Let’s face it, golf can be slow. At times, it moves along with about as much brisk, surging impetus as Grandpa Broon hirpling to the boolin’ club with his sair bunions.

I don’t know if you managed to cling on for the conclusion of the WGC Matchplay the other night, but if you did, then congratulations. You have demonstrated the kind of jaw-jutting, gritty stoicism that got Ranulph Fiennes through some of his more eye-popping feats of endurance.

I’m sure if you’d plonked the bold Ranulph in front of the semi-finals involving Matt Kuchar, Scottie Scheffler, Billy Horschel and Victor Perez, he probably would’ve needed great fistfuls of Kendal Mintcake to sustain him.

It was an exhausting Sunday. And that was a shame, because up until the whole thing petered out amid yawns, sighs and spluttering harrumphing, there had been some thrilling, captivating stuff to keep us all royally entertained over the first four days. Matchplay golf usually stirs the senses and grabs the attention.

The drawn out, tiresome conclusion, however, made the salvage operation to dunt that massive ship out of the Suez Canal look like a hasty three-point birl in your car when you realise you’ve left the iron on back at the house.

Poor Ewen Murray, the voice of golf on Sky television, tried his best to keep affairs going but, at times, it must have been broadly equivalent to commentating on the 100 Years’ War such was the staggering passing of time. 

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The Scot was even moved to offer an apology on social media to those tuning in and, presumably, out after the final between Scheffler and Horschel. “It must have been a hard watch for you,” said Murray, who was joined in the chorus of withering criticism by the likes of Colin Montgomerie and Catriona Matthew. “For that I’m sorry.”

There was a point when the deliberations, procrastinations and pre-shot dilly-dallyings led to so little happening, some frowning, grumbling viewers probably got up from theirs seat to give the TV a good old fashioned thump on its side in a vain effort to get things moving.

Along with death, taxes and a landslide at the Rest and Be Thankful, another of life’s great certainties is a debate about slow play. Indeed, one of the only things more boring than slow play itself is us lot banging on about slow play.

Rather like an annoying stone in your shoe, the pace of play issue does not go away. Yes, you can shake and shoogle that metaphorical stone into a little nook of your footwear for a temporary reprieve but, pretty soon, the annoyance will be back again. 

We seem to be going round in very slow circles. For all the talk of the authorities taking a robust stance, nothing, particularly on the PGA Tour, gets done and players continue to take liberties with their timings. It’s been a long-standing golfing pandemic and there doesn’t seem to be much urgency to dole out a vaccine.


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Of course, when you’ve only got a couple of matches in action, as was the case at the weekend, then the slow play issue is highlighted even more, purely because there’s not much else you can focus on. Yes, it was windy, yes, it was a mentally and physically draining format if you go all the way and yes, the stakes were high with world ranking points, Ryder Cup points and a vast first prize on offer. 

But, cor blimey, the amount of dithering did the game no favours at all and, not for the first time, we are all focussing in on the negatives. It prompted the kind of dodgy publicity even Boris Johnson would squirm at.

The players involved on the final day must have knew the course like the back of their hands, having played three group games, a last-16 tie and a quarter-final to get there, but they still looked like they were approaching it for the first time with muttering, concerned analysis and constant reassurances required from their caddies.

Throw in the dreaded green-reading books to add more layers of pondering on the putting surfaces and it was a bit like watching a diligent, chin-stroking John Bartholomew conducting a cartographic survey. By the end of a scrappy final, the trophy presented at the prize-giving ceremony just about had cobwebs on its plinth. “I feel sorry for the fans watching the coverage because they didn't see any great golf shots or very few of them at that,” said Horschel of a largely attritional trudge.

Golf was never meant to be played at the tempo of a whirling dervish, even if the swings of bountiful club golfers resemble one. A few leisurely hours on the course is a blissful escape from the modern world’s fevered clamour for instant gratification.

The various struggles, however, to capture a younger audience has been rooted, ultimately, in the perception that golf takes up too much of people’s time.

The trickle-down effect of doing what the pros do can be detrimental to the game. On a commercial level, meanwhile, hour upon hour spent watching golfers embroil themselves in prolonged, pre-shot routines that need to be carbon-dated may finally hit home with some television executive. 

As Sunday proved, the danger is that people simply switch off.