By Steve Keating
CALGARY (Reuters) – A man with a passion for high-performance sports cars and an admitted need for speed it is hardly a surprise that Darren Clarke has zero tolerance for slow pokes — particularly on the golf course.
No longer living life in the fast lane, Clarke now plays on the Champions Tour, the seniors circuit where the over-50 crowd can stroll into the sunset while earning a six-figure pay check as Wes Short Jr. did on Sunday winning the Shaw Charity Classic.
But while Clarke, who owns 15 Ferraris, is easing into a slower lifestyle the 2011 British Open champion insists golfers need to pick up the pace because those guilty of dawdling are slowly killing the sport.
Pace of play is the number one issue facing golf declared the Northern Irishman taking a break from pouring pints at a popular Calgary Irish pub ahead of the Shaw Classic.
Chris DiMarco termed it an epidemic while Vijay Singh threw his hands up in dismay and shrugged; “You can write about it, you can talk about it and nothing is ever going to be done”.
Clarke is widely recognized as one of golf’s easy going characters but when the discussion turns to slow play the Northern Irishman gets cross.
“Just give them (penalty) shots,” Clarke told Reuters. “The guys that are slow give them shots and then all of a sudden they will figure out a routine where they can hit it within the time limit.
“It will stop in one week if they start giving out penalty shots.
“It is the bad side of our sport and we need to address it.
“The guys that are slow we all know who they are give them shots and they will soon speed up.”
While the Shaw Classic is a charity event there was precious little of it for dawdlers like American Ryder Cup player Bryson DeChambeau, who is the enemy of the clock.
The slow play debate reached critical mass at last month’s Northern Trust when DeChambeau took more than two minutes lining up a putt during the second round.
When a video of a deliberate DeChambeau was posted he was pilloried and ridiculed fans and fellow players on social media.
“Something needs to be done fines are not going to do it,” DiMarco told Reuters. “Shot penalties I think is the only thing that is going to do it, especially on the regular Tour because they are playing for so much money.
“It’s been a problem, an epidemic.”
Under the tour’s current pace-of-play policy, players are “on the clock” when their group falls out of position.
Players are given an allotted time between 40 and 50 seconds to hit a shot. The first bad time results in a warning, while a second bad time in the same round results in a one-stroke penalty.
Only one penalty stroke has been handed out in the last two decades, however, and while fines are more common, it has been argued they are hardly a deterrent to multi-millionaire players.
For Clarke slow play is having a ripple affect on the sport contributing to a decline in interest and participation particularly among the younger generation which has a notoriously short attention span.
“Young kids who are watching golf and want to play golf they copy what the pros,” said Clarke. “All this slow play needs to be dealt with because kids these days the information they want and they get is immediate.
“Try to convince kids to go and spend five hours at the golf course they are just not going to do it.”
(Editing by Christian Radnedge)