Little sympathy for slowcoaches

Around the Open
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The Independent Online
The old boys in the people's Royal and Ancient, the St Andrews Golf Club, are not impressed with the professionals' timekeeping on their golf course, and the longest round on the Open's first day - five hours 10 minutes - was the subject of heated 19th-hole debates yesterday.

A frequent comment was: "Ach, ye should be round the Old Course in two and a half hours. It's the same wi' the Yanks aw the time - they pay their pounds 50 and ye canna get them off the place." Just as well these are not the R&A officials who have yet to penalise any of the pros with the ultimate sanction for slow play - disqualification.

The players received a pamphlet from the R&A at the start of the Open, entitled: "Local rules and conditions of competition." As on the European tour, the R&A set a specific time for each hole on the Old Course. But, according to a caddie for one of the leading players, "nobody takes the slightest bit of notice of time - until they put the stop-watch on you, which is hardly ever."

The rules state that once a group has exceeded the time specified and is "out of position", a warning will follow and the stop-watch comes out. A number of players have so far been warned, including the US Open champion, Corey Pavin.

None has received two "bad times", which carries a two-stroke penalty. Three bad times sees a final warning; four bad times bring disqualification.

The R&A are firm but mysterious about the length of time it should take to play the Old Course. Yesterday's five hours 10 minutes for Robertson, Hallberg and Gronberg was described as "not being held up". Other longish games were said to have been affected by the combination greens unique to St Andrews.

But for the old boys no excuses seem acceptable and the spirit of old Tom Morris clearly lives on. As one said: "The pros complain about everything. They say it's windy today. Ach, wi' the money they make there should be a hurricane out there." Indeed.

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