Van Cynical Mailbag: Why the USGA’s effort to speed up play is doomed

August 22, 2013

Never mind that the Sunday's singles portion of the Solheim Cup seemed like The Longest Show In Golf.

I'm giving the ladies a pass on slow play in this instance. Well, except for those players who still require a caddie to stand behind them and tell them when they're correctly lined up. Take off the training wheels, ladies. Turn off your computer, Luke. Use The Force.

Those who watched this weekend's Solheim Cup telecast saw first-hand why the USGA's well-intentioned "While We're Young!" campaign against slow play is doomed. Modern designs like the Colorado Golf Club make fast play impossible. If some of the best players in women's golf (OK, only 10 of the world's top 25-ranked players were actually in this event) can't get around the CGC in a timely manner, what chance do 15-handicappers have on a Rube Goldberg-esque course like that?

Shots caromed around crazily-sloped greens like pinballs. Some greens appeared to be 70 or 80 yards deep, or more. I enjoyed the part where Solheim Cuppers aimed chip shots away from the green, so they could bounce down a slope onto the putting surface. I'm sure the green speeds were juiced a bit for this event, but even at slower speeds I see average hackers three- and four-putting those greens with regularity.

This course is the poster child for what not to do to slow golf's decline. High maintenance costs and slow play are built into this design. What golf needs is just the opposite. The speed of greens, the difficulty of the pin positions, the severity of the slopes and the number and deepness of the bunkers are directly related to the pace of play. I'm glad to see the USGA actually acknowledge this with the "While We're Young!" campaign. But there are too many courses like the Colorado Golf Club where the only way to speed up play is with bulldozers. And that's not going to happen.

Let's go to the Van Cynical Mailbag:

Van Cynical, I love golf, I am not particularly good (16 handicap), but I think I know good golf when I see it. Am I nuts or were the American women in the Solheim Cup god-awful putters and ignorant of golf etiquette? — John Benson via email
There's no hedging it, Benson. The Americans got horribly outputted by the Euros. And yes, they were a little shaky on their golf etiquette. At least twice on Saturday, the American duo left the green before their counterparts putted out. Even saintly golf analyst Judy Rankin pointed that out as bad form. Michelle Wie smartly apologized for being involved in one of those gaffes. The good news is, even though you're right about both of those things, you may still be nuts. Don't give up hoping.

Vans, who's your pick for the Barclays? Anyone from the outside 100 going to make a move up? — Marc Haddad via Twitter
Let's see, I could pick a winner for Barclays or try to predict the weather on Jupiter. Hmmm. OK, the Barclay's course, Liberty National, is a former SuperFund cleanup site and the last time they played there, Heath Slocum won. Yes, that Heath Slocum. He cleaned up with his short game. I'll go with another greensmith this week, Brandt Snedeker, coming off his Canadian Open win. Andres Romero, No. 113 on your scorecard, has gotten into contention of late. He could move on for a couple of weeks… unless he doesn't. My Jupiter forecast: A big, round, red storm.

Van Cynical, The playoffs are a second chance for those outside the PGA Tour's top 125. Who do you like for a comeback? — KKMC via Twitter
I don't know what Japanese superstar Ryo Ishikawa is doing in this group of grinders, but he's too talented not to be fully exempt. And at 22, he's too young to call this a comeback. Let's just say he's taking a scenic detour and gaining experience.

Gary, every three years, suppose the RyderHeim Cup pairs U.S. men and women against teams of World men and women. Groups are eliminated and the winning twosome has a rose ceremony and gets married. Genius? — Derek Lewis via Twitter
You get bonus points for originality, Derek, but I'm pretty sure you don't follow women's golf real closely. Men and women getting married? That is so last century.

Vans, who is Michelle Wie's putting coach? — Perry Dotson via Twitter
I think it's Geoffrey the Giraffe from Toys R Us. Actually, Wie did work with putting great Dave Stockton for a bit, but she came up with this latest unique stance on her own, which she herself compares to a giraffe bending over to get a drink of water. There isn't a putting coach out there who wants to take credit/blame for this style. Not yet, anyway. I think her self-invented style needs a name. How about The Wheelbarrow? The Spinebender? The Wiebyjeeby? Anyone else got a suggestion? Anyone? Bueller?

Van Cynical, as of today, who would be your captains picks for the Presidents Cup? — Howard Riefs via Twitter
For the Americans, I'd go with Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson just for the entertainment factor and the long knocks. I'd be passing over putting genius Steve Stricker but he said after the last Ryder Cup that he'd had enough of that kind of pressure. So I'm not going to draft him and possibly force him to flee to Canada. For the Internationals, I'd add Canadian Graham DeLaet, an impressive young talent, and the human bowling ball, my man Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand, who is 5 feet 8 inches and 229 pounds. He is a player and he delivers that huge Bangkok TV audience. Remember, one night in Bangkok makes a hard man tumble.

Gary, if top 25 from are exempt and have PGA Tour cards for next year, why play in the four-tournament series? Just for cash and practice? — Eric Houser via Twitter
Excellent question, Doogie. The playoffs have gotten little attention and remain confusing. Yes, the top 25 money-winners after the regular season get PGA Tour cards, but they're playing for their position on next season's ranking. Everybody will start at zero in the four-tournament playoff series and the pecking order for getting into Tour events next year will be based on who wins the most money in these four tournaments — the 25 already-assured players from the money list plus the top 25 other money-winners in the four-event series, which will be made up of players who finished 126-200 on the PGA Tour money list and 1-75 on the money list. There are two exceptions — the No. 1 money-winner from the regular season and the No. 1 money-winner from the four events will move to the front of the line and be "fully exempt," so to speak.