The 40 Time
How cool would it be if golf, like basketball, had a shot clock? It would be handy too, because once a group has been alerted that it's on the clock, a player has 40 seconds to hit his shot once it's his turn. The first to play the tee shot on a par-3, a second shot on a par-4 or par-5, a third shot on a par-5 or a stroke near or on the green, gets an additional 20 seconds. If a player exceeds his allotted time, he receives a bad timing.
A player's first bad timing is a freebie. He gets a mulligan. The second offense in the same round results in a one-shot penalty. The third offense is two penalty strokes, and the fourth is disqualification. But multiple offenses simply don't happen. "The system is beatable, and everybody knows how to beat it," says Tour veteran Fred Funk. "If a guy gets fined or penalized, he has a serious problem."
Timing a group is usually effective for as long as it lasts. "If I told you there's a traffic cop running a speed trap and you went through it and got a ticket, to go through it again and get another ticket would be pretty dumb," says rules official Jon Brendle. "Once I tell you you're on the clock, you're not going to go over the time." Once the group is off the clock, the offending player is free to resume his tortoiselike ways.
There is a lifetime-achievement-type aspect to bad timings, however. The second time a player gets a bad timing in the same calendar year results in a $5,000 fine. Each subsequent bad timing earns a $10,000 hit. Major championships, World Golf Championships and Nationwide tour events are included. The last Tour player who unintentionally drew a one-shot penalty for slow play (a few players have purposely done so in protest over rulings) was Dillard Pruitt at the 1992 Byron Nelson Classic. Pruitt is now a Tour rules official.
Speedier Play Secret No. 1
Walk faster. Is that too obvious? Apparently not. Carl Pettersson was first off in the final round of the recent Quail Hollow Championship as a single. He played in 2:15 because he walked briskly. "Jack Nicklaus got a hard time because he could be slow over the ball," Brendle says, "but he always walked fast so he could afford to be slow over the ball. It's a pretty simple fix for slow play—walk faster, get there sooner."
Speedier Play Secret No. 2
The lost art of the tap-in annoys Claar. "You don't see anybody knock it up there and tap it in," he says. "These guys all have to line up their putt with the line they drew on the ball. If everybody marks and waits, it's another minute and a half per hole. It adds up."