The following transcript is from the February 20th, 2019 evening press briefing of the PGA Tour’s newly-appointed Slow Play Czar—a position created earlier this week on Monday morning after the nearly six-hour final round of the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club. More updates on the newly created Office of the Slow Play Czar will be given to the press as they become available.
[The new Czar enters the briefing room in the Club de Golf Chapultepec clubhouse in Mexico City, site of the WGC-Mexico Championship, and approaches the microphone as reporters settle into their seats with notebooks and margaritas in hand — it is 6 p.m. local time, after all …]
Czar: Thank you. Thank you, everyone. Please take a seat. Thank you. I appreciate all of you taking the time to be here for the briefing this evening because I know that slow play is a very important topic to a lot of people. A lot of people. It’s huge! And I cannot begin to overstate that fact. Let me start by thanking commissioner Jay Monahan for creating this position and appointing yours truly to take the reins as we work together in a bipartisan manner to resolve this issue. I also want to thank the player advisors who are with us this evening: Brooks “Fast Lane” Koepka, Dustin “Speedy” Johnson and Bill “Hustle” Haas for agreeing to work as co-chairs of my first committee and for being player representatives for implementation of the exciting new policy we will be discussing here this evening. I should also note that I politely declined Ben Crane’s offer to assist …
I will be presenting the 30,000-foot view of the new policy and how our office will implement and enforce the policy, but we’re not going to drill down too deeply just yet. We have a framework, but the details are fluid right now and subject to change — not unlike the putter of a player struggling with Strokes Gained Putting. Now for the reason we are all here: Slow play is killing the game of golf! I know it, you know it, everybody knows it. If we want to grow the game with juniors and millennials, we must reduce the time it takes to play 18 holes from just above glacial formation to just under four hours. The PGA Tour has finally realized how bad the problem is (thanks to the outpouring of spite and hatred on Twitter after the Genesis Open and the AT&T Pro-Am the week before that) and has appointed me to implement my new system to not only address the issue, but solve it once and for all.
As you know, the European Tour has shot clocks and they seem to be making an impact. We thought about doing the same thing using a cooperative crossover with Rolex, but a recent study showed that most young American viewers cannot read an analog clock face … so we nixed that idea. That said, I don’t want to put a bandage on the gaping, sucking wound that is slow play. I want to heal that wound forever before we have to amputate. So instead of addressing the issue player by player with a shot clock, we are going to drill down to the source of the problem. After that, I hope our peers at the USGA, and the state and local golf associations will allow the “trickle down economics” of saving time to work their magic so that amateurs will reap the benefits of following our lead. If so, soon young players will emulate Rory McIlroy’s pace of play and not—well, some of the slow players—and millennials will find renewed interest in playing actual golf, hopefully catching an Uber to play 18 at their local muni instead of TopGolf, or playing disc golf at the park or, heaven forbid, soccer.
Now for some of the more pertinent details of my solution. My approach utilizes a new methodology I have invented and patented called the TTI Index (or Time To Impact Index). We were originally going to go with Seconds To Impact, however polling showed that the acronym STI caused confusion and HIPPA concerns among some of the younger single players … but I digress. The TTI Index, used in conjunction with my three-prong enforcement approach, will rid the Tour of five- and six-hour rounds within months, increase the enjoyment of viewers, quiet the trolls on Twitter, and allow Nick Faldo and Jim Nantz more quality time with their families at home instead of staying over on Sunday nights to finish events on Monday mornings. As an added bonus, the TTI Index is easier to calculate than Strokes Gained Putting (not to mention easier to understand for the viewers at home) and not nearly as confusing as, say, the NFL’s Passer Rating. Any questions so far? Yes. You there in the front row. Question?
Reporter 1: Who are you and why would the Commissioner appoint you as the Slow Play Czar?
[Awkward pause as reporters shuffle nervously in their seats]
Czar: Next Question. Yes, you there in the fourth row. No, not you. Yes, you. Your question?
Reporter 2: How is the TTI Index calculated and what is your three-pronged enforcement approach?
