Tony spoke to former Reuters golf correspondent Tony Jimenez about the thorny issue of slow play:
“My view on slow play is no different to what it was 40 years ago. You get golfers out there on the circuit who are more selfish than others, who don’t necessarily see things the way others do. For those guys it’s generally a case of ‘me, me, me’, and more often than not these people are non-conformists, they tend to stand out.
But in a field of 150 or so players, you’re not going to get more than five or 10 non-conformists. I think the modern way of putting guys on the clock and threatening them with fines is a bit of an over-reaction.
If a player is slow, it should be down to an official to seek him out, tell him that some of the other players have let it be known he’s slowing things down, and in the final analysis asking him to get a move on.
To my mind that sort of approach would be better than fines and putting people on the clock. The focus of attention should be tournament golf. That’s what we want. We want a great champion every week and not endless bickering about slow play.
There were also notoriously slow players back in my day who were never ready until they got to the ball and were almost immune to what the others were doing. They operated in their own bubble.
You shouldn’t have to put a 40-second limit on guys, or have timing clocks like they do for athletes. That just makes things more complicated.
People used to tell me Jack Nicklaus and Bernhard Langer were slow but, to me, they never wasted time. They always walked fast and were ready to play when they got to the ball. That’s the difference.
Most players use books as a reference these days but I think that practice should be eliminated. Why on earth do you need a book to read the greens? You’ve got your eyeballs for that, surely.
You could say the same for some of the fancy clubs they use now. Seve Ballesteros always used a 56-degree wedge. Someone once said to him, ‘why don’t you get more loft on it?’. Seve replied simply, ‘I’ve got my hands’.
As far as slow play is concerned, I think common sense should prevail although someone once pointed out to me that of all the senses, common sense is the least common.
I told Paul Azinger that once and he made me repeat it three or four times, he was that taken by the phrase. People do dumb things because they don’t use common sense a lot of the time.
In a golf tournament, common sense is watching what everyone else is doing and basically doing the same. It’s a selfish thing if you’re taking more time than others.
When I was on the tour, you knew if you were due to play with someone slow that you were in for a tough day.
It was a bit like being drawn alongside Lee Trevino. You couldn’t ask Lee not to talk, for example. I said that to him once and he replied, ‘Ok then, don’t talk, just listen’. But I knew I was always in for an ear-bashing from him.
You learn to accommodate other players as long as they give you your own time and space. There’s generally mutual respect with your playing partners. As long as that happens, you’re fine.
I remember once playing with JC Snead, who could be a bit difficult at times. He stood too close while I was putting. He was in my space about six feet away. I just said, ‘JC, come on, give me a break here’.
I played with Tommy Bolt at Fort Worth in Texas on another occasion. The third player in our group was Homero Blancas. Tommy used to get mad from time to time and storm off but Homero told him, ‘Don’t walk off the course today, be nice’.
Tommy replied, ‘Son, I’m going to tell you something. You can’t play this game if your ass is red and if my ass gets red I’m walking off’.
That sort of thing is the same as slow play and, when all said and done, tournament golf should be about mutual respect and goodwill between the players.’