Life in the slow lane is about to get a bit quicker for the PGA Tour’s most deliberate players.
Starting with the Jan 6-10 Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, the 2021 season will see the enforcement of tougher pace-of-play rules, designed to punish individual offenders rather than groups out of position. The new policy includes the creation of a confidential observation list, with “excessive shot times” subject to penalties and hefty fines.
Excessive shot times will identify players who take longer than 120 seconds to put the ball in play, while the observation list will target those who take longer than an average of 45 seconds, based on ShotLink data, to hit their shots over a 10-tournament period.
Players who are placed on the observation list will be monitored during rounds and subject to a 60-second limit for all shots. Anyone who exceeds the limit will be individually timed, even if their group is not considered out of position.
One “bad time” during a tournament will prompt a warning from officials, while a second infraction will result in a one-stroke penalty. Each additional bad time will incur another one-stroke penalty. The timing stops if the player goes two consecutive holes without an infraction.
“We’re going to focus on the individual habits of the slowest players and the slowest strokes and move in that direction,” PGA Tour senior vice-president and chief of operations Tyler Dennis said in making the announcement. “These habits are believed to be a significant part of the overall negative perception that pervades the issue of pace of play.”
Slow play will also hit players’ bank accounts harder than ever next season. On top of the one-stroke penalty, a second bad-time infraction will trigger a $50,000 fine－10 times greater than the previous maximum. Each additional infraction will incur another $20,000 fine. If a player is clocked 10 times while out of position or by being on the observation list, it’s a $50,000 hit.
“We felt we needed to ratchet up the deterrence, so we’ve significantly upped the ante on stroke penalties,” said Dennis. “Currently it’s by the round; now it’s going to be over the entire tournament. It’s more likely that a player could find themselves in this situation.”
The new policy, originally scheduled to be introduced at the RBC Heritage last April before being derailed by the coronavirus pandemic and the tour’s subsequent 13-week hiatus, has received a thumbs-up from 12-time tour winner Zach Johnson.
“I love it,” the 2015 British Open champion told Reuters. “We’re being proactive. That’s the first thing. To be perfectly honest with you, the policy that’s in place has not really changed, but there is kind of a tangent arm to it that is going to help facilitate and I think try to make the game a little quicker.”