Czar: Both excellent questions. The TTI—or Time To Impact—Index measures the amount of time it takes a player to actually play a shot. No more ridiculous “guidelines” that are never enforced like 50 seconds for the first player, 40 seconds for the second, and so on. Every player in the field of each event will have an Index and that Index is measured in three separate categories: tee shots, putts and others. The TTI Index for a tee shot measures the time in seconds between the instant the player places the ball on the tee until impact. For putting, the TTI measures the time between placing a marked ball back on the green and stroking the putt. It’s important to note that tap-ins are not used to calculate a player’s TTI because that would artificially skew the Index lower. The Others category includes approach shots to greens, layups on par-5 holes (though most of these guys don’t do that anymore anyway), and pitches, chips, flops, bunker shots, and the occasional shan — sorry. I forgot we’re not supposed to say that word. Are you with me so far? Yes. You have another question?
Reporter 1, again: Back to you being appointed as Czar…
Czar: Good! Moving on! Because the TTI Index is measured in seconds and tenths-of-a-second, the lower a player’s TTI Index, the better — much like the game itself. The TTI for every shot in a round is measured and divided by the number of strokes played in that round — except for tap-in putts. That average for the round is the player’s TTI Index for that round. For a tournament, the four-round average would be used to calculate the player’s tournament TTI Index. Don’t worry. If a player misses the cut, they will still have their two-round TTI Index calculated. We don’t want anyone to miss out on the enforcement phase. That’s when the fun begins. We have a question right here in the front?
Reporter 2: You would have to have an army of people to measure the TTI for every player on every shot. How can the Tour afford that?
Czar: That was an initial stumbling block. We know the Tour has very limited funds and struggles some weeks to even fuel the corporate jet. There have even been times when some of the top officials could only fill the tanks on the jet to ¾ or even … well … fly commercially [the crowd of reporters gasps audibly]. That’s why the first prong is technology. We will use the ShotLink system that’s already in place at every Tour event to measure the TTI of every shot of every player. If we already have a system so advanced that we can tell you Phil Mickelson is 321.8 yards from the tee and 172.3 yards from the pin on a given hole — in real time with cool video game graphics and tracer technology — surely we can connect a stopwatch to it! We just need to make a few upgrades. So, the infrastructure is already there and my 13-year old nephew and his friends tell me they will have it up and running for testing by next Monday, depending on how far they get in the Fortnite tournament this weekend. Yes, you from ESPN in the back with the very large and quite manly beard. Question?
Reporter 3: Can you explain how the TTI index is used to implement your three-pronged enforcement?
Czar: Ah yes! That’s the genius in all of this. After technology, the second and third prongs are money and public shaming. And before you ask about that last one; I know it’s 2019 and we’re all supposed to be “woke” and not shame anyone anymore, but desperate times call for desperate measures! Plus, I think I saw on the news the other day that it’s cool now to shame millionaires …
Bearded Reporter 3: Again, how does this speed up play?
Czar: Another great question, oh bearded one. As I said, the second prong is money. PGA Tour members are essentially contract laborers and like any contractor, the goal is to earn as much money as possible whenever they are working. As the old adage goes, you have to “make hay while the sun shines!” Although there hasn’t been much of that the last two weeks. We will use a player’s TTI Index each week to hit the slowest players where it hurts — in the checkbook! But we will also reward the fastest players by TTI index where it hurts us — in the checkbook! It’s a real carrot and stick approach. If your TTI Index is bad, you get the stick and a fine. If your TTI Index is good, you get a bonus and a carrot-infused smoothie or latte — your choice! The top 25 and ties in best TTI Index each week will receive cash for their fast play. The bottom 25 and ties in worst TTI Index each week will pay a fine to the Office of the Slow Play Czar, which we will in turn use to pay the players on the top of the list. If you’re in the middle, you’re safe—that week. We thought about letting the bottom 25 make a donation to a charity of their choice, but we don’t want to be handing out tax write-offs. We want the fine to hurt like the sting of an old school knit headcover across their sun-burned faces (below the tan line of their caps of course).
Reporter 1 again, while drinking from a carrot-infused latte: How much will the fines and bonuses be?
Czar: We’re still working out the details on that. We want the fines to be enough to encourage players to not want to be in the worst 25, but not so much that they can’t afford their plane ticket to the next Tour stop. Maybe we’ll do it based on a percentage of the purse like we calculate winnings. And as an added incentive not to be on the bottom of the list, that fine must be paid to the Czar before the player will be allowed to play in another Tour event. There is one caveat: if 92.6 percent of every round for the field for the week is below 4 hours and 15 minutes, there will be no penalties or public shaming that week! I mean, I’m not an animal…
Reporter 2: And the public shaming? How will that work?
