A new experiment on the European Tour has been focused on speeding up play, and those who fall behind have now suffered the consequences.
The European Tour is debuting this week the Shot Clock Masters, an event where every player is timed on every single shot.
A referee accompanies each group and times every shot. The player in the group hitting first on any tee shot on a par 3, approach shot, chip or putt has 50 seconds to hit. A 40-second allowance is given on any par 4 or 5 tee shot and to the second and third in the group to play a tee shot on a par 3, approach shot, chip or putt.
Any time a player goes over the time limit, he is given a bad time and assessed a one-shot penalty.
A player can call for a time-extension of 40 seconds up to twice per round, but that addition must be called before the clock starts counting down in the first place or before that original countdown of 40 or 50 seconds hits zero. If no extension is called for before the clock hits zero, the player has gone over the limit and is thus penalized.
For the first two rounds, players adhered to these guidelines and no penalties were doled out. The pressure of Moving Day changed that.
Three slow-play penalties were handed out Saturday at the Shot Clock Masters, with a trio of players going seconds over their allotted times on shots at Diamond Country Club in Vienna, Austria.
Clemens Prader became the infamous first to do so, as the Austrian took 54 seconds (four over his 50-second limit) to hit a putt at No. 6 and was thus penalized one shot.
Grant Forrest later ensured Prader wouldn’t be lonely, with the Scot using 43 seconds on an approach at the 15th when the shot clock only gave him 40. Andrea Pavan also went three seconds over his allotment on a putt at the 18th, making it three slow-play penalties on the day.
Ultimately, Prader’s one-shot penalty had little to do with his fate. A 54-hole cut came down at 1 over and his third-round 76 left him at 6 over. Take off that penalty stroke, and a 5-over total would’ve still left him well short.
After his penalty, Pavan is in a tie for 29th at 3 under. Forrest is tied for 48th at Even par.
How did Prader feel about his penalty marking the first in this format?
The Austrian relayed that he did not hear the referee declare the clock had started ticking down, but that he did not disagree with how anything was handled.
“I just didn’t hear him, I didn’t hear ‘time’,” Prader said, per Europeantour.com. “I was just in my routine and it must have been called sometime when I was walking to my ball, which is fine, I just didn’t hear it. It was just four seconds over, which is a little unfortunate.
“I was a little angry, I hope you didn’t have any cameras on me. It got me so heated that I actually holed a bunker shot on the next hole, which was okay, it kind of reversed it.
“It was not a problem, I just didn’t hear. My caddie told me, he wasn’t watching, he didn’t hear the time as well but the other guys heard it. It’s just an unfortunate situation. It was early, I was still going with a decent round, it’s just how it is. It’s the name of the game and I accept it.”
Will players be more conscious of the clock on a pressure-packed Sunday? We’ll see.
Clearly, though, the European Tour is serious about halting slow play.