JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Brooks Koepka seemed to smolder as he watched J.B. Holmes work in the final round of the British Open last month, out of the running for golf’s final major of the season but diligently lining up shots anyway — to an almost obnoxious degree.
The time it took to play each shot didn’t pay off. Holmes finished with a 16-over-par 87 after starting the round in second place, six shots behind leader Shane Lowry.
And while Koepka, the world No. 1, didn’t place any blame on Holmes for his own 3-over-par 74, Koepka has become an outspoken adversary to slow play. Ahead of the Northern Trust at Liberty National Golf Course, Koepka continued his campaign against a paint-drying pace.
“I get that you can take a long time for your thought process, but once you’re done thinking about it, just go. What else is there to do? That’s been the problem I have,” Koepka said Wednesday. “It’s just gotten out of hand. It seems now that there are so many sports psychologists and everybody telling everybody that they can’t hit it until they are ready, that you have to fully process everything. I mean, I take 15 seconds and go, and I’ve done all right.”
Koepka’s done more than all right, entering the FedEx Cup Playoffs with a commanding lead after three wins — including the PGA Championship and WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational — and eight top-10 finishes.
Koepka figured players might be deciding which club to hit. But for players who arrive earlier in the week for practice rounds, Koepka feels it should already be fairly obvious to them which club to use, particularly in the tee box.
Midway through the final round at Royal Portrush last month, Koepka pointed to an imaginary watch on his wrist, staring at an official. The message was clear: let’s speed this round up. But officials are hesitant to enforce pace of play regulations, he says.
“Try to get put on the clock, but doesn’t seem to work because nobody will penalize anybody,” Koepka said. “And you know what, even if I take over 40 seconds, penalize me. I’ll be the guinea pig. It doesn’t matter. It needs to happen.”
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Rory McIlroy doesn’t think a shot clock in golf would be the perfect fix to pacing issues, but the Northern Irishman wants something done.
“For me, I think the guys that are slow are the guys that get too many chances before they are penalized,” McIlroy said. “So, it should be a warning and then a shot. It should be, you’re put on the clock and that is your warning, and then if you get a bad time while on the clock, it’s a shot. That will stamp it out right away.
“I don’t understand why we can’t just implement that. We are not children that need to [be] told five or six times what to do. OK, you’re on the clock. OK, I know if I play slowly here, I’m going to get penalized, and I think that’s the way forward.”
Koepka believes slow play is “100 percent” on players taking their time rather than hazards and adverse weather conditions forcing increased time and attention to be paid on each shot.
But with lengthy rounds and waiting on tee boxes for groups ahead to finish up, golf can get frustrating, even for the world’s best players.
“Five and a half hours to play golf is a long time. Everybody’s going to get bored,” Koepka said. “There’s not much action in golf. If you really think about it, you’re probably only playing for about five minutes — maybe six, seven minutes total — and the rest of the time, I’m just walking. You try walking by yourself for four, four and a half hours, and see how boring it gets.”