Lynch: Bryson DeChambeau is polarizing, but he's not the only one to blame in slow play drama

Danielle Parhizkaran/NorthJersey.com

Lynch: Bryson DeChambeau is polarizing, but he's not the only one to blame in slow play drama

PGA Tour

Lynch: Bryson DeChambeau is polarizing, but he's not the only one to blame in slow play drama

By

JERSEY CITY, N.J. — The real showdown at Liberty National on Sunday came three hours before the leaders teed off, and involved the most compelling meeting of scientist and silverback since Gorillas in the Mist was released 30 years ago.

A visibly irritated Bryson DeChambeau approached Ricky Elliott, caddie for Brooks Koepka, on the practice putting green and asked Elliott to tell his boss to make any comments about slow play “to my face.” Koepka arrived on the range a few minutes later. “I have no problem saying anything to anyone’s face,” he said evenly on receiving the message, and after completing his warmup wandered over to DeChambeau for a chat that appeared civil on the surface.

It wasn’t your typical playoff drama, and one the PGA Tour won’t welcome.

There are few easier targets for mockery in golf than DeChambeau, from the pseudo-scientist marketing that implies he understands golf on a level his peers cannot, to the single-length irons that cast him as golf’s Galileo breaking from conventional wisdom, to the flat cap that looked cool on Hogan but which on him is dismissed as a poseur’s prop.

NORTHERN TRUST: Scores

DeChambeau is the most polarizing man in the sport, which was evident by how many of his fellow Tour players at the Northern Trust were willing to swipe at him over his pace of play, which might charitably be described as laggardly. Two videos of him were subjected to forensic analysis worthy of the Zapruder film. In one, DeChambeau took an eternity to miss an 8-foot putt. In the other he paced off a routine pitch shot with all the haste of a senior citizen with bunions. It was all the social media firing squad required to empty its chambers.

It’s not as though DeChambeau is idling alone in the slow lane. Messrs. Holmes, Na, Crane, Cantlay and Day are among those deserving of mention. But the intense reaction to DeChambeau’s dawdling ought to be of concern to the PGA Tour.

For years, benevolent network TV producers protected viewers from the slowpokes by cutting to them almost at the moment of impact, skipping the theatrics that their fellow competitors must endure. But as the Tour streams ever more content and tries to showcase featured groups, fans are increasingly exposed to the tedium of pre-shot routines. The DeChambeau video came from PGA Tour Live, not a broadcaster. Simply put, the worst offenders have less room to hide.

There is plenty of blame to go around when it comes to slow play.  Chiefly it belongs with the slowpokes who treat fellow competitors with a discourtesy that verges on unsportsmanlike conduct. We can also indict Tour rules officials who are too trigger-shy with the stopwatch, who enforce a system that imposes meaningless fines but not more impactful stroke penalties.

“I hate slow play as much as the next guy, but I can’t agree with the idea of hitting players with penalty strokes,” said Slugger White, the Tour’s rules chieftain in a recent interview with Golf Digest. White said he is unsettled by the idea that a stroke penalty might have a trickle down impact, affecting a player’s FedEx Cup standing, perhaps meaning he wouldn’t be able to send a kid to college or make a down payment on a house. That betrays an attitude that is as ineffective as it is paternalistic.

The problem lies in the rules governing the pace of play on the PGA Tour, which are written to accommodate the slowest players, not to expose them. And that returns the onus for action to the players. Social media outrage is no more a path to policy in golf than it is in government. Tour commissioner Jay Monahan doesn’t have a magic wand to solve slow play. The players launching rockets at DeChambeau should get off Twitter and get on the Tour’s Player Advisory Council and Policy Board. That’s where meaningful change is effected, not in keyboard combat.

DeChambeau may be justified in his anger at being singled out, but he has not been singled out unjustifiably. He is achingly slow, and painfully condescending in his dismissal of the criticism. There is a great deal to like about DeChambeau, and the Tour is considerably more entertaining with him on it. “I want to change the game,” he said once in an interview.  His contemptuous indifference to pace of play concerns may finally prompt change that is long overdue.

 

Latest

More Golfweek
Home