First-round U.S. Open leader Justin Hicks, the first Michigan Wolverine to star in the Open since Chuck Koscis was low amateur in the event, had a bad day Friday, shooting 80. His name was not mentioned during the hours I watched, so we didn't learn that one of his challenges was an early slow-play warning, the earliest, in fact, I've ever heard of. From the Detroit Free Press web site:
Tournament officials warned Hicks' group that it was five minutes behind its allotted pace of play after just one hole. That would be enough to rattle any player competing in only his second major, let alone one leading the tournament.
"Having the lead in the Open is not something I deal with on a daily basis," Hicks said. "And when you accompany that with 'Oh, yeah, by the way, you're behind. You need to pick it up' ... that kind of got me going in a gear that I wasn't really wanting to play in."
On the sixth hole, Hicks' group officially was put on the clock. From that point forward, each player was given 40 seconds to hit each shot. The penalties for not staying on time increase in severity from a one-stroke penalty to a two-stroke penalty to, eventually, disqualification.
Slow play is a subject close to our readers' hearts. We got a ton of mail on the issue after Dave Shedloski's "The Waiting Game" article in Golf World. A sampling:
I coach golf at the high school level and I can assure you slow play trickles down. The biggest problem junior golfers have is the same problem Mr. Holmes has they don't care. The first etiquette lesson should be everyone has to care! Mike Singletary Thomasville, Ga. Excellent article on the slow pace of play on the PGA Tour. I laughed out loud when I saw the picture of Ben Crane in the insert on page 60. He is the poster boy for slow play as evidenced being seen on T.V. on a couple of occasions. When checking the leaderboard for the weekend telecasts, I cringe when his name is near the top. Thank goodness it doesn't happen that often. Hey, if Tiger Woods wants to take an extra look at a long putt on the back nine of a major, I relish it. For most of the rest of these guys, they are just being rude to their playing partners and us fans. Slap some penalty strokes on them and our living rooms will be rocking with applause. Its' obvious none of the folks in the professional golfing community have the balls to put a stake in the sand. Too bad for the game.>
Most golf clubs struggle with the slow play problem. I am glad the PGA tour is trying to do something. However, I do not like the practice of warning the Group. When the group is "on the clock" the fast players play faster and the slow players keep their snail pace. At our club, groups are told they are playing slow. Seldom is a whole group playing slow. I would rather the slow player be told he is slow. Even better, club professionals should identify the things players do that cause slow play. Like, sitting in the cart while your cart partner hits, not being ready to hit when it your turn or excessive pre-shot routines. >
Thanks for your article on slow play! Watching golf live or on TV has become a total bore. These guys are supposed to be PROS, so just hit the damn ball!!! We duffers can get kicked off the course for this, so penalize them by stroke, not money where it doesn't hurt.>