Turkey: Pepperell Does His Best Roy McAvoy Impersonation, Positions Himself Ably For Next European Tour Social Stunt

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Just days after raving about player hospitality and it’s chef, Eddie Pepperell took himself out of the Turkish Airlines Open by doing his best Roy McAvoy impersonation at the fourth hole. After depositing at least four balls into a lake, Pepperell told playing partner Martin Kaymer he was done. It doesn’t sound like Kaymer entirely bought in.

From an unbylined BBC report:

He had several more attempts, losing "four or five balls" according to Martin Kaymer, who said the incident was like a scene from the film Tin Cup.

"I have never seen anything like that before," said Kaymer.

"I only watched it on television, in 'Tin Cup'. This is the first time I have seen it live."

Recently emerging as the European Tour’s top acting talent in their social media videos, Pepperell has positioned himself to headline a new campaign on only carrying a couple of sleeves of balls. Lucky us!

Curse Of The Ryder Cup? Former Hosts Practically Left By The Wayside

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As the European Tour returns this week to Le Golf National a bit more than a year after the 2018 Ryder Cup, Iain Carter considers what has happened to past hosts of the European Tour’s breadmaker.

To put it bluntly: host a Ryder Cup, and they move on. Which normally should not mean much, except that the European Tour packages the event with normal tour stops.

Not that many fans or players are longing for more golf tournaments at most of the venues, which bought their way onto the international stage. But it’s still remarkable to see how quickly so many of the once-vaunted locales either no longer host events, or become lesser stops. In the case of this week’s French Open, once a Rolex Series event, the field’s headliners are Martin Kaymer, Jose Maria Olazabal, Thomas Bjorn and Jamie Donaldson.

But about those past venues, Carter writes:

The Belfry hosted the Ryder Cup on four occasions between 1985 and 2002 and whatever you think of the course, which does have its critics, the layout in the English midlands became a big part of the fabric of European golfing history.

But the Brabazon Course has not staged a Tour event since the 2008 British Masters. Celtic Manor in south Wales disappeared from the schedule in 2014, four years after its Ryder Cup.

The K Club, which hosted the 2006 match in County Kildare, was the continuous home of the European Open between 1995 and 2007. It then disappeared from the calendar other than in 2016 when it held the Irish Open.

Gleneagles staged the 2018 European Team Championships and this year's Solheim Cup but its deal to hold tour events expired the year before putting on the 2014 Ryder Cup.

Only Valderrama (1997 Ryder Cup) in southern Spain has remained a regular stop for the continent's leading players in the wake of holding one of the biennial jousts between Europe and the US.

A similar fate likely awaits Rome’s 2022 Ryder Cup venue, currently undergoing a renovation despite rumblings that a host role was in jeopardy.

Meanwhile at least the Old Course is hosting the 2023 Walker Cup!

Scandinavian: European Tour Unveils First Real "Mixed" Tournament With Henrik, Annika Hosting

A grand day for European Tour Chief Keith Pelley and friends bypassing the push to have a joint men’s and women’s event, or a mixed couples tourney. Instead, men and women will be in the same field, playing for the same purse. With ranking points and various “race” points on the line, the event has a legitimacy that others have lacked.

First, the press release:

The European Tour and Ladies European Tour today jointly announce Major Champions Henrik Stenson and Annika Sörenstam will host an innovative mixed event in Sweden next year with men and women going head-to-head for the first time on the same course competing for one prize fund and one trophy.

As part of the European Tour’s commitment to inclusivity in golf, the inaugural Scandinavian Mixed Hosted by Henrik & Annika will feature 78 men and 78 women at Bro Hof Slott Golf Club in Stockholm from June 11-14, 2020 and will be co-sanctioned by the European Tour and Ladies European Tour.

Hosted by Sweden’s most successful male and female golfers for the next three years and with a prize fund of €1,500,000 for the entire field, the tournament will offer Official World Ranking points for both Tours, plus Race to Dubai and Ryder Cup points for European Tour members, and Order of Merit points for the Ladies European Tour.

Wow. Well done. Since those silly matters traditionally hold things up even though fans could care less.

