Tait: The end of slow play in Europe? Let's hope so

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Tait: The end of slow play in Europe? Let's hope so

Euro Tour

Tait: The end of slow play in Europe? Let's hope so

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Will the European Tour’s new pace of play policy for 2020 say goodbye to the five-hour plus round? I hope so, but I’m not holding my breath.

Hats off to the tour for trying to speed up the snails.

The proposals unveiled on Monday sound good on paper. Whether they work in practice is another question.

I wish the tour had gone further and implemented Rory McIlroy’s proposal of one warning and then a one-shot penalty. Instead, the slow pokes will get two chances before the tour hits them with a stroke as opposed to the current three.

Display boards on tees indicating where players are in relation to the group in front is a good innovation. European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn has been promoting this idea for years. The Dane is a former tournament committee chairman and still sits on the tournament committee that helped draft these regulations. This was clearly his idea.

Naming and shaming is always a great idea. Pointing out how many minutes players are lagging behind is hopefully one way to speed them up.

My cynicism stems from promises made a few years ago to reduce round times. During the 2016 Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley promised to get tough on slow play.

“Our aspirational goal is to cut 15 minutes off a round on a daily basis,” Pelley said. “We feel that is significant.”

We know what happened to that aspiration. Instead of cutting 15 minutes off rounds, we had five and a half hour marathons in the Trophée Hassan II this year.

Edoardo Molinari was so incensed at the glacial pace in Morocco he tweeted a list of regular slow play offenders. Like Bjorn, Molinari is a long-time tournament committee member. He’s been banging on about slow play for years. It’s good to see his protests haven’t been in vain.

My other fear is that “name” players will escape censure while others will take the brunt of the action. Appearance fees are still a regular occurrence on the European Tour. Sponsors pay large amounts to lure stars to places like Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, etc. Some sponsors won’t be happy if the guy they’ve spent a small fortune on is put off from returning because of a one-shot penalty for impersonating a tortoise.

Jordan Spieth played in that 2016 Abu Dhabi tournament and was warned for slow play. The Tour was correct to implement the pace of play rules, but sponsors weren’t happy. It’s a moot point if that slow play warning is the reason Spieth has never returned to Abu Dhabi, but it clearly hasn’t helped.

The European Tour’s plans are a serious indictment of the governing bodies attempts to stamp out slow play. The new rule book the R&A and USGA introduced on Jan. 1 this year carries a recommendation of 40 seconds to play a shot. Many tour players have simply ignored that advice, with some taking double that time.

I’m willing to give the European Tour credit on this occasion. Let’s hope they stick rigidly to the guidelines they’ve set out. Hopefully it prompts other tours, especially the PGA Tour, to take similar action.

Otherwise we’re doomed, because slow play is killing golf.

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