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USGA to launch initiative to address slow play

U.S. golfer Tiger Woods hits his second shot off the 17th fairway during final round play at the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego, Califo
U.S. golfer Tiger Woods hits his second shot off the 17th fairway during final round play at the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego, Califo

(Reuters) - Five days after Tiger Woods won the PGA Tour's Farmers Insurance Open after a tortuous final round, the United States Golf Association (USGA) announced on Saturday measures to address the game's growing problem of slow play.

The USGA in a statement laid out plans to launch a "multi-faceted program" this year in partnership with golf industry leaders, allied organizations, media partners and golf course managers in a bid to resolve the issue.

"The cry that pace of play has become one of the most significant threats to the game's health has become only louder over the last year," USGA president Glen D. Nager said during the organization's annual meeting in San Diego.

"Industry research clearly shows that slow play and the amount of time it takes to play a round of golf detract from the overall experience and threaten to drive players away from the game.

"This problem touches every golfer, from the professional to the elite amateur to the collegiate player to the millions of recreational golfers at both public and private facilities."

On Monday, former world number one Woods clinched his 75th PGA Tour title by four shots at Torrey Pines outside San Diego after completing a fog-delayed final round that was played at a painfully slow pace.

At one point eight strokes in front of the chasing pack on a breezy day, Woods dropped four shots over his last five holes as he and his playing partners had to wait on virtually every tee before they could proceed.

"We played nine holes in just over three hours, and three of them are par threes," Woods said of his increasing frustration over the closing stretch. "I started losing my patience a little bit, and that's when I made a few mistakes."

USGA executive director Mike Davis echoed Woods' thoughts.

"Six-hour rounds are just not good for the players, our championships or the game," Davis said.

"Slow play is also incompatible with our modern society, in which our personal time for recreation is compressed. This is an issue that demands our complete attention."

The USGA initiative will include an analysis of key factors known to influence the pace of play, the development of a "pace-of-play" model based on quantifiable data and assistance at golf courses to help managers assess and improve the pace of play.

"We must be committed to addressing over the long term the amount of time it takes to play, armed with the determination to improve pace of play and a belief that the time that golf takes to play can be reduced through the dedicated efforts of everyone connected with the game," Nager said.

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Gene Cherry)

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