ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – For many fans, and a surprisingly large number of players, the European Tour’s new slow play regulation that resulted in Jordan Spieth being given a “monitoring” penalty is a bit of a mystery.
“It didn’t make any sense to me,” Spieth said on Thursday at the ABU Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. “It didn’t affect the round, but Rory [McIlroy] and Rickie [Fowler] were surprised as well.”
Early Friday morning as the field waited out a fog delayed that stretched for nearly 2 ½ hours, European Tour chief rules official John Paramor helped clarify the ruling to GolfChannel.com
According to Paramor, Spieth’s group – which included McIlroy and Fowler – was informed after playing the third hole that they were four minutes out of position.
Under the circuit’s new slow play policy which was just announced this week, Paramor began monitoring the group on the fifth hole and said they made up more than three minutes by the time they teed off on the eighth hole.
“Pace of play on the European Tour is measured by whether a group keeps to the starting interval between groups, rather than if they are on the same hole, as it is in America,” Paramor said.
However, just before Paramor was about to stop monitoring the group, Spieth took longer than the time allowed to hit his birdie putt on the par-5 eighth hole.
Players are allowed 40 seconds (50 seconds if they play first) to play a shot. Spieth, who did not play first, took 70 seconds to hit his birdie putt, Paramor said.
Although Spieth indicated he planned to talk with officials about the penalty after his round, Paramor said he had not spoken to the world No. 1. Under the new policy, a second monitoring penalty will result in a fine (about $2,800).
European Tour CEO Keith Pelley said this week that the goal of the new policy is to trim 15 minutes off the tournament average round. Thursday’s average round in Abu Dhabi was 4 hours, 33 minutes, about 5 minutes faster than the first round last year.
Paramor said there were no other monitoring penalties assessed on Day 1 and that officials monitored a total of 18 groups on Thursday.
Asked if officials singled out Spieth, who is playing his first regular European Tour event this week, Paramor said, “No, absolutely not.