The event will enter a new era next year with Ryder Cup star Stenson confirmed to play the next three years and ten-time Major winner Sörenstam, who retired from competitive golf in 2008, to play in the tournament pro-ams. Swedish golf fans will be able to watch a host of the world’s top male and female golfers in Stockholm next year before the tournament rotates venues in 2021 and 2022.

“I’m extremely excited to host the Scandinavian Mixed alongside Annika, one of the best golfers the world has seen, and to have men and women competing alongside one another showcases what is great about our game,” said Stenson, an 11-time European Tour winner.

“The European Tour has been leading the way in terms of innovative formats and I believe this is certainly one that can be part of the way golf is played in the future. Making our game accessible to everyone is something I am extremely passionate about having worked with Fanny Sunesson for a number of years hosting the Stenson Sunesson Junior Challenge, as well as promoting Paragolf in Sweden through the Henrik Stenson Foundation, so I am delighted to have this new event for both male and female professional golfers in Sweden.”

Sörenstam added: “I’m delighted to host the Scandinavian Mixed alongside Henrik in Sweden for the next three years. Bringing women and men together in a combined tournament is exciting for fans in Sweden and for the global game as we continue to showcase golf is a game for everyone.

“Since retiring from competitive golf in 2008, I have dedicated a lot of my time to the ANNIKA Foundation, which hosts seven global events for junior girls each year including the ANNIKA Invitational Europe.  This mixed tournament is another way to bring our game to the younger generation in Sweden and for those watching around the world.” 

Keith Pelley, Chief Executive Officer of the European Tour, said: “Inclusivity and innovation are two of our key pillars and we are delighted to have global stars in Henrik and Annika leading the way as hosts of the Scandinavian Mixed in their home country of Sweden as we continue to drive golf further.

Nice “drive golf further” brand refresh incorporation from the Chief Executive. That’s some serious living under par.

“We have been in close collaboration with the women’s game in recent years, not only on the European Tour, but also across the European Challenge Tour and Staysure Tour with events held in Northern Ireland and Jordan. This tournament is the next step for male and female golfers to compete together on one course, for one prize fund, and one trophy.”

Alexandra Armas, Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Ladies European Tour, added: “This is a pivotal moment for European golf. This new tournament in Sweden will be an innovative and inclusive new offering which will elevate our sport to the next level and advance gender balance, ultimately showing that golf is a game for all. Sweden has always produced a wealth of world class golfers and we look forward to having a strong field featuring the best Swedish women including major winners and those whom featured in Europe’s sensational Solheim Cup victory last month.”

Björn Örås, Founder of Bro Hof Slott Golf Club, said: “We are thrilled Bro Hof Slott Golf Club will host the inaugural Scandinavian Mixed tournament in 2020. Henrik and Annika have done so much over the years promoting golf in Sweden, and they will yet again use our game to bring men and women together on the world stage. We are excited to see some of the stars of the European Tour and Ladies European Tour tee it up at Bro Hof Slott next year.”

One of the major successes on the European Tour has been the continuation of women professionals in the format for GolfSixes and the concept of men and women competing together remains prominent with the announcement of the Scandinavian Mixed Hosted by Henrik & Annika, inspired by the vision in Swedish golf and emphasis on equal opportunities.

In addition to GolfSixes Cascais, men and women professionals will play together at the Trophée Hassan II tournament in Morocco in June, as well as at the ISPS Handa Vic Open in Australia in February.

And while those are nice events, the idea of everyone playing for the same purse and trophy should prove intriguing.

Alistair Tait at Golfweek says this is a long overdue innovation from the innovative team in Europe looking to interest new fans:

About time, too, say I and many more like me who want to see the increasingly moribund professional game shaken up. The game’s authorities need to do everything they can to attract new players, especially younger players. England alone lost approximately 300,000 club members in a 10-year period between 2007-2017. While the proportion of women and juniors has not really moved in all the years I’ve been reporting on golf.

Hopefully this helps the PGA Tour execs long looking for ways to restore some form of mixed events, though it’s hard to picture their constituents accepting an event like this. A better shot is still with a joint Tournament of Champions or mixed team event. Or, should the Presidents Cup be another slaughter this year, perhaps incorporation of women into that to breathe life into a team match that can’t likely survive another lopsided affair.

Should The Masters Reconsider Invitations To Nearly All PGA Tour Event Winners?

