BMW PGA: Matt Fitzpatrick hits out at pace of play and wants tougher penalties
By Keith Jackson at Wentworth
Last Updated: 20/09/19 4:34pm
Matt Fitzpatrick has added his voice to the calls for tougher penalties for slow play after enduring a frustrating two rounds at the BMW PGA Championship.
Fitzpatrick took to Twitter following his opening 73, blighted by twice going out-of-bounds at the 17th en route to a triple-bogey eight, declaring that the round taking close to five hours to complete was "embarrassing".
The Englishman birdied the last on Friday to return a 71 which got him safely in for the weekend on level par, but he revealed afterwards that he felt that constant hold-ups on the back-nine were "disruptive" for a man regarded as one of the quicker players in the professional game.
Fitzpatrick expressed his concerns about slow play in the Sky Sports Golf Podcast earlier this week and, speaking to Sky Sports following his second round, he insisted that tournament officials should act quicker to impose shot penalties on repeat offenders, while he also claimed that playing too slowly was a form of cheating.
As he reflected on the pace of play during his second round at Wentworth, Fitzpatrick said: "Fits and starts is probably the best way to describe it. I felt the pace of play was solid on the front nine, but it really slowed up on the back nine. There were numerous holes where I just don't know what the group in front were doing.
Get the best prices and book a round at one of 1,700 courses across the UK & Ireland
"They seemed to be very slow and waiting for ages for rulings, although I do get that. Sometimes that can't be helped, and it's just tough. But when the pace did not improve I spoke to the referee on the 15th, and he said there were seven groups on the clock.
Why no penalties?
"That's far too many, and with that number of groups on the clock, why hasn't anyone been penalised? That's the only thing that will make the players speed up. They are not going to risk a penalty shot, so they would surely pick up the pace. I just can't get my head around it at all."
Oh and pace of play 😴 waited on the majority of shots on the front 9 yet somehow were 2 mins ahead of time. Work that one out, long way to go to fix this problem.— Matt Fitzpatrick (@MattFitz94) September 19, 2019
The European Tour issued a "four-point" plan to combat slow play last month and are trialling a timing system at Wentworth, with GPS trackers attached to one bag in each group so officials can monitor players who may be out of position.
But Fitzpatrick feels tougher penalties are the only deterrent, and he believes that four hours should be the maximum time for a group of three to complete 18 holes.
"The European Tour have been proactive and have issued their four-point plan to speed up the game, but the process still seems a little too gradual," he added. "It's been great that the Tour are addressing the issue, and the new system is going to take time to implement.
"But for me, it should be a case of once a group, or a certain player is on the clock and you get another bad time while you're on the clock, that's it - one-shot penalty.
"Right now you can be on the clock, get another bad time, and only if you get one more bad time do you get penalised. Players are not going to have two bad times in one round, and that fact that maybe only one player has ever been penalised for slow play is just ridiculous.
"In a threeball, we should be getting round in four hours maximum, so I don't quite get what all the messing around is."
Slow play 'unfair'
Fitzpatrick feels it is "unfair" that the quicker players on Tour are at a disadvantage, adding: "This is why I raised the issue yesterday, and I've raised it again today. For the first time in a while today, I actually started to feel it was disruptive. We'd have a good run and then you'd suddenly be waiting on a tee, or waiting on the fairway over a second shot, and sometimes for what felt like a good five or 10 minutes.
"That's when you can't get into any sort of rhythm, although I'm not going to use that as an excuse for the way I played today. I played poorly. But the disruption is one of the reasons why, coming down the stretch, I hit some bad shots. You don't have any sort of momentum, and it definitely makes it tougher.
"I'm not one to give out names and single anyone out, but there's a list and I think everyone on Tour knows who is on that list, but the public might be unaware of it. I don't have anything personal against those guys, but just speed up. It's really not that difficult and, if you don't speed up, then you deserve to be penalised. It's unfair."
Fitzpatrick was also disappointed by the recent comments from veteran PGA Tour rules official "Slugger" White, who revealed he did not agree with shot penalties for slow play due to the effect it could have on a player's career.
White told Golf Digest: "Imagine if a player is hit with a one-stroke penalty at a key moment because he was two seconds over his time. Say the penalty cost him $5,000. Suddenly he's so far down the FedExCup points list he doesn't have a place to play the following year.
"This in turn might mean his kid can't go to college, or he can't put a down payment on that decent house. Or worse. Basically it means you've drastically affected the guy's life with the click of a stopwatch."
But Fitzpatrick disagreed. "I really like Slugger White, he's a great guy and he's always been great with me. But when I heard what he said the other week about feeling bad penalising someone a shot that could cost them x, y or z?
"It's cheating. If you take longer than 50 seconds, or whatever the allotted time is, you are cheating. A lot of people don't see it, but that's what it comes down to."