The PGA Tour has announced plans to review its current pace-of-play policy after golf’s slow-play debate turned personal.
It comes after Patrick Reed defended his slender overnight lead to win the Northern Trust in New Jersey by one stroke after shooting a final-round 69. The 29-year-old American finished one shot ahead of Abraham Ancer from Mexico, while Rory McIlroy ended the tournament four shots adrift and tied for sixth place alongside Jordan Spieth, Louis Oosthuizen and Brandt Snedeker.
Bryson DeChambeau came in for stinging criticism from fellow professionals during his play over the weekend after video emerged of him taking two minutes and 20 seconds – the limit is 40 seconds – to hit an eight-foot putt during the second round at Liberty National.
England’s Eddie Pepperell labelled the American a “single-minded twit” while Ian Poulter implied that the world number eight was one of the players who “continually disrespect their fellow pros and continue to break the rules without a conscience.”
He tweeted: “Just look at Tommy and Justin, both looking completely bored. Slow players do this to their playing partners making the game less enjoyable. Problem is, the unaffected single minded twit in this instance, doesn’t care much for others.”
It is not the first time DeChambeau’s slow play has been highlighted and world number one Brooks Koepka made no secret of his displeasure at the time taken by playing partner JB Holmes during the final round of the Open Championship at Carnoustie.
Rory McIlroy said on Wednesday that slow players receive too many warnings before being penalised and, although PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has previously said he does not consider slow play to be a problem, the latest incident may finally prompt action.
“The Tour’s current pace-of-play policy only addresses players whose groups have fallen out of position,” the PGA Tour said in a statement. “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.”
Tyler Dennis, the Tour’s chief of operations, added: “We are really focused at the moment on leveraging our ShotLink technology to assist us with these factors.
“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.
“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.
“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.”
Under current guidelines, a player’s group must be deemed to be out of position before being timed.
At that point, an individual would receive a warning the first time he exceeded the allotted time limit (50 seconds if first to play, 40 seconds thereafter) and would only be penalised for a second such “bad time” in the same round.
Pepperell apologised for his “twit” comment in a tweet this morning, saying: “Seems my comment regarding Bryson’s slow play has garnered plenty of attention and I just want to sincerely apologise to Bryson for being personal and referring to him as a ‘twit’. That was unnecessary and something I shouldn’t have said.”
DeChambeau defended his actions and urged players to speak to him in person about the issue, rather than complain on social media.
Before his final round on Sunday, DeChambeau could be seen speaking with Koepka and former world number one Justin Thomas, who played with DeChambeau for the first two rounds.
“I like Bryson as a person, but he’s a slow golfer,” Thomas told reporters on 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.”