As a longtime proponent of the Masters bequeathing invitation status on most PGA Tour events—excluding opposite field weeks—the brief and controversial change in this policy during Hootie Johnson’s tenure seems a thing of the distant past.

When Chairman Billy Payne restored this grand perk of a PGA Tour victory, the logic was solid and the support unanimous. But with the new schedule dynamics and several fall European Tour events crushing the PGA Tour stops in field quality, the Masters should reconsider the automatic and coveted invitation.

The most obvious reason: golf is an international game and the founders of the Masters made special efforts to include foreign-born players. But the more glaring purpose: huge disparities in field strength.

In recent weeks, the BMW PGA Championship, Alfred Dunhill Links and Italian Open all enjoyed decisively superior fields to competing PGA Tour stops:

BMW PGA (416) vs. Sanderson Farms (106)
Alfred Dunhill Links (323) vs. Safeway Open (289)
Italian Open (248) vs. Houston Open (73)

Last week’s Houston Open featured no top 30 players, two from the world top 50 and was the weakest non-opposite week field in nearly five years. The winner, Lanto Griffin, will receive a Masters invitation while the winner of this week’s much stronger Italian Open will likely have to get in off of his world ranking status (Bernd Wieberger also won the Scottish Open

The obvious solution: set a strength of field mark to determine invitations to the Masters. Here’s guessing, however, that the Augusta National Golf Club likely has no desire to get involved in field strength, world ranking and other political dynamics from such a move.

An easier solution? Invite winners of the European Tour’s Rolex Series events. In a worst case scenario, that might expand the Masters field by eight. This is highly unlikely given rankings points and field quality. This year’s Rolex Series winners are all in the 2020 Masters or very likely to be due to their world top 50 status.

While the Official World Golf Ranking is not perfect and top 50 status is given too much power, the system is good enough to determine major fields. And this fall the numbers have not lied: not every PGA Tour event is worthy of helping give out a Masters invitation.

Koepka, Johnson Eager To Grow The Game Again In Saudi Arabia

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Considering the cash grab that was last year’s European Tour stop in Saudi Arabia was played in front of tiny galleries, dented the legacy of Chief Executive Keith Pelley and epitomized the worst imaginable appearance fee looks in modern sports, there was some hope players would say no to the loathsome Kingdom in 2020.

Dustin Johnson at least has the excuse he’s defending champion. Brooks Koepka, who plays for trophies and not for money, just can’t wait to soak up those Red Sea views, according to a quote someone wrote for him.

“I’m excited to be returning to Saudi Arabia, after an enjoyable visit last year,” Koepka said. “The golf course is one of the best I’ve played in the region, with incredible scenery, including some breathtaking views of the Red Sea.

“The event is an opportunity to showcase the work being done to grow the game of golf in the Kingdom, which was evidenced by the enthusiastic fans last year. It is great to be involved with the initiative and I look forward to seeing the progress Golf Saudi has made in the past year.”

Johnson’s quote also wheeled out the dreaded grow word.

“It’s great to see how Golf Saudi has strengthened its commitment to create a world-class golf event and plans to grow golf in the region are in full swing. It’s an honour to be a part of it.”

Why not just say something like, “the appearance fees are amazing, the Crown Prince’s money spends the same as any other direct deposit, and the event falls perfectly on my planned schedule”?

European Tour Rolls Out 2020 Schedule, Rolex Series Holds Steady

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Depending on how you view things, the European Tour’s bloated schedule mostly held steady and did not lose any Rolex Series events. But as Alistair Tait notes for Golfweek, holding steady misses Chief Executive Keith Pelley’s stated goal for more of the big-purse events.

The eight tournaments – the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open, the BMW PGA Championship, Italian Open Turkish Airlines Open, Nedbank Golf Challenge and DP World Tour Championship – mirror this year’s Rolex Series at similar times of the year.

Pelley had hoped to have reached double figures by this point in his tenure. “Our goal is eight or nine in 2017 with a goal of 10 by 2018,” Pelley said when he launched the series in November 2016. While he did not reach that target last year or this season, there was hope he would hit 10 next year.

