Jason “All” Day “Play”
One of the main impediments for golf as it attempts to woo a younger generation into the sport is trying to get golf moving — literally. The day of rounds nearing six hours is clearly a major negative — not only for prospective new players but it has also impacted existing players cutting back on playing because of it. Enter the fray — Jason Day.
The world’s number one player is one of the most affable and approachable golf stars to media and fans. When on form his golf game has shown a capacity that goes beyond his peers. Day opined prior to the start of last week’s Tournament of Champions he plans on taking his time during shots this season.
As many have come to realize pre-shot routines followed rigorously by a growing number of professional players — male and female — has become so ingrained as to drag interminably. Players are so resolute in following the ritual no matter what impact it causes fellow competitors or the event as a whole.
Pushing players along is a necessary chore for the tournament organizers and it’s one that’s been haphazardly done for quite some time. The PGA Tour does not disclose fines that players incur for a whole range of offenses. The LPGA has allowed a good number of its tortoise players to continue to do so. The USGA has not really been pro-active as well — especially during its marquee event — the US Open.
There’s no question speeding up the game helps on a number of fronts and Day was the first to admit as much but not as it applies to him.
“Obviously that’s a big subject in golf, to speed up the game,” the World No. 1 said. “In my opinion, I don’t care so much about speeding up my game. I’ve got to get back to what makes me good. If that means I have to back off five times, then I’m going to back off five times before I have to actually hit the shot.”
Golf is viewed by the general sports fan as the game Dad and Granddad played. Allowing players to simply dictate when they will hit shots is not a winning recipe in buidling viewership but it’s clearly not on Day’s agenda.
“For recreational golf, I understand. But for golfers trying to win and that a shot could take you out of a playoff, that’s important, and you need to make sure that you get everything correct,” said Day. “We’re driven by results; we want to be the best and we want to do everything, but like the Average Joe just doesn’t get it. I think that was just one of the things that I wasn’t as deliberate that I should have been, and that’s what I’ve got to try and do a lot more — is be a little bit more deliberate going into a shot and make sure I do everything correctly.”
The issue of pace of play is front and center among various sports. Baseball is examing ways to keep the overall game moving without all the interminable situations where players reassemble their batting gloves after nearly every pitch or the endless holding of the ball by the pitcher before throws to the plate are made.
The same is being looked at regarding college football. The just concluded national championship game between Alabama and Clemson did not kick-off till roughly 8:30 PM Eastern time — concluding four hours later. The flow of the game is clearly not working to anyone’s benefit.
Golf is no doubt facing questions in an age of speed and brevity. What players like Day does on tour is clearly absorbed by casual golfers. Recreational enthusiasts of the game clearly mimick what’s seen on television — the ripple effect then gets set in motion and before one knows it the crawl of play becomes so tortuous that many simply opt for other outlets for their valuable time.
There’s little question that golf at the professional level is an entirely different game than the one general players face. The courses are prepped to the point of being on the edge of fairness. Players are playing for their careers — they also know one shot played haphazardly here or there can prove to be major differential not only for that event but possibly for a career.
Golf administrators are in a tough bind — keeping the pace moving for the benefit of a full field and having to weigh what penalties need to apply to those showing a wanton disregard to anything not associated with their performance. Television is the major player in this situation. Network officials don’t want sporting events to drag on and on. Cleary, one doesn’t want to see officials impact an event by adding penalty strokes to players but unless there is some sort of hammer applied when needed — the likelihood is that what Day said will happen again and again.
The discussion of what steps can be implemented is certainly needed. Input from all stakeholders is a must. But without meaningful follow-ups and a clear protocol which sets in motion a streamlined process it is almost certain players will continue to do what they feel they must in order to be competitive.
Jason Day’s candor should not be criticized. But failure to deal with slow play will only impact events, other tournaments and ultimately the overall health of the game.When “day” turns into “night” because of inordinately long rounds – the answer is not in providing flashlights that enable such behavior to continue. Golf is not a track meet — but unless officials show more action than simply creating slogans and quick fixes then even more people will opt for other pursuits. That’s not a future — it’s a clear dead end.