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PGA Tour unveils new pace-of-play policy to speed up action

Bryson DeChambeau was caught up in a slow-play firestorm in 2019 (Credit: Getty Images)

The PGA Tour has unveiled its new pace-of-play policy, which is designed to speed up the slowest players on the United States-based professional men’s golf tour.

The new policy, which will go into effect at the RBC Heritage in mid-April, will focus on keeping individuals on pace rather than groups who are out of position.

A private Observation List will identify individuals whom ShotLink data identifies as the tour’s most egregiously slow players. They will be will be subject to a 60-second average for all shots. Meanwhile, anyone in the field who takes more than 120 seconds to play a single shot without a legitimate excuse will be assessed an excessive shot time and observed throughout the round by an official.

Additionally, fines and penalties for slow play have been enhanced significantly, and will begin with the second excessive shot time for each player. The developmental Korn Ferry Tour will follow suit and adopt the new policy at a later date.

Bryson DeChambeau, who was widely criticized for his slow play when he took more than two minutes to take an eight-foot putt at the Northern Trust last year, welcomed the initiative. “On the PGA Tour, when stuff was happening, I told you guys, I welcome it,” he said. “I was playing under the rules and there was no rhyme or reason to be called out, other than the fact that it looked like it was a really, really long time that it took. And it was, absolutely. I’m not saying it wasn’t.

“But I was playing under the rules at that point in time, and there’s no reason why I should have been given so much heat, considering other things that had occurred that day and previous days of other people that I played with, and other things that occurred,” DeChambeau said.

Billy Horschel added: “The Tour understands the noise coming from the players and fans and media. Now they are doing something about it and will be a little bit more proactive. How proactive? That’s what we have to wait and see.”

Meanwhile, the European Tour announced that players will be given an immediate one-stroke penalty if they exceed time limits for taking shots on two occasions in the same tournament.

The Tour’s focus on pace-of-play mirrors that of many other pro sports properties as they now compete for fan attention against more competing attractions than ever. MLB in particular has grappled with this issue for five years, encompassing essentially all of Rob Manfred’s tenure to date as commissioner, to mixed results thus far on average game times and flow of play.