The WGC event in Memphis now moves to July—oh joy!—meaning the Irish Open moves back to late May at a venue to be determined. This ends a noteworthy one-year attempt at a two-week links golf lead in to The Open.

The full schedule can be viewed here.

Rory Apologizes: “Strategy, course management and shotmaking…are being slowly taken out of the game at the top level...worldwide"”

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Realizing he barked a little too loudly after his Alfred Dunhill Cup appearance about European Tour course setup, Rory McIlroy posted an Instagram apology. But it was the last paragraph that suggests he did not lose sight of the bigger picture matter as it relates to skill and whether today’s equipment is having too much influence.

The full post:

Rory Blasts European Tour Course Setups: “I’m sort of honestly sick of coming back over to the European Tour and shooting 15 under par and finishing 30th"

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Some illuminating comments from Rory McIlroy coming off a fun week at the Alfred Dunhill Links, where, after nearly winning the pro-am with his dad, Gerry, the 30-year-old bemoaned the lack of difficulty found on European Tour setups. While he sounds a tad bitter largely with the Scottish Open setup earlier this year, this comments also speak to just how hard it is to find a course setup balance in the juiced equipment era.

From John Huggan’s GolfDigest.com report at the Dunhill:

“I’m sort of honestly sick of coming back over to the European Tour and shooting 15 under par and finishing 30th,” said McIlroy, who has played only four “regular” European Tour events (non-major and non-WGC tournaments) this season. At the Dunhill, McIlroy posted scores of 70-66-70-67 yet finished seven back of winner Victor Perez.

“I don’t think the courses are set up hard enough,” McIlroy said. “There are no penalties for bad shots. It’s tough when you come back and it’s like that. I don’t feel like good golf is regarded as well as it could be. It happened in the Scottish Open at Renaissance. I shot 13 under and finished 30th [actually T-34] again. It’s not a good test. I think if the European Tour wants to put forth a really good product, the golf courses and setups need to be tougher.”

While McIlroy sounds like he’s justifying his decision to play more in the U.S., the comments serve as a reminder that players want to be challenged and for their skill to shine. As the game becomes increasingly less interesting to play when players feel untested or fans sense a give-and-take between player and course is entirely in the player’s favor, there may be a range of consequences. The most obvious being a less interesting sport to watch.

In this case, McIlroy made clear the combination of setups and travel will keep him sticking largely to the PGA Tour.

“It’s been a great year,” McIlroy continued. “I’ve won big events and I've consistently played well. Every week I show up and I shoot good scores and play good golf. If I continue to do that, I’ll be in a good spot. I don't want to travel that much anymore. I’ve done it for 12 years. I want to have easy flights and not have to go across eight, nine time zones and have to get acclimatized. I’m happy to do what I’ve done this year.”

Lee Westwood Scores The First Hole-In-One Captured By Plane Tracer

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Definitely a first! And what a fantastic look given how tight the shot was to the ball.

From round one of the Alfred Dunhill Links, Lee Westwood making an ace at Carnoustie’s 8th hole.

Flashback: Love For And Resistance To The European Tour's Seve Logo That Never Was

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With the excitement already cratering from the European Tour’s brand refresh, I went back into the archives after Seve’s passing and was reminded how aggressively players and fans attempted to initiate a change. Stories about player support for the idea were written in places as varied as PGA.com and the Wall Street Journal.

Then Chief Executive George O’Grady had to issue a statement and Seve’s children had concerns about the use of his likeness. That killed the issue.

Padraig Harrington advocated for it and even Monty…MONTY loved the idea!

"I think you will find it does change and let's hope it is sooner rather than later," said Montgomerie. "I would vote for that immediately. When you talk about the European Tour you talk about Seve, and I think it's only right he should appear on our logo."

So there you have it. A bummer.

Dunhill Links Trots Out Stellar Field But Will Slow Play Keep The Scots Away?

Rarely have I seen anyone project a tournament struggling to attract fans due to slow play, but as Martin Dempster writes for The Scotsman, this week’s Dunhill Links at St. Andrews-Kingsbarns-Carnoustie features a strong field, some A-list celebrities and players happy to be there (like Rory McIlroy teaming with his dad).

Still, as Dempster notes, the tournament can lack in Scottish support due to dodgy weather and 6-hour rounds.

