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Morning 9: DJ dominates | Pathgate | Amy Yang | Poor putting plagues Tiger again

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By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com)
  • February 25, 2019
Good Monday morning, golf fans.
1. Dominant DJ
AP report…”Dustin Johnson struggled early, caught a good break from behind a tree and then breezed to his sixth World Golf Championships title Sunday by closing with a 5-under 66 for a five-shot victory over Rory McIlroy in the Mexico Championship.”
  • “Johnson won for the 20th time on the PGA TOUR, making him a lifetime member at age 34.”
  • “He felt just as good about the way his game is headed. Johnson had said on Thursday he was starting to swing it as well as he did two years ago, when he won three straight tournaments to become the dominant figure in golf until his spill down the stairs on the eve of the Masters led to a back injury.”
2. Yang triumphs in Thailand
Amy Yang beat Minjee Lee by a stroke to win the LPGA Thailand for the third time.
  • AP report…”Yang, from South Korea, carded a final-round 65 and a 22-under-par 266 at Siam Country Club’s Pattaya Old Course for her fourth overall LPGA Tour win.”
  • “Despite lightning stopping play for 50 minutes and a rain delay later in the round, Yang emerged from a three-way tie with Lee and Carlota Ciganda with a birdie from the fringe of the green on the par-3 16th to regain the lead at 21 under. “
  • “I was honestly very nervous, especially last three holes,” said Yang, who also won the event in 2015 and 2017. “It was (a) tough hole to finish. I was really telling myself just (to) be patient, do (my) best at the time.”
3. Trainer the victor
John Strege writes that the Puerto Rico Open has developed a habit of popping in from obscurity to win golf tournaments.
 
