When word that the PGA Tour Policy Board had passed and will implement new pace-of-play guidelines during the 2020 season began to spread, the age-old cycle of news headlines, analytics, anonymous sources, finger pointing and speculation got another big boost. We don’t know all the details of the new plan, and won’t until the Tour makes its official announcement about the change (reportedly coming early 2020), but we do know enough to keep the speculation going until then.
Golf Digest reports the new policy will shift the Tour’s focus on players in groups that are out of position to individual players regardless of group position, which is in-line with the Tour’s August announcement that it would be taking a closer look at the pace-of-policy. That announcement came on the heels of the “recent incidents,” the Tour cited at the time — those incidents being Bryson DeChambeau’s antics at the 2019 Northern Trust and a whole other p-o-p rabbit hole. But back to the new policy. To shift the focus to individual players, the Tour is reportedly going to create a secret shit list of the slowest players so they are more likely to be put on the clock. If a player records a second bad time during a round they will incur a one-stoke penalty.
The new policy is supposed to start a week after the Masters, at the RBC Heritage in South Carolina. That seems a pretty quick turnaround for what’s being talked up as some kind of sweeping, answer-to-all-problems policy — but is it really any of that? There are rules meant to address slow play on the Tour already on the books, though they are pretty weak, obviously. But the bigger part of the problem, one the rulebook can’t fix, is the Tour’s inability to enforce it’s own rules, or unwillingness to do so.
Pace-of-play has been a massive problem for the Tour ever since, well, ever. Any time it looks like the Tour is ready to do something about it, it doesn’t — a story seemingly as old as the game itself. Are we really to believe this new policy is going to change anything?
It’s no secret who the slowest players are, certainly amongst the players themselves, but the fans know it too. What’s keeping a list of the most-likely suspects going to achieve if the same rules officials won’t penalize anyone anyways? What’s the point of keeping the list secret in the first place if we can guess who’s on it? Maybe some good ol’ fashioned online public shaming is the change we need to speed things up.
Despite the announcement, right now the Tour is no closer to solving the problem than it was to begin with. This new policy gives it a new approach at highlighting AND enforcing the problem, but given its track record for penalizing players, or lack there of, the prospect that the Tour has effected any meaningful change is still a toss up.
At least we won’t have to wait too long to find out for sure.