Monday, August 10, 2009

It's a matter of time

I've long been an advocate for anything that will accelerate the often glacier-like pace of play on the PGA Tour.

Then the PGA Tour uses Tiger Woods and Padraig Harrington to make its point on Sunday afternoon, perhaps unintentionally altering the outcome of a compelling battle between the two stars.

They had, according to tour officials, fallen 18 minutes off the pace on the back nine and needed to be nudged with those nerve-rattling words "you're on the clock." There was an open hole in front of them but, as anyone who watched knows, there was no one behind the day's final pairing.

There was no real threat Woods and Harrington would be penalized for their deliberate pace -- the tour has not imposed stroke penalties on players in nearly two decades -- but it wasn't what they needed to hear at that championship in the balance moment.

The warning obviously flustered the notoriously slow Harrington, who chopped his way to an ugly triple-bogey eight at the par-5 16th while Woods was giving us another trophy-case moment with his 178-yard 8-iron that set up the clinching birdie.

Woods said afterward that the slow-play warning was a factor in his victory, a nod to his admiration for Harrington's grinding work ethic and the fact it seemed to have a direct effect on the proceedings.

It doesn't mean the tour was wrong in pushing Woods and Harrington to hurry along. There is a set time-par in every round and obviously they were taking their own sweet time on Sunday afternoon.

Under the tour guidelines, players given a "bad time" during play aren't penalized for the first violation. However, a second bad time in a round costs them $5,000 and a one-stroke penalty.

If you're going to push for a brisker pace, you have to be consistent. That's what the tour was doing. It is on the players to handle the warning and Harrington, who compounded the problem by hitting his ball into a series of bad spots, didn't do that. He admitted he lost his focus when forced out of his comfort zone.

In this case, the nudge seemed unnecessary given the way the tournament had turned into a two-player duel that had reached the last four holes.

Both sides -- the tour officials and the players -- have reasonable points in this situation.

And Tiger has another trophy.


Anonymous said...

How slow were they really playing? I was watching, and the lead group teed off at 2, and were done by 6. I can't imagine they made up too much time on the final 3 holes after the warning, especially with the butchered 16th hole.

Therefore my question is this - how fast are they supposed to play? 4 hour round seems pretty normal to me...