It’s fitting that, as I write this, the PGA Tour has released a statement saying it would review its pace-of-play policy after heavy backlash directed at what can only be described as some blatant player infringements in 2019.
While there have been several cases of glacial slow play this year (J.B. Holmes didn’t exactly put the ‘rush’ in Portrush at this year’s Open), Bryson DeChambeau’s impression of a cucumber doing calculus at the Northern Trust, where video emerged of him taking two minutes and 20 seconds to hit an eight-foot putt during the second round at Liberty National, was next-level stuff. So bad, in fact, it forced the game’s decision-makers to act, or at least officially tell us they’re intending to act.
While fans have long been expressing their frustration at watching these professional athletes, err, slowly turn the tour’s TV spectacle into a grass-watching exhibition, it would appear critique from fellow tour players has been the catalyst for the review.
England’s Eddie Pepperell labelled DeChambeau a “single-minded twit”, while fellow straight-shooting Pom Ian Poulter lashed out at those who “continually disrespect their fellow pros and continue to break the rules without a conscience”.
And while delusion (“When people start talking to me about slow play and how I’m killing the game, that is complete and utter you-know-what”) and arrogance (“If it’s not an easy shot, I’m going to take a little bit longer because that’s my job”) continue to rule the case for the defence, I stumbled across the most refreshing take on slow play from an accused right here in Australia via our governing body’s “Inside the Ropes” podcast.
When Bryden Macpherson won the 2011 British Amateur, little did we know he would quickly become a voice of reason for the sport. But this articulate Millennial is making a habit of making a lot of sense when it comes to golf’s most pertinent problems.
When asked about his thoughts on the slow-play epidemic sweeping golf, Macpherson revealed more than we bargained for.
“I’ve always been a slow player and it’s always something I’ve hated about my game,” he told Inside The Ropes, suggesting he was often put on the clock during tournaments. “I’ve tried to do it better and I think I am these days. But I was unable to pull the trigger until I had a perfect routine, and that could often take a minute to complete. I had to let go of the mental cage I had around myself, this unbreakable link between a good routine and a good shot. So I decided to stop worrying about making the perfect practice swing because there’s no point in doing a good practice swing. I worked and worked and let go of that reliance that a good routine equals a good shot.
“Today, as long I have an idea of what shot I need to play, I can feel what that should feel like standing over the ball and I know I’m giving myself a good chance of hitting the ball where I want to.”
The end result of Macpherson’s slow play bootcamp – he’s shaved a whopping 32 seconds off his pre-shot routine, simply by “streamlining the process of selecting a shot.” He’s analysing the yardage, wind and break, and then breaking that down into a final number quickly, no protractor necessary.
“I agree a fast game’s a good game and the tour has a responsibility to decide whether it’s up to them (to police it properly),” Macpherson added.
“I didn’t feel good about taking 52 seconds to hit every shot. But when it comes down to it you have to play by the rules. It’s just a matter of the tour actually enforcing them. There needs to be a line in the sand.”
Long term, the 29-year-old believes his improved pace of play will allow him to shoot better scores simply by forcing him to play more instinctively.
“I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like to know that people have a problem with me, and to know most players in the field didn’t like I was slow made it a tough thing to show up (every week) for an event,” he said.
“If I wanted to continue playing long term I had to change.”
If our tours want fans to keep watching long term, they’d better enforce change, too.
As Bryden proved, it ain’t that hard!