I know when I hunker down on Saturday and Sunday to watch golf, it is an afternoon (and often early evening) commitment. And I, as well as most of you, am 100% OK with that. However, pace of play is receiving a ton of attention on Tour, in no small part due to the fact that Tiger is laid up, and there’s been a dearth of captivating winners that move the needle week in and week out. It’s a subject that’s getting damn near beaten to death, though if the talking heads had a gag order on discussing anything pace of play related, I probably would not even notice aside from a few ridiculous pre-shot routines (looking at you, Loupe Fiasco).
It’s abundantly clear this is a problem that needs addressed, as many players who play at the proper pace are boiling over, and in danger of self-combustion. The problem is the regular ways to solve this issue are so blasé it doesn’t invoke any real motivation for the slow players to change. So we got outside the box and came up with a few ideas that can alleviate this issue. After all, we don’t want to be those people that simply kvetch about a problem without any intent to offer solutions. Allow us to play Commish for a day…
1) Shot Clock – I’m not going to speculate on how long the shot clock should be or when it should be triggered but it should be there. It’s important that it’s visible for all players and spectators (this could get interesting). So I suggest adding a digital clock that can be reset by a Rules official following each group that is attached the mobile scoreboard that follows each group. How crazy would it be as the clock winds down on Kevin Na and the gallery starts getting collectively more amused as it trickles closer to zero! THIS WOULD BE MUST SEE TV! We would need to hire additional security for crowd control, economic stimulus/job creation, baby! Your move, Barack.
2) Extensions – Stealing a move from billiards (my 47th favourite sport/leisure activity), give players a limited number of extensions on the shot clock per 18 hole basis. Let’s arbitrarily pick 3 extensions per 18 holes in which the player can extend the shot clock (presumably double or triple it). It would be a stunning revelation to have a guy coming down the stretch at The Masters, making a Sunday charge, only to have the wonderfully melodic Jim Nantz reminding us “Friends, don’t forget, he has no more extensions, he cannot afford to end up in the pine straw.” Chills. Or even better, a contender pulls a Chris Webber and calls for an extension late in the round when he already burned his extensions stick handling his golf ball around the front 9. Punishable by death by way of guillotine. Nantz would be begging CBS execs to be the one to drop the blade.
3) Carryforward Provision – Another problem with the current format is they offer punishment (barely) for slow play but no reward for fast play. So, we need a carry forward provision if a player doesn’t need to use his extensions. Make the extensions as much a part of strategy than a means of salvation for wayward shots. There are still some holes in this but there needs to be reward for fast players other than street cred for being known as a fast player who doesn’t mess around (looking at you, Sneds/Billy Ho).
4) Punishment – It has to be extreme. Every shot clock violation is equal to a stroke. There is a strong chance that by making the punishment this extreme it makes the shot clock obsolete within a year or two, but I guess that’s the whole idea of it in the first place, right? Having banked up extensions will still be valued for the days Webb has the shanks or Big Cat has that rat hook out in full force.
Try not to smile picturing Slugger with this
5) The Belt – This is the least realistic, but most fun option. As it currently stands, if you’re group is not keeping up with the pace of play, your group gets put “on the clock,” which means if you take too long to play a shot, you receive an undisclosed fine. Well, instead of being put on the clock, picture Nantz whispering this: “Look what we have here, folks. Jim Furyk, just one shot off the lead, now has to put on The Belt.” When your group is behind, you’re forced to wear a belt around your waist that has a small vibrating device that sits on the belt buckle. Once it becomes your turn, you have a certain amount of time to play (let’s say 45 seconds). Once you pass the 45 second mark, The Belt will begin vibrating at random moments that will be impossible to predict. I’m not talking about a small cell phone vibration. I’m talking restaurant-buzzer-rattling-on-the-table vibration (also known as the Stadler-Post-Taco-Bell vibration). The shame of having to wear the belt would be like the Scarlet Letter. Imagine Slugger White running up to Furyk and making him put his arms in the air to put on the belt. He could bring it out like a WWE championship belt! Tell me the combination of that embarrassment, plus the unpredictable vibration, wouldn’t make Jimmy rethink his 3 minute long pre-shot routine over his four footer. If not Slugger, can we get this guy to be The Belt distributor?
I’m not suggesting this gets rolled out for the start of the 2015 season in Hawaii, send it up here to me in Canada and let me and the guys at PGA Tour Canada take care of it and make the proper alterations before it is ready for The Big Show. But I think it’s a step in the right direction and may have several positive impacts on the game.
What other ideas do you guys have?