“On Sunday in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, he was handed the Puerto Rico Open trophy. A PGA Tour rookie, Martin, 27, won by three strokes in only his ninth start as a tour member.”
  • “It came a year after he entered a Monday qualifier for the Web.com Tour’s El Bosque Mexico Championship, made it into the field and won the tournament to earn his Web.com Tour card. He went through a stretch of missing eight cuts in 10 starts, then won again in the Price Cutter Charity Championship.”
  • “Seven years before that, only a sophomore at the University of Southern California, he won the Pacific 12 Championship, and in 2008, at 16, he became the youngest winner in the long and storied history of the San Francisco City Amateur.”
  • “So maybe his surprise victory was not necessarily a surprise, despite his best finish in eight previous tour starts was a tie for 28th.”
4. Poor putting again troubles Tiger
Tiger Tracker (who had front-row seat for the week)...”Tiger Woods finished up the final round of the WGC-Mexico Championship with a 2-under 69 to finish tied for 10th at 8 under par. He made curious choices off the tee and putted horribly.”
  • “We’ll start with his strategy this week at Chapultepec. Through the first two days, Woods hit iron after iron after iron. He was routinely leaving himself 40 to 50 yards behind his playing partners. As the week wore on and Tiger found himself looking up at Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, the strategy never really changed. In a guaranteed-money, no-cut event, Tiger just never stepped on the gas.”
  • “He hit maybe a dozen drivers total over four days? There’s a point to be made that had he just putted a little better and not had to reload on the first tee Thursday that he would have scored better. He did end up leading the field in strokes gained: approach. But he finished 13 shots behind the winner. At some point, why not hit driver? What was there to lose?”
Interestingly, Woods declined to be interviewed for the second consecutive round, something he only did once in 2018. Clearly, the Big Cat is frustrated.
5. The secret is…not caring?
Justin Thomas took an interesting approach in his final-round 62.
  • Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard...”Although he came up short of that record – which he set during the third round last year – his record-matching 62 was good enough to vault him into the top 10 and give him some momentum going into next week’s Honda Classic, where he is the defending champion.”
  • “‘To be honest, this might sound bad, but I just didn’t really care. I was hitting driver everywhere,” said Thomas, who started the day 16 strokes behind front-runner Dustin Johnson. “I drove it well yesterday, so it’s not like I was driving it bad and hitting driver. I felt like I was driving it well enough to where I could create a significant advantage for myself.'”
6. Pathgate
Ewan Murray of the Guardian on what befell Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy at the fifth hole.
  • “I got a break there and ended up making a nice par,” Johnson said. “That’s why I called the rules official over, just because you almost felt a little bad about it. But it was the only way I could play the shot. I even tried to get really close to it and I was still standing on the path, so I was entitled to relief and sometimes the rules work to your advantage.”
  • “Two elements of this grated with many onlookers. Johnson’s demonstration of said stance actually looked unusually wide for what could only be a punch shot back on to the fairway. Secondly, he opted to play for and find the green from his relief area rather than perform the basic clearance job that would otherwise have been his only option.”
  • “Within the rules, Johnson did nothing wrong; whether he operated within the spirit of the game is another question entirely. Had he chipped out with shot number two, he would have earned widespread plaudits.”
7. What could have been, what could be for DJ
An excellent editorial on Dustin Johnson’s primacy in the professional game from ESPN’s Bob Harig.
  • On the significance of 20 wins…”While it seems as if Johnson could have more, the fact that he picked up win No. 20 on the PGA Tour is a remarkable achievement during a time of immense depth and parity. Johnson has traded spots atop the world rankings with three other players over the past year, but nobody has accomplished what he just did, going back 11 years.”
  • “Starting three years ago, he has won a minimum of three tournaments worldwide each year, with the WGC-Mexico title his second of this season after winning the Saudi International on the European Tour three weeks ago.”
  • And his well-roundedness…”His ability to drive it so far — and he typically is fearless using a driver off the tee — means numerous short-iron approaches into greens, which is why getting his wedge game figured out has paid huge dividends. He also is a deft short-game player. And when his putting is on, Johnson is hard to beat.”
8. New schedule weakens Honda field
Something’s gotta give…
  • Golfweek’s Forecaddie…”The Forecaddie counted three of the world top 10, six of the top 25 and just 13 of the top 50.”
  • “The 2017 Honda Classic drew 12 of the top 25, while the 2016 event lured four of the top 10 and 11 of the top 20. Just four years ago, the Honda touted the best field “in the modern day history of the tournament” when 16 of the top 25 players in the world teed up just a year after 13 of the top 25 were entered.”
  • “Given several factors, the sudden falloff in field quality should be a wake-up call given Honda’s role as the longest-running continuous tournament sponsor on the PGA Tour. Add in the number of players who live nearby and PGA National’s place as a course players regard as unlovable but a strong examination of skill, and The Forecaddie has no problem declaring this a new schedule victim.”
9. Johnny Wrong Socks
ICYMI: Paul Casey was three under through three holes to start his second round–no thanks to the pin positions he was getting from his caddie, however.
  • Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard writes…”Casey explained that on his first three holes of Round 2 at Club de Golf Chapultepec, he and his caddie Johnny “Long Socks” McLaren had played to “spots” on the green, not necessarily to hole locations.”
  • “It wasn’t until the duo stepped to the par-3 13th tee that they realized something was wrong. After studying his yardage book and pin sheet, McLaren told Casey he needed to land his tee shot 13 paces onto the green but Casey explained that would be “pin high” according to his pin sheet.”
  • “After a few moments of comparing pin sheets the duo realized McLaren had copied the day’s pin locations, which can be found for players and caddies on a special web site, for the Puerto Rico Open, this week’s opposite-field event.”

 

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  1. Johnny Penso

    Feb 27, 2019 at 12:22 pm

    Is it so hard to figure out why Tiger is using irons off the tee? He’s lost confidence in his driver and his ability to keep it in play and put the ball where he wants. So he does the smart thing and chooses the next best option. The fact that he still had a legit shot at a top 2 or 3 had a few makeable putts went in tells you this is a good strategy for him at this point.

  2. DJ

    Feb 26, 2019 at 12:01 am

    play it as it lies. DJ could have taken a stance avoiding the cart path; or played the shot with his foot on the path. tired of these golfers getting free drops due to bad shots. Reed got a drop too. He was standing on a sprinkler head, took a drop from the rough to the fringe. bs. and rory trying to get a drop when he couldn’t even swing the club; then he plays it left handed where he wasn’t near the cart path. this is the biggest cause of slow play – getting rulings. Go back to Speith at the US open. 15 min to play a shot. He got to drop back on the driving range.

