Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.
Edoardo Molinari, brother of Open Championship winner Francesco, recently got so fed up with slow play that he tweeted about it and released the European Tour’s list of timings, which shows which players were on the clock and any subsequent action taken against them. It’s likely that Molinari will hear from Commissioner Keith Pelley, but what do you think about him effectively “shaming” the slowpokes on Tour.
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Much as I like the Moli’s, I think it was a rash and stupid move on Edoardo’s part. Whether you like Keith Pelley’s enforcement methods or not, what makes Eddie feel that he has the right or duty to willfully expose them? And whether he cares or not, he’s surely earned the dislike and disrespect of those who were publicly “shamed”, which will undoubtedly lead to some unpleasant rounds of golf over the next several months. Nobody except the perpetrators likes slow play, but it seems to me that the Euro Tour was attempting to deal with it, and I don’t understand why Edoardo felt he had to take matters into his own hands.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): Well, although an issue, I’m not sure I agree with his methods to treat the disease. I wonder if Eddie’s poor results are due to the slow play on Tour. Maybe he should just focus his energy on his own game and voice his opinion to the Tour directly. I bet behind the curtain though the Tour doesn’t mind this. They need the help of the players to fix the issue. I also read another one of his tweets on this, that if his original tweet got retweeted over a thousand times, he’d publicly post the next update. Last I checked it was over 2000, so we could be in for some real fun in a couple of weeks! I’ll just enjoy the off-course entertainment for now. Not surprised to see a few names on that list either: Stenson, DeChambeau, and others. Eeek…can’t wait for either Molinari to get paired with those guys or any on the list!
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Life Member, PGA of Canada: From what I’ve seen so far Keith Pelley appears to be one person who can actually invoke change. What he does and if he does anything remains to be seen. Slow play in Tour events will only occur when either the sponsors decide they want change, or the players are penalized points. They all make so much money they regard financial penalties as a ‘cost of doing business’. TV sponsors have little motivation to speed up play because their ads are running overtime. If play took less time, there would be less TV time. Regarding points instead of cash; this is ‘big time’! Imagine a player failing to qualify for a playoff event or a team by one point after being fined two or three points for slow play. The big question is enforcement. The answer to that is once a group is out of position they go on a ‘shot clock’. The referee stands beside a player and presses a button when the player’s time begins. The buzzer goes before the ball is struck…one point. Repeat until the group is back in position meaning the potential for more than one penalty.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): I’ve got no problem with it. In fact, I think weekly newsletters from private clubs should consist of nothing but the slow-play shaming of their members. If you take more than 4 hours and a quarter to play a round, your name should be published with the other slow pokes at the club for the rest of the membership to see and ridicule. If your name appears on more than five newsletters total, or two within the same month, you should be issued a temporary suspension from the club. Only two things will rid golf of slow play: harsh penalties and public shaming. This would accomplish both in one fell swoop.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Good on him. Edoardo is taking up the torch from Adam Scott and Brooks Koepka, but it’s not lighting any fires, unfortunately. The Tours are terrified of upsetting their ‘independent contractors’ by imposing stroke penalties for excruciatingly slow play. Until they do, all we can do is applaud the efforts of guys like Molinari.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Former PGA Tour Commissioners Deane Beman and Tim Finchem must be squirming at the thought of someone breaching the Tour’s vaunted code of silence. While this episode concerns the European Tour, it won’t be long before it hits North American shores. I can’t wait. Since the Tour won’t do anything meaningful to speed up play, it’s time someone publicly shamed the players. Maybe a mea culpa tour too, where shamed slowpokes like J.B. Holmes, Bryson DeChambeau and Tiger Woods do some public service ads to demonstrate appropriate pre-shot routines to foster a quicker pace of play.
During last week’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans, CBS golf analyst Gary McCord complained that the final round was boring because of the alternate shot format and suggested the competition should be changed to a better ball on the final day to give players more chances at birdies and big swings on the leaderboard. Is McCord correct?
Deeks: I suppose he’s correct because I didn’t watch one second of the event. On the other hand, most broadcasters seem to think that birdies are the only things that viewers care about. I don’t agree with that… to me, golf is most interesting when the competition is tight, whether they’re birdies, pars, or the occasional double (see Augusta, Hole 12.)
Loughry: Gary has a point. Foursomes is a more difficult format and you don’t see the leaderboard swings as much as what Four-Ball provides, which in the end might make it more interesting and exciting to watch. Players and teams would likely get a little more aggressive with heir strategy and shots, which might provide for more leaderboard changes. I don’t think it was all that boring, its just one team jumped a little too far ahead to be caught is all. Love the team format though and the payout was enormous and top heavy too, which I liked.
Schurman: Talk about boring. Gary McCord is the most boring of all TV announcers. In the case of a Sunday Better Ball, I’d rather see a 2-man scramble. I like Better ball and I like Scotch Foursome but let’s see a race to the finish line.
