How slow is too slow? Na, Garrigus come close to finding out

Kevin Na
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Kevin Na confers with a tour official while surveying his situation on the 13th hole Saturday.
By Mark Aumann

Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Saturday, March 15, 2014 | 9:20 p.m.

Kevin Na and Robert Garrigus were both assessed a "bad time" during Saturday's third round of the Valspar Championship, which once again brought up the whole debate over slow play in championship golf.

In case you're wondering, the United States Golf Association has a "pace of play policy" in which officials can assess a "bad time" to a player in a group which is out of position, if the player makes no effort to help his group get back in position.

Got that?

It all has to do with playing "within the alloted amount of time," and not getting "out of position," under the definitions used by the USGA and the PGA Tour. For example, the USGA policy uses four hours and 35 minutes per round as its cut-off time for threesomes and 3:58 per round for twosomes.

In Saturday's case, once Na and Garrigus fell as much as two holes behind the twosome playing in front of them, they were put on the clock.

VALSPAR CHAMPIONSHIP: Robert Garrigus shoots third-round 70, leads by one stroke

Na received a bad time on the 13th tee and Garrigus, known as one of the fastest players on tour, ran afoul of the stopwatch when he wound up in the rough on the 14th hole and walked up to the green to explore his options.

Even though Na and Garrigus played the round in just under four hours -- and were not assessed further warnings or penalties -- they had a tournament official with a watch and a clipboard following them for much of the round, which can't be a pleasant feeling -- not when you're trying to concentrate on the task at hand.

Slow play has been an issue for some time. For example, 14-year-old Chinese phenom Guan Tianlang was nailed with a one-stroke penalty in the second round of last year's Masters for slow play. A one-stroke penalty may have cost Ross Fisher a victory in the 2012 ISPS Handa Wales Open. And Azahara Munoz of Spain defeated Morgan Pressel 2 and 1 in the semifinals of the 2012 Sybase Match Play Championship after a slow-play penalty against Pressel on the 12th hole turned the match.

Here's how the PGA Tour defines its slow play policy:

"Under the guidelines for Rule 6-7, a player is permitted 40 seconds to play a stroke. This 40-second time limit includes the first to play from the teeing ground, from the fairway and from around and on the putting green.

"The PGA Tour rules for pace of play includes the 40-second time limit, but also allows an extra 20 seconds (for a total of 60 seconds) under the following circumstances:

-- The first player to play a stroke on a par-3 hole
-- The first player to play a second stroke on a par-4 or par-5 hole
-- The first player to play a third stroke on a par-5 hole
-- The first player to play around the putting green
-- The first player to play on a putting green

"Under both sets of guidelines, the timing of a stroke on the putting green begins after a player has been allowed a reasonable amount of time to mark, lift, clean and replace his ball, repair his ball mark and other ball marks on his line of putt and remove loose impediments on his line of putt."