The Open: Open chiefs warn players of slow-play clampdown
OPEN Championship officials have warned competititors over slow play in this week’s event at Royal Lytham, insisting a “stringent” policy is in place to try and alleviate a problem that is
“killing club membership”.
The R&A has already laid down a marker in the battle to speed the game up after English teenager Nathan Kimsey was hit with a penalty – the loss of a hole – in last month’s Amateur Championship at Royal Troon.
Now the same policy will be in place for its flagship event, in which threeballs over the first two days will be allowed four hours and 30 minutes to complete their rounds with that coming down to three hours and 45 minutes when it changes to twoballs for the final 36 holes.
“This year we are putting slow play as a priority and we have a pace of play policy which we intend to apply stringently,” said Jim McArthur, the championship committee chairman. “At the Amateur Championship, we applied the policy very stringently and we will do the same at the Boys’ Championship.
“At the rules briefing this morning, we brifed the walking rules officials along the same lines. We have set out quite clearly how we are going to monitor each of the groups. We give each group a time schedule for each hole and we monitor that very stringently.
“If a group is out of position with the game in front or over the time schedule, we initially start with words of encouragement to communicate with them and tell them that they are over the schedule or out of position. Thereafter if they don’t respond to that we put them on the clock and deal with them that way.” The penalty handed to Kimsey was the first time action had been taken against slow play by the R&A since the 2004 Open Championship, also at Troon.
It followed the LPGA imposing a loss of hole on Morgan Pressel in a match-play event, then the European Tour hitting Ross Fisher with a one-shot penalty and a £6,000 fine in the Wales Open.
“We’ve obviously got to take into account the weather conditions and other mitigating circumstances, but we would have no hesitation if we felt players were over time to take the appropriate action,” added McArthur.
“We are intent on doing what we can to improve the pace of play in golf. Maybe not in professional golf but certainly in amateur golf we feel that slow play is, in some ways, killing the club membership because of the time it takes to play a round.
“We’ll do whatever we can do in our events – and bear in mind we are not seeing these players week in, week out – to contribute to improving the pace of play. But it needs to be a concerted effort, not just the R&A, not just the Tours, but the golf unions and other golf organisations.
“Personally, I think we should be aiming in club amateur golf for three-and-a-half hours maximum for a threeball, perhaps four hours for elite amateurs. These should be maximum times and we should be trying to improve these at all times.”
Improved weather on the Lancashire coast yesterday afternoon significantly raised the R&A’s hopes that preferred lies would not need to be in operation when today’s first round got underway.
“It will be a last resort for us,” insisted McArthur. “We’ll need to look at the conditions and see how they develop (more rain was forecast overnight) but, at the moment, we are not intending to play preferred lies.”
Peter Dawson, the R&A’s chief executive, did concede, however, that some of the bunkers – there are 206 in total – were causing concern due to the water table. “We are keeping an eye on the ones on the 16th and 17th in particular – also some on the 14th and on the right of the second green,” he reported.
“But when I came here ten or so days ago, it was much wetter than it is now after a cloudburst yet, with two days of good, drying weather you would think it was in normal summer condition. This course dries extremely quickly so, with the a dry forecast for the rest of the championship after whatever rain we get tonight, I think we’re going to see it getting progressively back towards linksy conditions.”
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Thursday 20 June 2013
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