USGA conducting scientific study of pace of play

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ARDMORE, Pa. – Hours after announcing its new pace-of-play initiative, the USGA said it was taking its most “scientific” look ever at slow play at this year’s U.S. Open.  

Tom O’Toole, the chair of USGA’s championship committee, said Wednesday that the pace-of-play guidelines this week at Merion call for an allotted time of 4 hours, 39 minutes. It’s important to note that that does not apply to the entire field of 156 players; rather, they’re responsible for simply staying in position throughout the day. 

For the first time in decades, O’Toole said, a rules official will walk with each threesome and take a “proactive” approach in encouraging the group to stay in position throughout the round.  

In the past, the rules stipulated that players on a par 4 or 5 had to be on the teeing ground before the preceding group had left the green ahead. O’Toole said that rule is “more narrow now,” thanks to the timing rovers, and should be able to address the problem before it occurs. 

“If we look at ourselves in the mirror,” he said, “we better be proactive to do something at the national championship level, as well.” 

At the Masters, 14-year-old Guan Tianlang was assessed a one-shot penalty for slow play after he was repeatedly warned to pick up the pace.  

O’Toole, meanwhile, said the USGA has been “pretty happy” with the pace of play at the U.S. Open over the past several years, especially when considering the number of players who are on the course Thursday and Friday (156) and the stiff challenge that is presented.