  3. Tom

    Feb 25, 2019 at 2:40 pm

    From James posting yesterday: “Good riddance. Rory is a little b itch and a cheater. Goes to see pet tigers in captivity with fellow b itch Poulter. Doesn’t care one onza about those animals. Then he tries to cheat by coercing a drop based on a fake stance on Sunday at the WGC Mexico on Hole 6.” Spot on. Dustin’s stance was legit based on the location of the tree. No way Rory would have been able to take the club back based on where he wanted to put his feet on the path. Good on the Rules Official for calling his bull too. Cheater attempting to cheat.

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Morning 9: PGA Tour commish wants to slow down slow play discussion | Greg Norman: Roll back the ball | Langston

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By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com; @benalberstadt on Instagram)

August 21, 2019

Good Wednesday morning, golf fans.
1. Let’s slow down the slow play discussion
Golfweek’s Steve DiMeglio…”Monahan, in a gathering with members of the media Tuesday morning at East Lake Golf Club, said the Tour is on the right path toward resolving any issues regarding pace of play.”
  • “He feels everyone’s pain, he has seen the ire on social media and heard from the mouths of top players after recent episodes of excruciatingly dawdling play. He’s just not going to lead a sprint to any resolutions.”
  • “We’ve been working on this, and we can be criticized for taking too long,” Monahan said to a few chuckles from the listeners.
  • “But there’s been more than 1.2 million shots hit this year, and we’re talking about a few instances – and granted, they’re instances that are extreme – and we’re going to go down a path and we’re going to address that,” he added. “And I feel really good about where we’re going to get to, but it takes longer than you want, and you can’t be overly reactionary.”
  • “I tend to have a fair amount of urgency around everything I do, and sometimes you can’t execute the urgency you want. You have to stay on the path you’re on.”

Full piece.

2. Greg Norman: roll it back to pre 96!

 

(h/t to Geoff Shackelford for the spot & Golf.com)
3. No risk, plenty of reward
Will players going to approach East Lake differently owing to the staggered scoring?
PGATour.com’s Sean Martin…”There’s nothing to lose, and everything to gain. The only question is how to make up those strokes.”
  • “Don’t expect drastically different gameplans, especially in the early rounds, though. East Lake isn’t a course that offers a lot of risk-reward opportunities. Instead, it’s a straightforward layout that rewards repetitive execution.  Plodding along with pars and taking advantage of the occasional birdie opportunity is the best way to succeed here. Professional golfers are a conservative bunch by nature, and they aren’t convinced that slamming on the gas pedal for 72 holes is the best strategy at the season finale.”
  • “I don’t think I’m really going to change my game plan too much,” Conners said. “I’m going to try to make a lot of birdies. Starting in this position, there’s really nothing to lose. You can’t be silly, but if I can put four really good rounds of golf together, I have a chance. I think everyone feels like they have a chance.”
  • “Since 1983, there have been 19 victories by players who trailed by 10 or more strokes after any round. Nine players won when trailing by 10 or more strokes with 54 holes remaining, while seven players did so with two rounds left to play.”

Full piece.

4. Inkster losing sleep
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell…”Juli Inkster joked that making her two U.S. Solheim Cup captain’s picks are so difficult this year, she wished she didn’t have any picks at all, but the truth is that she would like more.”
  • “Inkster said Tuesday at the CP Women’s Open that she wished she had three picks.”
  • “Two picks don’t really do much for me,” Inkster said. “If I had four picks, it would be great, but I do think we need one more pick in there.”
  • “Inkster’s automatic qualifiers will be determined with Sunday’s finish to the CP Women’s Open. She’ll announce her two captain’s picks on Monday. European captain Catriona Matthew made her four captain’s picks last week. Inkster said another pick would help her with pairings.”

 

5. Well done, Lucas!
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard on Lucas Glover’s return to the Tour Championship
  • “For the three-time Tour winner, rock bottom came in 2015 when he was forced to play the Korn Ferry Tour’s finals events to regain his status.”
  • “That was a pretty bad year,” Glover said on Tuesday at East Lake. “I didn’t do anything very well. That was about as low as it got, that first journey back to the Korn Ferry finals.”
  • “By comparison this season has been an unqualified success. He’s made 20 of 25 cuts, posted seven top-10 finishes and heated up at the perfect moment with a tie for seventh last week at the BMW Championship to qualify for East Lake for the first time since 2009.”