Put it this way, more non-golfers are likely to take in this event, especially when they can take advantage of a free admission offer on the first three days, than have attended any other golf tournament held so far this year in Scotland and the game can surely only gain from that.

The Irish would be all over an event like the Dunhill Links like a rash and Scottish golf fans should certainly be giving this week’s event the support it deserves.

Playing the Irish card! Bold. But maybe helpful.

Still, it’s fascinating to see the length of the day possibly factoring into decisions about whether to attend even when admission is free. That’s a big deal if the Scots are ahead of the curve when it comes to attendance and pace of play.

European Tour "Brand Refresh" Includes Yet Another Unnecessary Slogan

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The PGA Tour Lives Under Par and no one knows what that means, still. The LPGA is going to Drive On and probably just keep pumping out Nike ads, circa 2002, and now the European Tour brass undoubtedly survived many meetings to unveil “Driving Golf Further” as part of a brand “refresh”.

That replenishment includes a wildly uninspired logo but another crack at updating the website that has already undergone a relaunch so unsuccessful, it was scrapped and we were returned to the old, gasp, mobile unfriendly site. The new “beta” site (what a concept!) is live and looks infinitely improved over the last relaunch effort.

As for the “Driving Golf Further” slogan, Chief Executive Keith Pelley once again matched his glasses with the backdrop to perfection. And here is the full explanation of the new scheme.

The European Tour has launched a creative new brand strategy, with the aim of broadening the Tour’s appeal to new and existing fans and commercial partners.

Golf’s global tour has unveiled its new identity, which includes a modern, fresh logo alongside a new website and App, all underpinned by the Tour’s guiding principles of Innovation, Inclusivity and Globality.

Saudi Arabia, here we come!

BTW, why Globality is capitalized, I have no idea.

The brand refresh focuses on ‘Driving Golf Further’, the strapline which features underneath the new logo, as the Tour seeks to build on its strong, established reputation for award-winning content, innovative tournament formats and immersive technology.

I see.

The European Tour’s new identity was unveiled at the Tour’s recently refurbished, state-of-the-art headquarters during the BMW PGA Championship, the fourth event in the Tour’s Rolex Series – an alliance of its eight premium events. It will be rolled out on October 1, coinciding with the launch of the Tour’s revamped website and App.

Designed to stand out from the rest of the busy golfing category whilst retaining its golf context, the bold, simple aesthetic is modern and flexible, suitable to be used across all platforms. It comprises a suite of assets, with a new logo, avatar and a range of graphic devices.

Or it’s just very boring, to put it another way.

Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of the European Tour, said: “It is an exciting time for us to unveil our new brand strategy. While we continue to celebrate our traditions and our core audience, the Tour has a strong desire to innovate and broaden the appeal of our sport.”

Max Hamilton, Head of Commercial Partnerships said, “Golf remains the sport of business, with 90% of CEOs playing our sport, however we believe golf has to modernise and appeal to everyone to thrive. We hope our bold new creative and brand strategy will attract new partners who align with our new brand ideals.”

Yes, the new logo and Globality of it all will make the difference.

But here’s the good news: they used further instead of farther. So at least the European Tour stayed out of teh distance debate with their new slogan.

European Tour's Crackdown On Slow Play Gets Off To A Slow Start

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At least in Matthew Fitzpatrick’s eyes, after having his and ever other player’s bag bugged for electronic time posting, only to still take too long.

The four-point plan debuted this week at the BMW PGA and despite some nice additions to the list of slow play remedies, we know the players aren’t always to blame. Even with the overrated field size reduction to 132, there is the pesky matter of modern distances on any course under 8,000 yards. That means waits, more waits and almost no chance of getting around in the time par of 4:30 or so.

His Tweets:

asfd

Rory: If Tennis Can Hand Out Penalties For Slow Play, So Can Golf

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The Rory McIlroy news from Wentworth has, so far, been mixed: he’s retaining his European Tour card after some negotiation with Chief Executive Keith Pelley (good), he opened the BMW PGA with a 76 (bad).

But as Rex Hoggard reports for GolfChannel.com, his comments on slow play add to the list of strong remarks by top players advocating penalty strokes for slow pokes. While that may not seem earth-shattering, the recent shift of players advocating penalty strokes is a change from years of players protecting slow pokes and muttering nonsense about field size.

