy that’s slow cause I feel like I watch them play all day instead of me doing my own thing. You have to learn how to deal with watching a guy take 30 practice swings and read his putt from 15 ways and ask his caddie 600 questions.

Collins: Note: I’m laughing hard at the annoyed tone of the player as he’s saying this.

Player: And the other funny part of that, now that I’m on a roll, is if you ever play with any of those guys who do that s— on tour, they would never do that at their home club when they’re playing. Why do they change?!

Collins: I’ve always wondered that about some players. Because some players are ridiculously fast at home, but stupid slow on tour.

Player: (Jokingly) Maybe Bryson is cause he can’t hit a shot without doing all that stuff! I don’t know. I play at the same speed all the time.

Collins: Guys will say, “Yeah, but the pressure is different cause we’re playing for millions of dollars.” Is it?

Player: Nah. It should be the same process no matter what.

Collins: OK, so if fines don’t work, will strokes honestly work?

Player: Ah, yeah. Strokes would definitely speed it up, because now you’re messing with dudes’ income. A dude can take 2½ minutes (to hit a shot), get a $10,000 fine, but make a putt for $1 million bucks, you think he’s worried about the $10 grand? If he solely believes that 2 minutes helped him make that putt, he’d laugh off $10 grand for $1 million.

Collins: Note: I shared a story of a player’s wife telling another player’s wife that if they’re making $3 million a year they’ll gladly pay every $20,000 fine the tour throws at them.

Player: Anybody in their right mind would.

Collins: Other than strokes, what could the tour do to speed up play? Is there anything?

Player: Suspend guys. Habitual offenders. You take away their access. I guarantee they’ll speed up.

Collins: No one has ever talked about suspensions before, and that’s huge because of what we talked about earlier — access and opportunities. That’s actually a great idea because the tour doesn’t announce fines or suspensions.

Player: That’s right. “Haven’t seen him in a month. Wonder what happened?”

Collins: He got sick, caught the “Slow Flu!” We could even call it that!

Player: The Slow Flu! That’s funny. Like the bird flu.

Collins: What’s the hardest thing about slow play for you to deal with on the course?

Player: Probably just the wasted motions. In my opinion, some guys just feel like they can’t take a shot without taking 20 practice swings. I’d be freaking tired after it. And then it’s all about your personality, man. I like to do everything fast. Some guys are just slow at everything. Always late, things like that.

Collins: I’m making you king of the tour and your word is law. How are you fixing slow play now?

Player: I’m giving the rule officials tasers. And they get to tase slow players once a day. And then we all get to watch them when they get (tasered) — in the forehead.

Collins: Just like the scene from “The Hangover”!

Player: (Now he’s laughing hard, too) That’s what I’m thinking about when I see (that scene). [PGA Tour rules official] Slugger [White] riding up in a cart with his hat on (he always wears a white cowboy hat) with the taser. And we all get to say “I bet you’ll hurry up next time.”

Collins: Have you ever played with a guy that was too fast?

Player: (Names a player) used to always trip me out. He’d be talking to me while he was hitting, while my ball was still in the air! Now that’s some funny s— if you think about it!

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