Stephen Gallacher: Time to punish slow play cheats

Gallacher believes some slow players are putting off viewers. Picture: Jane Barlow

Gallacher believes some slow players are putting off viewers. Picture: Jane Barlow

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STEPHEN Gallacher has called for golf to follow cricket’s lead by banning players from tournaments if they are guilty of slow play, an offence the Scottish No 1 believes is akin to “cheating”.

After finishing runner-up in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award on Sunday, world No 1 Rory McIlroy called for “some way of speeding the game up” in a bid to attract young players to the sport.

Through his own foundation, Gallacher has become actively involved in encouraging kids to play at an acceptable pace, but he believes the real culprits are some of his fellow Tour players.

He claims that those who play at two different paces – ie speed up when they are put on the clock but then become slowcoaches again – are acting in a way that is tantamount to cheating and reckons the time has arrived for golf to take a leaf out of cricket’s book.

Earlier this month, England captain Alastair Cook was given a one-match suspension for his team’s slow over rate in a one-day match against Sri Lanka. He was banned because it was his second offence in a year. He also lost 20 per cent of his match fee and the entire team were fined 10 per cent of their fees.

“We are on at the kids all the time to speed up,” said Gallacher. “Apparently, all the [Tour] committee guys say every week that’s what they talk about but nothing happens.

“I think on the pro Tour you have to make it ruthless and say that’s it a shot penalty. You can’t have a monetary thing.

“In cricket, if he [the captain] doesn’t meet his over-rate he’s out of a game. We could do that. If you incur two two-shot penalties, you are suspended the next week – and it might be The Open.

“I think certain forms of slow play is cheating, ie those that play at two paces. I think guys who are slow, who know they are slow and get fined all the time but don’t do anything about it are putting people off. They are certainly putting viewers off.”

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Unfortunately, Gallacher reckons golf is a sport where policing such issues is difficult due to most fields being 156-strong and, lower down the ladder at least, only two or three referees work at each tournament.

“I just don’t think they’ve got the manpower to police it properly plus you’ve got to make everybody happy,” he added. “If you have a field of 156 and somebody hits two provisionals off the first early doors it’s a knock-on effect.

“You get bad weather and preferred lies and also guys raking the bunker and he adds about ten minutes a round because he waits until everybody plays. So there are hundreds of things that make it bad.”

When he first gained his European Tour card, new graduates attended the Apollo Week, which was effectively a training school. He believes there is a need for something similar to be re-introduced, though the fact there is such a short close-season these days is problematical.

“The new guys need something like that just to reiterate what happens on Tour,” he continued. “They have to know what goes on. We had media training, we had TV training, you had the travel guys. It was like a big boot camp for a week and it was all laid out. That’s the way forward.

“Guys are never ready. The guy who plays third can slow everything up. By the time he gets to play, he’s not even got his glove on yet.

“As you get older you learn. I go out with my mates and go round in two-and-a-half hours. We are always ready, with the glove out. Guys on Tour still have to get the glove on and get the yardage book out and you think ‘are you kidding’.

“Look at putting. Everybody looks at the putt from one side but the third guy hasn’t looked, and he ends up looking at it from four different sides. That’s why you need an Apollo week. Get some ex-Tour pros in to show them what to do. Not many of us have bad times, the older generation.”

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