JERSEY CITY – “Hey DeChambeau! While We’re Young?”
The PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup Playoffs teed-off this week and continue through the weekend in northern New Jersey, yards away from the Statue of Liberty, herself, which is housed in New York Harbor. The top 125 golfers in the world qualified for the annual FedEx Cup Playoffs and 121 showed up at Liberty National GC to compete in the newly condensed three-week version of the elimination tourney.
Among them were the cream of the PGA Tour crop, including defending FedEx Cup champions like England’s Justin Rose, Americans Justin Thomas, Tiger Woods (he withdrew) and Brooks Koepka and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIroy, a true ambassador of the game as the 2016 PGA Tour Fed Ex Cup champion.
Earlier this week, a number of the PGA Tour pros were grilled by the media as they played their practice rounds and in the Northern Trust tournament’s Pro-Am. All of the top players made themselves available to the assembled press, McIlroy stood out, providing a good 23 minutes of his time on a range of topics/subjects/questions.
The pace of play rose to the top of the media leaderboard of “quiz-dom”. Of late and case-in-point, players like Bryson DeChambeau have been called out by fellow touring pros for excessively slow play.
The exact question, posed by The New York Times was: “If the powers that be are not going to penalize slow play, what can you – as players – do? Do you have to all be more like Brooks (Koepka) and publicly show your displeasure, and frustration? What can you do? Or is it fine to do nothing?
“I don’t think it’s fine to do nothing because it’s genuinely a problem in our game,” said McIlroy without hesitation. “It starts at our level because people try to emulate us. I’ve heard stories of college events and how long they take. There’s no reason why it should take that long. I don’t know what — I’ve sat up here numerous times and said that, you know, it has to be addressed some way.
“For me, I think the guys that are slow are the guys that they get too many chances before they are penalized. So it should be a warning and then a shot. It should be – you’re put on the clock and that is your warning – and then if you get a bad time while on the clock, it’s a shot. That will stamp it out right away.
“I don’t understand why we can’t just implement that. We are not children that need to being told five or six times what to do. Okay, you’re on the clock. Then, okay, I know if I play slowly here, I’m going to get penalized and I think that’s the way forward,” he said.
Could there be a shot clock, like the sport of tennis?
“Yeah, look, Rafa (Nadal) pushes it sometimes to the limit,” said McIlroy. “We don’t need time to recover between shots. We have time while we’re walking to the next one (next shot or hole) and think about what we’re doing.
“I don’t necessarily think introducing a shot clock in golf is the right way to go, but I think giving guys less opportunities to be slow … I think that could be a good start.”
McIlroy feels a responsibility to the game of golf, and he now carries the torch of a veteran golf pro with the knowledge passed along to him by some of the greatest golfers to ever play the game. He has the proof and spoke about leaving the game in a better place and relaying the advice he received to the younger generation of golfers today.
“Yeah, a lot of people reached out to me,” said McIlroy. “Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player … some really cool handwritten notes about being an ambassador for the game and taking that role very seriously. They said, ‘you now have a responsibility to play the game around the world and conduct yourself the way that people are trying to emulate you now.'”
What about Koepka, the most vocal of PGA Tour pros against the slowdown in the game of golf?
“I don’t think anybody likes waiting,” said Koepka. “Especially if you’re going to be sitting on a tee box for 15 minutes to hit your tee shot. I just don’t — I get that you can take a long time for your thought process, but once you’re done thinking about it, just go. What else is there to do? That’s been the problem I have.
“It’s up to the rules officials,” added Koepka of the solutions available to the tour. “What I don’t understand is if I hit in the water, I have to take a penalty stroke. It’s in the rule book. And then you have 40 seconds to hit a shot. That’s in the rule book, too.
“So I don’t want to take a penalty shot,” he noted of the viewpoint from every single player of tour. “I mean, so where — where — that’s in the rule book. They are all in the rule book. So figure it out and penalize somebody.
“I think it’s just gotten out of hand,” said Koepka to the assembled reporters. “It seems now, that there are so many sports psychologists and everybody telling everybody that they can’t hit it until they are ready, that you have to fully process everything. I mean, I take 15 seconds and go, and I’ve done all right. So I don’t understand what — they are taking a minute and a half.
“It’s just frustrating as a player when you’re out there. Sometimes they might be trying to decide what club to hit. Well, you’ve had a day to think about it, and it’s pretty clear what the tee shot is.
“I mean, I just don’t get — a lot of times it’s on the simpler shots. The difficult ones, you already know what to do with it, but it’s the simpler ones where guys seem to take their time.”
Says Tiger Woods (as he met with media at Liberty National): “We’ve had guys – I’m not going to mention any names here, OK? – But, we’ve had guys that have played with slow players, that will play slow on purpose to put them on the clock, so the group will play fast. “They want to play fast. And that’s their version of combatting slow play is they will play even slower.
“We can only go as fast as the group in front of us goes,” Woods said. “It’s important that the first group goes out and sets the pace, because as you know, the times get slower as you go on, and if the first group goes out slow or has rulings, hits the ball bad, it just logjams everyone behind them.”
So, it’s the ultimate “While We’re Young,” topic, isn’t it? Look for stricter rules compliance in the 2019-20 PGA Tour season and offseason. One stroke penalties to come.
