GC Am Tour's pace-of-play policy very effective

By Will GrayJune 26, 2013, 7:41 pm

As players descended upon Orange County National Golf Center in Orlando, Fla., for a Golf Channel Amateur Tour event this past April, they headed to a check-in counter where they were reminded by tournament officials of several pre-tournament staples: cart assignments, rules for the upcoming round and where lunch would be served at the conclusion of play. For the first of many times during the day, though, they were also made aware of one of the most important concepts of any Am Tour round – pace of play.

When Golf Channel took over operation of the Am Tour in 2009, its events staff inherited a series of tournaments where 5:30 rounds were accepted as a frustrating but inevitable norm, with some rounds extending to six hours or beyond. By instituting a proactive pace-of-play policy, one that is actively enforced by an on-site team at each event, Am Tour officials have reduced the time it takes to complete a competitive round at any one of their events by more than 45 minutes.

“Our pace-of-play policy is great in that it puts the power into the hands of the individual players,” explained regional director Joe Wagner. “Our emphasis and education of our players on proper pace of play has vastly improved our pace on tour over the years.”

Pace of Play month: Articles and videos

Much like the AJGA, the Am Tour uses a time par on each hole to gauge progress of pace on the course. Though officials inform groups of where they stand “to par” at various points throughout the round, players are officially checked twice during the round, at both the ninth and 18th holes. At that point, they have two options to avoid sanction: finish at or below the prescribed time par for their round, a hole-by-hole breakdown of which is printed on each participant’s scorecard, or finish the hole within 14 minutes of the group in front of them. If unable to satisfy either of the requirements, players are given a one-shot penalty upon their first offense.

While the PGA Tour has not assessed a penalty stroke for slow play in 18 years, Am Tour officials have shown no such hesitancy in adding on additional strokes for groups in violation of the policy they have created. Since the start of the 2013 season, 96 one-shot penalties have been issued nationwide to Am Tour players.

“We’re not afraid to enforce policies,” said Colin Turner, the Am Tour’s director of events. “If we don’t penalize a group that is out of position, we can lose the entire golf course. It’s a domino effect.”

While penalties apply to individual players, they are assessed at Am Tour events on a group-by-group basis. Though officials offer an appeals process after the round where players can make a case that the penalty should apply only to a single slow individual, the vast majority of penalties remain assessed to each player in the offending group.

In addition to introducing an aggressive policy to help monitor the field, the Am Tour makes several other adjustments with pace of play in mind, specifically at 'major' events conducted nationwide. For instance, while the tee sheets of the various host courses allow for foursomes, all Am Tour majors utilize only threesomes, sacrificing potential revenue to help maintain a more manageable pace. On high risk/reward holes with forced carries that can sometimes become problematic for pace of play, volunteers are often stationed to signal to players whether a ball has cleared a hazard to avoid extensive delays that may result from the dreaded return trip to the teeing ground or fairway.

By opening events to players of varying skill levels, Am Tour officials also face the unique challenge of preparing a course for both scratch players as well as bogey (or worse) golfers. At any given event, up to four different tees are used; while Championship Flight participants play a course ranging from 6,500-7,000 yards, the same track is reduced to a range of 5,800-6,300 yards for players in the Snead Flight, who carry handicaps of 20 or higher.

According to Turner, the higher-handicapped players are not necessarily the most frequent offenders of the tour’s pace-of-play policy.

“Level of play does not dictate pace of play,” he explained. “Your higher handicappers hit it more often, but lower handicappers pay more attention to each shot.”

The results from the Am Tour’s extensive efforts can be seen in the significant reduction in overall pace of play. While rounds often pushed six hours in duration as recently as 2009, thus far the national average for the 2013 Am Tour season has been 4 hours, 43 minutes. On June 15, separate local events were conducted in Tampa, Fla., Alma, Ark. and Kannapolis, N.C.; the average pace at each event was 3:55, 4:00 and 4:22, respectively.

Having invested the time into both devising and executing a pace-of-play policy that has proven effective, the Am Tour continues to show that golfers of varying skill can enjoy the structure of a tournament round and compete against their peers on a course that matches their ability – all while still making it to the post-round lunch table before the food gets cold.

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Tee times, TV schedule, stats for The Northern Trust

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 21, 2018, 10:20 pm

It's the first tournament of the FedExCup Playoffs and the top 125 on the season-long points list are battling it out to see who will move on to next week's playoff event. Here's the key info for The Northern Trust. (Click here for tee times)

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; Click here for live stream

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; Click here for live stream

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; Click here for live stream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, Noon-1:45PM ET; Click here for live stream; CBS, 2-6 p.m.

Purse: $9 million ($1.62 million to winner)

Course: Course: Ridgewood Country Club (par 71, 7,319 yards)

Defending champion: Dustin Johnson (Defeated Jordan Spieth with a birdie on the first playoff hole at Glen Oaks Club)

Notable tee times (all times ET)

• 7:54 a.m. Thursday, 12:55 p.m. Friday: Tiger Woods, Marc Leishman, Tommy Fleetwood

• 8:05 a.m. Thursday, 1:06 p.m. Friday: Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka

• 8:16 a.m. Thursday, 1:17 p.m. Friday: Webb Simpson, Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau

• 12:44 p.m. Thursday, 7:43 a.m. Friday: Jordan Spieth, Beau Hossler, Byeong-Hun An

• 12:55 p.m. Thursday, 7:54 a.m. Friday: Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson, Tony Finau

Key stats:

The top 100 players in FedExCup points after The Northern Trust advance to the Dell Technologies Championship.

