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European Tour to punish slow play with penalty strokes

media Bryson DeChambeau won the European Tour's Dubai Desert Classic in January but his slow play has become a hot topic this year AFP/File

The European Tour on Monday announced steps to speed up its golf, including penalty strokes for players who dawdle over shots.

Pace of play excited fierce debate in North America after an outburst of criticism of Bryson DeChambeau during the Northern Trust tournament in New Jersey earlier this month.

DeChambeau defended himself saying videos of him taking more than two minutes to make a chip and a similar eternity lining up an eight-foot putt were misleading.

He won the European Tour's Dubai Desert Classic in January.

"There is no doubt that pace of play is a hot topic in golf," said David Howell, a former Ryder Cup player who chairs the European Tour's tournament committee.

The tour said in a statement it would introduce a plan at the start of the 2020 season that "will focus on four key areas: regulation, education, innovation and field sizes".

For a first "breach" of the time allowances in a round a player would be warned and for a second incur a one-shot penalty.

If a gap starts to open between a group and the one ahead, players in the lagging group will be allowed 40 seconds to play, or 50 seconds if they are hitting first.

When a group is not falling behind, the first player will have 80 seconds and the others 70 seconds for shots, the statement said.

Players will be allowed one 40-second shot timeout per round.

The times represent a 15 per cent cut in what is currently allowed, but referees will be ordered to be more aggressive in enforcing the limits.

"There will be significantly increased fines for players who are regularly placed 'on the clock' throughout the season" and "reduced times for players to play shots".

"A player who is timed 15 times in the 2020 season will have to pay £26,000 in fines as opposed to £9,000 this season."

- 'Pace of Play' tech -

European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said: "I believe the plan...will make golf even more enjoyable for the players and our fans."

Under the education element, players will "be required to pass an interactive rules test as part of their conditions of membership."

The Tour will try out a "Pace of Play" technology system, designed to provide precise times for every group through every hole, at the PGA Championship at Wentworth in September.

The Tour said it was committed to reducing field sizes "while remaining mindful of providing playing opportunities".

The theoretical minimum field would be cut from 156 to 144 players while the starting intervals between groups would be increased in the last two rounds of events.

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