Day 1 of Slow-heim Cup drags on
Friday, August 21, 2009
SUGAR GROVE, Ill. – Standing behind the 18th green, it was difficult to see what was going on back down the fairway at Rich Harvest Farm. It appeared to be a ruling and Michelle Wie was in the middle of it, but “what is taking so long?” asked a member of the European team.
Simple, suggested queen of no nonsense, Laura Davies.
“What are they doing? They want to make sure it goes six hours, that’s what,” said Davies.
She was shaking her head in disgust. Yes, the 5-and-4 loss she and Becky Brewerton suffered at the hands of the Brittany girls – Lang and Lincicome – stung, but just as nauseating was the fact that the first day of the Solheim Cup was barely half over and it felt like an eternity had passed.
Yes, it was slow – painfully, agonizingly slow, which is a shame, because in this, the most forgettable season in LPGA history, the Solheim Cup is coming at a perfect time. It is a showcase event that is desperately needed to generate excitement, so what seemed to be holding things back?
“Most of the problem,” conceded chief of rules Doug Brecht, “was with the first match.”
That would have been Paula Creamer and Cristie Kerr against Sohie Gustafson and Suzann Petterson. They required a silly 21 minutes to play the first hole and before all the face-paint had dried you wanted to scream out, “Where’s John Paramor when you need him?”
Alas, Brecht and his fellow rules officials pretty much had their hands tied. To begin with, they have been handed a golf course that is – and we’re trying to be nice here – a nightmare. Besides not being a very good course, the routing is atrocious, so much so that players need shuttle rides from the ninth green to 10th tee (pretty sure you see an “Entering Iowa” sign) and again from 11th green to 12th tee (at least you are back in Illinois).
That’s not to mention all the extra time it takes to navigate more bridges than you’ll find in Pittsburgh, and perhaps had trees not been planted in the middle of fairways players would have been able to negotiate straight shots with greater speed.
But as they seem to say these days about everything, it is what it is and Solheim Cup officials simply had to deal with a morning that couldn’t have been slower had Bernhard Langer and Ben Crane been sent out as the pace car.
The thing is, for seven holes, Brecht was OK with the way things were going, but then Creamer, Kerr, Gustafson, and Petterson took “25 minutes to play the eighth hole.” That is when the second match – Juli Inkster and Angela Stanford vs. Helen Alfredsson and Tania Elosegui – started waiting on every shot.
It was so slow, Brecht confirmed that he issued a warning to the players in the first match. “We asked them to help out at the 10th hole,” he said. “And they played that hole in 14 minutes, which is acceptable.”
Brecht did offer a few explanations for the turtle race that unfolded – four-ball was the first session this year and not the quicker foursomes that have traditionally led things off; a 6,670-yard golf course is playing even longer because of heavy rains; and much to his surprise, not a lot of putts were conceded (“As an official, you count on that in four-ball,” he said).
Of course, the greater blame rests with players, such as the insufferable time it took Petterson and Gustafson to putt out on the eighth hole. At one point, Petterson asked her caddie, Shaun McBride, to line up her putt and after 30 seconds he took her putter and plumb-bobbed it.
A caddie using a player’s club to plumb-bob?
Good gracious, surely it’s against the Rules of Golf – and if it’s not, it’s definitely against the rules of common sense.
Kerr was hardly any better, of course, which is why the first match of the day took 5 hours 48 minutes. And there was no one ahead of them!
The fact that it went 18 holes (with Creamer and Kerr rallying to win, 1 up) only assured that the rest of the morning four-ball matches would be equally slow. And they were, frustrating as it was to officials who wanted to start the afternoon foursomes at 1:15, but instead got them under way closer to 2 p.m.
It meant that at the same time two foursomes matches were starting at the first tee and excited U.S. fans were singing their favorite songs, the final two four-ball matches were finishing on 18th green not 50 yards away. What you had were people asking for noise at the same time people were asking for quiet.
Of course, some were asking for the lights to be turned on. The day was only half over.