Henrik Stenson was less than thrilled with the rules officials after he couldn’t close out the 54-hole lead and ended up finishing second at the Arnold Palmer Invitational — one shot behind the champion, Matt Every.
Stenson, along with his playing partner Morgan Hoffmann, were playing in the final group and put on the clock for most of the day at Bay Hill, starting on no. 6. The Swede felt like it impacted the outcome of the tournament, particularly when they were being timed by rules officials so late in the day.
Stenson, who isn’t the fastest player in the world, three-putted both nos. 15 and 16 and thought that the officials’ decision to put them on the clock directly affected the result.
“We got on the clock on 6 and had to rush it a bit there on 6, 7 and 8,” said Stenson, who shot a final-round, two-under 70. “Still, I had a good chance on 7, tricky putt, missed that one. Good save on 8 and hit a good shot into the green on 9 that just released up the back and Morgan was in some trouble down there on the right. We had to have a ruling and stuff, which normally happens when you’re on the clock.
“Then we lost some more ground. I missed a good chance on 10, made a good birdie at 11, good up-and-down at 12, hit a good shot into 13 that went a little bit past it. Still scrambled for par on that one. The same on 14.
“Really problems kind of started on 15. We got on the clock again, which when you’re coming down the stretch, you want to be able to have five extra seconds not to try and rush your routines and playing.
“So, on the green, I didn’t really have much time to look at my putt and rushed that one a little bit, the first one, and three-putted. Morgan got a bad time on his second shot on 16 and again I kind of rushed my putting on 16 and three-putted that one. That’s what really cost me the tournament — those two three-putts on 15 and 16.
“I was 19-under and with 16 playing fairly short, I hit a lovely shot. But I was in between clubs and close to go with the longer club. You’d rather be five yards past than five yards short. Left a sneaky putt and being on the clock didn’t make it any easier, that’s for sure.
“I’m a bit disappointed with the rules official pushed up that late in the round for no obvious reason and let us go on 17 and I had a decent little chance on 18, but still 20 feet down the hill. I hit a good putt, but didn’t break as much as I thought. Of course, disappointed not to come out on top, but all in all, a good week.”
Those were just Stenson’s opening comments. Then, it was opened up for questions and he was asked if he thought being put on the lock was unfair.
“We were five, six minutes out when they started timing us on 6,” said Stenson. “We made up some ground, but then the ruling on 9, we kind of lost some ground.
“I think when we were on 12 tee box, I still saw the group ahead. We might have been a couple minutes out for sure, but then again, it’s normally not the quickest when you’re playing in the last group — more people, more movement.
“You have to back off every now and then for some mobile phones and stuff like that. You’re not playing the quickest when you’re out in the last couple of groups. I didn’t see the point of the officials influencing potentially the outcome of this tournament towards the end there. It felt like they could have let us go from 15 onwards. It’s not like anyone would have taken too much time on that.
“I kind of made a little gesture towards (the rules official) on 16 after my three-putt.”
Stenson was informed that officials moved the times up 10 more minutes to get the finish closer to 6pm.
“I thought we were here to play golf and not to finish at 6:00,” he said. “I know we have times to take into consideration. If one, two minutes on the broadcast is going to make or break it, then I think we need to have some more leeway with it.”
Interesting enough, Stenson, who was the slower of the twosome, never clocked a bad time.
“I was never warned,” he said. “Morgan was the one who got a bad time or got a warning on 16. I saw that after the second shot. I didn’t get a warning. It’s just that I mean, you want to take your time, but still when someone is sitting there with a stop watch, it still affects you a little bit. Got to me a little bit and obviously I was rushing. I wasn’t in the right frame of mind on a few of those putts and it cost me.”
This reminds me a bit of 2009 at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational when Tiger Woods and Padraig Harrington were put on the clock on the 16th tee. Harrington was obviously flustered and went on to make triple-bogey on that hole. Afterwards, in Woods’ post-win presser, he called out and blasted the rules official for making the call.
So, here’s a question for you, folks — should officials put the last group on the clock in the final round? I’m all for the guys to play faster, but it seems kind of like a moot point when the PGA Tour never actually doles out penalty strokes for slow play.