Weighing in this week on golf’s longstanding slow-play problem, Monty borrowed from basketball lingo in suggesting a solution. How about a shot clock to set things right?
“They should be playing in no more than four hours for any round of golf on any course,” Montgomerie told reporters in advance of this week’s Senior British Open at Royal Birkdale. “Unfortunately they are given far too long. Why do you have to wait to be slow befrore you are put on the clock?”
As Monty sees it, a strict time allotment for 18 holes, enforced by stopwatching-wearing referees, would help ensure a reasonable pace in tournament play.
“There are 52 referees out there at major championships, and they should all have a clock to be able to put them on the clock on the first tee to ensure they all get around in time. It has been mentioned about a shot clock, and that is interesting. There should be an allotted time to play the game, like chess, where you have a certain time to play. If the first two groups take five or more hours to go round then the day is gone, you can’t make it up.”
Though hardly a new topic of conversation, slow play has become a hot-button issue on Tour this year, thanks in part to headline-making moments in the majors. On Friday at Augusta, 14-year-old amateur Tianlang Guan was assessed a one-stroke penalty for slow-play that threatened to bump him off the cut line.
And this past week at Muirfiled, officials cracked down on first-year pro Hideki Matsuyama, slapping him with a one-shot slow-play penalty during Saturday’s third round.
Slow play, it’s often said, is like the weather. Easy to talk about, hard to change. And the problem, clearly, is bigger than any one or two players.
By Tour standards, at least, Monty is known for keeping a brisk pace. But he, too, has had his moments. During the final round of the 1997 U.S. Open at Congressional, and tied for the lead with Ernie Els on the 17th hole, Monty paused over a five-foot par putt as a boisterous gallery made noise around him. He waited, and waited ... then waited some more -- a nearly five-minute break in the action.
Then he missed the putt.
Standing behind Monty in the 17th fairway, Tom Lehman waited, too, like a frozen field goal kicker, just one shot of the lead. When his turn finally came to hit, Lehman caught his approach fat and the ball found the water. After the round, Montgomerie explained his long stall this way: “I felt I had to wait to hit the putt. I didn’t want to rush the most important putt of my life.”
In retrospect, maybe being on a shot clock would have helped him. Either that or a shout out from the man waiting behind him, “Hey, Monty, while we’re young!”
(Photo: Phil Inglis/Getty Images)