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PGA Tour to crack down on slow play

In its latest attempt to improve the pace of play, the PGA Tour has unveiled a new penalty scale that gives players only one warning for slow play before rules officials assess a one-stroke penalty.

In addition to being assessed stroke penalties, players will also be fined.

Anyone placed on the clock 10 times during the year will be fined $20,000.

Until this year, the tour's penalty scale allowed for two warnings before players were assessed a one-stroke penalty.

Under the new policy:

- One bad time during a round is a warning.

- Two bad times are a one-stroke penalty and a $5,000 fine.

- Three bad times is a two-stroke penalty and a $10,000 fine.

- Four bad times means the player is disqualified.

"This will get their attention," said Henry Hughes, the tour's chief of operations.

Players were talking about the new policy at Kapalua, Hawaii, over the weekend where the PGA Tour kicked off its season with the Mercedes Championships, won by Ernie Els.

Vijay Singh said he likes the idea of harsher policies for slow play but wonders if this is enough.

"The only problem with that is, are they going to enforce it?" Singh said. "I think you need to put in a no-warning, one-stroke penalty. They know who's slow out there."

"Our goal is to enforce the pace of play regulations and to draw attention to the pace of play regulations," Hughes said.

Improving the pace of play is good on a number of different fronts.

Tournaments will move along and there will be less down time between shots, both for fans watching on television and in person.

Having the PGA players moving at a better pace also sets a good example for the weekend players.

We've all been stuck behind a group where players delay hitting their shots for an unnecessary amount of time.

The result is the all too typical five-plus hour rounds that we have all come to know and hate.

If the professionals set a better example perhaps it will have a funnel-down effect on amateur players.

Local golf courses could actually develop their own version of the policy, without the fines.

If a group is flagged for slow play, they would get a warning. The second time, they are on probation and, if it happens a third time in the same round, they are gone.

Anyone being kicked off would also be prevented from playing that course for the next month. It's a stiff penalty, but like the new PGA policy, it would show players that slow play will not be tolerated.

One problem that could arise with the new PGA rules is that a faster player who gets grouped with slower players could end up getting fined without actually being guilty of slow play.

When a group gets out of position defined by an open hole ahead of them, each player in that group is considered to be on the clock. The 10th time a player is put on the clock during the year results in a $20,000 fine.

If a faster player has the bad luck of being paired with some slow players in various rounds, it's much like guilt by association, according to Nick Price.

"If I'm in a convenience store when it gets robbed, does that make me guilty?" Price asked.

I agree with Price. In the PGA they have the ability to know who is playing at a decent pace and who is not.

They should amend the rule and, instead of putting an entire group on the clock, individual offenders should be watched.

The rules can work if the rules officials or marshals are willing to call the penalties.

While it would be tough to assess Tiger Woods a stroke penalty that could possibly cost him a tournament, the rules officials must have the guts to make the call in order to make players realize the PGA means business.

Officials in other sports make tough calls all the time, so golf should not be any different.

If it's successful, this new rule should make the sport better.


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