At one point during yesterday's final round of the Kemper Open, CBS television monitors showed two ducklings cavorting on the bank in back of the 18th green. "They were eggs when this round started," said a network announcer.
Maybe not, but it did take 5 hours 54 minutes for the final threesome to play 20 holes, only slightly more than your average Sunday group at Northwest Park.
On the PGA Tour, slow play is punishable by a fine of $200, hardly a deterrent since, as Craig Stadler noted, some hotel rooms in this area cost more. According to Scott Simpson and T.C. Chen's caddie/manager, Babe Chan, there were no warnings of slow play from PGA Tour officials.
"We're all pretty deliberate players," Simpson said. "We were in the last group, anyway, and the fans were moving around a lot."
Deborah Morgan-Couples, wife of winner Fred Couples, placed the blame on Chen, saying, "He's the absolutely slowest player in the world."
Chan said, "Everybody was running into trouble off the tee and the crowds . . . Sometimes we had difficulty playing through the crowd."
When pressed further about Chen's pace of play, Chan said, "He walks very fast to the ball, but that is his normal pace (of lining up shots and considering club selection)."
Players watching the tournament in the locker room said the only effective deterrent to slow play would be stiffer fines or a one-stroke penalty. PGA Tour officials were not available for comment. But tougher penalties can be implemented only by the 10-member Tournament Policy Board, which includes three players.
How strong should that deterrent be?
"It's tough to say," said Roger Maltbie, who finished a stroke back. "Two hundred dollars is not satisfactory. When you look at those guys, $200 doesn't mean much when the worst they can do is win $26,000 for finishing second. They ought to consider the possibility of a stroke penalty or a bigger fine."
Ron Black, who finished seven strokes behind, said, "It would be hard to justify assessing penalty strokes. It also would be bad publicity for the tour to penalize Chen, a foreign player . . . Two of the guys have never won once and Simpson had only won once. They all were inexperienced in that particular situation. So they took their time."
When it was over, Simpson called the last round one of his most disappointing.
He shot a final-round 77 and lost a chance for the championship in a five-way playoff. After that, he received the bad news: his 8-month-old daughter was ill and his wife Cheryl wanted Simpson to get back to the hotel and take his daughter to the hospital.
No report was immediately available on his daughter's condition or illness.
As Simpson changed shoes in the locker room, he tried to answer questions about bogeying four of the final six holes of regulation, the four-foot winning putt he missed on the final stroke of regulation, the 15-foot birdie putt he thought he had made on the first round of the playoff and the day's slow, slow play.
He said he swung too quickly on the drive he hooked off a tree and into the short rough. Usually one of the game's most consistent players, he made six bogeys in the final round, and he said the four-foot putt he missed at the 18th "broke more than I thought it would."
On the first playoff hole, he hit his approach closer than anybody else, 15 feet from birdie. After the other four failed to make birdie, Simpson put a good stroke on his ball. "I thought I had it," he said.
But a few inches from the hole, the ball dropped off to the left. For all intent, Couples won the tournament on the next shot, when his five-iron off the 183-yard 16th stopped 18 inches from the cup for a certain birdie.