It is rare to get reader response so unanimous as that generated in support of senior writer Jeff Rude’s commentary on slow play that was posted July 27 on golfweek.com.
In it, Rude takes the PGA Tour to task for not putting any muscle behind its pace of play policy.
“It would help the game’s growth and popularity and sanity if the PGA Tour did something about slow play,” Rude writes. “Whatever it’s doing now, whatever it has done over the past four decades, really isn’t working. You know it isn’t working because the Tour still has a bunch of slow players and the Ben Cranes of golf are getting away with it. You know it isn’t working because we’re talking about it right now, again, ad nauseum.”
Crane stood over shots seemingly forever during his victory at the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee, and you have to wonder how many television viewers changed channels during the tedium. The sound of America’s remote controls clicking off of golf is not what commissioner Tim Finchem wants to hear in a year when he is negotiating TV contracts. It’s bad enough for the Tour’s pitch that owners of digital recording systems such as TiVo have discovered they can whiz through all the “to-ing and fro-ing” of a three-hour tournament telecast in 20 minutes and not miss anything of significance. To subject viewers – and network executives – to the likes of Crane as an example of the Tour’s product is akin to shopping a house that sits next to a toxic waste dump.
Finchem needs to call a mandatory meeting with the Tour’s slow-play culprits and emphatically explain how their behavior is bad for business. In that forum he needs to introduce a revised pace of play policy that levies penalty strokes – not fines – against players who fail to keep pace after one warning. That warning should suffice for the duration of the competition. If a player is warned and penalized in Round 2, then he should be penalized, without warning, for any slow-play violation in Round 3 or Round 4.
The Tour needs to toughen its policy while the issue is a hot button with players. If they have any sense at all, the rank and file will back a “get tough” policy that demonstrates to fans, sponsors and advertisers that the players recognize the game’s appeal is being damaged and are willing to do something about it.
“The players are getting slower and slower, and nobody’s said anything about it,” Vijay Singh told the Detroit Free Press during the Buick Open. “Look at Ben Crane, 10 bad times in 12 events and (he) has not had a penalty shot yet. . . . Instead of fining the guys, we should have shot limits. I think Ben Crane, 10 grand (in fines)? What did he win last week (at Milwaukee), $685,000? Might as well keep winning and keep getting fined.”
Not only have Jeff Rude and Golfweek readers spoken, but PGA Tour players have, too. Are you listening, Commissioner Finchem?