Slow play penalty turned LPGA match

Slow play is definitely a problem, especially with the game’s elite players. Many seem to take a lot of unnecessary time, prancing around, checking the wind, talking to their caddies, re-checking the wind and trying to remember the pre-shot routines given to them by their swing coaches. These examples aren’t good for the game at all.

It’s no different on every course here in the United States and this slow pace is one reason that many golfers have given up the game. I do not like to play on the weekends with five-hour plus rounds common or in some charity events where it’s not the players, but the organizers who try to crowd too many players on a course at the same time.

The LPGA definitely believes in the clock as evident from its recent ruling that penalized Morgan Pressel a loss of hole in the semifinals of the Sybase Match Play. It could not have come at a worse time for Pressel, who typically is not considered one of the tour’s slow players. She has just taken a 3 up lead with a par on the 12th. It was rival Azahara Munoz ‘s slow play earlier that led to them being put on the clock. After changing clubs on the tee when a gust of wind came up, Pressel took 29 seconds more than the allotted time to play the par 3. Pressel was told on the next tee of the infraction and instead of winning the previous hole, she lost it and was just 1 up. It turned the tide in the match as Munoz won, 2&1, and then won the title with a 2&1 victory over Candie Kang.

Rules are rules and the LPGA acted correctly going by the book, but it left me wondering why neither Munoz or Kang appeared to be put on the clock in the finals as they were a couple of holes behind although starting only 10 minutes after the consolation match.

If I had been a referee of such a match, I probably would have reacted like some basketball officials do and not let the game be decided my me with a penalty call since there were only two matches going on. Nobody was being held up as far as I could tell. Why not consider extenuating circumstances like Pressel’s decision to switch clubs in windy conditions . Common sense sometimes needs to be part of an official’s decisions instead of what is black and white on paper.

I think that in match play, the LPGA should consider using something similar to the penalty for exceeding the 14-club rule. The penalty there is also loss of the hole with maximum of two holes, but the penalty is applied to the status of the match after the breach is discovered. So if a player is 2 up and is found to have an extra club on the third tee, the match is even. If 2 down, then the player is 4 down. In the LPGA case, Pressel would have just had to pay a lost of one hole at the conclusion of the hole where the slow penalty was called.

While the PGA Tour has not handed out a penalty for slow play in 17 years, don’t be surprised if this isn’t changed soon. I noticed Kevin Na’s group was put on the clock in the second round of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.

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