Golf / Sports

Dustin Johnson acknowledges the crowd's applause after sinking a birdie putt on the 18th hole to finish second in the Northern Trust Open at the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014. (Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

Play is slow during Northern Trust Open

LOS ANGELES -- Last June, just before the start of the U.S. Open, the U.S Golf Association, with great fanfare, announced the kickoff of a campaign to address slow play in its game.

The campaign, featuring TV ads with star players and actors, was called "While We're Young." It was a play on the Rodney Dangerfield character who had used that phrase to express his disgust at a golfing slowpoke in the movie "Caddyshack."

Apparently, the USGA did not intend its message for PGA Tour players.

During this week's Northern Trust Open at Riviera, which ended Sunday with Bubba Watson winning the title, the pace of play was slow.


Watson's group teed off Sunday at 10:04 a.m. and finished at 3:10 -- 5 hours 6 minutes. And they moved more quickly than several others.

The final group -- William McGirt, Charlie Beljan and George McNeill -- teed off at 10:15 and were approaching their third shots on No. 2 -- all chips from just off the green -- at 11 a.m. That's more than 45 minutes to play two holes.

The rules, were they ever enforced, say that a player gets 40 seconds to hit once he gets his club and goes to his ball. On No. 11, Jason Allred, the qualifier from Pepperdine who had such a marvelous tournament, fidgeted, asked for a towel, then backed off once on his second shot before finally hitting 59 seconds into the routine.

The pros are enabled. The last time the tour penalized a player for slow play in a tour event was Glen Day in 1995.

Look for the slow-play issue to be addressed next at the Masters, where last year, officials penalized 14-year-old Chinese player Tianlang Guan one stroke for slow play. At the Masters, European rules officials are asked to help out, and they have considerably less tolerance for the current U.S pro tour pace of play.


McGirt, the third-round leader by two shots who had never held a third-round lead in a PGA Tour event, finished with a two-over-par 73. McGirt, 34, was trying for his first tour win; he wound up tied for sixth and earned $216,912, more than $100,000 more than he had in his eight previous events this season.

McNeill and Beljan, the other two players in the final group with McGirt, fell back on the front nine and couldn't get close to the leaders. McNeill shot an even-par 71 to finish at 10 under and Beljan shot 73 to finish at minus eight.

(c)2014 Los Angeles Times

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