PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – It turns out that Glen Day — not Dillard Pruitt — was the last player penalized a stroke for slow play on the PGA Tour.
Pace of play became an issue last week at The Players Championship when Kevin Na's group was put on the clock in the third and fourth rounds. Na already has a reputation for slow play, and drew even more attention to himself for practice swings, waggles and even purposely whiffing so he can start over.
PGA Tour rules officials said four years ago that Pruitt was the last player to receive a one-stroke penalty on tour in the 1992 Byron Nelson Classic. Pruitt, now a rules official, recalls being fined $9,600 along with the penalty shot.
Day, however, was penalized one shot after the third round of the 1995 Honda Classic.
According to an Associated Press story from that Honda Classic, it took more than four hours to complete the third round at Weston Hills, and 54-hole leader Mark O'Meara complained about having to wait on every shot. Day had to change his score from a 71 to a 72 for pace-of-play violations.
So instead of being 20 years since a player was penalized a stroke for slow play on the PGA Tour, it has been only 17 years.
Major championships are run separately. The PGA of America assessed a one-shot penalty to Steve Lowery in the first round of the 2004 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, while the USGA penalized Edward Fryatt in the second round of the 1997 U.S. Open at Congressional.
Players have been harping about pace of play all year. Luke Donald tweeted in January while watching the Tournament of Champions on TV that "slow play is killing our sport." Tiger Woods, who wrote about slow play on his website in 2008, was asked what kind of progress golf made in four years.
"Worse," he said.
According to PGA Tour policy, players are put on the clock when they are deemed to be out of position. If they go over the allotted time — 60 seconds for the first player to hit his shot, 40 seconds for the next players in the group — they receive a warning the first time, and a one-shot penalty for the second bad time.
Players are deemed out of position when a par-3 hole is open, or they haven't played from the tee before the hole is open.
Thursday and Friday rounds routinely are longer than five hours when the fields are large (156 players in summer tournaments). PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said last week that while the tour would like to see a better pace, he would rather see more players have a chance to compete than have smaller fields to help speed things along.
"We'll generate the playing opportunities first, and take our lumps second," he said. "It's as simple as that."