Talking tough on slow play
After tackling the controversial anchored stroke, the USGA has now set its sights on speeding up slow players
Published on Wednesday, Feb. 06, 2013 09:53AM EST
Golf is starting to get serious about the pace of play — at least officials are talking a good game.
One week after PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem announced a comprehensive study on pace of play, the USGA said it has started its own study that is looking at four areas — golf course design, the way the course is set up (green speed, length of rough), managing tee times so a golf course is not crowded and education.
“Pace of play has been an issue for decades, but it has now become one of the most significant threats to the game’s health,” USGA president Glen Nager said. “Five-hour plus rounds of golf are incompatible with life in modern society, where there are many alternative forms of entertainment and sport that fit more comfortably into the compressed time that we have available for recreation and relaxation.
“Pace of play is a problem, for both men and women, at the professional level, the elite amateur level, and the recreational level,” he said. “Now, more than ever, the golf community needs to act.”
So much of slow play comes from anecdotal evidence, though USGA executive director Mike Davis mentioned some empirical evidence. He said officials at Pinehurst have determined that it takes 30 minutes longer to play for each foot of speed on the Stimpmeter — the difference between greens at 12 and 13, for example.
“I’m not sure we have all the answers,” Davis said. “We’re not the only ones doing it. But I sense that the industry, if it really tries, can make a dent on this.”
Davis also said the USGA wants to promote more 9-hole rounds and different formats, such as match play or the Stableford system, to move things along.
We’ll see if the USGA is serious about slow play when it comes to its flagship tournament, the U.S. Open Championship. They could certainly take the lead and issue the appropriate penalties against slow players which might cut down on the number of five-hour plus rounds.
LONG AND SHORT OF IT: Speaking of the U.S. Open, this year’s event at Merion will be the shortest course for a major championship in eight years.
Davis said Merion, which has not hosted a major since 1981, will be 6,992 yards on the scorecard. The last major course that was under 7,000 yards was Shinnecock Hills for the 2004 U.S. Open, which played 6,996 yard. Merion will be the shortest since Southern Hills, which was 6,973 in 2001.
Retief Goosen won both those U.S. Opens.
The USGA also decided to cut down on the number of tickets for this year’s championship because Merion, located near Philadelphia, is not a big piece of property like Bethpage Black or Pinehurst. The USGA will take a financial hit compared with other venues, but it felt it was worth it.
“We felt this is the right thing for the game of golf, to bring it back to a straighter test and let’s see,” Davis said. “So in my view, it’s short. But it’s a fabulous test of golf.”
SPEAKING OUT: The other issue on the USGA’s front burner is the proposed ban on the anchored stroke. The governing body met recently with PGA Tour players to exchange some information and get some feedback on the proposed change. While very little information came out initially about what was said at the meeting, some players who attended have opened up a bit about what went on behind closed doors. One of those players is Robert Garrigus, who spoke with ESPN.com’s Michael Collins during last week’s Phoenix Open event. Garrigus had a few questions for USGA boss Mike Davis, such as, how many of the board members making these rule changes had ever struck a golf ball in competition.
"Zero," Garrigus was told.
"They are amateurs who are making rules for a professional game," said Garrigus, who himself has used an anchored stroke.
"It's unfortunate that they are trying to ban it because the guys that are using the putter are good dudes. They're not cheating. It's within the rules right now. And it's never an advantage."
TIME OUT: Luke Donald (No. 3), Adam Scott (No. 7) and Graeme McDowell (No. 19) are the only players from the top 20 in the world ranking who have not played a tournament this year. ...Steve Stricker (No. 13) will enter only his second tournament of the year in two weeks time at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona. Stricker hasn’t played since finishing runner-up at the season-opening Tournament of Champions in Maui back in January. The soon-to-be 46 year old spoke earlier this year about playing a reduced schedule after competing in 19 events last season.
MILLION DOLLAR HOLE: Sure, Tiger Woods has a putting green and practice facility in the backyard of his new Jupiter, Florida digs and Rory McIlroy even had a replica of the famous Road Hole bunker in the backyard of his former home in Northern Ireland. But short game coach Dave Pelz has them all beat. His two-and-a-half acre pitching, chipping and putting facility in the backyard of his Texas home includes seven scale replicas of some of golf’s famous holes including the 12th hole at Augusta National, the island 17th at TPC Sawgrass and the 14th hole at Pebble Beach. HGTV's Million Dollar Rooms recently paid a visited to Pelz at his house in Dripping Springs, Texas, which features the latest innovation in artificial turf rather than real grass!
“60 is awesome ... I'm ecstatic to shoot 60. But there's a big difference between 60 and 59. Not that big between 60 and 61. But there's a big barrier, a Berlin Wall barrier, between 59 and 60.“ - Phil Mickelson, who just missed shooting 59 in the first round of the Phoenix Open after his birdie putt lipped out on the final hole.
Files from the Associated Press were used in this report