Golf Tidbits: Slow play the plague that won't go away

Philadelphia, PA ( - When a guy like Robert Garrigus gets a bad time for slow play, you know there is something else going on.

That something else in this case was playing partner Kevin Na, who a few holes earlier was given a bad time because his group was out of position. Na was not the entire reason the final group was out of place during Saturday's third round at the Valspar Championship.

Na is notorious for being one of the slowest players on tour, and he readily admits it. Garrigus backed him up after the round saying that Na has gotten quicker and there was no reason for them to be on the clock.

That duo was the last group on the course and they played in 3 hours, 54 minutes, but the penultimate group walked off the course when those two were on the 17th hole.

That is a big gap at any point during a round.

The real question is, what should be a normal time for twosomes on the PGA Tour? Early in the year, at a big, spread-out course like Kapalua, rounds in twosomes frequently take four hours or more.

But Innisbrook, where the Valspar was played, isn't nearly as big and should be played in a reasonable amount of time. I'll ask again, though, what is a reasonable amount of time?

The talking heads on Golf Channel talked until they were blue in the face over the weekend about pace of play. The consensus was that it shouldn't take four hours to play, and I believe it was Charlie Rymer who said rounds should take three hours.

That may be unrealistic, but it is definitely something to shoot for. I'd say 3 1/2-hour rounds should be the norm when playing in twosomes.

What people screaming about Na and his slowness overlook is that the 30- something groups ahead of him are the ones that truly set the pace of play for the field.

As I said earlier, Garrigus had Na's back after the round, but Garrigus' caddie said it was "unfair to be paired with Na" because of the way he plays.

Whether Na was the issue or not, most players will tell you the real issue is the penalty system for slow play.

Na and Garrigus were put on the clock on the seventh hole Saturday for being out of position. Both later received bad times for going over the allotted time they have to hit a shot.

The next time they went over the time allotment, there would be a one stroke penalty. And a fine.

As a player myself, I despise playing behind slow players, but on public courses there is almost nothing you can do. The PGA Tour has been dealing with slow play since the tour was established, and their rules state that it takes being put on the clock and two bad times before a player gets penalized.

No wonder it was 1995 the last time a player was given a stroke penalty for slow play. Yes, really, 1995 was the last time. Tianling Guan was penalized at the 2013 Masters, but that isn't a tour-run event.

The PGA penalty is one stroke, and some sort of fine, which is never disclosed. The LPGA, on the other hand, dishes out two stroke penalties for slow play.

Slow play is not just a problem in stroke play events, it also occurs in match play tournaments, and the penalty is worse. Just ask Morgan Pressel.

In their semifinal match at the Sybase Match Play Championship, Pressel and Azahara Munoz were put on the clock for being out of position on the 11th hole. On the 12th, Pressel won the hole to go 3-up with six holes to go.

But on the 13th tee, a rules official told Pressel she had a bad time on the 12th and played the entire hole slowly. Therefore, Munoz was awarded the hole and she was just 1-down with six holes to play. Munoz went on to win that match, and the championship later in the day.

Had Pressel won, it would have been her first title since 2009, and the second biggest of her career behind her 2007 Kraft Nabisco Championship. That penalty, in essence, cost Pressel a chance at winning the title.

The LPGA rule isn't the strongest in the world, but it is more penal than the PGA Tour rule for slow play, two strokes versus one.

The fastest way to deal with slow play, is to increase the penalties. Make it two strokes for the first bad time, and add a stroke for additional bad times. And up the fines, too.

If the tours don't increase the penalties, slow play will continue to be a big problem.


What all the slow-play talk did was overshadow John Senden's first PGA Tour title in nearly eight years. Senden closed with a 70 on Sunday and that was enough for him to rally and win the Valspar Championship.

The Aussie came out of nowhere for this win as it was just his second top-10 finish in past 20 months on the PGA Tour, and his first win since the 2006 John Deere Classic.

Where it all started for Senden was in his homeland, where he finished third in the Australian Open behind Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy at the end of last season.

"It's one of those things that you gain confidence from playing well at home and ... take that confidence to the new year, which I've been doing so far," Senden said.

Senden, who shared fourth at the McGladrey Classic in the fall, hadn't had multiple top-10 finishes since 2012, when he had five. Of those five, one was at the U.S. Open and two were at World Golf Championship events.

The 42-year-old's 2012 season was one of his best on tour. His five top-10 finishes tied for the second-most on his career, and he earned over $1.9 million that season for his third highest single season total.

We are heading toward late March and Senden's $1.4 million in earnings this year are his sixth-best total on tour. He has over five months to add to that amount, too.

It is early to talk about the 2015 Presidents Cup, but Senden is getting a nice jump in making that team, which would be his first.

Senden is among the 15 winners that the new wrap-around schedule has produced in the first 18 events. With the confidence he brought back from his homeland, Senden is right where he wanted to be this season.


- Senden was 1-over par and eight shots off the lead after 36 holes. He rallied with 12 birdies and four bogeys over the final 36 holes to come from behind to win the title.

- Despite his pace-of-play problems, Na finished second and earned his best PGA Tour finish since his lone tour win in 2011.