Will social media speed up the turtles on Tour?

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.

On the weekend, Bryson DeChambeau was highlighted for his tortoise like tendencies when he took over two minutes to hit an eight-foot putt, which he missed. Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy, two notably quick players, have spoken out about slow play recently and actually named names, including DeChambeau’s. This represents a break with the “keep it all in the family” mentality that has pervaded any previous attempts to fix the problem. Along with the proliferation of comments on social media, is public shaming by other players likely to be a catalyst for the Tour to finally do something about slow play?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Personally, I find the Tour’s reluctance to speak out on this issue, or shame out chronic perps, very annoying.  I certainly hope that prominent players’ naming names does have an effect. I thought DeChambeau’s indignant defense of himself was rather pathetic, and he gets no sympathy from me.  Even the revised Rules of Golf promote “ready golf”, why can’t Tour players either be taught how to speed up or be penalized when they don’t.  It ain’t rocket science.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Life Member, PGA of Canada: Slow play does not begin and end with the PGA TOUR. It has a very complex education solution. However, TV golf does showcase the problem, which began a long time ago with such ‘turtles’ as Middlecoff, Nicklaus and even Hogan. The difference now, of course, is since TV, so many more can experience the drudgery of watching. There are plenty of rules in place for the TOUR to act. All they have to do is enforce them. You do have to admire those who are willing to publicly name the offenders. Public shaming will not have an effect on the slowpokes, but it might make the TOUR take action. Nothing will work better than losing one or two FedEx points.

Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): I think it depends who is calling out slow players. In this instance, you have two of the top five players on the planet pointing fingers, which should carry some weight. If it were two lesser known players griping, I don’t think anything would come of it.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Let’s hope so!  That was a painful clip to watch.  And I know that generally it doesn’t impact viewers because producers can just cut to the players when they are actually ready to hit a shot, but it’s gotta be painful for players that are either quick, or even those that just play at an average pace.  The Tour needs to start penalizing players for slow play on a regular basis.  They just may need to adjust the rule, because if they stick to the current time allowed, they will be handing out dozens of penalties a round!

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: It’s an incredible collision of the present and the ancient game. With the Tour not doing anything, sadly social media has become the most effective tool to get the game moving. The social media maelstrom over DeChambeau was probably more influential than superstars Rory and Koepka calling him and others out. The Tours says, for the 1,000th time, that it’s looking into it. But step one should be to tell individual players they are on the clock, not their group. Rory and Koepka could play in four hours or less. With a snail in the group, they could play in five — and be on the clock! Idiocy.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): A few players have spoken up, which is a good thing, but when push comes to shove, PGA Tour players are pretty tight as a group, so I don’t expect a massive upheaval internally from their comments. However, social media is very powerful, and I hope this issue will gain momentum. When the Tour sees that slow play is hurting their brand, thanks to the spotlight that social media will shine on it, then things will change quickly and hopefully they’ll start assessing penalty strokes in real time. It’s ironic that amateurs get assessed penalty strokes for slow play and nobody has an issue. Why is it a problem when golfers are playing for money?

Tiger Woods withdrew from competition after the first round of The Northern Trust, citing back issues. Given his sporadic play since winning the Masters in April, Woods is presumably nursing his ailing body towards the close of the season. Is there any point in continuing to play and risk longer term or permanent disability or should Tiger just end his season now?

Deeks: Tiger should end his season now and stop pretending that he’s ready and able to play at the top level. If the 2019 Masters was his little bit of stardust at the end of a career, so be it.  It was magic, Tiger, now don’t spoil it.  Wait till you’re truly ready to come back — if ever — or leave your legend just as it is.

Schurman: This is not a question I should be answering because as I have said before “While I have tremendous respect for his playing accomplishments, I am not a fan”. We have seen the best of Tiger and it was truly unbelievable! However, it’s time for Tiger to hang up his clubs and let his record stand as is. This isn’t boxing where he could suffer a fatal punch but given his clubhead speed and the strain to produce it, he could do serious damage and end-up in a wheelchair.

