PGA Tour to review pace of play, consider penalty

JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- After days of controversy and a few high-profile examples of slow play involving golfer Bryson DeChambeau, the PGA Tour announced Sunday that it will review its policy and consider ways to penalize players even if their group is not out of position.

The issue boiled over when video of DeChambeau made the social media rounds after he twice took an excessive amount of time to hit shots during the second round at Liberty National, site of the Northern Trust.

Several players took DeChambeau to task via Twitter, prompting him to strongly defend himself on Saturday, saying the criticism was "unfair.''

The problems spilled over to Sunday morning when DeChambeau approached Brooks Koepka's caddie, Rickie Elliott, on the practice putting green and suggested that the No. 1-ranked player in the world should take up his issues with DeChambeau personally rather than criticize him publicly.

And Koepka did just that, declining to share details but saying they had agreed to talk more.

"I know he feels singled out, especially when I'm speaking about it,'' said Koepka, who has been vocal about slow play and did make note of DeChambeau's habits after he had won the Dubai Desert Classic on the European Tour. "It's like I told him, I've mentioned his name once, and that's it.

"There's so many guys out here where it becomes an issue, and obviously him being probably the best player that's relatively slow right now, he's going to be on TV a lot more, so you're going to catch a lot more of those type of instances.''

What particularly raised the ire of other players and those criticizing DeChambeau on social media was him taking more than two minutes to hit a putt on the eighth green during Friday's round. He stalked it from all sides, studied his green-reading book several times before finally hitting the putt -- and missing.

The PGA Tour rules have a general time limit of 40 seconds to hit any shot, but players are not timed unless their group is out of position. The Tour said it would look at ways, using shot link technology, to attack the issue and would consider penalizing players whose group is otherwise in position but still taking an excessive amount of time.

"We have learned over the years that pace has a lot of factors that play into it, and it's actually quite complicated,'' said Tyler Dennis, the PGA Tour's chief of operations. "The overall time to play a round is affected by things like the number of players on the course, tee time intervals, amount of daylight, course setup and the weather. Some of these are things we can influence, and some are not.''

Under the current policy, players are "on the clock'' when their group falls out of position. They are then given an allotted time between 40 and 50 seconds (those going first get more time) to hit a shot. If there is bad time, a player gets a warning. Only the second bad time leads to a one-stroke penalty -- rarely issued.

Players are fined for a second bad time in a season, and each bad time thereafter. And for each time they are out on the clock after the 10th time. DeChambeau said he has been issued just one bad time this year, meaning he has not even received a fine.

After his round Sunday, DeChambeau said he appreciated Koepka coming to him.

"It was actually fantastic,'' he said. "I appreciate what Brooks did. I have high respect for him because he did that. There was one instance he said [from Dubai] and he said, 'Yeah, I said something about that, but it was in general and got blown out of proportion.'

"I said, 'I think we've got to start internally, so we don't have these issues coming out in public and it creates a bad image for the PGA Tour.' We never want that. We had a great conversation and I have a new level of respect for him.''

Koepka has been vocal about slow play, and both he and Rory McIlroy suggested earlier this week that more needs to be done. The rule book allows for penalties, which are never enforced, he said.

"The issue is it's in the rule book,'' Koepka said. "So if they take it out of the rule book, then you've got nothing to complain about. It's just like hitting it in the water, I gotta take a penalty stroke except I don't want to take a penalty stroke. If you take longer than 40 [seconds], you [should be] penalized. I'll be the guinea pig. ... If I go over 40, penalize me. If it's going to happen, put it on me. I'm the one who is talking about it probably the most out of any player.''

DeChambeau still contends he is not slow, that the overall time it takes him to play a hole is not beyond the timing guidelines.

To that end, DeChambeau said he had a member of his management team time all of his shots on Sunday.

"On average, my shots into the green and off the tee around 30 seconds,'' he said. That's 10 seconds under, you know. And if you go to the putting green, let's say it takes 50 seconds, that equals out and you're approximately on time.''

Asked why he had his shots timed, DeChambeau said: "We wanted to have proof.''