Should we care that Jason Day doesn't care?
Jason Day on slow play reputation: 'I don't really care what people say' | Kevin Cunningham for Golf.com
The only reason why I think a lot of people think I'm slow is that when I was playing well, I was in a lot of groups on Sundays, in the last few groups and usually everyone takes their time on the last few groups on Sunday... To be honest, I don't really care what people say. I need to do what I need to do to win a golf tournament. And within reason of respecting other players and the Rules of Golf.
Jason Day has a point, but, only up to a point. A majority of fans will forgive any player that takes a few extra moments to hit a shot while battling down the stretch. If that Sunday round is a major nearly everyone understands that it may take a few extra beats to prepare. Unfortunately, that isn't the issue when it comes to Jason Day. He has a reputation for playing slowly all of the time. He isn't alone, but, his World Golf Ranking gets him the attention.
What if we look at it a bit differently? Every player, from the top-ranked superstar to the lowest ranked grinder, is under pressure to play every shot to the best of their ability every time. Every stroke, from the first tee to the last, costs money. Why wouldn't they sweat the details? On the other hand, what if a player performs at their best when the pace of play is brisk and they can stay in rhythm? Now they are not able to play their best golf due to the actions of others in the field. A slow player will bother a fast player. It isn't an issue the other way around.
If the major tours, golf's ruling bodies, and their television partners are truly convinced that slow play is doing harm to the product and the game in general, they have a responsibility to do everything they can to correct it. And the correction is easy to make. Golf needs a shot clock. Here is a quick sketch for how that might work:
Give the players time to prepare. Announce that when the 2018-2019 season kicks off every group will have a referee that will be responsible, among other things, to keep track of the shot clock for each player. A reasonable time to prepare and strike their next shot will be set. Let's say 60 seconds. Once it is determined who is away and the player is in place, the referee will raise a simple flag, point towards the player who is up, and the stopwatch will be started. No countdown clock, no buzzers, just someone who will, to the best of their ability, consistently track the time each player takes with their next stroke. If a player violates the clock, within a reasonable margin of error of 5 seconds, it will be noted by the referee and the caddie will be informed of the violation. After three violations in a round, a 1-stroke penalty will be added to the player's score for every following violation.
This system would take into account being in contention on Sunday afternoon. If a player believes they have a particularly critical shot to hit, and they still have a few violations to give, they can take the extra time without penalty. Also, if playing conditions are particularly harsh, the committee can announce that they are either extending the maximum time allowed or waving the rule entirely on that day for all players in the field.
As long as star players like Jason Day are willing to sit at a podium and declare that they are going to play the way they want to play "within reason", even if it affects the rest of the field, something needs to change. The tours need to define for Jason Day and others what "within reason" is going to be and hold them to it.
Photo credit: Keith Allison