Randall’s Rant: Enough slow play; golf must act now to accelerate the game

Time misleads, and it can flat out lie.

Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods showed us the upside of that in golf, and Bryson DeChambeau the downside.

As heavily as he relies on empirical evidence and a scientific approach, DeChambeau asked us to show some faith last weekend.

Time, he basically told us, is on his side in the slow-play imbroglio he found himself involved in again at The Northern Trust.

He is not really a slow poke, he insisted, no matter what our lyin’ eyes tell us. Believe, he implored, in what we can’t see, or at least what we aren’t seeing, because, hey, a couple viral videos can distort the truth.

“How about you look at the full story and see what actually happened during those instances?” DeChambeau said, aiming his remarks at the social media critics. 

One video showed DeChambeau taking 2 minutes and 20 seconds to hit a putt at the eighth hole on Friday, another showed him walking off a 70-yard shot in the same round. He said they were exceptions to the rule in his pace of play.

The slow-play criticism grew even louder on Friday, when videos surfaced from Bryson DeChambeau’s second round at Liberty National.

“Is that every time? No,” DeChambeau said. “That’s probably 1 percent of the time that I take over two minutes.”

More than one fellow pro was skeptical that he is rarely that slow.

“It’s every hole, pick a hole,” Justin Thomas said.

In Monday’s aftermath, DeChambeau acknowledged he can be better.

“I’m constantly trying to improve, and I will do my very best to improve my pace,” he said in an Instagram post. “Golf is my passion and livelihood. It’s my responsibility to help improve the game to be more enjoyable for all. Pace of play has been an issue for golf at all levels for a long time, and I’m committed to being a part of the solution, not the problem.”

DeChambeau is one of the game’s bright young stars and personalities, but the slow-play controversies are dragging him down, as they did the entire start of the FedExCup Playoffs last weekend. The slow-play furor spilled outside the game’s niche Saturday with “Good Morning Britain” host Piers Morgan aggressively weighing in on the topic.

“You’re destroying golf @b_dechambeau with your snail-like antics,” Morgan tweeted. “Either speed up and stop being so willfully disrespectful to spectators, viewers & other players – or quit & spare us this agony.”

Ouch!

Slow play isn’t good for DeChambeau’s image, but more importantly, it isn’t good for the game’s. It’s not just media and social critics saying so. It’s the game’s best players. Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott are among the stars fed up with slow play.

A day after making an impassioned defense of his pace of play, Bryson DeChambeau took his message to at least one high-profile opponent of slow play Sunday at The Northern Trust.

Yes, it is a complicated topic, because there are those rare times when slow play can be great for the game. In fact, there are times when it can be absolutely riveting.

Every second Spieth took to recover from his wayward shot into the practice range on his way to winning in the final round at The Open at Royal Birkdale two years ago was terrific theater.

So was every second Woods took to chip in for birdie at the 16th on his way to winning the Masters in 2005.

The problem is all those guys who think a green jacket or claret jug are hanging in the balance on Thursdays and Fridays of regular Tour events.

Koepka, McIlroy, Scott and the other stars who want to see meaningful change need governing bodies to step up more sternly to help.

Yes, it was encouraging to see the PGA Tour respond more than superficially last weekend, with a pledge to “take a deeper look” at the problem and how ShotLink technology may assist. But, like DeChambeau, PGA Tour officials are asking us to have faith in them. The Tour has slow played its slow-play problem for so damn long, faith among players and fans is in short supply.

The PGA Tour needs help.

It’s impossible not to appreciate Bryson DeChambeau’s passion. It’s also impossible to ignore that he really does play slow.

Anyway, slow play is an issue plaguing more than one tour. The American Junior Golf Association, USGA, R&A, college golf, LPGA, LET, European Tour and the PGA Tour all have their own slow-play policies and penalties.

Somebody once said: “First we make our habits, and then our habits make us.”

The best way to break the game’s slow-play habit is to teach everyone to play by the same pace-of-play rules with the same penalties.

The game may need a slow-play summit to get there.

It needs all the different bodies to collaborate in teaching and reinforcing the same habits. In a world that continues to move faster, the game needs to keep up.

Yes, you can’t fine amateurs, but that’s the beauty of this collaboration. It doesn’t matter where you’re playing, the best penalty is to a player’s scorecard. Whether it’s a one-shot or two-shot penalty, there is strong message sent up and down the game’s ranks, for whatever slow-play policy the governing bodies agree upon.

The details of a new uniform policy are important, but the sheer effort the governing bodies would put into a collaboration like that will send a message in itself. The message is that the sport is finally serious about creating new habits to speed up play across every landscape in the game.

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