Thursday, February 21, 2008

Rule 78: Hurry up and play already

There has been a problem on the PGA Tour that has soured the players’ moods more than if someone grabbed their plus-fours and gave them a wedgie. The situation has taken on a life of its own and has become known as Rule 78.

This rule states that if the 36-hole cut of top 70 players and ties exceeds 78 players for the weekend, the field will be reduced to the number of players prior to the top 70 scores. Those who were in the top 70 and ties will be given credit for making a cut (important when calculating pension benefits) and a share of last place money and of course, Fed Ex points.

They cannot, however, play through the weekend with a good chance to improve their lot—not to mention their loot.

This didn’t sit well with those struggling to retain their playing privileges where every dime is critical. It didn’t sit well with those in the middle of the pack who make their money with a strong move on Saturday. The upper echelon? Not so much. They have no idea about what life is like among the bottom feeders and they don’t want to know.

Why did the PGA Tour and their policy board put this rule into effect? I know this will come as a shock, but it’s slow play. Yup, all this bloodletting flows from a self-inflicted wound. The Tour was tired of incomplete rounds being played on the weekend. They were tired of having players tee off on the first and 10th tees and all the headaches that costs. Twosomes and threesomes were taking well in excess of five hours to play 18-holes. Drastic situations call for drastic solutions; thus Rule 78.

There’s one word to describe their reaction and you wouldn’t want to step in it. All the Tour has to do is impose the pace of play regulations ALREADY IN EFFECT. That’s right, the rules that are already in effect.

The regulation states (and I’m paraphrasing), upon reaching his ball, the player has 40-seconds to hit a shot. The player shall be granted a 20-second extension—one minute in total if he is the first player to hit from the tee on a par 3 hole; the first to hit the second shot on a par 4, or 5 hole; the first to hit the third shot on a par 5; or the first to putt on the green.

The first violation of this regulation is a warning. The second is a one stroke penalty. The third is a two stroke penalty and the fourth is disqualification. Given that scenario, there are some players on the PGA Tour who might never see the fifth tee in the first round of a tournament, never mind the first tee of the second round. Did you hear that JB Holmes?

Hey, I think Holmes has a chance to be a special player, but he’d have to speed up a lot to draft on a snail. Don’t even chuckle at that line Ben Crane. You couldn’t create enough breeze walking by to blow out a match. It may be unfair to single out those two when there are so many offenders.

The reason most given for the lava flow that is the standard PGA Tour tournament is the large sums of money they play for each week. Puhleez! That’s not a reason—it’s a lame excuse. There is absolutely no reason for every putt to be read from four sides and then place the ball in front of the mark with the line, or lines aimed in the precisely correct direction. Hey SloMo, if you had a better putting stroke, you wouldn’t need the lines on the ball. Practice before or after the round and not going into a catatonic state during it is the answer Bucko.

Of course, the PGA Tour officials could hold the answer. All they have to do is enforce the regulation on the books. Sure, it won’t make them many friends among the players, but they’ll get used to it. Just plan a week when you’ll all ban together for a bloody Thursday and Friday. Enforce this regulation to the last letter. Once the players see you’re not fooling around, you won’t have to do it again. In fact, most of the players will thank you in the end.

Before I fall off my soapbox, bartender, can you pour me another and it had better not be a sloe gin fizz.

See you on the first tee,


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