ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – European Tour officials didn’t waste any time putting the circuit’s new slow play policy to work, doling out a “monitoring” penalty to world No. 1 Jordan Spieth on Day 1 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
Spieth’s group, which included Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler, was informed they were being monitored by John Paramor, the European Tour’s chief rules official, as they walked to the fourth tee (the group’s 13th hole of the day).
Under the circuit’s new policy, which was announced at a players’ meeting on Tuesday, a player has 40 seconds (with an additional 10 seconds if they play first) to play a shot once they are informed they are being monitored.
On the eighth green, officials said Spieth took more time than what is allotted to hit his putt and he was told on the ninth tee that he’d received the penalty.
“It didn’t make any sense to me,” said Spieth, who opened with a 68. “It didn’t affect the round, but Rory and Rickie were surprised as well.”
Spieth said he planned to talk with officials about the penalty after his round. Under the tour’s slow play policy two monitoring penalties will result in a fine (about $2,800).
“It was a bit of a weird one,” McIlroy said. “Sometimes the refs have to use common sense. With the time we’re allowed if you take an extra look at a putt you’re over the time. But if we’re in position [relative to the group ahead] there’s no reason to time us.”
Paramor explained to reporters on Wednesday that the new policy will allow officials to single out slow players for penalties instead of an entire group.
“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.