KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY, SAUDI ARABIA | Søren Kjeldsen has his own answer to golf’s pace-of-play problems. On the day before Graeme McDowell was the recipient of what some people saw as a pretty questionable warning, the Dane was calling for a halt to the latest obsession with slow play. “Let’s just accept that golf is a slow game,” he said.
Only recently, Kjeldsen (above) had asked a committeeman how many minutes the European Tour expects to save via the latest drive and the answer was 10 to 12. Though he appreciates how the more cunning among slowcoaches no longer can get away with their tardy tricks, he suspects that those 10 to 12 minutes are hardly worth the fuss.
“More and more,” he continued, “I’m hearing from pro-am partners who say that they love their golf but that it’s being ruined for them with all this emphasis on speed.”
The many and varied strands attached to Friday’s McDowell case – the player was warned for taking 84 seconds over his shot to the sixth green when his allotted time was 50 seconds – lent a bit of weight to Kjeldsen’s argument.
To go back over just a few of the details, the fact that group was already being monitored when McDowell took his 84 seconds resulted in his being given an immediate warning. Not only that, but it was delivered hand in hand with the threat of a penalty shot if he were to make the same mistake again during the weekend. (He said on Saturday night that he had spent his first few holes thinking there were “referees behind trees waiting to give me a second warning.”)
Now for the mitigating circumstances.
When McDowell was on the sixth tee Friday, Sky TV’s Tim Barter had asked for an on-course interview. McDowell complied and, after a short but interesting chat, the two parted company 100 yards short of where the 2010 US Open champion would play his second.
Normally, that would all have been fine but, on this occasion, the shot which awaited called for more thought than anticipated. McDowell, amid his struggle to do a mental catch-up after the interview, clean forgot that the latest regulations allow for one “time-out” per round. He turned to the referee immediately after he hit but that was too late.
Mark Litton, the chief referee in Saudi Arabia and the man in line to be the next John Paramor, did not deny that McDowell had a case: “I would have been prepared to let the warning go had he taken 10 or even 20 extra seconds over the ball, but we’re talking 34 and that was too many,” Litton said.
In a Barter-McDowell discussion on Saturday morning, McDowell was not about to blame the commentator. “I talked to you willingly,” he said, “and I’ll go on doing it. I know that some players choose not to do these interviews but I think they’re a good thing.” And so, too, do the European Tour.
As a result of the above, the slow-play regulations are being slightly reworded, and referees are being advised to let approaching commentators know when a group is being monitored. Because of the latter, which represents a significant adjustment, it would come as no surprise if McDowell’s warning were to be crossed from his record.