GLENEAGLES, Scotland — It's hard to believe pace of play could be a big issue at a tournament with just 16 golfers on the course at a time, but it came up multiple times during the morning and afternoon sessions on Friday at the Solheim Cup.
Two groups were put on the clock in the morning at Gleneagles, and another group in the afternoon.
"It's painfully slow out there," U.S. captain Juli Inkster said. "I know we had maybe a couple on our side that are maybe a little bit slower, but they have a few on their side, too, that are a little slow. So I don't know, I don't know what to do."
Catriona Matthew, captain of the European team, agreed that it's an issue for both teams.
"Some of the players on both sides do take quite a while to hit a shot," Matthew said. "But it's the officials, really. They're the ones who police the pace of play, so it's really up to them, I think."
Lizette Salas was the only player who received a warning for having an individual bad time after her group had been put on the clock in the afternoon four-ball matches. Golf Channel analyst Kay Cockerill reported during the broadcast that Salas got the bad time after taking 72 seconds to hit her second shot on the 13th hole while playing with Danielle Kang in the first match of the afternoon against Suzann Pettersen and Anne van Dam. No disqualification from any hole was given, however, because Salas did not receive a second bad time.
Salas’ group took 2 hours and 57 minutes to play nine holes and had been playing for 4 hours and 21 minutes while on the 14th hole.
Inkster said she's not going to bring up the pace of play in their team meeting.
"[Lizette] knows she probably has to speed it up a little bit," Inkster said, "but I'm not going to say anything."
Part of the reason Inkster isn't going to say anything to her players is because she knows they're not the only ones at fault.
"It's not fair, because the other players know how to play the game," Inkster said. "So my players are playing at their pace. And then when they say we're timing them, they speed up. And that's—they make a living out of that. So until we change the rule, they're going to keep doing it. And they know who they are."
Pace of play is important for the flow of the game for the competitors, and for the enjoyment of spectators on site. Just as important, however, is what it does to the event's television time. Without monitoring pace of play, the tournament would run the risk of playing outside of the broadcast's parameters.
When Inkster was asked if she thought being put on the clock affected her players, she laughed.
"I don't know. I've never been on the clock."
Pace of play penalties, explained.
Pace of play is handled a little differently at a Solheim Cup, given the match-play format compared to standard stroke-play events. Each hole is allotted a certain amount of time. Ladies European Tour rules officials said that the times are determined from data they've collected about how long it should take. Obviously, par 3s take the least amount of time and par 5s the longest. Those time allotments are altered depending on which format they're playing. Foursomes, for example, should be quicker; there are only two balls in play per group. The teams receive these sheets, so they know how much time they are allotted on each hole.
All of the groups are timed. If a group falls behind its allotted time—called being "out of position"—players are given a verbal warning (under Rule 5.6b). Captains are also made aware. After a group has received a verbal warning, individuals are timed per shot.
For four-ball and foursomes, players get 50 seconds per shot. That number is increased by 10 seconds whenever the player is the first of her group to play any approach shot (including teeing off on par 3s) and the first to hit a chip or putt.
If a group has received a verbal warning, and then any player within that group goes over her allotted time, she'll get a personal warning. If she does it again, that's when the penalties hit. If she's playing foursomes, her team loses the hole. If she's playing four-ball, she's out for the hole, but her partner can continue to try to win the hole on her own.