Full piece.

6. The forgotten history of Langston
Elliot Williams at The Washingtonian…”In 1927, golfers petitioned Uncle Sam to build a course for African Americans. While they eventually prevailed, the replacement wasn’t much of an upgrade. Located atop an abandoned city dump in Northeast DC, Langston-named after John Mercer Langston, Howard University’s first law school dean and the first black man from Virginia elected to Congress-opened in 1939 with grass missing and just nine holes. (The other nine were added in 1955.) There were no shelters for bad weather, and the course was surrounded by disused tires and a sewage ditch. Trash and all, though, Langston was still home.”
  • “Over the years, it also became a see-and-be-seen destination. Heavyweight champion Joe Louis played an amateur tournament at Langston in 1940, drawing 2,000 fans. Lifelong golfer David Ross met Muhammad Ali one day on a putting green: “His limousine pulls up, and . . . he said to me, ‘I’ve never picked up a golf club before,’ and he reached out and got my putter.”
  • “By the 1970s, black people could comfortably play at many courses. As the demographics of the city changed around it, Langston did, too. Today newcomers-often white and in their twenties-play just as often as the old-timers. The course, however, is again in shambles. The National Park Service says it will open up operations to bidders this year and will strike a new contract by October 2020. But a similar plan to renovate was under way two years ago and ended abruptly. Longtimers hope the limbo will soon be in the past-and that after 80-some years, the course conditions will finally befit its loyal players.”

Full piece. 

7. Bobby’s missing medal
A segment of a fascinating story from Helen Ross at PGATour.com
  • …”The medal, which is slightly larger than a silver dollar, is the one Jones received when he won the 1927 Southern Open. On the front is the crest of the Southern Golf Association while the back is engraved in 14-carat gold with the words: Open Championship, Atlanta, March 1927, Won by Robert T. Jones Jr., 281 strokes.”
  • “What the younger Jones didn’t know is that serious golf collectors had wondered where it was ever since his grandfather donated all his championship medals to the United States Golf Association. The medal was the only first-place award not in the collection.”
  • “One day, Jones and his wife, Mimi, who happened to be wearing the medal, walked into a reception. A good friend, Sidney Matthew, the Tallahassee, Florida lawyer who is one of the foremost experts on all things Bobby Jones, immediately took notice.”

Full piece. 

8. A Tiger-inspired generation
Golf Channel’s Will Gray…“The world that Woods took by storm two decades ago is far different from the one he looked to reconquer last year, and different still from the one that watched him slip into a green jacket this spring. Gone are the scores of journeymen who once cobbled out a decent living on Tour without much time for practice. Same for the single-skill specialists, the ones who shined so brightly in one area as to make up for glaring deficiencies elsewhere.”
  • “This is the Tiger Effect. The one he bore and the one he’s had to overcome.”
  • “Out on Tour in 2019, you need to have the entire package. Fairways are lined not with players who spend more time at the buffet table than the gym, but instead by physical specimen who have honed their craft by combining two workouts for every round played. The era of Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy is upon us, with athletes taking to golf rather than golfers gleaning athletic skills to boost their skill set.”

Full piece.

9. Youngest CWO competitor ever
BBC report on 12-year-old Michelle Liu…”As well as practicing alongside LPGA players, Liu met Henderson, 21, on the driving range on Monday and said she had a picture taken with the defending champion, who became the first home winner last year.”
  • “Liu qualified for the event, which started in 1973, via the Canadian Women’s Amateur Championship in July.”
  • “I know there is a lot of great players in the field here so I definitely say it’s going to be pretty hard,” she added.

