‘It needs to be penalised’: Scourge of slow play clouds golf again
As thousands of golfers returned to courses across England on Monday, a familiar row erupted amid the fallout to Sunday’s painfully slow WGC Dell Match Play conclusion. In the third consecutive all-American final, Billy Horschel recovered from an early deficit to beat Scottie Scheffler 2&1 at Austin Country Club and secure first prize of £1.3 million. Horschel had earlier beaten France’s Victor Perez 3&2 in the semi-finals before Scheffler beat Matt Kuchar by one hole in a match which took four hours and eight minutes to complete in windy conditions. Colin Montgomerie led a chorus of criticism for what he deemed a “ridiculous” pace of play. “No one in front of them. Green reading books, lining up the lines on the ball. Really annoying me. And Matchplay is the fastest form of golf. Something has to be done,” he wrote on social media. In response to an image of both players and their caddies consulting their yardage books, Montgomerie added: “All four have their yardage books out. They’ve played the hole with practice nine times this week. Stood there for two minutes doing nothing! Slow play needs to be penalised.” Former Women’s Open champion Catriona Matthew also called the slow play “pathetic”. Closer to home, golfers throughout England celebrated the return of golf after three months of lockdown. Morley Hayes Golf course in Derbyshire opened at one minute past midnight, with players using neon golf balls for a seven-hole charity tournament to allow the action to resume immediately under the cover of darkness. Andrew Allsop, Morley Hayes Golf managing director, said: “It filled instantly, there was so much interest because I don’t think there are any places in England that do night golf and we obviously want to try and get in the records that we’re the first ones to reopen on March 29. “I think the buzz has been made even buzzier because it’s such great weather forecast this week. All the fair-weather golfers, everyone’s out and the tees booked from Monday morning first light, 6.30am, right through. It’s like that all week.” However, joy was not uniform across the country’s courses with Llanymynech Golf Club choosing not to open after it was unable to welcome more than 250 members due to a bizarre discrepancy between coronavirus regulations in England and Wales. The club, located five miles south of Oswestry, has 15 holes located in Wales and three in England. Welsh members of the club have been given permission to cross into England, but the rules have not been relaxed the other way, meaning English members are unable to travel into Wales. That left golfers who live just a matter of metres from the course’s entrance unable to resume playing on Monday despite the support of their local MP for North Shropshire, Owen Paterson.