May 16, 2012
Time is up for Na, PGA Tour
By TIM McKAY, QMI Agency
The worst thing about the curious case of Kevin Na wasn't the continuous "whole waggle, no waggle thing" (as he called it), wasn't the taunting and teasing from an impatient crowd, but the apparent indifference of the PGA Tour.
Yes, it was painful to watch and, yes, the fans went over the top with their abuse, but Na bore the brunt of a problem that has plagued the PGA Tour for a long time, with the commissioner paying it only lip service.
Before the Players Championship, commissioner Tim Finchem addressed the issue of slow play by basically saying it has been going on for years and there was not much the tour could do about it.
"As long as I've been in the game, this has been a constant discussion," Finchem said before Na even teed up his first ball Thursday. "There really isn't any difference."
Yes, the issue has been around forever but so, too, has the PGA Tour's lack of real response, refusing to enforce its own rules effectively.
Players who are put on the clock are fined $20,000 if it happens 10 times during a season, but that's a drop in the bucket to guys playing for millions. That would be like the NHL saying it wants to get rid of headshots, but just fining guys for it.
The PGA officials can dole out one-stroke penalties if a player on the clock violates the time twice in a round, but it never comes to that and Finchem hinted it may be too punitive, anyway.
"I actually think we might want to experiment with penalty shots," he said. "But I don't think penalty shots make a difference to be honest."
Clearly, the fines are not making a difference now, so some stroke penalties might be more of a deterrent.
Na's stuttering stops and starts made for bad television and it didn't reflect well on the tour. Luckily it doesn't happen too often but, when it does, it needs to be addressed.
Keegan Bradley defended Na this week and he certainly should know something about coming under fire for a bizarre, if not annoying, pre-shot routine.
Bradley was under pressure at the Northern Trust Open early in the year and his routine consisted of approaching the ball, backing off and spitting constantly. The day after the tournament he apologized via Twitter and now he's saying he knows how Na must feel.
"I think that Kevin handled it well," Bradley said. "I mean, you know, it seemed like he was struggling against himself a little bit out there, but, you know, I give him credit for coming forward and talking about it and I sympathize with him. It's a touchy subject because you don't want to affect the other players in your group.
"I feel bad for him for some of the criticism he has gotten, because he's a good guy. I think he realizes he has a problem and he's addressing it, which is all you can do."
Still, Bradley says the PGA Tour should do something about slow play.
"I feel like if it gets bad, people should be penalized if you're behind," he said. "I have struggled with it a little bit. I have never once been put on the clock on the PGA Tour, so I've never felt that I have affected others, which, if I did, I would be mortified. I think if it's a serious issue maybe they should -- they need to start penalizing or fining, something like that."
GRACE UNDER FIRE
Branden Grace is trying to add a third Volvo to his garage this week.
The 23-year-old South African -- yet another graduate of the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation -- already has won two Volvo-sponsored European Tour events this season and this week's event in Spain also bears the carmaker's name.
"Yeah, a hat trick," Grace said ahead of the Volvo World Match Play. "Definitely the thought has been in my mind, I have had good feelings pretty much every time at a Volvo tournament. It would be awesome getting three Volvos and (I'm) definitely going to aim for that. Definitely going to try to get that at the end of the week."
It isn't going to be easy, though, as Grace's draw includes Brandt Snedeker and Thomas Bjorn.
"Here with the big boys again, it just brings that little bit extra out of you," he said. "That's a big boost for me this week and, like you say, trying to win a third Volvo, it's going to be a tough one but if I come out on top it's going to be awesome."
It's already a dream season for the rookie. His three wins have him in fourth spot on the Euro Tour's Race to Dubai money list.
ON THE TEE
Byron Nelson Championship
TPC Four Seasons Resort (7,166 yards, par 70), Irving, Tex.
Past champion Phil Mickelson (2006) is making his first appearance at the tournament since his defence in 2007. Players champ Matt Kuchar playing again this week. Canadians include Graham DeLaet, Matt McQuillan, Mike Weir, Stephen Ames
Volvo World Match Play Championship
Finca Cortesin Golf Club (7,290 yards, par 72). Casares, Spain.
Ian Poulter looks to defend his title
Sybase Match Play Championship
Hamilton Farm Golf Club (6,553 yards, par 72). Gladstone, N.J.