• The field includes 120 of the top 125 in this season’s FedExCup – all except No. 17 Rickie Fowler, No. 21 Rory McIlroy, No. 50 Henrik Stenson, No. 93 Patrick Rodgers and No. 122 Bud Cauley.

• 2007 and 2009 FedExCup champion Tiger Woods is making his first appearance in the FedExCup Playoffs since 2013. Although he has won each of the other three playoff events, he has never won The Northern Trust.

• In the 11 years that this event has been part of the FedExCup Playoffs, the winner has gone on to capture the FedExCup just once - Vijay Singh in 2008.

• The defending champion is Dustin Johnson. Ernie Els (1996-1997) is the only player to successfully defend his title.

• Jordan Spieth finished runner-up last year. Three runners-up have gone on to win the next year - Seve Ballesteros (1987-1988), Dennis Paulson (1999-2000), and Padraig Harrington


• The course record in this event at Ridgewood Country Club is 62 by Hunter Mahan in the first round in 2008. The tournament record for 18 holes is 61 by Brandt Snedeker in the final round in 2011 at Plainfield Country Club.

(Stats and information provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit)

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Na holding out hope for Ryder Cup captain's pick

By Rex HoggardAugust 21, 2018, 9:22 pm

PARAMUS, N.J. – There are no shortage of goals for players as the PGA Tour reaches the final month of the season, and how players prioritize those accomplishments depends on individual motivations.

For example, coming into the season Kevin Na’s primary goal was to win a Tour event, which he accomplished last month at the Greenbrier. After that, things get interesting.

“I think win, No. 1. Ryder Cup, No. 2. Tour Championship, No. 3,” he said on Tuesday at The Northern Trust.

Na is currently 19th on the FedExCup point list, which gives him a good chance to qualify for the season finale, which comes with an invitation to three of next year’s four majors. The more pressing concern would be this year’s Ryder Cup.

The Northern Trust: Articles, photos and videos

Na finish 18th on the U.S. Ryder Cup point list and he would likely need to do something extraordinary the next two weeks for captain Jim Furyk to make him one of his picks. Still, making the team that will travel to Paris next month is always on his short list.

“If I can somehow get my name on one of those lists of players that play the Ryder Cup; maybe at the end of my career, instead of saying, you know, you probably say, I had X amount of wins; and I played X amount of Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, I think is pretty cool,” said Na, who has never played on a Ryder or Presidents Cup team.

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Woods tinkering with driver shaft, loft at The Northern Trust

By Rex HoggardAugust 21, 2018, 9:11 pm

PARAMUS, N.J. – Tiger Woods said on Tuesday at The Northern Trust that he spent last week attending his children’s soccer games and tinkering with his driver.

Although he finished runner-up at the PGA Championship, Woods hit just 5 of 14 fairways on Sunday at Bellerive and ranked 74th for the week in fairways hit. It was no surprise that his focus heading into the FedExCup Playoffs was finding more fairways.

“We've been working on it, experimenting with different shafts and different lofts on my driver and 3-wood, as well,” Woods said. “Just trying different things. I've still got two more days and I'll still be monkeying around with a couple things and come game time we'll see what I go with.”

The Northern Trust: Articles, photos and videos

Woods played an abbreviated practice round on Tuesday at Ridgewood Country Club, which included Nos. 1-8 and Nos. 15-18, with a new driver that features a different shaft from the one he used at the PGA Championship and more loft (9.5 degrees).

He also had a TaylorMade equipment representative walking with him on Tuesday and went to the practice range after his round for more work.

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English confident in playoff run after just sneaking in

By Rex HoggardAugust 21, 2018, 9:07 pm

PARAMUS, N.J. – Harris English didn’t know the exact math, only that he needed to play his best final round of the season last week at the Wyndham Championship.

Although it wasn’t perfect, English’s closing 68 was good enough to tie for 11th place and vault him from 132nd on the season-long point race to 124th and into the playoffs.

“It was definitely a bit of a pressure-packed situation coming down the stretch. Different than, really, winning a golf tournament,” English said on Tuesday at The Northern Trust, the postseason lid-lifter. “It felt like Q-School again back in 2011 where you're in the sixth round and trying to get it done.”

The Northern Trust: Articles, photos and videos

Despite three-putts on three of his final nine holes, English earned his seventh consecutive trip to the postseason and some much needed confidence after a tough year.

English had just two top-10 finishes this season and spent the majority of the summer mired around the playoff bubble (No. 125).

“Being 124 right now, I need another really good week this week to make it to Boston [the second playoff stop],” he said. “I like where I am. I have a lot of confidence from last week. Struck the ball well and kind of did everything to put the ball in great position. If I can do that again this week, that would be a heck of a week.”

Nick Taylor also played his way into the top 125 last week, finishing tied for eighth place at Sedgefield Country Club to move from No. 129 to No. 119.