Jason Day indignant about pressure to speed up play

World number one draws a distinction between onus on elite players and club golfers

Jason Day: “We’re driven by results; we want to be the best and we want to do everything but the average Joe just doesn’t get it.”

Jason Day: “We’re driven by results; we want to be the best and we want to do everything but the average Joe just doesn’t get it.”

 

It is the subject guaranteed to send even mild-mannered golfing observers into a state of frenzy.

Piece the words “slow” and “play” together before watching sparks fly; it can really be great fun. The only thing more consistent than slow play is the regularity with which people prattle on about it.

The fact remains, one of the key elements which harms golf’s appeal is pace of play. It is unquestionable that the time taken for a round of golf offers a cause for people not to bother.

Part of that, it has to be said, is societal rather than specific; everything is done quicker – or has to be seen to be done quicker – than ever before. The flip side? Hours spent on a golf course can be highly relaxing.

Step forward Jason Day, for whom sprinting when at work has never been a viable option. The Australian, the world number one no less, used pre-tournament media duties ahead of the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii this week to insist the fear of upsetting others by not playing quickly enough was detrimental to his progress during 2016.

“I think that there were a couple things that I didn’t do as well the second half in the season,” Day said. “I wasn’t as deliberate going into a golf shot. Gathering the information, I wasn’t as deliberate.”

What followed drew inevitable cross-reference to Rory McIlroy’s explosive comments relating to Olympic participation. It also centred social media rage around Day.

“I cared about, you know, obviously everyone wants to speed up the game,” the Australian added. “Obviously that’s a big subject in golf, to speed up the game.

“In my opinion, I don’t care so much about speeding up my game. I’ve got to get back to what makes me good. If that means I have to back off five times, then I’m going to back off five times before I have to actually hit the shot.

“Because for recreational golf, I understand. But for golfers that are trying to win and that one shot that could take you out of a play-off, that’s important, and you need to make sure that you get everything correct. Because we’re driven by results; we want to be the best and we want to do everything but the average Joe just doesn’t get it.

Over-zealous referee

The Day stigma itself is curious. For all there is no doubt he is deliberate to the point of slow at times, others apply the same approach without anything like the associated drama.

Henrik Stenson and Sergio García spring immediately to mind. When Stenson railed against an over-zealous referee whom, the Swede believed, cost him the 2015 Arnold Palmer Invitational there was little in the way of comeback at all.

“I thought we were here to play golf, not finish at 6pm,” Stenson said. Other golfers are deliberately slow depending on circumstances.

The notion that Day must be wildly castigated for his sentiment is unfair and on quite a number of levels. Day, like McIlroy, will advance golf by winning marquee tournaments. When the 29-year-old decimated the field at the Players Championship in May last year, nobody seriously insisted that shot time meant an asterisk be applied.

He is perfectly correct to point out the huge stakes being played for by a collection of players who are separated by very little at the summit of the game. They are doing this on courses which are brutally tough and require trickery because of how far equipment has advanced distance.

For Day to recognise what had propelled him to the top of his sport in the first place is also reasonable. He did this within the rules; if the PGA Tour has no inclination to punish Day for what others regard as excessively slow play, why should he feel the need to change approach?

The controversial element relates to Day’s “average Joe” analogy.

Again, though, it actually has merit. If a 55-year-old, 12 handicap amateur playing for sweep money or less in a club medal believes an exaggerated pre-shot routine and round of five hours is perfectly fine on the basis it applies to Jason Day, the problem is nothing to do with the former US PGA champion.

Amateur footballers don’t follow the diet or training regime of Lionel Messi. Club tennis players don’t participate in the length of warm-up or warm-down session like Andy Murray, just as they don’t pack in work for a month of warm-weather training.

Elite sport is different, common sense tells us that much. Day’s goal for 2017 involves approaching the peak which he probably scaled too early last year. Injury, so often a Day bedfellow, was significant as he could not make serious impact at the Majors, a second at the US PGA aside.

If Day feels returning to earlier style should be the foundation to his pursuits, who are we to argue? Suddenly holding the top-ranked player on the planet to account for the sport’s ills is woeful exaggeration.

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