Time to celebrate Jason Days talent not blame him for golfs ills | Ewan Murray
If the authorities are determined to curb slow play, picking on the world No1 while ignoring others who are renowned for their lack of urgency makes no sense
It is the subject guaranteed to send even mild-mannered golfing observers into a state of frenzy. Piece the words slow and play together before watching sparks fly; it can really be great fun. The only thing more consistent than slow play is the regularity with which people prattle on about it.
The fact remains, one of the key elements that harms the games appeal is pace of play. It is unquestionable that time taken for a round offers a cause for people not to bother. Part of that, it has to be said, is societal rather than specific; everything is done quicker or has to be seen to be done quicker than ever before. The flip side? Hours spent on a course can be highly relaxing.
Step forward Jason Day, for whom sprinting when at work has never been a viable option. The Australian, the world No1 no less, used pre-tournament media duties in Hawaii on Tuesday to insist the fear of upsetting others by not playing quickly enough was detrimental to his progress during 2016.
There were a couple things that I didnt do as well the second half in the season, he said. I wasnt as deliberate going into a shot. Gathering the information, I wasnt asdeliberate.
What followed drew inevitable cross-reference to Rory McIlroys explosive comments relating to Olympic participation. It also centred socialmedia rage around Day. I cared about, you know, obviously everyone wants to speed up the game, the Australian added. Thats a big subject, to speed up the game.
I dont care so much about speeding up my game. Ive got to get back to what makes me good. If that means I have to back off five times, then Im going to back off five times before I have to hit the shot.
For recreational golf, I understand. But for golfers that are trying to win and that one shot that could take you out of a play-off, thats important, and you need to make sure that you get everything correct. Were driven by results; we want to be the best and we want to do everything but the average Joe just doesnt get it.
That was just one of the things I wasnt as deliberate that I should have been and thats what Ive got to try and do a lot more, be a little bit more deliberate going into a shot and make sure I do everything correctly.
The Day stigma itself is curious. For all there is no doubt he is deliberate to the point of slow at times, others apply the same approach without anything like the associated drama. Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garca spring immediately to mind. When Stenson railed against an over-zealous referee whom, the Swede believed, cost him the 2015 Arnold Palmer Invitational there was little in the way of comeback. I thought we were here to play golf, not finish at 6pm, Stenson said. Others are deliberately slow depending on circumstances.
The notion that Day must be wildly castigated for his sentiment is unfair and on quite a number of levels. Day, like McIlroy, will advance the sport by winning marquee tournaments. When the 29-year-old annihilated the field at the Players Championship in May last year, nobody seriously insisted that shot time meant an asterisk be applied.
He is perfectly correct to point out the huge stakes being played for by a collection of players who are separated by very little at the summit of the game. They are doing this on courses that are brutally tough and require trickery because of how far equipment has advanced distance.
For Day to recognise what had propelled him to the top of his sport in the first place is also reasonable. He did this within the rules; if the PGATour has no inclination to punish Day for what others regard as excessively slow play, why should he feel the need to changeapproach?
The controversial element relates to Days average Joe analogy. Again, though, it actually has merit. If a 55-year-old, 12handicap amateur playing for sweep money or less in a club medal believes an exaggerated preshot routine and round of five hours is perfectly fine on the basis it applies to Jason Day, the problem is nothing to do with the former USPGA champion.
Amateur footballers dont follow the diet or training regime of Lionel Messi. Club tennis players dont participate in the length of warm-up or warmdown session like Andy Murray, just as they dont pack in work for a month of warm-weather training. Elite sport is different, common sense tells us that much.
Days goal for 2017 involves approaching the peak he probably scaled too early last year. Injury, so often a Day bedfellow, was significant as he could not make serious impact at the majors, a second at the USPGA aside.
If Day feels returning to earlier style should be the foundation to his pursuits, who are we to argue? Suddenly holding the top-ranked player on the planet to account for the sports ills is woeful exaggeration.