I’ve decided that the best way to watch golf on the television is simply not to watch it. You’re actually better off just lying there in a slumbering, snorting daze and allowing the whole thing to seep into you like some prolonged process of osmosis.

Thanks to the plootering palavers of Kevin Na or Jason Day or JB Holmes, for instance, many’s the night this correspondent has dreamily allowed molecules of a solvent to pass through a semi-permeable membrane from a less concentrated solution into a more concentrated one. And then I awake with a flapping jolt as drool dribbles down my semmit and the commentator says, “and it looks like he’s ready to take his stance.”

When a PGA Tour event is on, there are times when so little appears to be happening you’re sorely tempted to get up from your seat and give the side of the TV a hefty, muttering dunt just to get things moving again.

Amid a bout of the gapes, you end up with that same look of weary, futile frustration displayed by a hedgehog that’s just realised it’s spent a good chunk of the mating season making amorous advances on a yard brush.

Last week’s Genesis Open had plenty going for it. There was the quality of the storied Riviera course, the intrigue of another Tiger Woods appearance, the incredible longevity of Phil Mickelson, the quiet resurgence of our own Martin Laird as he posted another top-10 finish and the quirky, let’s-just-hit-this-thing-and-see-what-happens philosophy of Bubba Watson who earned his first victory in two years.

It was a shame, then, that much of the talk in the steamie was the pace of play … again. Whether it was the aforementioned Na, a man so ponderous he often signs his card a full calendar month behind everybody else, or the excruciatingly deliberate Patrick Cantlay, whose protracted pre-shot routine resembles the complex courting rituals of the Great Crested Grebe, many observers were left grinding their teeth into powdery stumps … again.

Only the other week, folk were harrumphing at the four minutes and 10 seconds it took Holmes to hit a shot during the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open. Many thought that could act as a tipping point on the slow play issue but if nobody at the PGA Tour seems to care about it, then what chance have you got?

One of the main elements that harms golf’s appeal remains pace of play. In a wider sense, that is a societal issue. Everything these days is done quicker, or has to be seen to be done quicker, to suit this frenzied age.

By many accounts, people don’t have the time for golf. On the other side of the coin, of course, a good few hours strolling the parklands or the links in the fresh air is highly relaxing. You don’t want to put casual golfers off the game with threats of being whipped with the cat o’ nine tails as you rummage for your glove on the tee.

Just over a year ago, Day caused eyebrows to be raised when he stoutly defended his own pace of play. “I don’t care so much about speeding up my game,” he said. “I’ve got to get back to what makes me good. If that means I have to back off five times, I’m going to back off five times.”

Day et al are playing for vast sums on hellishly difficult courses. This is livelihoods, not a loose batter about with Davy and Roy for a fiver.

The Australian major winner recognised that a particularly considered approach brought him more benefits. And therein lies the problem. If the PGA Tour – or indeed the rule book - has no propensity to punish players for what others may regard as excessively slow play, then why should those players adapt their tactics?

When it comes to combating the scourge of slow play, the R&A are doing a bit of this, the European Tour are dishing out some of that and the LPGA Tour and Ladies European Tour are enforcing a bit of the other.

But it needs a robust, decisive, joined-up assault with shots, not monetary fines, being handed out to offenders regardless of stature.

Until that happens, then we’ll just keeping going round in very slow circles.


GOLF often gets a negative press, particularly from those who have never actually played the game before. The good work outweighs the bad, though, and the creation of the Barrie Douglas Scottish Juniors Masters shines another positive light on this game for all the ages.

Barrie’s untimely passing last year was sorely felt across the amateur scene as golf lost a knowledgeable, passionate and jovial character who was always keen to work for the betterment of the game he cherished.

This new event bearing his name, and staged in his native Perthshire at Blairgowrie, will raise funds for junior golf and will be a fitting tribute to a man who did plenty to nurture the grassroots.