 

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Morning 9: Will Captain Woods pick Tiger? | Would new Tour Champ format have altered past outcomes? | Pelley on slow play

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By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com; @benalberstadt on Instagram)

August 20, 2019

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans.
1. Captain Tiger’s expectations 
AP report…”Tiger Woods wants the eight players who made his Presidents Cup team and four more under consideration as captain’s picks to play tournaments and stay sharp over the next three months leading to the December matches Down Under.”
  • “…Woods said he told prospective Presidents Cup players at a meeting two weeks ago how important it was to be committed to the team and to the event.”
  • “And that means playing and being prepared,” he said during a conference call Monday evening. “The only time we have ever lost the Cup was in Australia, and quite frankly, some of the guys didn’t play or practice that much. It was our offseason, and we got beat pretty badly.”
2. …but will TW pick himself? 
ESPN’s Bob Harig with Woods‘ remarks on the matter…
“Woods said Monday that although the final decision remains his, he won’t participate as a player unless that is what all involved want. And even then, he might not.”
  • “My job as the captain is to put together the best team possible,” Woods said during a conference call Monday to discuss the eight players who automatically qualified for the team following the BMW Championship. “Trying to put together the best 12 guys. We’ll be going through the whole process of having communication with the top eight guys and vice captains.
  • “That is something that we’ll certainly talk about. Ultimately it’ll be my call. But I want to have all of their opinions before that decision is made.”

Full piece.

3. How Tiger will remember 2019…
Golf Channel’s Will Gray…
“The rest of the tournaments I didn’t really play as well as I wanted to,” Woods said. “But at the end of the day, I’m the one with the green jacket.”
  • “It was a perfect encapsulation of the dichotomy that ruled Woods’ 2019 campaign. For most of the year, he was mediocre and sometimes worse – this, despite coming off a season that saw him capture the Tour Championship and come within a whisker of winning the FedExCup. The good rounds were sporadic, the bad ones were more plentiful, and the few decent results usually stemmed from a palatable final round that began with Woods well out of contention.”
  • “In fact, there was only one tournament all year where Woods even finished within eight shots of the winner. But that’s also the only one most people will remember.”

Full piece.

4. What if…
Golf Digest’s Ryan Herrington on what the past FedEx Cup finales would have looked like with the current seeding…
  • “What if, however, the system that begins this week had been in place the previous 12 years of the FedEx Cup? How might history be different?”
  • “As it turns out, not all that much. And that’s the way the tour officials wanted it, having run thousands of computer simulations to try and approximate as best they could the point differential in play under the old system.”
  • “We went back all 12 years, took the top 30 in the FedEx Cup list entering East Lake and applied the adjusted strokes to the players scores at the Tour Championship to determine who would have won if the new format was used retroactively.”
  • “Nine times the actual FedEx Cup winner also would have won in the new strokes-based system, and a 10th time the winner (Jim Furyk in 2010) would have been in a sudden-death playoff for the title.”
5. Steph Curry bankrolls Howard golf
Our Gianni Magliocco…”NBA star and avid golfer Stephen Curry has donated a seven-figure sum to Howard University in a move that will see men’s and women’s golf teams at the school for at least the next six years.”
  • “As the Washington Post reported on Monday, this will be the first time the school will compete at the Division I level in the sport, and the university plans to have the teams ready to compete for the 2020/21 academic year.”
  • “Curry’s donation was partly inspired by Howard senior and golfer Otis Ferguson IV, and speaking on bringing golf back to Howard, the 31-year-old stated”
  • “Golf is a sport that has changed my life in ways that are less tangible, but just as impactful. It’s a discipline that challenges your mental wherewithal from patience to focus, and is impossible to truly master, so when you hear about these passionate student athletes who have the talent but don’t have a fair shot at the game, it’s tough. I feel really honored to play a small role in the rich history of Howard University.”
6. U.S. Am ratings…
Per Geoff Shackelford…”According to Sports Business Daily, the 2019 BMW Championship drew a 1.9 Saturday audience and a 2.4 for Sunday’s final round on NBC, well up over non-Tiger-contending Wyndham Championship’s previously played in this schedule spot.  The 2018 Wyndham drew a 1.9.”
“The slide in US Amateur interest and visibility continued with a .4 Saturday and a .3 for Sunday’s finale on Fox going head-to-head with most of the BMW final round. Talk about an event screaming out for a change in its Monday to Sunday format to avoid being an afterthought.”
7. Do away with the Tour Championship name? 
Randall Mell says it no longer applies…
  • “The Tour Championship isn’t really a “tournament” anymore.”
  • “They’re hosting something bigger and better at East Lake in Atlanta this week, something completely different.”
  • “They’re hosting the FedExCup Finale.”
  • “Really, the PGA Tour ought to rename this week’s event exactly that, because keeping “Tour Championship” shackles fans to conventions that offend traditional sensibilities. You don’t, after all, start a tournament with a lead of seven or more shots on two-thirds of the field, the way Justin Thomas will.”

