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Slow play continues to be an issue on tour

If history repeats at this week's Memorial Tournament, the delays more likely will come from low-pressure weather systems than high-pressure golf. But not necessarily.

Here's one thing your average foursome of amateurs at the local club has in common with the PGA Tour players: Slow play.

It remains a problem on the PGA Tour, where five-hour rounds have become normal. At this year's BellSouth Classic at Sugarloaf, for example, rounds approached six hours.

Jay Haas played in the Senior PGA Championship last week and found the pace swifter than typical on the PGA Tour.

"I think we were wanting to get back to the gaming tables or something," he said. "I was a little surprised. We played 'lift, clean and place,' and that usually slows down things a little bit, but we were 4 1/2 hours, and that was walking, too."

Even the LPGA is cracking down more than the PGA Tour on slow play, imposing two-stroke penalties. Steve Flesch, who won at Colonial two weeks ago, thinks something has to be done.

"Even though they might say the numbers are faster, it's not getting any better," Flesch said. "Guys are not speeding up. I think the final group [last week at Memphis] was a hole and a half behind when I was watching the final telecast. . . . I think it's a big problem on our Tour."

Flesch said he plays at a faster pace during friendly rounds at home. Green speed is a lot of the problem, he admitted, but there's nothing logical about playing "in four hours with your buddies who can't break 80" and bogging down with "three professionals who are supposed to shoot par or better."

Not everyone feels as strongly. But maybe everyone's getting used to it.

"We're not speed demons, but I think we're doing the best we can," Billy Andrade said. "You just can't let that stuff bother you. It can only hurt you in the long run."

The PGA Tour's pace of play policy, which was toughened prior to the 2003 season, generally allows 40 seconds to play a stroke. There is no penalty for the first "being out of position" offense. The second offense is a stroke penalty. The third is another two strokes. The fourth is disqualification.

But typically a group is put on the clock and speeds up, making players such as Flesch wonder why they were not playing at the proper pace all along. Flesch said he has slowed down purposely with his partners to try to get the group on the clock to force a speed-up. Fortunately, it hasn't backfired.

Flesch would like to see the penalties rewritten. Instead of a second bad timing during a calendar year drawing a fine of $5,000, make it a stroke added to the scorecard immediately.

"I don't think money is going to be an issue unless you start fining a shot [penalty]," Flesch said. "One shot at the end of a tournament means a lot."

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