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Goosen unlucky in slow play row

That thorny old subject of slow play and how to counteract it in tournament golf resurfaced once again during the Madrid Open.

The issue always seems to rise to the fore whenever a high-profile player is involved and they do not come much higher in Europe than 2001 U.S. Open champion and reigning European number one Retief Goosen.

South African Goosen is back at the top of the European Tour money list this season but on Thursday he suffered the acute embarrassment of incurring a 'bad time' during the Madrid tournament's opening round.

Acute embarrassment because only the day before he had put his friendship with Padraig Harrington on hold by labelling the Irishman as "the slowest player on the European Tour".

Goosen was furious, of course, to be given a slow-play warning of his own and the usually easy-going South African even snapped that he might go somewhere else to play his tournament golf.

But, by the next day, he had calmed down. He even admitted that the sometimes bizarre timing rules were probably even worse on the U.S. PGA Tour, so perhaps he would have to stay where he was.

Incidentally, his only fine to date -- of $1,000 (641.7 pounds) for slow play -- came in the U.S.

But Goosen was surely hard done by last Thursday. His warning came through taking an extra 20 seconds on a shot that could have cost him a double-bogey if he had got it wrong.

Furthermore, he is trying to be number one in Europe for a second successive year with all the attractive bonuses that go with such an honour.

By the time we have counted up after next week's Volvo Masters at Valderrama in Spain, a single shot could mean the difference between him being number one in Europe, or number two or three.

Goosen's group in Madrid also happened to be one and a half holes in front of the players immediately behind them. No prizes for guessing that Harrington was in that trailing group, but neither he nor his playing partners received any time warnings.

Slow play is not to be condoned. Rounds which grind to a halt because of tardiness spoil not only the prospect of success for players but they also mar the game as a spectator sport.

There does have to be some leeway, though, and Goosen is by no means a slow player.

If you are one and a half holes ahead of the group behind, then surely there is no need for an official warning, two of which would constitute a stroke being added to the offending player's score.

England's Lee Westwood was in the same group as Goosen and he also suffered a warning.

What was especially baffling was that Goosen and his playing partners were told they were 21 minutes behind schedule for the first 13 holes before they were put on the clock for their closing five holes.

That surely would have meant Harrington's group was even further behind, bearing in mind they had already lost one and a half holes to Goosen's group.

But perhaps Harrington's group, who were also told they were being monitored, were just that bit craftier in finishing off their respective rounds.

Even more baffling the following day was that Goosen and Westwood finished more than half-an-hour behind the group in front of them, who had played their second rounds virtually at marching pace.

Goosen and Westwood were not slow on that occasion; the threesome in front of them were simply lightning fast in their pace of play!

The events of last week in Madrid did highlight, though, what a moot business the monitoring of slow play in tournament golf can be.

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