Kevin Na’s personal frustration translates to golf fan frustration with slow play

The big story from the 2012 Players Championship was Kevin Na’s endless struggle with his pre-shot routine.  What I thought was fascinating was that the press was so empathetic and forgiving.  Normally, the press would be very critical but this time it was the fans that were outwardly critical.  The fans were respectful the first three rounds but by the 4th round, the fan frustration was evident with the haggling Na had to endure.

What led to this “gentler and kinder” press?  The answer appears to be in the fact that he did not hide from their questions.  Many reports stated Na “is refreshing” in his admission of his problem.  He not only apologizes to his playing partner but opens up in his press conference explaining:

“I’m trying to get comfortable with my waggles. It’s usually a little waggle, half waggle, little waggle, half waggle, and boom, supposed to pull the triggers. But if it doesn’t work, I’ve got to go in pairs.  So it’ll go four; and if it doesn’t work, it’ll go six; and after that, just — there’s a lot going on in my head. (Laughter).  And it’s not — I’m not being nice to myself, trust me. I’m ripping myself.”  See more of Kevin Na’s press conference at PGAtour.com

Now, I certainly have sympathy for any personal struggle but I must admit that more than once I was yelling at my TV — “just hit the ball.”  Eventually, I turned away from golf (something I rarely do on a Sunday of a big tournament).  I’m sure I am not the only fan that stopped watching.  My reaction is something golf cannot afford. The goal of the golf industry is growth (both in the fan base and in recreational play) and risking that a percentage of the current fan base might “walk away” from a telecast is going in the wrong direction.

Even though the tournament officials put Kevin Na on the clock (which added to his stress); it did not appear (to me) to quicken the pace of play.  Slow play is one of the biggest issues in golf today (both in professional and recreational golf).  If the professional golfers are role models for “how to play” then they need to send the message that playing slow is not acceptable.

Many tour players have expressed their dislike for slow play but it helps the cause when big name players take a stand.  Yesterday the biggest of big name players, Tiger Woods,  stated his opinion on how to fix slow play on tour.  Currently the fine for slow play is $5,000 up to $20,000 depending on the situation.  Tiger Woods said that he believes a penalty stroke should be accessed for slow play.  Woods explained:

“Strokes is money….what’s the difference between first and second [at the Players] right now?… $800,000…that’s one shot, and that’s the difference. That’s what people don’t realize, that one shot is so valuable out here.”

I completely agree with Woods, given the income of professional golfers a $5,000 fine is nothing but a stroke is significant.  A stroke not only impacts the wallet for the professional; but it could impact where they place in the tournament which can also carry over to Fed-Ex points and world rankings.  All of these combined make a stoke penalty a more meaningful deterrent.

Finally, I think the PGA could learn something from the LPGA.  Both the PGA and LPGA do have stroke penalties in the rules for slow play.  Both the PGA and LPGA give the slow player a warning before giving a violation.  But the difference comes when the first violation is given to a player.  The  PGA only imposes a fine; not a stroke on the first violation. The LPGA imposes a fine and stroke on the first violation.

Final word — gentlemen it’s time to follow the ladies lead — give a stroke penalty for the first violation of slow play.

Advertisement

Fantasy Golf Results – Farmers Insurance and Abu Dhabi HSBC

I did much better with my fantasy golf picks this week.  In fact the winner for the Farmers Insurance Open was Brandt Snedeker, my pick for group two.  But his win was not the big news.  The big story was the melt down of Kyle Stanley who lost to Snedeker in a playoff.

Kyle Stanley had a three shot lead and on the final hole could shoot a seven (or two over par) and still win. It should have been a “piece of cake” but his shot into the green rolled into the water and that was the beginning of the end.  He shot an eight — unbelievable!  I get eights (or as we call it in golf, a “snowman”) on my scorecard. Pros rarely get eights. The best way to describe it is that it is like watching a kicker missing a field goal that would win the game.  Stanley’s fate was all on him and in the end his miss forced a playoff which Snedeker won.

As much as I am happy that my pick won this week’s tournament, it’s hard not to feel bad for Stanley.  Here are how my picks did overall this week:

Farmers Open: Brandt Snedeker won, D. A. Points T8 (-10), Bud Cauley T13 (-9), and Phil Mickelson missed the cut.

Abu Dhabi HSBC: Rory McIlroy came in second, Darren Clarke, Branden Grace, and Colin Montgomerie all missed the cut.

My final thoughts this week are about Rory McIlroy.  He actually could have been the winner but on Friday he brushed sand off the fringe of the 9th hole (just off the putting green) which resulted in a two-stroke penalty. He lost by one stroke so if he had not had the penalty, he would have won. The rule is that you can move “loose impediments” but “sand and loose soil are loose impediments on the putting green, but not elsewhere.” So McIlroy could brush the sand that was on the green but not on the fringe.   McIlroy said he knew the rule but just wasn’t thinking. That’s a tough penalty for a lapse in concentration; but that’s golf.