Column: Video sheds new light on old problem of slow play

In this July 18, 2019, file photo, Bryson DeChambeau, of the United States, looks at his putt on the fourth green during the first round of the British Open Golf Championships at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland. DeChambeau wasted no time defending himself against accusations of slow play Saturday, Aug. 10, after harsh criticism on social media stemming from a video showing him taking more than two minutes to hit an 8-foot putt at The Northern Trust.

MEDINAH, Ill. — This could go down as one of the most memorable years in golf.

Tiger Woods won the Masters following four surgeries on his back, and just two years after he feared he might never compete again. The British Open was not held in Britain for the first time in 68 years. Two players went from college to PGA Tour winners in a span of two months.

And the PGA Tour might finally get around to doing something about pace of play.

The Player Advisory Council is meeting this week during the BMW Championship, and slow play is on the agenda. The tour all along had planned on the final PAC meeting of the year to be devoted entirely to solutions for a problem that apparently has no quick fix or it would have been fixed a long time ago.

So this could take some time.

One possibility the tour raised was timing players even when they were not out of position on the golf course.

The tour is equipped with ShotLink laser technology that tracks every shot by every player on every hole in every round. For about the last 10 years, players have received individual reports on how long it takes them to play various shots. The time is not entirely accurate — it’s more guide than gospel — because it’s measured by when the scorer records each shot in the group, not when it’s the player’s turn to hit.

But it at least gives a general idea, and there are not a lot of surprises.

Rules official now have a mobile app that gives the location of every group on the course and how much they are over or under the scheduled time it should take to play. When a group falls behind — even if it is not out of position — they can use ShotLink to see what or who is the problem.

Oddly enough, it was an older form of technology that brought searing attention to a sore subject: a television camera.

Fans get a Twitter vote on which of two groups they would rather see in streaming coverage, and the winner Friday at The Northern Trust was Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Thomas and Tommy Fleetwood. Without them being seen, there would be no video of DeChambeau taking 2 minutes, 6 seconds on an 8-foot putt.

Two years ago in a confidential survey by Golf.com, players were asked if slow play was a problem on the PGA Tour, and 84% said yes. The same website conducted a similar survey the following year, and one question was whether a player felt his own pace of play was acceptable.

“Yes” received 100% of the vote.

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