HERE NOW, THE NOTES – The New York state board responsible for economic development has approved a $1.3 billion project to build 19,000-seat arena that will be the new home of the New York Islanders as well as a 350,000-square-foot entertainment complex, according to a report by Newsday. … On Thursday, the six-member Empire State Development board unanimously voted for the project proposal by New York Arena Partners, which also includes a 250-room hotel and 43 acres of parking on vacant, state-owned property at Belmont Park on Long Island. … “We are proud of the open, public process this project has gone through over the last two years, strengthened by the input and support of community members who made their voices heard and helped improve the plan, resulting in today’s positive outcome,” said ESD board chairman Howard Zemsky in a statement following the vote. … “We are committed to continuing to work with New York Arena Partners, community members, and local leaders to deliver on the thousands of jobs and billions in economic activity this project will create.” … The report also estimates the new Islanders arena is expected to cost $955 million and is anticipated to open in the fall of 2021, ending a decade-long search by the Islanders for a new arena. … Last year, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo brokered a deal for the Islanders to split games between Barclays Center and the Nassau Coliseum while they await the opening of the Belmont arena. Cuomo announced plans for the arena project in December 2017. … The project is still subject to an environmental review by the state Franchise Oversight Board. … Is this heaven? The New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox will find out when they play at the fabled Field of Dreams in Iowa next season. … A temporary 8,000-seat ballpark will be constructed for the Aug. 13, 2020 contest at the site where the 1989 movie starring Kevin Costner was filmed. … “As a sport that is proud of its history linking generations, Major League Baseball is excited to bring a regular-season game to the site of Field of Dreams,” commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement Thursday. “We look forward to celebrating the movie’s enduring message of how baseball brings people together at this special cornfield in Iowa.” … Construction at the site in Dyersville, Iowa, will begin Tuesday, one year before the game is played. Dimensions of the facility were not announced. … The Thursday game will be considered a White Sox home date, with both teams off Friday before resuming their three-game series in Chicago on Saturday. … Nominated for three Academy Awards, including best picture, “Field of Dreams” told the story of Ray Kinsella (played by Costner) interacting with “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and other players who were banned from baseball in the 1919 Black Sox scandal. … Former New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi has been selected to lead the United States team as it attempts to qualify for a spot in the 2020 Olympics. … Baseball will be an Olympic sport for the first time since 2008 next summer in Tokyo. … USA Baseball chose him to manage the team in the World Baseball Softball Confederation Premier12 in November. Two teams from among the 12 participants — the top finisher from the Americas and the top from the Asia/Oceania region — will join host Japan as the first entrants in the Olympic field. … If the U.S. doesn’t win the Americas region, it will have a second chance at an Americas tournament in February. … “It is truly an honor to be named the manager for the USA Baseball Premier12 Team,” said Girardi, 54. “I was fortunate to wear this very special jersey as a player on the national team in 1985 and it is a privilege to be chosen to wear it once again as a manager.” … Girardi made it to the final round of tryouts for the 1984 Olympic team, when baseball was still an Olympics demonstration sport. Japan beat the United States 6-3 in the tournament final at Dodger Stadium. … Members of that U.S. team included Will Clark, Barry Larkin and Mark McGwire. “I made it to the final cut,” Girardi told MLB.com. “B.J. Surhoff wound up being the starting catcher. That was a wise choice on their part. I still remember seeing all those great players there. I was disappointed that I didn’t make the team, but I understood.” … Should the United States qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Games, Girardi is not guaranteed to be the manager. … Girardi served as a major league manager for 11 seasons, leading the Florida Marlins (2006) and the New York Yankees (2008-17) to a cumulative record of 988-794 (.554). The Yankees won the 2009 World Series. … The team Girardi manages this fall is expected to be comprised of minor leaguers, as will the 2020 Olympic team. No players who are on MLB 40-man rosters are eligible for the Premier12 tournament, according to USA Baseball gone Yankees. … Speaking of the Yanks, confusion over a since-returned stolen vehicle resulted in New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman being forced from a vehicle at gunpoint by police in Connecticut on Friday. … Cashman told the New York Post that he was in his Jeep Wrangler when as many as nine Connecticut police officers stopped him while pulling out of a gas station. … The vehicle had been stolen in Norwalk, Conn., last week and since returned after being abandoned in the Bronx, but police in New York City hadn’t removed it from the stolen-car database. … “They’re clearly very professional and trained and they asked me to turn my car off, exit the vehicle, walk backwards towards them … they were executing their duty,” Cashman said of the experience. … Cashman was driving the vehicle to Norwalk so it could be processed for evidence in the investigation into the original theft. He says Westchester police had called him prior to being stopped to warn him that the vehicle had been spotted and flagged as stolen. … The officers who pulled Cashman over escorted him to the Norwalk police department after the ordeal to avoid any further confusion.
Digital Sports Desk posts a once-a-week Sunday Notes column, entitled: “While We’re Young Ideas.” It’s a throwback of sorts to the days when sportswriting and the baseball beat were the best jobs in the entire sports industry, maybe the entire world. One of those sportswriters was named Dick Young and he wrote “Young Ideas” with a “Diamond Dust” section for notes and quotes. … We welcome feedback and suggestions (psst, they call ’em pitches) for mentions within “While We’re Young Ideas” or Digital Sports Desk. Please follow and encourage (at least) another person or two to plug into (@DigSportsDesk) (@WhileYoungIdeas) and (@terrylyons).
Field Level Media, GraceNote and Digital Sports Desk staff reporting contributed to this column.