The timing, pardon the pun, is exquisite. Just when everyone seemed to have finally reached the end of their tethers, thanks to Bryson DeChambeau tipping most people over the edge with his behaviour at the Northern Trust, the European Tour have made what looks like a proper stand against slow play.
The bottom line being that there will be a one-shot penalty for two bad times when they are out of position. And if you are ‘in position’ then there will also be less time. And, if you’re a rookie, then you’ll have a dedicated referee to show you the pacier way forward on the main tour.
All with the real kicker that if you’re a well-known slowcoach, then you’ll be targeted by the referees and the fines will be upped. Ask any pro on the quiet who the problem characters are and the same names will come up again and again. The referees will be equally on board with this.
In other words speed up or face the consequences.
Oh, and you’ve got one time-out of sorts with a 40-second extension for when you need a little bit more time before pulling the trigger.
Given how long this topic has been flogged to death the cynic in us might wonder whether this is more a clever stunt by CEO Keith Pelley, both in its timing and a bit of one-upmanship and good PR against a tour that you can’t compete with on other levels. But this was apparently first discussed in May and then ratified in July so well before all hell broke loose at Liberty National.
And it’s powerful in its relative clarity. There will be plenty of questions in the months to come but, for now, it’s as well laid out as it seems to have been thought through. For years there has been more than a bit of mystery over slow play and this gives it to us all pretty straight.
For instance how often do we hear in-position timings being double the out-of-position ones at 100 and 80 seconds? More good news here is that these have been reduced by 15 per cent.
Thanks should go Edoardo Molinari’s way for helping to make sure that what goes on on tour doesn’t stay there. In April his irritation got the better of him after taking five and a half hours for his threeball to get round in Morocco. He then asked for a thousand retweets to unveil all and name and shame the European Tour players who have been timed and fined this year. It got almost double that and he revealed all on the Saturday of the tournament.
The findings showed us that of the 54 players who were recorded for time breaches three – Erik van Rooyen, Adrian Otaegui and Louis Oosthuizen – were fined €3,000 apiece.
Pelley supposedly took the Italian to one side in Morocco and it prompted the May discussions.
“While I didn’t necessarily agree with his chosen method, he was entirely right to confront the problem. Thankfully, our Tournament Committee shared Edoardo’s belief that enough was enough, and they were prepared to make some hard decisions, accepting the need to be more punitive,” Pelley explained in a press release.
“At that meeting we also determined there is a key fundamental difference between slow play and slow players – this is a key point to remember. Slow players have become increasingly prevalent and problematic in our game in recent years, to the extent that we risk fans, both core and casual, switching off if we don’t do something about it.”
Really happy with the decisions taken by the @EuropeanTour to tackle slow play!
I am both happy and proud to have played a very small part in it.
Hopefully golf on the European Tour will be an even better show to watch from 2020 onwards!https://t.co/4lnLTgy2sV #slowplay
— Edoardo Molinari (@DodoMolinari) August 19, 2019
For some the BMW PGA Championship, where a trial pace-of-play system will be conducted in September, can’t come quick enough. At Wentworth referees will be provided with the times for every group through every hole to make sure that no gaps are missed. There will also be on-tee displays on at least three holes to provide groups with their position in relation to the group in front.
For others who struggle to keep up, either knowingly, which is most likely, or because of poor routines or whatever else, then it might seem quite an unappealing proposition and they’ve got four months to improve things.
As for the field sizes – they will be reduced from 156 to 144 in fully sanctioned events as long as everyone from Category 18 (the final 111-125 from the previous year’s money list) and above make it in – this has to help.
Though if they were able to speed play up in the first place, then this might not be needed and it’s not exactly good news for 12 players who will be hoping that one big week might turn their careers around?
There will also be larger starting intervals over the weekend so that excuse, which often seems quite valid, also goes out of the window.
There’s a nice story about Trevor Immelman, who used to be very slow and deliberate when he was starting out. So he went to the European Tour and asked how things could improve and worked on it. His countryman Van Rooyen, who came out of Molinari’s revelations badly, seems to have also changed his ways for the better which helps demonstrate that if you want to help yourself then you can. And if you don’t then you might soon be in a bit of bother.
Who knows what really goes on away from all the obvious headlines? The common refrain is that the slow players only speed up when the referees emerge from the bushes but one player explained over a text that things go a lot deeper in real time.
“This doesn’t really address those who know how to fudge the timings. For example players will find a distraction to make the ref restart the timing.”
Before then summarising all of of this, the thousand-word press release and hopes of a brighter future, in one brutal sentence: “The real question is have they got the balls to penalise a high-profile player?”