Pace Of Play Proves Big Talking Point At Players Championship

Although play was suspended at TPC Sawgrass, it was slow play that was a big talking point on Friday

Rory McIlroy waits on the tee whilst Scheffler puts the club behind his head
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Although we saw bad weather bring the second round of The Players Championship to an end prematurely, we were set for yet another Saturday cut, with the pace of play becoming another big talking point.

In commentary, it was reported that the two ball of Rory McIlroy and Scottie Scheffler, (Jon Rahm had to withdraw to illness), took over an hour to play three holes. Apparently, at one point, there were four groups playing the par 5 11th, as the backlog led to 5+ hour rounds.

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What's more, play was suspended on Thursday due to darkness, with groups having to return on Friday to complete their rounds, even though there were no delays because of the weather or other circumstances.

It's not the first time this has happened though but, after day two at TPC Sawgrass was suspended due to weather, PGA Tour chief referee, Gary Young, claimed that there hasn't been an issue with pace of play, with the official stating that "the pace of play has been just what we've expected."

Speaking in Florida, Young stated that: "This golf course is just one; there are so many situations that happen out there. We have seen some big numbers, and there seems to just be holes that can come up and bite a player at any time and result in a high score.

"The pace of play has been just what we've expected. It plays anywhere from four hours and 55 minutes for the first groups and, looking at the results of yesterday's, it got as high as five and a half hours. But that is just the result of the challenge of this golf course that it provides, design-wise, and also the size of the field that we're playing. It is a challenge, but we feel very confident that we're playing at the pace that we anticipated."

McIlroy and Scheffler wait on the tee with their caddies

McIlroy and Scheffler wait on the tee during the second of The Players Championship

(Image credit: Getty Images)

According to a reporter who asked Young about 'the time to par', a metric the PGA Tour uses to enforce pace of play relative to the historical tournament average, only one group actually met their time in the first round. However, Young responded to the question by stating: "If you think about the time par that we've established, that's based on historical data that we have accumulated over years. So the time par is very comfortable."

He added: "we hold the lead group on both nines -- you want to look at it as a nine-hole story rather than a 18-hole story. So the lead groups on each nine, we hold them to time par, knowing that if -- we hope that they will play in time par or less. If we hold them to that standard, everyone else's job behind them is to stay in position with them. They're leading the train on each nine.

"They make the turn, and unfortunately, due to the fact that we do have the number of groups that we have playing, they will eventually run into the back of the pack on each nine. We warn them and we time them to keep the rack tight together. That is the ultimate -- we've got to keep each group in position with the group ahead of them. The players know and understand that that's their responsibility. If they fall out of position, that's when they get warned. That, in effect, leads to timing.

"If once they're warned, they lose time, so that's just our policy. The players know that, they get that warning and then we expect them to make up time, but certainly not to lose time. So those have led to some of the timings that you've been made aware of."

Matt Cradock
Staff Writer

Matt joined Golf Monthly in February 2021 covering weekend news, before also transitioning to equipment and testing. After freelancing for Golf Monthly and The PGA for 18 months, he was offered a full-time position at the company in October 2022 and continues to cover weekend news and social media, as well as help look after Golf Monthly’s many buyers’ guides and equipment reviews.

Taking up the game when he was just seven years of age, Matt made it into his county squad just a year later and continues to play the game at a high standard, with a handicap of around 2-4. To date, his best round came in 2016, where he shot a six-under-par 66 having been seven-under through nine holes. He currently plays at Witney Lakes in Oxfordshire and his favourite player is Rory McIlroy, despite nearly being struck by his second shot at the 17th during the 2015 BMW PGA Championship.

Matt’s current What’s In The Bag?

Driver: Honma TW747, 8.75°

Fairway Wood: TaylorMade Rocketballz Stage 2, 15°, 19°

Hybrid: Adams Super Hybrid, 22°

Irons: Mizuno MP54, 5-PW

Wedges: Cleveland 588 RTX 2.0 Tour Satin, 50°, 56°, 60°

Putter: Cleveland TFI 2135 Satin Cero

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x