I consider my weekend to be a success when I spend most of it outdoors in the sunshine, when I spend most of it with family and friends, and when at least a little bit of it includes golf. But Twitter, it seems does hardly any of this. Its contributors mostly sit inside and watch TV. And when I got back inside and hooked into my Twitter feed (@PlaySAGolf365) on Sunday, I found that my entire afternoon had devolved into one long, slow, painful, tedious, disgraceful …
I was at the Valero Texas Open, and I didn’t need Twitter to discover there was slow, difficult play in the final round of the Valero Texas Open. I walked the front nine and followed the final three groups. Slow play showed up as early as the second hole.
The piling on and everyone throwing in their two cents worth is just a part of life now, and everyone better get used to it, no matter that their opinion is.
“It was a disaster,” golf author and commentator Geoff Shackelford said Monday on Golf Channel. “This was very negative. And that’s all you really saw on Twitter.
“The Valero (Texas) Open should be a fun event, should be about the focus of the chance of a few guys to get into the Masters. It shouldn’t be about all these negative things.”
Yet it was. Was there more focus of Andrew Loupe’s 11 practice swings and his habit of clearing loose blades of grass than there was of a man who — forget about him overcoming being 339th in the world rankings to win the tournament — admits he may never overcome a mental illness so dark that he attempted suicide eight years ago? That’s the life of Texas Open winner Steven Bowditch.
“He’s been a battler; he’s gone through a lot in his life,” fellow Aussie golfer John Senden told me afterward. “I’m proud to call him my mate.”
I don’t count practice swings. And I normally don’t count minutes on a golf course (though I have been more lately). I didn’t count how long it took the final group of Bowditch, Loupe and Matt Kuchar to play the second hole at TPC San Antonio’s Oaks Course. They needed two rulings from PGA Tour officials, they picked up their ball and dropped it three times (two free drops, after counsel from rules officials, and one unplayable).
I could have eaten lunch in the time it took them to play No. 2, yet they still had to wait for the groups in front of them to play No. 3. Again, I wasn’t counting minutes, but I can say that I waited in line to use the porta-potty, checked emails, walked further away from the players so I could check phone messages and texts so that a marshal wouldn’t bark at me for having my phone out, then got up to No. 3 and the players still were waiting.
There was a wait on No. 5 tee because most of the players were trying to drive the green at the par-4, a wait at that green after Kuchar shockingly skulled his straightforward bunker shot past the green, and then I watched the group ahead (Kevin Na, Pat Perez and Daniel Summerhays) play No. 6. Then No. 7. And there was barely a sign of the final group.
I couldn’t help it. I whipped out the phone and Tweeted through @golflikeurpoor:
“No. 7 green @tpcsanantonio has been open at least 15 minutes, and that group had Kevin Na. I’m slow like this @AlamoCityGolf I lose a stroke.”
That’s my personal observation. If you want more on slow play, go to Twitter; there’s plenty out there, like this: On Sunday it was suggested that title sponsors, like Valero, have power, and that these sponsors should go to the PGA Tour and demand a fix for slow play because it’s embarrassing and bad for golf.
Sponsors don’t dictate pin positions, they don’t dictate where the tees are placed, and they aren’t God; they don’t dictate wind. Maybe they can make suggestions — on two out of the three.
As to the difficulty of the course, Valero CEO Joe Gorder has suggested more work will be done to soften the course, particularly in the area of cleaning up native areas.
The PGA Tour will not address slow play, I’m thinking, until the title sponsors vote with their feet and the Tour goes a year or so without being able to replace them in more than a troublesome tournament or two. The title sponsors will find other places to spend their promotional budget when attendance goes down, when TV ratings go down (the Valero Texas Open for Sunday will go down because Phil Mickelson withdrew the day before and the Final Four spots were on the line on CBS/TNT) and fewer dollars are generated for charity (now, I’m not chastising here, because the $9 million number for charity generated by Valero and its partners is truly huge, but 10 percent less than last year’s PGA Tour record).
Attendance (or ticket sales) at this year’s event, listening to tournament officials, will be up, even when Mickelson came out before the final round.
So, when it comes to mainstream nationwide image at least, this is a blighted year for the event. As for how the PGA Tour executives look at it, Tour chief operating officer Andy Pazder said “we at the Tour need to make sure the Valero Texas Open remains on an upward trend. All of the elements are in place for it to get better.”
Ultimately, it depends upon the players to show up, particularly the marquee names. Wonder if they will, after hearing everything on Sunday.