Slow play - there are two sides to every argument
Out of Bounds: Mechanism exists to perhaps not cure disease, but players can be penalised
Cristie Kerr of the United States during a final round playoff at the Volunteers of America North Texas Shootout at Las Colinas Country Club. Photograph: Darren Carroll/Getty Images
OMG, but didn’t Cristie Kerr take one heck of a hammering on social media - and mainstream - for her exhibition of slow play down the stretch and in the play-off (which she lost to the delight of many, it seemed) in the LPGA Texas Shoot-Out!
One posting after another gave her a pasting.
Fair? Maybe. Unjustified? Maybe.
As always, there are two sides to an argument.
But there was a double irony in that Kerr’s painful-to-watch exhibition of excruciatingly slow play was only brought into our living rooms live on “Sky Sports” because of a weather delay in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, a tournament where - would you believe it? - the first penalty for slow play in two decades in a regular PGA Tour event had been dispensed.
Glen Day - known in the locker-room as “All Day” for the how long it would take to play a shot
The culprits of the slow play in the men’s event were Miguel Angel Carballo and Brian Campbell, hardly household names but their dittering in the two-man team event resulted in a one stroke penalty after separately receiving bad time warnings in taking too long to play shots.
The penalty applied because the two were deemed to be one in the team competition.
The remarkable stat was that it was the first penalty for slow play in a regular event on the PGA Tour since Glen Day - known in the locker-room as “All Day” for the how long it would take to play a shot - was handed a penalty in the Honda Classic of 1995.
Of course there have been other instances, in the Majors. For example, Frenchman Gregory Bourdy was handed a penalty for slow play in the US PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in 2010 and, at the 2013 US Masters at Augusta, Chinese teenager Guan Tianlang was given a penalty stroke for similar carry on.
There was no slow play penalty given out to Kerr, probably because it would have opened a bigger can of worms so soon after the multiple penalties handed out to Lexi Thompson for firstly replacing her ball in the wrong position and then signing for an incorrect score due to that initial error which caused such a furore in depriving her of the ANA Inspiration title.
A penalty shot on Kerr, either in her regulation play of the 72nd hole, which took an age, and subsequently in the play-off with Japan’s Haru Nomura, which took an eternity, would have resulted in her losing out and effectively handing the title to Nomura. As it happened, Nomura won by right without any outside help.
The level of vitriol directed at Kerr was surprising but symptomatic of how instant the whole social media outlet is these days. It even led to Kerr taking to Twitter herself in recent days to apologise. Her excuse for the slow play was given as “incredibly tough” conditions with “very trick w 40mph”and that the “18th hole is very difficult”. Strong winds, difficult hole . . . . but also a significant title on the line. Put the ingredients together, and there’s Kerr’s excuse.
Valid? Maybe. Acceptable? Not really. Because slow play has been an issue on the LPGA Tour for a long time, and also on the PGA Tour and the PGA European Tour and effectively everywhere: it’s a blight, yet the mechanism exists to perhaps not cure the disease but to at least encourage players to stand up when it is their turn and hit. It is what happened to Messrs Carballo and Campbell. Penalise players.
The message from it all? Speed up, it’s a lot more fun.
In hindsight, the real pity for women’s golf was that the greater exposure presented by filling the window left vacant by the weather delays in the PGA Tour event was not maximised.
Rather than admiring the skill sets and shot-making of these players, we were left squirming in our seats that time and time again it should take Kerr so long to actually play a shot of any kind. The message from it all? Speed up, it’s a lot more fun.