Slow individuals the target of PGA Tour review

LOS ANGELES • The PGA Tour is considering expanding its pace-of-play policy to individuals in the wake of vocal criticism by players and fans of recent slow play.

Current policy addresses only groups, who have to complete a hole within a set time to stay "in position" and avoid a potential penalty. And the Tour is thinking of expanding it to include individuals, whose groups are "in position" but take an excessive amount of time to hit a shot.

The issue reached critical mass over the weekend when the American Bryson DeChambeau took more than two minutes lining up a putt during the second round at the Northern Trust tournament in New Jersey, leading to much ridicule on social media by fans and fellow players.

Said PGA Tour chief of operations Tyler Dennis: "We know that the individual habits of players, when they are preparing to hit a shot, can quickly become a focal point in today's world, and our players and fans are very passionate about this issue.

"We are reviewing this aspect of pace of play and asking ourselves, 'Is there a better way to do it?'

"Technology definitely plays a key role and we are thinking about new and innovative ways to use it to address these situations."

Leading players, including Brooks Koepka and fellow four-time Major champion Rory McIlroy, have been vocal critics of the Tour's inaction over slowpokes.

It took the last pairing over four hours to complete Sunday's final round at the Northern Trust when they are expected to do so in 3hr 59min, compared to 4hr 35min when playing in a threesome.

Dennis, however, said the pace of play was a complex issue because of the many factors affecting it - including the number of players on the course, tee-time intervals, amount of daylight, course set-up and the weather, while rowdy fans were also a contributory factor.

The European Tour's experiment with the aptly named Shot Clock Masters in Austria last year was generally deemed a huge success by players and officials, with play considerably faster than the previous year.


Fines have little effect on millionaire golfers 

Under the PGA Tour's current pace-of-play policy, players are allotted between 40 and 50 seconds to hit a shot.

But they are put "on the clock" only when their group falls out of position, that is, when the gap between them and the group in front is too big, say a full hole.

In the same round, the first "bad time" (or offence) results in a warning.

• Second time: One-stroke penalty and US$5,000 (S$6,930) fine

• Third: Two-stroke penalty and US$10,000 fine

• Fourth: Disqualification

"Bad time" offences are accumulated throughout the season.

The fine is US$5,000 for the second one and US$10,000 each time thereafter.

For the 10th time a player is put "on the clock", he is fined US$20,000 and US$5,000 each time thereafter.

Only one penalty stroke has been handed out in the last two decades and, while fines are more common, it has been argued they are hardly a deterrent to multimillionaire players.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 13, 2019, with the headline 'Slow individuals the target of PGA Tour review'. Print Edition | Subscribe