20 February 2020

No Slow Play

The PGA Tour’s new pace-of-play policy will go into effect in April. The European Tour already ran the policy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, one of the main tournaments on the European Tour schedule, in mid-January. 

With its new pace-of-play policy, the PGA Tour is trying to crack down on slow play, which has been an endlessly discussed issue on tour over the last few years. The new policy comes into effect in April at the RBC Heritage, the week after The Masters

Under the new policy, the PGA Tour will use ShotLink data to identify habitually slow players. Those players who are identified as slow will be put on an “observation list” which will be kept private. They will find out each week if they’ve made it onto the list. 

The policy states, “Anyone in the field who takes more than 120 seconds to play a single shot, absent a good reason for doing so, will be given an Excessive Shot Time. Additionally, fines and penalties for slow play have been enhanced significantly. Officials will now assess a one-stroke penalty for the second bad time in a tournament, not a round, and for every bad time thereafter in the same tournament. The fines for the second bad time in a season and for 10 cumulative timings in a season have also been raised to $50,000. The fine for a second bad time in a season currently is $5,000.”

According to the PGA Tour, the vast majority of players aren’t in danger of landing on the list, with only 10 percent of players averaging above 45 seconds per shot. The new policy was finally released after Bryson DeChambeau’s game last year put the issue of pace-of-play in the spotlight.

The European Tour already stepped up its attack on slow play. The Tour tested a new timing system at the BMW PGA Championship in September, with a further trial taking place in Abu Dhabi in the middle of January. They are using the system in several events this year, providing referees with the precise times for every group through every hole to make sure that no gaps are missed.

At the US$7,000,000 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, the European Tour went as far as adding an immediate one-stroke penalty to players if they exceeded time limits for taking shots on two occasions in the same tournament. The fines were also increased for players who are regularly timed by officials.

''Changing the regulation for an immediate one-shot penalty to now be triggered by two bad times in a tournament instead of a round will force slower players to consistently ensure they play within timing regulations,'' said John Paramor, the European Tour chief referee, as quoted by Golf Channel. ''This is part of our wider, robust policy to tackle slow play but our fundamental advice to all players remains consistent – they should be ready to play when it is their turn.''

However, the Tour denied that the application of the pace-of-play policy is a reaction to DeChambeau’s slow play during the Northern Trust event in New Jersey last year. DeChambeau’s approach led to him being criticized by fellow players, including Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas.

“We are already at the forefront of pace-of-play management in the professional game, but after being mandated by our tournament committee to be even firmer in dealing with this issue, the time was right to take these additional steps,” Keith Pelley, the chief executive of the European Tour explained.

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