On the week that the European Tour begin to make big promised strides to improving slow play we speak to Henrik Stenson about the game’s biggest problem
It’s not like slow play is a new thing but it seems now that we can’t go too long before we’re all flocking to Twitter to watch someone or other take an age over a shot or hear about how long a round has taken.
Henrik Stenson is as open and fair-minded as anyone in the game so who better to quiz on how he views the game’s biggest epidemic.
In among all the howls of outrage over the pace of play at the Solheim Cup Thomas Bjorn spoke out on Twitter, saying that team golf is not the place to deal with the problem. Where do you stand?
It’s not the week to fix the problem. It’s a good week to get some information and to have more material to review things but Thomas is a pretty smart guy so I think he got that one right.
Pace of f play problems again in golf…@2019solheimcup is not the place to deal with these issues.
It should be dealt with week in week out on tours all over the world.@PGATOUR @EuropeanTour @asiantourgolf @LPGA @LETgolf
It’s your responsibility to the game.
Deal with it!
— Thomas Bjorn (@thomasbjorngolf) September 14, 2019
Will things be any different in 12 months’ time?
The European Tour’s plans will certainly have an impact, the hard part has all along been to target the slowest players and come up with a system that tackles that. At the same time everyone jumps on the train but you are never going to play a tournament on any tour in four and a half hours, the head is going to eat its own tail.
It doesn’t work with that many players and if you have two hours of tee times on each nine then four hours 15 is the absolute quickest you could get round. But then you have rulings and losing balls and windy conditions – there’s a big difference three players shooting in the 60s to three shooting 75.
You might add half an hour for that and we have courses with long walks. We were taking five and a half hours in Sweden but there were a lot of long walks and climbs and buggy rides, those things have an effect.
What about specific times to play a shot?
You can’t have players taking two minutes to play a shot, I’ve taken that long on occasion with the wind swirling and you have a 5-iron over water. You’re not going to pull the trigger in 45 seconds and end up with a double bogey, you’re going to do what needs to be right.
The problem is when you’re doing it on every shot and not the odd one.
How would players feel if there was a loss of hole in the closing stages of a Ryder Cup match?
If that was the norm and everyone was up to speed and it was happening on all the tours worldwide then it would be easier to keep everyone on the same page. But you can’t just implement that at a Ryder Cup.
Ideally you would have everyone with a shot clock and you have your allotted time but we’re not playing in that environment. Who’s going to judge when you are ready to go and then you might get disturbed?
There are so many different variables and that’s why it’s hard to get anywhere but something needs to be done with someone taking two and a half minutes to hit a putt.
The time-outs seem like a sensible way forward?
Yes, even the quick players need that as you are always going to end up with the situation where you are down a bank and you will want to have a look where to land it and then go back to your ball. Even the quickest player in the world is not going to be able to play it in 40 seconds.
What about naming and shaming players, as Edoardo Molinari did earlier this year? You were on it with four bad times but no breaches?
I had a few timings on there, I’m certainly not the quickest but I’m not the slowest. I will occasionally take a fair bit of time and they will go on record. It wasn’t like I didn’t take longer on those shots.
I remember in 2009 when I won at Sawgrass I played with JB Holmes and someone else the first two rounds and JB was as slow as ever. We were on the clock two times on both days and then I got Ben Crane on the Saturday. I ended up being on the clock five times in the first three days and I was playing well – I won the tournament – and then I was getting a letter from the PGA Tour saying that I had been on the clock five times and another five times and I would be fined $20,000.
I couldn’t really do much because of the draw. It has a lot to do with who you are playing with, if you get two slow guys and one average then the chances are you will be on the clock.
You just have to try to be ready and try to play the shot as quickly as you can but part of the mentality is why should I play the shot in 40 seconds when someone else is taking two minutes?
Not that I’m defending Bryson’s pace of play by any means but he got a rough ride, the putt took forever but the other approach shot he was on the wrong hole and he had to wait for guys to tee off so sometimes it’s taken out of context.
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