Paul Lawrie: It’s now or never over action against slow play

Donning the Black Watch tartan to embrace his Scottish roots, Kiwi Michael Campbell hits a ceremonial shot at Craigielaw ahead of the Scottish Senior Open watched by Gary Orr, Paul Lawrie and Sandy Lyle.
Donning the Black Watch tartan to embrace his Scottish roots, Kiwi Michael Campbell hits a ceremonial shot at Craigielaw ahead of the Scottish Senior Open watched by Gary Orr, Paul Lawrie and Sandy Lyle.
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Paul Lawrie says it is “now or never” if proper action is to be taken against golf’s slow coaches after Bryson DeChambeau being “caught red-handed” led to the biggest backlash the Aberdonian has ever witnessed among his 
fellow professionals.

Speaking as he prepared to make his Scottish Senior Open debut at Craigielaw, Lawrie claimed it was “time for all the tours to act” after video emerged of DeChambeau taking two minutes and 20 seconds – the limit is 40 seconds – to hit an eight-foot putt during the second round of The Northern Trust at Liberty National last week.

After being widely criticised, the American initially issued a passionate defence of his actions but, when the PGA Tour announced plans to review its pace-of-play policy, he later vowed to do his bit to speed up.

“It’s a problem on all the tours, not just over there,” said Lawrie, who has never been scared to voice his opinion on the issue and, in fact, has often been quite scathing about slow play on social media. “I’ve played on all the tours, and both the senior tours. The PGA Tour is slightly worse, but it’s a problem everywhere. What I don’t get is that they have 
video of him [DeChambeau] taking two minutes 20 seconds to hit an eight-foot putt. He was on the clock, why can’t they act on that?

“If you are on the clock on our tour and take that time, you are getting fined or penalised, 100 per cent. There must be some difficulty doing it there, with sponsors, I don’t know, some outside agency stopping them or they would be doing it.

“The players are up in arms about it. They have him on video taking three minutes to hit a 70-yard chip shot and two minutes 20 to hit a putt. It’s difficult for officials to catch people, but they have caught him. That’s why there is such a furore.

“Players understand it’s hard to catch players, they are clever and have two speeds and when they go on the clock they speed up. [Bernhard] Langer has done it for as long as we can remember. You can’t catch him. But Bryson was caught red handed on video. Do something about it, that’s why the players are upset.”

Lawrie described DeChambeau’s defence last weekend of the way he plays as a “rambling mess” and added: “Just hold your hands up, say sorry, say I’ve been caught and I’ll do something about it. It’s the easiest answer he could give. But, oh no, he goes the other route and blames other people. It makes it worse. If they don’t take action now, then they never will. That was a big backlash. I’ve never seen anything like that before. It’s time for them all to act. At least they have said they will review their policy, but I’d be surprised if that happens.

“The only way you will stop it is with a referee with every game and timing every shot. On our tour, I can’t imagine they could afford that. The PGA Tour possibly could. I’m not saying it’s easy to fix it, but they had an unbelievable opportunity there to give someone a two-shot penalty and they didn’t. They let him go.”

Lawrie, who was delighted with the success of an annual fund-raising dinner for his foundation earlier in the week, is in good fettle heading into the £250,000 event in East Lothian as he seeks a maiden over-50s win. “I’m getting better each week,” he said. “I feel confidence is coming back. I played at Kilspindie yesterday and was nine-under playing the last and then I lost a ball.

“I’ve been doing some work with Karl Morris, the sports psychologist. I was always impressed by him. I had 15 years with Richard Cox and that was my best spell, so I thought let’s have a bit of that again. With not playing for a year it’s amazing how all the bad thoughts and poor mental things can come back as soon as you start playing again. So he’s going to help.”

In an event that sees Gary Orr defend the title he won at the same venue, two-time major winner Sandy Lee is also making his debut at the age of 61. “I don’t mind if it is this week or even a nine-hole tournament, I’d love to have a win or have a cup to lift above my shoulders. That would be very nice,” said Lyle.

Kiwi Michael Campbell is a third major winner making a bow in the event and, embracing his Scottish roots – his great-great-great grandfather, Sir Logan Campbell, emigrated to New Zealand and became Mayor of Auckland – he donned the Black Watch tartan to hit a ceremonial shot in front of Lawrie, Lyle and Orr.