Things are moving quickly on slow play reform. Following some early-in-the-week quotes from Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy on what needs to change and some, the PGA Tour has responded.
The tipping point may have been DeChambeau taking 140 seconds for an 8-foot putt on Friday, but this is not a new issue. Tiger Woods even said early in the week that it’s been a problem forever. The PGA Tour seems like it wants to, if not solve it, then at least change the narrative. They addressed DeChambeau’s antics, and noted that players are only currently punished for taking over 40 seconds to hit a shot when they’re out of position from where they’re supposed to be on the course; however, that could change.
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.
The current rule is that, after you get put on the clock, you receive a warning and a fine for taking over 40 seconds on a single shot. After that warning, if it happens again, you get a one-stroke penalty. This never really happens, though. DeChambeau said he’s received one warning this year — at the Memorial Tournament. He’s not received a stroke penalty.
PGA Tour chief of operations, Tyler Dennis, discussed leveraging technology to help solve the issue.
“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,” Dennis said. “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.”
DeChambeau suggested timing the entirety of the round instead of specific shots. This sounds great in theory, but the end product can be poor. Think about it. If you’re sprinting to every shot and then taking four minutes to hit, nobody wants to watch that. But it does get at what the actual issue is. Is it total time of a given round or is it how much time players take on a single shot? This is DeChambeau’s point.
“Take the total amount of time to play a hole and see how long it takes for players to walk between their shots,” said DeChambeau on Saturday. “Now guys will say, we don’t like that because we have our certain rhythm that they have to go the full distance. That’s where the problem comes about.
“So which way are you going fix it? Are you going to fix it by timing players as well for how long it takes to get from one shot to the next? Or just over the shot in general? You know, there’s a lot of stuff you have to factor in. Today there was a lot of weird things happening.”
There’s a lot going on here, and I don’t know that anything significant is going to change. It would be nice if it did. It would help the best players if it did because the best players are often the best (and fastest) decision-makers, too. Regardless, it will be fascinating to see what the PGA Tour’s next step is and how all of this is addressed by players going forward at the BMW Championship next week.