Morgan Pressel went from holding a 3-up lead in the Sybase Match Play Championship semi-final match to a 1-up lead all while standing on the 13th tee. An LPGA rules official assessed Pressel a loss of hole penalty for violating the Tour’s slow play policy on the 12th hole. Without the penalty, she had won the hole to go to a 3-up lead. Losing the hole gave her a narrow 1-up lead and an emotional blow that would be difficult for anyone to overcome. Pressel went on to lose the match.
It’s understandable that there are people arguing both sides of this issue. Some say rules are rules and slow play in golf is a major problem. Others say, it was match play and there were only four players on the course… Let them play! Variations of those discussions are playing out in the papers, on TV and at the water cooler.
For several reasons, I come down on the “let them play” side.
- No organization in golf has come up with a policy that consistently and equally enforces a slow play policy. Unless every player is timed on every shot, it will never be consistent. On the LPGA, a player can play fast all day long and because a slow player in her group causes the them to fall behind and get a warning, the faster player is now vulnerable to receiving a penalty. Now if she finds herself in a difficult position and needs a little extra time for a shot, she’s the one who gets the penalty. Think about it, the LPGA only gave five penalties all last year. Is that the only time their policies were violated? Of course not. No consistency! The USGA has the same kinds of issues and the PGA seems to have given up for the most part.
- Since we know this rule isn’t enforced consistently, why would you choose to enforce it at such a critical time where it will likely affect the outcome?
- Since we know this rule isn’t enforced consistently, why enforce it when there are only two groups on the course? You’re probably going slow them down even more while assessing the penalty.
- Since we know this rule isn’t enforced consistently, why oh why would you enforce it when you are damaging the chances of an American favorite to win the tournament. Like it or not, the LPGA needs young American winners. The LPGA Marketing Department was surely not consulted.
It can also be argued, that this was good for the LPGA because everyone is talking about it. However, this will be gone in a week and had Morgan Pressel gone on to win the tournament, good fuzzy feelings for the LPGA would have been a little more enduring.
Final thoughts on slow play. Maybe the Tours need to implement a carrot and stick policy. Get Rolex or Sir Speedy to sponsor a cash award to players who consistently play fast and then give those players an exemption from slow play penalties for the next week. Official Undercover Timers could be on three random holes each week. Each player would be timed on every shot on all three holes. The top 10 fastest players would receive prizes, slow play exemptions and be included in a press release along with the bottom 10 players. If you’re in the bottom 10 in 3 weeks during a season, then you are subject to a no-warning penalty for any future breaches of the policies.