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PGA Tour to create list focusing on slowest players for pace-of play-improvement, according to sources

November 22, 2019
The Northern Trust - Round Three

Jared C. Tilton

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga.—The pace of play on the PGA Tour is likely to accelerate after the Masters.

That is when new pace-of-play guidelines passed on Monday by the tour policy board will go into effect, sources told Golf Digest at the RSM Classic.

The PGA Tour confirmed that the policy board “has approved a number of modifications to the Pace of Play Policy.” While not all of the details have been revealed, Golf Digest has learned a few key aspects, including that the tour is moving away from a group-based system to one that focuses on individual players.

The focus will result in the creation of a list, another source confirmed, of the slowest players—those who repeatedly average more than 45 seconds to play a shot. The list would not be made public, not even to the membership. But once a player is on the list, he is more likely to be timed by a rules official and would incur a one-stroke penalty for a second bad time during a round.

One player told Golf Digest that the tour is considering the addition of two more rules officials, one assigned to each nine throughout a tournament, for more thorough monitoring.

“We’re not trying to blacklist anyone,” said the player, speaking on condition of anonymity. “But it’s going to be much more fair to the majority of the players.”

Another player said that data gathered since the implementation of ShotLink in 2006 helped the tour formulate the new approach. That data indicates that 90 percent of tour players hit their shots “in 39 seconds or less.” How the tour has determined that is by recording the elapsed time to hit a shot for the second and third players in a threesome or the second player in twosomes. The tour has timed more than 10 million shots.

The allowable time for players to execute a shot is 40 seconds if they are not first to hit.

“So, 90 percent of us are fine. We have to work on that other 10 percent,” he said.

The pace-of-play topic, which has been an ongoing conversation in professional golf for decades, once again arose in August when Bryson DeChambeau was singled out for criticism at the Northern Trust. Later that month, the European Tour released a four-point plan for addressing the issue.

The PGA Tour will conduct an education period for its members during the first three months of 2020. The new policy is scheduled to kick in, barring unforeseen circumstances, April 16 at the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head, S.C., the week after the Masters.

“The goal isn’t to move the needle on Thursday and Friday from 4:45 to 4:30 when you have 156 players in the field,” said another player with basic knowledge of the policy. “It’s just not going to happen. What we are trying to do as a tour is pinpoint where we are lacking, where certain individuals are lacking, in pace of play.

“It’s more for the betterment of everyone playing. You see your pairings and you think, ‘Oh, God, I’m with that guy.’ We all know who the slower players are. They’re trying to move away from that group-based timing system because, say you are paired with the same guy four times throughout the year, and you get put on the clock four times and your total is five times for the year. How is that fair? I can pretty much pinpoint why I’ve been put on the clock those times.”

A tour spokesperson said an announcement on the complete pace-of-play policy will be forthcoming early next year. A request to speak to Tyler Dennis, the tour’s chief of operations and administrator of the ShotLink data, was not granted, via the spokesperson.