It didn’t take long for the European Tour’s new pace-of-play policy to have a significant impact.
Last week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship began the circuit’s crackdown on slow play, with new regulations that call for a player to receive a one-stroke penalty if he has two bad times in a tournament.
In the opening round, Viktor Hovland said that his group was already on the clock on the 13th hole (their fourth of the day) when he took a little extra time to readjust his line on the green.
Walking to the next tee, Hovland was informed by an official that he required 59 seconds to hit his putt – longer than the mandated 40 seconds. That was his first bad time; another and he’d be docked a stroke.
“That kind of flustered me a little bit,” Hovland told reporters Wednesday at the Dubai Desert Classic. “The rest of the round, I was only focusing on trying to play fast, instead of trying to perform. It was a little bit of a learning experience for me just to trust my routines.”
Hovland said he’s not normally a slow player and that he’s “never felt stressed in that way before.”
“I always want to err on the other side (playing quicker), so your mind is going through, 'Oh, when are they starting the time? Does this count?' So that was a bit of a rookie move from my perspective, but I felt like we got it cleared up with the rules officials and now I’m more comfortable with that.”
Hovland never received a second bad time, but he did have another rules issue that eventually led to a one-stroke penalty for improperly marking his ball when it came to rest next to a sign. He ultimately missed the cut by one.
“That hurt a little bit,” he said.
European Tour referee Andy McFee told reporters in Abu Dhabi that the early-round three-balls were roughly 10 minutes quicker than last year, and that Hovland was one of only three players to receive a bad time.
“There was not one breach of in-position timing,” he told reporters. “We had one or two usual suspects who got close but didn’t go over, which was good.”