The PGA Tour has introduced a stricter pace-of-play policy for 2003. Kudos are reserved, however, until either (1) some improvement can be quantified or (2) the Tour demonstrates that it’s not afraid to enforce the new rules.
Players used to receive two slow-play warnings before being assessed a one-stroke penalty. A revised penalty scale allows only one warning for slow play before rules officials assess a one-stroke penalty and a $5,000 fine. A third bad time is an additional two-stroke penalty and a $10,000 fine. Four bad times means the player is disqualified.
Even getting timed for being out of position could be costly. Anyone who is put on the clock 10 times during the year will be fined $20,000.
“This will get their attention,’’ said Henry Hughes, the Tour’s chief of operations.
The new policy was a hot topic at the Mercedes Championships.
“It’s about time,’’ Vijay Singh said. “The only problem with that is, are they going to enforce it?
“I think you need to put in a no-warning, one-stroke penalty. They know who’s slow out there.’’
Indeed, the onus falls on rules officials to be willing to assess a one-stroke penalty, even to a marquee player and even to the point of disqualification. Twenty-two tournaments were decided by one stroke last year.
Nick Price, a 26-year Tour veteran, suggested that rather than depending on rules officials to monitor pace of play, the Tour should instead deploy “speed police” on every hole.
“The slow players need to be singled out,” Price said. “They need to be made aware they are slow and they need to be made to play faster.”
Stricter pace-of-play policies on Tour are long overdue.
Already, because of difficulties in getting 156 players around the course before sunset, the fields in a handful of PGA Tour events have been reduced by as many as 24 players. Accelerating pace of play is a better option than reducing opportunities to play.
Of course, amateur golfers take their cues from the pros. Every player in America would benefit if Tour players set a more brisk example.
Some pros argue that with so much money at stake, they won’t allow themselves to be rushed. Then there’s the example of Trevor Immelman. Because of lengthy yardage debates with his caddie and an elaborate pre-shot routine, Immelman led the European Tour – which has become aggressive in pace-of-play enforcement in recent years – in slow-play fines last season. This year the 23-year-old South African has stopped questioning his caddie’s judgement and tightened his routine, to which he attributes a more positive attitude during competition.
At least that’s what he said after last week’s South African Open. By the way, he won.