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Speed Kills!
They're taking the step because the players are becoming so slow that tournaments are beginning to run out of daylight.

Naturally, the Tour members aren't too keen. One journeyman professional remarked: 'That's definitely the wrong way to go. Guys would rather have a chance of warming up in the dark rather then not playing.'

He seems to have missed the point. If they do want to retain the same number of players, isn't the onus on the golfers to speed up? Has he not caught on to the fact that spectators don't want to watch players taking hours and hours to get round. Does he not realise that watching players do nothing is exceptionally boring?

Slow play has always been one of my bugbears. Maybe it's because I once was reprimanded for playing too quickly by an official during a girls' match. But why does everyone want to hang around so long? Have they nothing else to do except play a round of golf?

Covering the women's Tours on both sides of the Atlantic, I am constantly bemoaning the pace of play. It's the fact that the professionals never seem to prepare to hit the shot - even if they have been standing in the fairway waiting for the group ahead - until it is actually their turn.

Watching the men on television, I get the impression they are certainly no better. For instance, how does Sergio Garcia not get done for slow play for all his re-gripping? The pros are only allowed so long over a shot - surely, he must breach the rule.

Nothing against him personally, but Justin Rose was a typical culprit at Loch Lomond. Having waited endlessly on a tee at a short hole, his partner (I think it was Stephen Leaney) eventually hit his shot.

And was young Justin waiting with club in hand? Far from it. He had his arms folded, then discussed things with his caddie before, finally, deciding to draw a club from his bag. Then there was some more chitchat, a couple of practice swings before he finally hit the ball. It becomes so tedious. For goodness sake, folks, get a move on.

An amusing aspect is that if you actually speak to the professionals about the problem, they all agree that play is far too slow. But no-one is ever willing to admit that it is their fault. It's always someone else.

Players are occasionally 'fined' for slow play by being docked a shot, but more must be done. It's a problem that has deemed the sport for years - and yet it seems something that could be improved so easily. Everyone knows who takes ages to hit the shots - the rules officials just need to clamp down far more heavily.

Anyway, I'll be keeping an eye on Muirfield this week, and hoping that the players suddenly find a turn of speed. Mind you, I think it will be a fruitless task.

Meanwhile, it was great to see that Scotland's Mhairi McKay had a tenth top-10 of the season in the Jamie Farr Kroger Classic in Toledo on Sunday.

She is now the leading Briton on the US LPGA money list, having leap-frogged fellow-Scot Janice Moodie into 12th spot. McKay, sixth in the US Open the previous week, fired a best of day final round 65 in the Jamie Farr event won by Australia's Rachel Teske, and has now earned $236,000 this season.

Moodie, the only British winner this season at the Asahi Ryokuken International in Augusta in May, and North Berwick's Catriona Matthew both tied for 22nd in Toledo, and are now lying 13th ($233,500) and 27th ($144,722) respectively.

McKay's recent run of success has pushed her through the $1M barrier in career earnings - a landmark already achieved by Moodie and Matthew - in just her fifth season as a professional.

So if a Scot doesn't manage to win the Open at Murifield this week, then maybe we should all turn our full attention to the women's version - the Weetabix British Open - at Turnberry from August 8-11.

At Sunningdale last year, Moodie and Matthew both came close to becoming the first Scottish winner. They tied for third. I know there will be a lot of pressure on the Scots, but wouldn't it be great if there is a home triumph on the championship's first visit to Scotland? And Mhairi will have a real advantage - Turnberry is where she learned to play the game.

©    19 - JULY 2002

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