The U.S. Open’s recent penalty of a lost point after a third violation by Rafa Nadal, got McIlroy’s attention:

Like many Tour players, McIlroy sees a reluctance to penalize players in high-profile situations and used last month’s U.S. Open in tennis and Rafael Nadal’s timing violation during a match as an example of what golf needs to embrace.

“Rafa got a time clock violation on a really big serve like at the end of the final of the U.S. Open, so if they can do it then, there's no reason why we can't do it in our tournaments, either,” McIlroy said. “It's just a matter of enforcing it and being consistent with it.”

100 Years Old And Hitting A Shot At The KLM Open

Susan Hosang has to be the most agile and sprightly 100-year-old of all time.

Great stuff from the European Tour’s annual KLM Open stunt, where everyday golfers hit a shot or play a hole with the pros mid-tournament:

Scottish Open Returning To Renaissance Club, After Changes Are Made

The European Tour and Renaissance Club have exercised an option for a second Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open(s) at the course despite lukewarm reviews from male competitors. While the modern Tom Doak design had tough shoes to fill after recent events at Gullane and Castle Stuart, players bemoaned the lack of a proper links test in advance of The Open.

Nonetheless, it’s never great to hear of changes in response to a tournament, unless they are largely revolving around improving firmness or setup.

Martin Gilbert, Chairman of Aberdeen Standard Investments said: “We’re looking forward to returning to The Renaissance Club in 2020. The facilities Jerry and his team offer both sets of players, on and off the course are second to none. The feedback we’ve received is that the location works well with the golfing public as well as our colleagues.

“We’ve also listened to the professionals who played the course this year and collectively we will be implementing a number of changes based on their feedback. We look forward to welcoming back the world’s best players to Scotland’s golf coast, for what is sure to be another memorable two weeks of golf next summer.”

The men’s Scottish Open drew its strongest field ever, while the Ladies event several weeks later was unfortunately placed the week after back-to-back majors.

Edoardo's Whistleblower Tweets Instigated European Tour's Slow Play Crackdown

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Edoardo Molinari’s Tweets earlier this year exposing Europe’s slow pokes was the final straw for European Tour Chief Keith Pelley and his Tournament Committee.

Luckily for Molinari, they agreed with his views that something more drastic needed to happen. From Phil Casey’s report:

The former US Amateur champion was true to his word and published the data, even though his brother Francesco, the 2018 Open champion, was among the offenders.

“I spoke to Edoardo shortly afterwards and while I didn’t necessarily agree with his chosen method, he was entirely right to confront the problem and it prompted a discussion at the next Tournament Committee meeting, held at the Betfred British Masters in May,” said Pelley, pictured.

“Thankfully, our Tournament Committee shared Edoardo’s belief that enough was enough, and they were prepared to make some hard decisions, accepting the need to be more punitive.”

So no matter what happens, he’ll always have this.

Will Name Players Get Policed Like The Rest Under New European Tour Policies?

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I was excited about European Tour Chief Keith Pelley’s rollout of enhanced speed of play techniques and do believe they will make a difference until I read what Golfweek’s Alistair Tait wrote.

While he liked many of the changes—including the name shaming of showing groups where they stand in terms of on-course positioning—Tait has been on the pace of play situation for years and will not be surprised if little happens. This was interesting…

My other fear is that “name” players will escape censure while others will take the brunt of the action. Appearance fees are still a regular occurrence on the European Tour. Sponsors pay large amounts to lure stars to places like Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, etc. Some sponsors won’t be happy if the guy they’ve spent a small fortune on is put off from returning because of a one-shot penalty for impersonating a tortoise.

Jordan Spieth played in that 2016 Abu Dhabi tournament and was warned for slow play. The Tour was correct to implement the pace of play rules, but sponsors weren’t happy. It’s a moot point if that slow play warning is the reason Spieth has never returned to Abu Dhabi, but it clearly hasn’t helped.

We shall see soon enough as the policies announced Monday will see a trial run at the 2019 BMW PGA in September. But given the precedent set with Sergio Garcia’s non-suspension for vandalizing greens during competition in January, Tait’s concern is legitimate.