Full piece.

8. Ogletree’s tough love short game lesson
Golf Digest’s Ryan Herrington on the discussion between Georgia Tech’s coach and the eventual U.S. Am winner…
  • “The tough-love conversation between Ogletree and Heppler had become the stuff of legend in the Georgia Tech camp. They were at Blaze Pizza in Atlanta last November, and Heppler let Ogletree know he had the game tee-to-green to be a successful tour pro, but the reason he had yet to win a college event was that he just wasn’t good enough around the greens.”
  • “Ogletree played the equivalent of six under par for 35 holes en route to the title. So Ogletree did something about it, working with Jeff Patton on technique in the sand. Meanwhile, teammate Noah Norton helped him with some putting drills. Ogletree put in time daily at the short-game area. And in the spring semester, he saw his stroke average drop 1½ shots without hitting his driver or irons any different.”
  • If perseverance in part characterizes Ogletree’s golf development, it certainly describes how he claimed the Havemeyer Trophy on Sunday. The day started with promise; Ogletree shot the equivalent of a 67 on Pinehurst No. 4 during the morning 18 (for the first time in U.S. Amateur history the 36-hole final was contested over two courses). The problem? Augenstein, a rising senior at Vanderbilt, shot a 65, and held a 2-up lead.”

Full piece.

9. Euro Tour chief on slow play
Keith Pelley penned an op-ed of sorts for EuropeanTour.com, that reads in part…
“Slow players, on the other hand, 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.”
  • “The European Tour has been at the forefront of the assault on slow play for the last four years. We have the most aggressive monitoring policy in our sport, and we have issued shot penalties, but the past four months showed us finally that the time had arrived when players were willing to take a tough stance and we applauded that.”
  • “Slow play became a critical issue because our players wanted it to be.  That moment was the door opening and the mandate we were given at May’s tournament committee meeting empowered our operations and rules team to present stronger, more robust recommendations”
  • “We took a formal proposal back to the next Tournament Committee meeting at the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open last month and following some fine tuning over the past six weeks, we yesterday publicly announced a four-point plan focusing on regulation, education, innovation and field size reduction where appropriate.”

 

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European Tour announces 4-point plan in a bid to tackle slow play

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On Monday, the European Tour announced a four-point plan aimed at tackling the issue of slow play in the game.

The plan, which will come into effect this November, will focus on four areas—regulation, education, innovation and field sizes.

Of those four areas, notable updates include that players will now only have to breach the time allowances twice in a round to incur a one-stroke penalty, and players who are put on the clock at least 15 times next season will now be fined £26,000 compared to the £9,000 fine they currently face.

In their statement, the European Tour said

“When players are out of position and either being monitored or timed, a one-shot penalty will be incurred after two bad times – currently a player would be ‘monitored’ and if he breaches the time allowance (50 seconds for first to play, 40 seconds for second or third to play) he will then be ‘officially timed’ and would then have to breach twice more before being given a one-shot penalty. Players will, however, have the option to request one time extension per round, giving an additional 40 seconds to hit a shot on this request.”

The Tour will also look to reduce the number of players in the field at events where possible, while rules officials are set to be proactive regarding targeting slow players on the course.

Speaking on the four-point plan, Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of the European Tour, stated

“We are already at the forefront of pace of play management in the professional game, but after being mandated by our Tournament Committee to be even firmer in dealing with this issue, the time was right to take these additional steps.

I believe the plan we are implementing for the 2020 season will bring about meaningful change that will make golf even more enjoyable for the players and our fans, whether they are at the course in person or watching on television.”

To retain their European Tour card, each member will have to pass an interactive online rules test, while a trial pace of play timing system will be implemented at the Tour’s flagship event at Wentworth next month where there will also be larger gaps between start times over the weekend’s rounds.

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