Two more obscure names were added Thursday to the infamous list of punished dawdlers, after the team of rookie Brian Campbell, making his 13th career Tour start, and 38-year-old Argentine Miguel Angel Carballo received a one-shot penalty for two bad times during the first round of the Zurich Classic.
Their combined world ranking: 910.
Yeah, the Tour sure showed how tough it is on slow play.
Predictably, news of the penalty was met mostly with laughter Friday.
Did the Tour really pick the first round of alternate shot – a format unfamiliar to at least half of the participants – in the first team event since 1981 to dole out its first penalty in 22 years?
“I kinda felt like it was a little unfair,” said Campbell, and he was far from the only one.
Since it’s been so long, let’s blow the cobwebs off the Tour’s pace-of-play policy, which spans three pages in the player handbook:
Once a group is out of position, the players in the group are put on the clock and timed. They are allowed between 40 and 60 seconds to play their shots, depending on the order of when they hit. Exceeding that time limit twice will result in a one-shot penalty.
Since Day got slapped with a shot in the third round of the ’95 Honda Classic, five players have been penalized in a major championship – none as comical as Guan Tianlang at the 2013 Masters. Slow play has been a problem for decades, but officials decided to make an example of a 14-year-old from China. It was embarrassing.
That first and second rounds on Tour typically take five hours for a three-ball suggests the current policy doesn’t work. The fine for 10 bad times – $10,000 – is .005 percent of the first-place check at The Players Championship. A deterrent, it is not.
Nor is it a crisis, at least not according to PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan. He raised eyebrows earlier this year when he said that he wasn’t interested in speeding up the game, and that the criticism is merely the “impulse in the modern world to do everything faster than we did it last year.”
Yes, players each week are competing for silly amounts of cash, and yes, they deserve the proper time to try to execute their shots. But the penalty Thursday shows the arbitrariness of the Tour’s policy.
Alternates into the Zurich event, Campbell and Carballo were paired with two PGA section pros – they’re 15th on the Tour’s eligibility ranking – who helped fill out the open field. Campbell said those two players, Kyle Ramey and Phil Schmitt, were understandably nervous early and went out in 38 to drop the group out of touch with the group in front of them.
Campbell said the group was “sprinting” around TPC Louisiana, and yet they still were on the clock as they headed to the back nine. Carballo took too long and received a bad time on 12. Campbell, who already had his caddie waiting for him on the par-3 14th tee in an attempt to speed up play, needed more than 40 seconds to hit his shot and got the second bad time.
Campbell vehemently protested the penalty, and he had a point: They got behind early because they were playing with, ahem, two section pros.
But the Tour didn’t budge. “The policy is the policy,” they said … never mind that that policy hasn’t been enforced over the past two decades.
And so now little-known Brian Campbell has one more slow-play penalty on Tour than GOAT slowpoke Ben Crane or the legendary Kevin Na or even former world No. 1 Jason Day, who has brazenly shrugged off his slow play, saying that he’ll back off five times before a shot if it’ll help him hit the shot.
Somehow, the Tour’s pace-of-play policy just became an even bigger joke.