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The Next Horse We’re Beating to Death on Golf Twitter: Slow Play!

When Matt Kuchar announced last week that he would be paying the extra $45,000 that David Ortiz held for ransom in exchange for Matt Kuchar’s reputation, I was relieved. The horse that we as golf fans had collectively beaten to death on twitter was officially the consistency of a sloppy Joe, and I really thought we could move on to more pressing and interesting golf conversations after it was all said and done.

However, on Sunday, JB Holmes, a notoriously slow player on tour, crawled to the finish line of his final round to win the Genesis Open at -14. He took 79 seconds to go through his routine and make a putt at one point and the criticism was dished by fans, fellow tour players, and announcers. 

 

The narrative of the tournament was all but lost in the outrage over slow play. From players having to gut out nearly 36 holes on Sunday due to a Thursday weather delay to Tiger Woods’ birdie streak that almost put him in striking distance of the lead, the tournament should have been interesting enough to give full coverage without finding an issue to give the world of golf to rally around.

If anyone should get the blame, it’s got to be NBC. They didn’t need to show JB Holmes walking through his pre-putt routine. For whatever reason, they decided to show the painstaking process, while failing to show Jordan Spieth, who held the lead after the first round, take four shots to get out of a bunker. It’s so simple, just cut away from the nonsense. 

To make matters worse, from a rules sense, JB Holmes did nothing wrong. We’ve heard everything about his slow play, from accusations of gamesmanship to claims that his slow play is outright cheating. The bottom line is that the slow play rule is actually a suggestion on tour. You’ve probably read enough about this, so I won’t post it, but basically, a penalty won’t be enforced unless a player is put on the clock by a rules official. After that, they can get a penalty. JB Holmes was never put on the clock. He was never warned. Nothing. 

The problem is that there’s no hard and fast metric to decide what would warrant a player being put on the clock. The irony of the whole thing is that the armchair golf world is totally subjective when it comes to who they think plays slow. When Jordan Spieth is eyeing up a shot and talking it over with his caddy, Michael Greller, it’s seen as a fascinating discussion. When Keegan Bradley used to stalk his golf ball and do a million OCD waggles, it was ‘quirky.’ When Bryson Dechambeau does masters level physics problems on the course with a compass and abacus, they say he’s a genius. I could go on, but it seems that because JB Holmes’ routine is simply boring to watch, now everyone has a problem with it. 

The lines of the issue have since been blurred. It’s an emotional issue because weekend hackers have taken to Twitter to complain about slow play at their municipal courses and make comparisons to JB Holmes. They call back to their own experiences of being stuck behind a five-some who decided to learn how to play golf on a Saturday afternoon and think that’s what’s happening on tour. It’s not. 

If JB Holmes makes birdie on a par 4 and he takes 79 seconds to hit each shot, that’s a little less than 4 minutes spent on the clock on that hole. Now compare that to a weekend hacker who takes 15 seconds to hit a shot, but the top it, so they get a mulligan, take another 15 seconds, go up to the next shot, get distracted and go hit on the cart girl, snap hook a 3 wood into the fescue, spend 3 minutes looking for it, drop again, blade a wedge, bump and run it up, then 4 putt for a gimme. It’s a hell of a lot different, and guess what, it’s still slow play. 

So how do we fix this issue? First of all, it seems like every player on tour’s biggest issue with the PGA is slow play. But if everyone thinks everyone else is slow, then who is slowing up the game? We need better accountability and to be more liberal with putting players on the clock. JB Holmes said when you’re playing for as much money as he was playing for, anyone would take their time. Well if there’s a threat of losing a stroke, it’s going to speed up play. As for everyone on the muni’s out there, pick up your ball, improve your lie, who cares, you’re not setting any course records anyway. 

 

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