By now, every golf fan has heard the slow-play criticism surrounding J.B. Holmes and his second shot into the final hole Sunday at the Farmers Insurance Open. Unless, of course, you were hiding under a rock below the cliff’s edge near the par-3 third hole at Torrey Pines South. (And even then, surely you would’ve then seen some golf balls down there on that final day, including two off the clubface of C.T. Pan.)
So The Forecaddie just had to hear what PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan had to say about the whole situation.
“My thoughts aren’t necessarily specific to J.B.,” Monahan said. “I think when you got to the end of the round, we had been out on the golf course for too long. When we looked back on it like we did that night and Monday, there were a lot of factors that came into play, including some big numbers by a few players on the front nine (Pan made a quintuple-bogey 8 on No. 3 after sending two tee balls over the cliff and having to re-tee twice), obviously the golf course was playing really difficult, we had a lot of rulings in the last five or six holes from the last several groups.
“As it relates to J.B. … He was in the heat of the moment. It’s really hard to win out here. You’re trying to think through how you can get on the green in two with that amount of wind. I think he thought it would subside quickly, and it subsided and picked back up, and I think he said what he needed to say.”
Some Tour pros, including Justin Thomas, have since come to Holmes’ defense. Others joined the criticism after watching Holmes take 4 minutes, 10 seconds to decide if he was going to go for the green with a 5-wood (he needed to make eagle) or lay up. (Holmes laid up into the rough and fell short of a playoff).
Monahan was asked if seeing the backlash would prompt the Tour to further address the issue of slow play with a rule or policy change. He said that the Tour is always looking at ways to speed up play but that what happened at Torrey wouldn’t necessarily accelerate any changes.
The European Tour will implement a shot clock at its June tournament in Austria. The Shot Clock Masters will allow the first player in a group 50 seconds to hit a shot with each succeeding golfer getting 40 seconds to hit.
Also, the Tour certainly has been hesitant in handing out slow-play penalties in the past. Before Brian Campbell and Miguel Angel Carballo were each docked a shot for slow play at the Zurich Classic last season, the last time the Tour had handed out such a penalty in one of its events was 1995.
“We’re always trying to get better,” Monahan said. “When you’re in a situation where your final round was taking the amount of time it took, then yeah, you have to address it. It’s not something that’s going to come overnight, but suffice to say that we’re going to make sure (it’s addressed). Pace of play is an important issue in our game. It’s something that garners a lot of attention inside our offices and our discussions with our Players Advisory Council. We put a lot into our ShotLink technology to be as intelligent as we can possibly be, but this is a sport that has more variables than any other sport, so you’re going to have outliers. But at the end of the day. … It was about a lot more than the final group.”
The Man Out Front agrees. The were several issues that killed the pace Sunday at the Farmers, including some difficult pins that were somewhat inappropriate for the amount of wind that was present. (Case in point: No. 3). Holmes’ delay just happened to come at a time when the most eyes were watching.
Monahan said the Tour was aiming at a 6:20-6:27 p.m. Eastern finish, just before CBS was transitioning to its Grammys coverage. The final group didn’t get done until just before 7 p.m., meaning not only were fans seeing close to six-hour rounds being posted but some viewers also were getting irritated wondering why they couldn’t see Bruno Mars walk down the red carpet.
“When you hear that Tiger’s group had a two-group wait when they got to eight, that’s when you know you have a problem,” Monahan said. “And our guys are communicating with the guys, you know, ‘We gotta move, we gotta move.’ But at that point, when we got to the 14th tee, the seventh to last group, we were on time par. We were going to end at the time that we wanted to end. … We felt like we were going to have a great finish, and then we just had all those scenarios pop up.
“And again, it’s not one person. I think you have to look at when a situation like that comes up, that’s us, we’re responsible for administrating competition, our team did the best they could possibly do, and we’ll get better.”