Slow play is firmly back on the agenda in golf after JB Holmes caused controversy and uproar in equal measure when taking more than six minutes to play a shot at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines…and going unpunished for it.
Holmes may have been in contention for victory in the PGA TOUR event, but it was the time taken—and subsequent shot choice—that made slow play one of golf’s talking points.
The incident in question came on the 18th hole with Holmes close to securing a place in the playoff. Deciding what to do with his second shot took an age—six minutes and 10 seconds to be precise. In the end, he opted to lay up before playing his third shot into the green, a bizarre choice when you consider it meant he needed to hole out with his approach to be in the play-off.
PGA TOUR rules permit players 40 seconds in which to play their shot. Holmes wasn’t pulled up on his timing for that second shot on the 72nd hole, as the match official should have done. It could even have incurred a two-shot penalty as the most severe punishment.
The delay may have affected playing partner Alex Norén, who needed a birdie to win the tournament. After waiting more than six minutes to play his own shot, the Swede subsequently overshot the green and had to settle for par. He ended up losing the play-off—and played on Monday because there had not been enough light—on the sixth extra hole as Jason Day took victory.
Social media outrage
Holmes’ contemporaries were far from impressed as they tweeted. Luke Donald sarcastically wrote: “Anytime today JB,” and followed it with: “Last group was over a hole behind, we can all blame JB…and yes the player should take responsibility for their pace of play, but if they don’t that’s why we have Tour officials—they needed to step in a while ago IMO.” It was a round of more than six hours for Holmes’ group.
Mark Calcavecchia wrote: “1. JB needs to be fined or better yet given 2 shots. 2. Needs eagle to tie. After all that lays up? Really???. 3. Horrendous sportsmanship to Noren and Palmer. 4. Wow.”
Holmes, who ended up making par on the last and finishing two shots adrift of Day and Noren, has subsequently apologised for the time taken to play his shot. “I didn’t realise how long it was taking,” Holmes told the Golf Channel. “We (Holmes and caddie Brendan Parsons) were just trying to make the best decision to play.”
He added: “If it bothered Alex, he could have said something and he could have hit. If I messed him up, I apologize. He still made a good swing. He smoked it. I don’t understand what the big hoopla is all about. I was just trying to give myself the best chance to win the tournament.”
PGA TOUR star Daniel Berger was one to defend his fellow players and plead that not all golfers are placed into the “slow play” box just because of Holmes’ actions. “Most TOUR players aren’t slow but because of a handful of slow ones we all get a bad rep,” he wrote on Twitter.