Kaplan: McCord has a point, if you think that more birdies translates directly to more excitement. I’m not certain that it does. I think the real reason why the Zurich wasn’t very exciting was the dearth of elite talent in the field. There wasn’t a single Top 10-ranked player among the duos that rounded out the top 20 spots on the leaderboard for the week (Rahm was ranked 11th going into the weekend; Brooks Koepka, ranked 3rd in the world, finished in a tie for 22nd). I don’t think the format was the issue. Alternate shot can be very exciting—often more exciting, even—than better ball if the field is full of strong competitors simply because there is no margin for error. Every shot counts. But the real question is why you were watching the Zurich Classic when the NBA playoffs and Vlad Guerrero Jr.’s debut weekend were also on at the same time?
Quinn: Alternate shot is learning how to say: “I’m sorry.” I love the format, so don’t agree with McCord there. But I do agree that it’s better in the earlier rounds, not the final. The final round should have those gambling shots at the pin with the partner’s ball safely on the green. Good one, Gary.
Mumford: McCord is wrong. There’s no pressure in a better ball or even a scramble as some have suggested for the final round format. Sure, it would lead to a lot of birdies but isn’t that what we see every week on Tour. The final round alternate shot format is more like a major, with players trying not to choke or make a mistake. I found it way more compelling than most tournaments.
The PGA Tour Champions contested their own two-man team event last week with the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf, won by Scott Hoch and Tom Pernice. This event originated as the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf in 1978 to showcase players like Arnold Palmer, Don January, Sam Snead etc. and was the impetus for starting what became the Senior Tour. It strikes us that there is nothing ‘legendary’ about either Hoch or Pernice and furthermore, the current PGA Tour Champions has many players that are not in fact champions. Would the senior circuit attract more viewers if it actually showcased real legends and champions or are you OK with it being a second chance for PGA Tour plodders and others that missed their chance when they were young?
Deeks: Yes, I think the Senior Tour would be more interesting if it was more elitist — i.e., restricted to actual former tournament winners. Then again, I really can’t get too excited with a Sunday telecast that has Fred Funk in a dead-heat with Duffy Waldorf. Back in the 80s and 90s, this Tour certainly had more cachet and fan appeal than it does now. That said, however, as long as sponsors are willing to come forward and support the current snooze-fests, then it’d be hard to change the eligibility rules and get rid of the plodders and never-weres.
Loughry: I hesitate to write this, but I’m not certain anything can be done to put this Tour on the map other than to wait for Mickelson and Tiger’s graduation to it, although I’m pretty certain neither one of them will actually play it. I can’t tell you the last time I watched a Champions Tour event start to finish. I do like that anyone has the opportunity to try and qualify for one of the spots, it provides interest for me when Canadian guys like Jim Rutledge and Rod Spittle make it and do some damage out there, but it’s not compelling enough for me to actually follow with great interest and actually tune in to watch.
Schurman: This a tough call! As time has gone on so have the GREATS we all want to see. Jack didn’t play because of illness. Greg Norman doesn’t play anymore. Crenshaw came to be loyal but he doesn’t play. Where was Ray Floyd, Doug Sanders, Don January, Bob Goalby, Bob Murphy, Dave Stockton, Tony Jacklin, Hale Irwin, Fuzzy Zoller, Craig Stadler, Tom Kite, Tom Watson? But, did you see the shot Trevino hit into the wind about 160 yards? He hit a long iron right along the ground to around 40 feet. I think people thought he topped it they are so used to seeing high shots. Imagine, they even had to put an amateur with Gary Player.
Kaplan: I’m fine with it being what it currently is. The only real reason most viewers tune in to the Champions Tour these days is to watch Bernhard Langer take everyone’s lunch money. The truth is that I only have enough time to watch one circuit per week and that is always going to be the PGA Tour for a bevy of reasons. On the off chance that I do get some more time to devote to golf, it’s going to be women’s golf. The senior’s circuit is tertiary, at best. These guys have had their time in the sun and it’s unreasonable to expect viewers, who have multiple streaming platforms at their disposal, to tune in to a bunch of has-beens competing for little more than bragging rights.
Quinn: It would take one of those once in a millennium sun spot things that knocked out every other channel, burned all my books and magazines, and fried the Mac and iPhone, leaving nothing but the so-called Champions to watch. Nah, still wouldn’t watch. They had it right at ‘Seniors.’ Everything since has been false advertising. Real ‘legends’ and ‘champions’? Same phenomenon, same reaction.
Mumford: The PGA Tour has done a masterful job of convincing sponsors that the Senior Tour is worthy. Maybe the media coverage delivers enough eyeballs to provide a decent ROI, but I don’t know anybody who watches the product. It wouldn’t bother me a bit if it faded to a handful of exhibition events a few times a year where they trot out real legends in an interesting format. Qualifications should include a personality.