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PGA TOUR in the process of reviewing pace-of-play policy

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PGA TOUR in the process of reviewing pace-of-play policy

    Written by Staff @PGATOUR

    JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- Recent incidents about pace of play have led the PGA TOUR to take a deeper look at its policy on the issue, and ShotLink technology could provide an answer.

    The TOUR’s current pace-of-play policy only addresses players whose groups have fallen out of position. The TOUR is now exploring whether to expand its policy to also address players whose groups are in position, but who take an excessive amount of time to hit a shot.

    “We know that the individual habits of players when they are preparing to hit a shot can quickly become a focal point in today’s world, and our players and fans are very passionate about this issue,” said Tyler Dennis, the PGA TOUR’s Chief of Operations. “We have leveraged our ShotLink technology to provide every player with a pace of play report that they can access which breaks down the varying parts of their game and gives feedback on the amount of time on average that the player takes to hit a particular shot.

    “We are currently in the process of reviewing this aspect of pace of play and asking ourselves, ‘Is there a better way to do it?’ We think technology definitely plays a key role in all of this and we are thinking about new and innovative ways to use it to address these situations.”

    There are many factors to consider when deciding an appropriate amount of time to play a shot, Dennis said.

    “We have learned over the years that pace has a lot of factors that play into it, and it’s actually quite complicated,” he added. “The overall time to play a round is affected by things like the number of players on the course, tee time intervals, amount of daylight, course set-up and the weather. Some of these are things we can influence, and some are not.”

    The amount of fans and media following a group also can impact the pace of play, said Justin Rose.

    “The crowds are a lot bigger here and a lot more vocal and there's a lot more movement and distraction, I think which obviously creates the atmosphere that we want to play in front of,” Rose said. “You can't have it both ways. You can't have it fun and rowdy out here and yet expect guys to hit shots on a clock through situations where the environment isn't ready for them to play.”

    The topic became a hot-button issue again this week after two videos of Bryson DeChambeau went viral on Twitter. DeChambeau felt compelled to defend himself after seeing the response on social media.

    “When people start talking to me about slow play and how I'm killing the game, I'm doing this and that to the game, that is complete and utter you-know-what,” DeChambeau said after his third round Saturday. “That's not fair.”

    The first video showed DeChambeau pacing off a 70-yard approach shot after he hit his tee shot well left of the drivable par-4 16th hole in the second round. After returning to his ball, DeChambeau had to wait for the players on the nearby sixth tee to hit their shots. He let playing partner Tommy Fleetwood play his shot while DeChambeau waited for the tee to clear. Those factors increased the amount of time it took for DeChambeau to hit his shot.

    Another video showed DeChambeau taking 2 minutes, 20 seconds to hit a putt on the eighth hole, his second-to-last hole of the day on Friday. DeChambeau defended himself by saying that he walks quickly between shots to reduce the overall time it takes to play a hole.

    “It was a very difficult read,” he said about the putt on No. 8. “It was on a bit of a crown, trying to read it to the best of my ability. I couldn't figure out a way to play it four inches out because that's what the book said. That's what it looked, or that's what it said in the book, but it didn't look like that to my eyes. We walked around, took a little bit of time. I was ready to hit. My caddie pulled me off because he saw something different. That's just what's going to happen every once in a while.

    “Is that every time? No. That's probably 1% of the time that I take over two minutes.

    “You look at me, most of the time, I am doing my absolute best to get to that next shot. The time to hurry for me and the way I play the game -- this is not always how some people view it, but the time to hurry is in between shots.”

    Justin Thomas played with DeChambeau in the first two rounds at Liberty National.

    “I like Bryson as a person, but he’s a slow golfer,” Thomas told reporters Saturday. “I hate saying this because I don’t want Bryson to think I’m throwing him under the bus or anything like that, but it’s just unfortunate where the pace of play is in the game at the moment.”

    DeChambeau’s group still played in 4:51 on Friday. That was just one minute slower than in Round 1 and consistent with other groups in the second round.

    The TOUR has seen positive results from increasing the intervals between tee times this year. “We are seeing great improvements to the flow and in particular to the speed with which we can recover following an issue with a group that results in a momentary slow-down in pace,” Dennis said.

    Under the TOUR’s current pace-of-play policy, players are “on the clock” when their group falls out of position. Players are given an allotted time between 40 and 50 seconds (depending on factors such as order of play) to hit a shot. The first bad time results in a warning, while a second bad time in the same round is a one-stroke penalty. Players are fined for a second bad time in a season, and each bad time thereafter, and for each time they are put “on the clock” after the 10th time.

    There is not currently a policy to assess penalties or fines when players’ groups are in position, but the TOUR could consider adding one.

    “We are really focused at the moment on leveraging our ShotLink technology to assist us with these factors,” Dennis said. “This year, we have rolled out version 2.0 of an application which allows the officials to monitor every group in real-time, from their positions out on the course, and respond more quickly when a group is getting behind.”

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