Czar: Most of you have a pretty good handle on that already. Just ask Matt Kuchar. But to answer your question, we will be listing the worst 25 players and the best 25 players by their TTI Index and the amounts paid in or received each week on the Tour’s website and on the new Slow Play Czar app, available in the Apple Store or Google Play for those of you still clinging to your Android devices. And we’ll encourage player shaming on Twitter and other forms of social media as well as praise for those consistently in the top 25 in TTI Index. Again, we feel the shaming aspect of enforcement will come naturally to most every fan using social media anyway, as evidenced by tweets the past two weeks.
Reporter 3, wiping carrot-infused smoothie from his whiskers: Why do you think this will be different?
Czar: Man, you ask some great questions! First, the old system is gone. Never again will J.B. Holmes be told he’s “on the clock” by a timid Tour official concerned about becoming the focus of his ire and steely gaze. That disrupts play for the other players in the group and why should Matt Every risk being assessed a penalty because he’s paired with Kevin Na? The nagging thought that their TTI Index is quietly being calculated by a bank of IBM laptops in a discrete Tour trailer on the periphery of the clubhouse parking lot will always be in the back of every player’s mind. They will have to put in time on the range to alter their pre-shot routines. Their trainers, sports psychologists, life coaches and shamans will have to realign their thinking to always be mindful of improving their TTI Index. They will not be allowed to ask Roger Maltbie, “How’s my TTI looking, Rog?” when he’s walking with them because no one will know until the weekly numbers are calculated, verified by the accounting firm of Dewey, Cheatham & Howe, and made public on the web site after the final round.
Reporter 1: What role do the television networks play in your new program?
Czar: We don’t expect the networks to put clocks on the screen — they have enough graphics distracting from the actual golf as it is. Back in the day, they would cut off coverage if the final round ran long on a Sunday to be sure viewers didn’t miss the start of “WKRP in Cincinnati” or “Charlie’s Angels.” Now they just shift to another network. We know some of you have become jaded and think that both the Tour and the networks turn a blind eye to slow play because it means more time to sell more commercials, but I stand before you today to say that could not be further from the truth! Now excuse me while we take a 60-second “limited commercial interruption” for a word from our press conference sponsors…
[Press conference pauses for commercials from two sponsors]
Reporter 5: You know this idea sounds crazy, right?
Czar: Am I crazy? Or is this idea SO crazy that it might actually work? If the existing system isn’t being enforced, then why have it? If police don’t enforce the speed limit, then everyone will speed. Wait, bad analogy. This is the opposite of speeding. [Czar turns to Brooks Koepka and pats him on the back]. Brooks here plays fast and he’s won a time or two recently, including three of the last six majors! If more players like Brooks would stand up and say something, it might help. Bu it’s awkward. It’s not their job to police other players, and it makes for a very uncomfortable ride on the Gulfstream back to Juno Beach. The TTI Index is the only fair way to address the problem, because EVERYONE is on the clock on every shot!
Reporter 3: When will this new system be implemented?
Czar: We hope to test it in New Orleans at the Zurich. We think players will be more relaxed there because of the team format — and the Hurricanes from Pat O’ Brien’s. We’ll see how that works and then hopefully do a full roll out after The Masters.
Reporter 4: Will this apply to The Masters?
Czar: You’ll have to ask their Czar. My office only handles sanctioned PGA Tour events and the PGA Championship. Which reminds me: you guys on the Web.com and Champions Tour need to step it up, too. We’re coming for you next. Now I know it’s getting late, or early depending on who you’re going out on the town with tonight … so any more questions? None? Good deal. I have to fly back to Ponte Vedra and clear out my condo before the Realtor comes over to list it and then skedaddle over to Frisco and move my stuff into Jerry Jones’ guesthouse.
Reporter 2: You’re friends with Jerry Jones?
Czar: No, but his guesthouse is so big I’m hoping he doesn’t realize I’m there before I find a house. Thanks again for coming this evening and if you need any more information, you can visit the official Slow Play Czar web site at SlowPlayCzar.com and follow our office Twitter account at @SlowPlayCzar for updates.
[Reporters clamor to their cameras to report the news back to their respective networks as the Czar exists stage left]
* END OF TRANSCRIPT *
You can read the full, unedited transcript of the Slow Play Czar’s press briefing at blog.lipouts.com. Nathan Crace, ASGCA, is a golf course architect, published author, and member of the Golf Writers Association of America. He is the principal of Watermark Golf/Nathan Crace Design and appears in GCI Magazine by special arrangement, including writing the August 2018 cover story, “Hunting for Unicorns.”