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Saturday, August 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports

A Grip on Sports: Slowly and unsurely, the PGA is having to deal with a glacial-play problem

Brooks Koepka waves to the crowd as he leaves the 18th green after winning the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational Sunday, July 28, 2019, in Memphis, Tenn. (Mark Humphrey / Associated Press)
Brooks Koepka waves to the crowd as he leaves the 18th green after winning the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational Sunday, July 28, 2019, in Memphis, Tenn. (Mark Humphrey / Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Yesterday would have been a perfect day for the NFL to open its season. At least in Spokane. It was raining so hard at my house, there was no way to get anything outdoors done. So a couple hours in front of the TV set watching grown men try to knock each other into next week would have been perfect. Instead I had to settle for watching grown men fume and fuss over a golf ball.

•••••••

• I’ve liked Brooks Koepka ever since he emerged on the PGA Tour. After all, he’s a former baseball player, like me, and what looks to be a current weightlifter.

Hey, being 50-percent alike isn’t bad.

There is another thing Koepka and I agree upon: slow play is killing golf.

In the knock-it-around-for-fun ranks, there is no reason to play slowly. Nothing really too important is riding on those 8-foot putts, so there is no reason to take four minutes reading each break. Especially when you are going to leave it 18-inches short.

Wait, you say you are playing for big bucks? With that swing? Sorry, I don’t buy it. Do your freaking prep while you are waiting your turn, grab a club, hit the darn ball and move on. It isn’t brain surgery and Hangman isn’t an operating room.

The PGA Tour is a different animal. Some guys, like Koepka, like to play fast. It’s all about rhythm and tempo. Standing around just isn't part of their mentality. When forced to, they react. And that’s the newest problem the Tour must confront.

Koepka, and others, are of the mind some slow players play that way on purpose. They feel it is a deliberate attempt to knock their playing partner off their game, which goes against the very nature of the game.

The most recent example of this, and one that led to a discussion yesterday, was video of Bryson DeChambeau playing Saturday at a pace that can only be described as glacial – before global warming.

The two, Koepka and DeChambeau, spoke before yesterday’s final round of the Northern Trust Open, won by Patrick Reed in a late comeback. Social media was aware of the meeting and probably hoped there would be a more WWE-like confrontation. Instead, the two talked liked adults. The audacity.

But unless the Tour gets a handle on this, sooner or later someone is going to blow up. Though watching two professionals screaming at each other on the 14th tee may help ratings, it won’t do golf’s image much good.

The problem is the Tour’s rules concerning slow play are antiquated and hard to enforce. A group, not an individual, has to get so far out of place before anything happens as to be almost impossible to enforce.

There has to be a way, through technology or some other means, to figure out if one player is taking five minutes over every shot when he could hit, and give them a quick push – and then a penalty stroke. That would speed up the game quickly.

Under the rules now, the only recourse a player has if he’s partnered with a J.B. Holmes or a Kevin Na, is to slow down even more, so much so the group is put on the clock. In the long run that will force the player who likes to play deliberately to speed up.

But it’s really not a solution.

After Sunday’s social media ridicule, there is a sense the Tour will have to respond. It is on the radar of younger fans, the ones that will be watching for the next 30 years. It almost seems as if the issue is outshining the play, which isn’t good. But the answer is elusive.

And one that’s going to take time to find. A really long, slow time. Almost as much time as Bryson De … oh heck, that’s too easy a joke. Let’s move on

•••

WSU: With 12 teams in the Pac-12 and only a nine-game conference schedule, every school misses two conference foes each season. That means you may miss some of the league’s better players as well. Theo Lawson likes to examine whom the Cougars miss each year. Today is that day. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, Washington is trying to decide on its lead running back, or if it needs one. … Oregon is doing the same. … So is Utah. … There are more defensive backs that can play this year for Oregon State. … Colorado has welcomed a grad transfer from SMU. … UCLA has sped up at every position this year, which should help the Bruins play faster. … There is more to being an Arizona State tight end than just catching passes.

Gonzaga: A former GU pitcher is trying to climb the ladder for Houston.

Indians: One way to pretty much ensure victory is collect more than 20 hits and score 17 runs. That was Spokane's formula in Boise last night. … Elsewhere in the Northwest League, Eugene won in the bottom of the ninth and a Mariner pitcher threw a rehab inning for Everett.

Seahawks: The Hawks have had a dozen practices. That’s enough. Pete Carroll is now fired up. Watch out Minnesota. … J.T. Barrett may actually have a shot with Seattle.

Mariners: Another game against the Rays, another loss. This one was 1-0 and a former M’s prospect was on the mound for Tampa Bay.

•••       

• A few weeks ago my wife Kim mentioned to our son she might want to try pickleball. A former high school tennis player, she hasn’t been on the courts for years, and didn’t feel she was ready for that commitment just yet. But pickleball, that looked fun. I overheard the conversation and filed it away. Last week I found a ruby red pickleball racket on the Interweb, bought it (along with another one for me and all the accouterments), had it wrapped up and delivered with a card. After agreeing the new car was our anniversary gift to each other, she was a bit ticked I had bought her another gift – until she opened the bag. Now she’s trying to figure out how I knew. I told her she talks in her sleep. You have to keep a little mystery in a marriage, right, even after 40 years? By the way, there is a downside. I’ll have to try to move this over-the-hill body around the court too. Until later …

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