Why action needs to be taken over 'ridiculous' and 'pathetic' slow play

They always say the Scots love a moan and well done to Ewen Murray, Colin Montgomerie and Catriona Matthew for proving that to be the case about the problem that no-one seems prepared to try and stamp out.

Colin Montgomerie, pictured in action during the SAS Championship at Prestonwood Country Club in Cary, North Carolina, last October, is one of the quickest players in the game and slammed the pace of play in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Texas on Sunday. Picture: Chris Keane/Getty Images.
Colin Montgomerie, pictured in action during the SAS Championship at Prestonwood Country Club in Cary, North Carolina, last October, is one of the quickest players in the game and slammed the pace of play in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Texas on Sunday. Picture: Chris Keane/Getty Images.

I’ve lost count how many times over the years that I’ve had my own groan about slow play in this column and, though tempted to apologise for going there again, not doing so, frankly, would be a dereliction of my duty.

As was the case when Murray, one of the nicest, quietest blokes you are ever likely to come across, spoke out about the game’s biggest turn off during the Sky Sports coverage of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play on Sunday.

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Murray’s spot-on comments about the funereal pace - they took four hour and eight minutes to play 18 holes in the game’s quickest format - of the semi-final between American pair Scottie Scheffler and Matt Kuchar prompted both Montgomerie and Matthew to quickly back him up.

“Ridiculous” was Montgomerie’s summing up of what the eight-time European Tour No 1 found himself having to endure on the TV screen before joining many others by switching over to Scotland’s World Cup qualifier against Israel.

Using a combination of yawning and snail emojis to get her point across as the Solheim Cup captain also reacted with a post on Twitter, Matthew described it as “pathetic”.

It should be pointed out that Montgomerie and Matthew are two of the quickest players to have graced the game at the highest level, but, at the same time, the words used by them need to prompt some sort of long-overdue reaction.

The way things had panned out after the group stages in Texas, the event was already facing a battle to keep armchair viewers interested, and the last thing it needed was what transpired between Scheffler and Kuchar.

Yes, it was windy and, yes, that gave the players some headaches over club selection, but there can simply be no excusing some of the laborious nonsense that went on without any action whatsoever being taken.

What does it say about top players in the modern game when they don’t seem to have the conviction to pick a club without having to look at a yardage book more than once and also need numerous reassurances from a caddie?

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Colin Montgomerie slams 'ridiculous' slow play in WGC Match Play

I’m certainly not tarring all the game’s leading professionals with the same brush because a good few still know how to play at a proper pace, but I actually fear things are heading in the wrong direction rather than the slow-play situation getting better.

Green reading books don’t seem to be helping, especially not when you look at how long the world No 1 and reigning Masters champion, Dustin Johnson, takes these days before he actually pulls his putter back.

Yes, of course, that process, which heavily involves his brother/caddie Austin, is working for the American, but that’s not the point when that sort of thing is going to end up having a negative impact on the game.

Around the world, golf’s popularity is possibly at an all-time high, with thousands of people having been attracted to the game as a consequence of courses being open at a time when sports stadiums, gyms and cinemas have all been closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The sport has been handed a chance to really flourish again at the grass-roots level, but that won’t happen to the extent it should if the game doesn’t do something really significant in terms of sending out a message that slow play is unacceptable.

Make no mistake, youngsters in particular are influenced by what they see on their TV and mobile phone screens and they need to know that four hours and eight minutes to play 18 holes in match play, no matter the level, just can’t be tolerated.

Here’s hoping that Rory McIlroy, in his new role as chairman of the PGA Tour’s Player Advisory Council, can make his voice heard because, whilst certainly not an exclusive problem for the US circuit, the Americans in particular don’t seem to be prepared to accept that Scottish view about pace of play.

Yes, there is definitely a time and place for a good, old moan! And, feeling in that sort of mood, it’s time for clubs to try and get to grips with members not repairing pitch marks because it’s embarrassing to see the state that greens are being left in these days.

Rant over.

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