Monday Morning Musings

Not that anyone asked, but . . .

In a move that can be only be described as both courageous and ultimately futile, European Tour plater Edoardo Molinari (brother to Open Champ Francesco, also carries the delightful nickname of “Dodo”)  has called out slow play on Twitter by publishing a list of players who have been warned for their snail-like pace on the course. Interestingly, only three players have actually been fined, the best known being another Open Champ, Louis Oosthuizen.

Former US Open winner Graham McDowell, while sympathetic to Molinari’s frustrations, thinks Dodo is “beating a dead horse.”

“Listen, golf courses are long, golf courses are hard, we’re playing for a lot of money, it’s a big business, it is what it is,” McDowell said. “There’s just no way to speed the game up really. You can try these small percentiles, but at the end of the day it’s very hard to get around a 7,600-yard golf course with tucked pins with a three-ball in less than 4:45, 5 hours. You can’t do it.”

There’s a certain amount of truth to what McDowell has to say. The walking times on some of the courses that are in play these days (particularly distances between holes) can add to the time of a round, and I certainly get the fact that this is what these guys do for a living and proper attention must be paid.  But the pre-shot routines of some players (including discussions of barometric pressure and humidity) border on the absurd (J.B. Holmes plum-bobbing a 2 foot putt comes to mind) – plus it would be nice if players could execute a simple drop from a penalty area or obstruction without waving in a rules official.

And fines are not enough. Institute a stroke or two penalty system for slow play and enforce it.

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I probably don’t write nearly enough about the LPGA and women’s golf as much as I should. The level of play has improved dramatically, and frankly, most of us guys would be better served by observing the smooth tempo and technical proficiency of the women playing for pay.

[There are exceptions, of course, particularly Canada’s diminutive dynamo Brooke Henderson, who takes a healthy lash at most shots and is not afraid to use her driver off the deck]

The other aspect to watching the LPGA is that it gives us a chance to see some architectural gems that male professionals and technology have rendered obsolete for tournament play. This past week’s event was held at Wilshire Country Club, located near downtown Los Angeles.

Norman MacBeath was not as prolific a designer as Alistar Mackenzie or as well known as George Thomas, but his work at Wilshire stands out. MacBeath managed to create a distinctive routing packed within a mere 104 acres. Much like Mackenzie’s brilliant Pastiempo, he used a barranca as a primary strategic element. When Kyle Phillips (best known for producing the modern links masterpiece that is Kingsbarns) was called in a few years ago for a restoration effort, he left the routing largely untouched; his main contribution was to reshape the bunkering from simple ovals into more unique shapes that are visually pleasing while maintaining their proper strategic placement.

Minjee Lee, who plays out of my old club in the Dallas/Ft Worth area, played beautiful golf to emerge as the winner at Wilshire this weekend. If there’s a replay available on the Golf Channel, you should check it out, both for her play and for the intricacies of the venue itself.

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As I wrote earlier, it’s Mud Season here in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, but The Steamboat Golf Club was able to open this past week. It’s a sporty little 9-holer located about 5 miles west of downtown and is a great walking course. The landscape is flat, but there’s a great view of the Rockies as one faces east, and despite being on the short side, there are a number of strategic holes that will put his/her mind to the test. Its smallish greens have just enough undulation to get one muttering under his/her breath. All in all, it’s a nice venue to sharpen one’s play and stretch out the early season’s golf muscles.

[Although you may want to wait a day or so. There are snow flurries outside my window this morning.]

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The Zurich two-man team thingy was something of a dud. John Rahm and Ryan Palmer pretty much coasted to victory, but the moment that caused the most consternation during the tournament was on Friday, when on the par-3 17th, Billy Horschel took umbrage when a spectator urged the golfer’s shot to “get in the water.” Horshel’s response was not particularly witty, but direct – “Get the fck out of here.”

There were two predictable responses to this:

  1. Television announcers apologizing for broadcast microphones picking up such salty language. Good lord, get out the fainting couch and have the smelling salts handy. A golfer cursing on the course; when does that ever happen?

Ask  Shane Lowry.

Or Tiger Woods.

Or any of these guys.

  1. “We can yell at players at any other sporting event,” some fans complain. “Why are golfers so soft?”

For old guys like myself, the answer seems pretty simple. The game is a “gentlemen’s game,” there’s not a constant stream of trash talk that goes on between competitors (at least in tournament play; side bet games are a completely different matter), we stay quiet while a player is hitting, etc.

But fans these days feel that buying a ticket to a game or competition entitles them to harass competitors, particular after the 5th or 6th beer or cocktail. And professional golf offers proximity to its participants that are not available in most other sports.

These elements have led to a number of similar incidents during tour events in which players have had spectators who they have deemed particularly abusive removed from the premises. And of course, this behavior gets ramped up to 10 during the Ryder Cup, particularly when it’s being held in the USA.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I once cat-called Greg Norman, although it wasn’t during    play. Since then, if I’ve felt the urge to crack wise at a professional golfer, I will do so from the comfort of my recliner or within the confines of the Grey Goose or Tito’s hospitality tents. It’s a hard enough job for these guys as it is.

But that’s just my opinion.

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