Kaplan: This is a no-brainer. End your season immediately. I don’t know why he’s playing if his goal at this point is to solely win majors. It’s not like he needs the $15 million anyway, and he could seriously hamper his chances at winning a major next season if he sustains a major injury while swinging with a tight back. Someone in Tiger’s inner circle needs to talk some sense into him. That being said, I’m not watching this week if he’s not playing.

Rule: He just seems hurt and I’m not sure why he’s playing out the season.  I’m guessing it’s because he wants to play at Royal Melbourne and if he doesn’t play in the next couple of months, there is no way he can choose himself for the team.  Let’s hope he makes it through the tournament this weekend at Medinah.

Quinn: It’s beyond money, place in history, legacy. It’s all about ego. For him to risk debilitating injury — he already will have life-long pain — makes no sense on so many levels. Yet, what he has accomplished, and how his life devolved off the course, made little sense too.

Mumford: Watching Tiger play at anything less than championship form is sad. I don’t imagine it gets him too excited either. Best if he shuts it down until he can be healthy again, and if that’s not in the cards, then there’s no shame in announcing his retirement and moving on to the next phase of his life. Thanks for the memories.

Patrick Reed, aka Captain America, nailed his seventh PGA Tour title on Sunday. While his Ryder Cup style in-your-face antics were limited, he still managed to get a sizeable portion of the crowd worked into a lather. Reed clearly enjoys the rabid support and feeds off it. What’s your take on Reed and, other than Tiger, what other player can you think of that so polarized golf fans?

Deeks: I can’t stand Patrick Reed.  I think he exemplifies a side of golf that I have no taste for: rude, obnoxious, overly competitive boors that have no sense of fair play and good sportsmanship.  Other than Tiger (who, to his credit, was never anything like Patrick Reed), two other polarizing figures come to mind: Ian Poulter, and John Daly. Poulter I don’t mind so much, even though he can be very cocky and abrasive.  Daly was, and is, a discredit to the game, period.  He certainly had some talent hitting a golf ball, but without it, he would’ve had a hard time holding on to a job flipping meat at Burger King.

Schurman: Patrick Reed is a character when it seems as though that is something from the past. However, it’s difficult to be a jokester when you are putting for $15,000,000.00. and the intense scrutiny of the media. There have been a few ‘rays of sunshine’ recently but none have the game to go with it. Beef Johnson, Ian Poulter and Boo Weekly to name a few. But they don’t come close to Bolt, Trevino, Hagen or Demaret. As for motivating the fans nothing will ever beat Arnie in the USA or Seve in Europe.

Kaplan: Although Reed is extremely difficult to like, he does fulfill the much-needed role of the heel on the PGA Tour. He’s the guy you like to actively route against; every sport worth watching has at least one of them. In other words, like him or not, his presence is actually quite beneficial to the PGA Tour’s bottom line. As for other polarizing players, only three current PGA tour regulars come to mind: Bubba, Phil and Bryson. I was going to throw Sabbatini in there, but he is no longer current and was much more of a heel than a polarizing figure. Apologies if you were a Sabbatini fan, although I’d be comfortable wagering that you were likely the only one out there.

Rule: Not so sure he’s polarizing to be honest.  The definition of polarizing is “to divide into sharply opposing factions”.  I don’t know anyone who likes the guy.  I think it’s very one sided, and nobody cheers for him, except maybe those die hard red, white and blue supporters every Ryder and President’s Cup.  I can’t think of anyone more unlikeable on tour, ever.

Quinn: Had Ancer or Rahm prevailed, it would have been a grand start to whatever this playoff thing is. But with this guy winning, what the Tour and the networks have been relentlessly pumping since last Fall quickly deflated. Hard to think of any less popular or less likeable guy out there other than Poulter, who many Yanks hate, but who I like. Then again, Sergio is a jerk.

Mumford: Patrick Reed adds something to a golf tournament every time he’s in contention. There are maybe a dozen players that do that, either with their skill, their personality or both. I like that he’s not afraid to be the bad guy. Kaplan used the word ‘heel’ and it fits Reed’s role perfectly. He kind of reminds me of a young Raymond Floyd – brash, abrasive and cocky but able to back it up with his clubs. Golf may be a gentleman’s game, but it never hurts the entertainment value to have someone to cheer against.

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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