The European Tour has no problem going after golf’s biggest names.
World No. 1 Jordan Spieth was the first golfer cited under the Tour’s new slow-play policy when Spieth took more than the time allotted for a putt during the first round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on Thursday.
Spieth’s group–which included Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler–was told it was being monitored for slow play as it walked to fourth tee, which was the group’s 13th hole. Under the new policy, which was put in place before this week’s tournament, players have 40 seconds–or 50, if they are playing first–to hit a shot once monitored.
Later, officials told Spieth on the ninth tee that he took too much time on the eighth green. If Spieth receives another monitoring penalty he’ll be fined just under $3,000.
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Spieth, who shot a first-round 68, was irked by the ruling, and he told reporters afterward that his group was taken off the clock on that particular hole since the group trailing them wasn’t in the fairway yet.
“I understand that, if we are being timed and I take too long I get a bad time,” Spieth told reporters. “I understand the rule, but it doesn’t make sense when we had caught up and were going off the clock. It had no effect on the round. It’s a bit of a grey area. (Euro Tour Chief Referee) John Paramor was very respectful though. My thing was not to fight it there and go about finishing my round. But I will be asking. I just don’t want to be worrying about it in future rounds.”
McIlroy, who shot 66 and is two off the lead held by Bryson DeChambeau, agreed with Spieth.
“It was weird,” he said. “I was surprised Jordan got a bad time on a putt when the guys behind weren’t even approaching their balls back on the fairway. Sometimes we need to apply some common sense, especially when we are not out of position. It’s not like Jordan is a slow player.”
Paramor clarified the ruling afterward, saying pace of play on the Euro Tour is determined if groups keep starting intervals between other groups. Whether groups are on the same hole or not makes no difference.