Misleading Scottie Scheffler video taps into golf fans’ slow-play rage
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — On this Thursday, like many other Thursdays, people got mad about something on the internet.
In this case, the target of the Twitterati was World No. 2 Scottie Scheffler, who was portrayed taking what seemed to be an unusually long time before hitting a pitch shot on the short par-4 14th.
Thanks to featured-group coverage on ESPN+, viewers got an unobstructed view of Scheffler and playing partners Brooks Koepka and Gary Woodland. Scheffler took a complete tour of the green and the surrounding rough. He paced. He stood. He waited. For stretches of the video it wasn’t clear what, exactly, he was doing. And where there’s ambiguity there’s room for observers to see what they want to see.
As is often the case with online outrage, people got mad about one little thing — this video — because they were ready to get mad about a bigger thing. Slow play is that bigger thing. It drives people crazy on TV because professional golf is, in part, an entertainment product, and watching golfers wait is not entertaining. It also drives us crazy because it reminds us of our own unpleasant weekend battles with slow play.
But the video didn’t tell the full story. For background:
–No. 14 is nearly drivable. But it’s not quite drivable, which means guys wait for a long time on the tee but still take a while to hole out once they get around the green.
-That’s a problem with tricky semi-drivable par-4s; the same problem reared its ugly head at St. Andrews last year.
-The tee for No. 1 borders the tee for No. 14, restricting flow of play.
-The tee for the par-3 15th is close by, too, adding further awkwardness to the dynamic.
-Ryan Fox was among the pros who spoke on the difficulty of the area, calling things “horrendously slow” when he arrived and faced a multi-group wait.
The original video has since racked up 1.9 million views and inspired countless quote-tweets dunking on Scheffler and slow play and seeking to stir up some controversy between Scheffler, Koepka and Woodland. When Scheffler finished his round there’s little chance he knew about the video, but he did address the traffic jam at 14:
“I mean, when you’re hitting your chip shot on 14, too, from short of the green where the tee is on 15, it’s also right behind the pin, and so you can’t be hitting at the same time, and then the guys on 1 and 14 can’t be hitting at the same time.
“It’s just a place where you know you’re going to get a jam, and that’s just from how the place was set up. It is what it is,” he said.
On Thursday night, Scheffler’s caddie Ted Scott took to Twitter to add further context.
“Slow play stinks. No one likes it,” he wrote. “What you don’t realize here is the next group is on the tee literally 45 feet from the pin. So if Scottie hits it tight, it potentially disrupts their shots. It’s courtesy. We couldn’t see them so BK gave SS the signal when it was his turn.”
(Update: Scott has since deleted that tweet.)
Ah! A simple, logical explanation. It never really made sense that he was just shuffling around the green for no reason. Scott confirmed that the group had been waiting for the group behind to hit up, too.
None of this means that slow play isn’t an issue. Nor does it mean that Scheffler played his shot as quickly as he could, nor that he is among the game’s speediest players. But it does mean that Koepka wasn’t yelling at Scheffler, and Woodland wasn’t calling him out for anything. It means that if something on the internet seems particularly weird, maybe there’s not such a simple explanation. And it means that us yelling at Scheffler on Twitter doesn’t actually do anything to address how long rounds are taking. That’s a bigger conversation; maybe it’s one the players can have while waiting to hit their drives at No. 14 on Friday.
They should have time.