AUCHTERARDER, SCOTLAND | The wind was set to get wilder throughout the second day of the Solheim Cup and the referees agreed that they should get tougher – on slow play. Good luck to them with that. With gusts of 40 mph predicted to coincide with the afternoon four-balls, the players may get blown down the odd fairway but they are hardly likely to risk losing whatever rhythm they can muster by cutting down on their pre-shot routines.
“It’s not going to be easy,” said Davide Lantos who, as the head rules official at the Ladies European Tour, is in charge of the rules this week. “All we can do is try our best.”
Since slow play has been in the headlines all year, it would have been a more than a minor miracle had there not been a problem at this year’s Solheim Cup. What was a tad surprising, though, was U.S. captain Juli Inkster’s response when America’s Lizette Salas was given the only warning of the day. This veteran Solheim Cup player took 72 seconds to play her second shot at the 13th when the permitted time for such a shot is 60 seconds. Had she been given another warning at that hole, she would have had to leave things to her playing companion until they teed up at the 14th.
Whilst admitting that play had been “painfully slow,” Inkster was quick to point out that Salas was not the only guilty party and that it wasn’t fair that she was alone in being warmed. “Lizette had a bad time but there were players on the other side doing the same. The Euros speeded up (when they are being timed); they make a living out of that.”
“We are obviously impartial. Whoever goes over the allotted time is going to get warned, there’s no doubt of that.” – Davide Lantos
On the day, Inkster tended to put things down to the difficult conditions. “You look at the golf course and it’s tough. The wind’s blowing; the greens are firm; the ball’s not going anywhere and it’s cold. And out there, every shot counts. That’s just the way it is. I thought the golf that was played today was phenomenal for the conditions.”
Catriona Matthew, Inkster’s opposite number, said she had been running between one match and another and, because of it, had not been in a position to tell who were the main offenders. “Some of the players on both sides do take quite a while to hit a shot but it’s up to the officials to decide how to deal with it. They’re the ones who police the pace of play so it’s really up to them, I think.”
Lantos, who said that several groups had been put on the clock in the morning foursomes, made plain that the system could not have been more fair. “We are obviously impartial. Whoever goes over the allotted time is going to get warned, there’s no doubt of that.”
What Lantos saw as less than fair was that TV and social media should be making such a big thing over the pace of play when there was so much thrilling golf – especially in the last couple of the four-balls. He also doubted whether things would have been any better had the men been playing. (Just in case anyone is in a position to make comparisons, it took the first of the women’s four-balls 2 hours and 57 minutes to complete their first nine holes.)
Asked to pick out a role model for the women when it comes to pace of play, Lantos opted for Dame Laura Davies, a winner of four majors. “Laura is the best example. She takes no more than a couple of seconds before she hits. The latest generation of players could do with studying footage of her at her best. “
Any highlights of such footage would have to include the odd shot of Davies lying flat on her back while waiting for the players in front of her to get a move on. However, the film-makers would perhaps do well to draw the line at incorporating pictures of that day when this great character found time to watch a football game on the miniature TV she had tucked in her bag while winning one of her Evian titles.
Lizette Salas, shown lining up a putt on the 11th green Friday, was warned for slow play on No. 13. Photo: Andrew Redington, WME IMG via Getty Images
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