The slow play issue on the PGA Tour reared its ugly head once again in the Players Championship this week, with the focus of much of the ire being directed towards the unfortunate Kevin Na, but what can be done to speed up the pace of play?
Kevin Na slows down Players Championship field
Firstly I feel one issue needs to be cleared up; Kevin Na was not suffering from slow play, he was suffering from the yips, which is a completely different issue.
One of the most obvious characteristics of a slow player is that they have absolutely no idea that they are slow. Na, on the other hand, was very much aware of how much he was holding up the field, which only served to make his situation worse.
“Trust me, I get ripped, a lot. I know television, twitterers and fans are tired of me backing off,” Na said.
“I understand people being frustrated with me backing off, but all I can tell you guys is honestly, I’m trying, and it’s hard for me, too,” he added.
Na frustrated crowds by agonising over shots, repeatedly stepping back from the ball and taking countless practice swings, but those are all symptoms of someone who is struggling with their swing rather than a slow player.
And to his credit when it became clear on the last day that he was out of contention he did his best to play as fast as possible to make sure he didn’t slow down his playing partner and eventual tournament winner Matt Kuchar.
The way the fans went about letting Na know that they were unhappy with his slow play was nothing short of disgusting, with many spectators booing and heckling the American golfer, with one fan even telling Na he “better not choke”, as he had bet money on him winning.
Now let me tell you, if there is one sure fire way of slowing a player with the yips down even more, it is making him feel additional pressure. So well done guys.
Tiger Woods’ solution to slow play
Former world No 1 Tiger Woods wants the PGA Tour to start punishing slow play with penalty shots rather than handing out undisclosed fines.
“Very simple. If you get a warning, you get a penalty. I think that would speed it up,” Woods said.
“Strokes are money. One shot can be the difference between first and second. How much is the difference between first and second? $800 000?
Woods had sympathy for Na and the problems he was facing with his swing, and likened it to Sergio Garcia’s issues 10 years ago.
“I’ve never experienced anything like that but I’ve seen it before. I played with Sergio (Garcia) in 2002 and I think one of the holes, he re-gripped it 20-plus times.
“I haven’t seen Kevin do it in person but sometimes it is tough pulling the trigger. Some guys have an easier time committing and going and other guys don’t,” he said.
PGA Tour’s options to deal with slow play
The problem the PGA Tour faces today is that par fives are generally reachable in two for most pros, there is even the odd drivable par four and when you have a par three like the 17th at Sawgrass, playing speed will suffer.
The only real option facing the PGA Tour is to encourage the players to play faster under the threat of penalty shots or to reduce the size of the fields.
“I actually think we might want to experiment with penalty shots,” PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. “But I don’t think penalty shots make a difference to be honest with you.”
“We elect not to (make fields smaller), because as much as we like to see a stronger pace of play, the playing opportunities for the number of players we have had are more important,” Finchem added.
The problem of slow play is universal in golf and not limited to just the PGA Tour, it is as prevalent in the Saturday morning field at your local club as it is on the international stage.
Apparently, the average round for the week in the Players Championship was over five hours long, this problem is more than just Kevin Na and one or two slow players.
What do you think can be done to speed up play on the pro circuits?