By CHRISTOPHER POWERS
Of professional golf’s many glaring issues, slow play was way down on the list in the early portion of 2019. The focus was squarely on the new Rules of Golf, most notably the new knee-height drop rule, the rule that allows players to putt with the flagstick in and the rule that no longer allows caddies to stand behind their players and line them up. Slow play, like it always has, remained a necessary evil that we all just accepted.
That was until last Sunday at Riviera, where J.B. Holmes’ glacial pace of play was on full display in the final group at the Genesis Open, much like it was a year ago on the 72nd hole at Torrey Pines. To be fair, it was a high-pressure situation and the wind and course conditions certainly played a factor, and Holmes is hardly the only culprit on tour. But the final day at Riviera was particularly brutal, and Holmes’ lack of self-awareness about the matter has made him public enemy No.1 on golf Twitter.
This has naturally led to endless questions about what can be done to combat golf’s pace-of-play problem. Could the US PGA Tour try a shot clock a la the European Tour’s Shot Clock Masters, which drew good reviews in its first edition a year ago? Should the tour start handing out penalties? Should the player take some responsibility and start picking up the pace? All fair questions that probably won’t be answered anytime soon.
Kenny Harms, one of the tour’s veteran caddies who has been on Kevin Na’s bag since 2009, believes that caddies can play a huge role in speeding up their guy. Harms would know this better than anyone, as he was on the bag for Na’s infamous performance at the 2012 Players Championship, when the two-time tour winner struggled to pull the trigger over certain shots. Harms spoke to The Caddie Network this week about slow play, and how he and Na made a conscious effort to improve Na’s pace ever since the debacle at TPC Sawgrass.
“First of all, a player has to want to get quicker,” Harms said. “[Na] wanted to speed up. He said, ‘I can’t have this reputation.’ Nobody wants to sponsor the slowest player on tour.”
Na’s admission is an admirable one, and one that’s not all too surprising. Na spoke at length to Golf.com’s Alan Shipnuck in 2016 about his reputation, and Harms is adamant that he has helped Na change this whole perception. Come to think of it, when’s the last time you saw Na struggle to pull the trigger on television?
“You cannot change someone’s rhythm,” Harms says. “You can’t take a guy who’s deliberate and make him fast. We got his rhythm back to where it was supposed to be. And no more lining up. I give him a target and he goes. If he’s really far off, he might call me in, but otherwise, I tell him where the line is and he goes with it.”
Harms revealed plenty of other ways a caddie can help speed up his player in the full interview with The Caddie Network, which you should definitely go read here. If he found a way to fix Na, he can fix anybody.