Q: Why is there rarely any talk about how long it takes Tour players to complete their rounds (sometimes up to five hours)? The NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball are taking measures to improve their game lengths, so why isn’t the PGA promoting a better pace of play?
— Trey Robbins, Flossmoor, Ill.
A: Oh, there's talk about it, Trey — just like there is talk about tax reform, peace in the Middle East and a Wham! reunion — there just isn't much done about it. The PGA Tour has pace-of-play rules in effect, but they are not nearly as strict, or readily enforced, as those adopted by the LPGA.
The PGA Tour allows 40 seconds per stroke for golfers, as opposed to 30 seconds on the LPGA Tour. That equates to a significantly longer grace period on the PGA where total time per hole is concerned. If a player violates the time constraints, he is “put on the clock,” i.e. given a warning but not penalized.
If a player is guilty of a second time violation, he absorbs a one-stroke penalty and a $5,000 fine. A third bust in the same event constitutes a two-stroke penalty and a $10,000 fine. A fourth violation in the same event results in a disqualification. Any player who is put on the clock 10 times over the course of a PGA Tour season receives a $20,000 fine.
In contrast, on the LPGA Tour, the first violation of the pace-of-play rules results in a two-stroke penalty. The second violation results in a disqualification. The LPGA adopted the more stern approach to pace-of-play rules in 2004 and saw immediate results — an average reduction of 20-30 minutes in the average LPGA round from the previous season.
Fact is, many players have complained about the pace-of-play issue on the PGA Tour, including Tiger Woods. But PGA Tour officials are concerned about potential backlash from players if the rules are more strictly enforced. The last PGA Tour player to receive a one-stroke penalty for slow play, according to the Associated Press, was Dillard Pruitt in 1992.
Q: What would the ruling be if a spectator at a PGA event picked up a player’s ball and failed to give it back?
— Paul Robertson, Belle River, Ontario
A: The first ruling would be for everyone in the area to scream “Catch that fan!” But, assuming the offender was not apprehended, the player would be allowed to drop a ball where his original ball was picked up, without a penalty. For those scoring at home, it is Rule 18-1 under the heading of "ball moved by an outside agency."
However, there would have to be a witness and proof the ball was, indeed, picked up and removed. If no one saw it happen, if it is nothing more than a presumption, then the player would be deemed to have a lost ball. If the ball isn't produced and identified in five minutes, the player must play a ball, under penalty of one stroke, as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (Rule 27-1).
So word to the wise. You can pick friends and you can pick your note, but don't pick up a ball in play.
Q: Will the newly developed Taylor Made adjustable club be a legal club for the pros? If so, will it be a substitute for some of the 14 clubs presently required?
— Arthur Dale, Radnor, Pa.
A: Adjustable club technology has been around for several years now, and the latest in marketing buzz is adjustable shaft technology. And yes, the USGA has ruled the clubs are legal, allowing for players to change out or adjust shafts between rounds — but such a change during play remains a rules violation.
PGA Tour pros have been making shaft adjustments for years, having clubmakers apply heat to remove the existing shaft from the clubhead in the manufacturers trailers at tournament stops. The old process effectively destroyed the old shaft in favor of a different one.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
The Nike SQ Dymo and SQ Dymo2 drivers allow a customer to pick one of eight different positions for the shaft to attach to the clubhead, which can effect the lie and the angle of the clubface. Thus, according to the advertising, the club can produce eight different types of shots.
Taylor Made has the R9 driver in production, in which the shaft is adjustable through altering the position of a metal sleeve at the point where it attaches to clubhead. The club also has adjustable weighting in the clubhead, which makes it more fun to tinker with than a 302 V-8. According to Taylor Made, using an identical swing, the R9 can alter the target position by as much as 75 yards from right to left. Pat Perez had the R9 in his bag when he won the Bob Hope Classic in late January.
There is no impact on the maximum number of clubs allowed in the bag, although you might want to forego the energy bar for a set of wrenches and screwdrivers.
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