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Quick 9: Pick up the pace on the Euro Tour

The world's No. 1 player, Jordan Spieth, was the first golfer flagged under the European Tour's new pace-of-play policy. Was the warning fair or was Spieth singled out?

 David Cannon/Getty Images

1. Speed it up

Jordan Spieth became the first player flagged under the European Tour's new "monitoring" policy, and aside from perhaps a tinge of embarrassment, there wasn't much harm done. It was essentially a warning, and because Spieth wasn't cited again, there was no fine, which occurs on a second offense.

But kudos to the European Tour for not being afraid to single out the No. 1 player in the world. Two other players fell victim to the same policy during the tournament, but few would know who they are, so it would not have gotten much attention if it was just those two. But Spieth getting zapped made headlines.

You can argue whether such a violation was necessary; Rory McIlroy came to Spieth's defense, saying the group behind was nowhere close to them on the hole. Nonetheless, once the group was out of position, players were timed, and Spieth took 70 seconds -- when he had 40 seconds -- to putt on what was his 17th hole.

Slow-play penalties are rather tame anyway, so if you want to make an impact, there is no better way to do so than to cite a marquee player.

2. Conspiracy theory?

Because it was the first tournament of the new slow-play policy, and because it was the No. 1-ranked player in Spieth, there was plenty of conjecture over whether the European Tour -- specifically chief referee John Paramor -- went out of its way to make a statement on slow play by nailing Spieth.

And it doesn't help that Paramor has been at the center of several rules incidents over the years. He once disqualified Seve Ballesteros from the Italian Open, drew the ire of Tiger Woods at the 2009 WGC Bridgestone Invitational -- where Woods felt a slow-play warning rattled Padraig Harrington coming down the stretch (Woods won) -- and hit amateur Tianlang Guan with a slow-play penalty at the 2013 Masters.

But Paramor is well-regarded, having been a rules official for more than 40 years. And given his role on the European Tour, it makes sense that he will be there for a number of these big rulings.

3. The ills of overseas travel

Give Spieth credit for being honest about overseas travel taking its toll. "I am very tired, I am. I'm not 100 percent right now," Spieth said following the Abu Dhabi Championship, where he still finished tied for fifth. He cited trips last year to South Korea for the Presidents Cup, China for the WGC-HSBC Champions and the Australian Open -- all separate journeys -- for adding to the fatigue.

Now he's in the midst of the Abu Dhabi-Singapore double before going to Pebble Beach and Riviera. The dangers of such travel were discussed prior to Spieth winning the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

4. Scheduling woes

The 2016 season always promised to be tough on player's planning due to the condensed major schedule and the Olympics -- and also because it is a Ryder Cup year. And now we're starting to hear about some of the fallout. Henrik Stenson, for example, said he will skip the WGC Match Play -- a tournament he has won -- which this year is two weeks prior to the Masters. And it was telling that when asked if he would defend his Scottish Open title at Castle Stuart the week prior to The Open, Rickie Fowler revealed to The Scotsman that he has yet to set his schedule beyond the Masters.

Typically a player is all but a lock to defend a tournament title, but this is such a difficult year that you can see why Fowler might skip. Following the U.S. Open is the Quicken Loans National, and Fowler has a deal with the company. He's likely to play the WGC-Bridgestone the following week, and the Scottish Open would mean five tournaments in a row, including two majors.

Something has to give.

5. Playoff redo?

The Barclays is getting a new name in 2017 -- the Northern Trust -- and the Deutsche Bank Championship could be gone, leaving open the possibility of just three playoff events instead of the four that have been part of the system since its inception in 2007. This is Duetsche Bank's last year as a title sponsor, and the company is thought to not be renewing.

"I'd say if there's a way we can do other things in the schedule that relate to that general period of time, it might be a good thing to do," PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem told the Associated Press. "The attitude of the players has always been, it's tough for four in a row. And then you also a lot of times are getting close to the Presidents Cup or the Ryder Cup. Both, in our view, are big events. You want space between big stuff."

Finchem has previously never seriously discussed the idea of reducing the number of playoff events. The tour and players don't want to see a $9 million purse go away, as would be the case with the Deutsche Bank, but this is an opportunity to tweak the playoff structure for the better.

6. The beauty of a Ryder Cup year

Ian Poulter couldn't help but give it back to American golf fans when the subject of the Ryder Cup came up on Twitter.

7. Jack's 76th

Jack Nicklaus celebrated his 76th birthday last week, and his career accomplishments seem to get more impressive as time passes. Of course, the 18 major championships and 73 PGA Tour titles are the most cited. But among his more impressive feats is his run of success at The Open, where from 1963 through 1980 he finished outside of the top 10 just once and posted three victories and 13 top-three finishes.

There is his major run, which saw the Golden Bear play in every one starting with the 1962 Masters through the 1998 U.S. Open -- a streak of 146 in a row over 36 years. And then there is this interesting tidbit: Nicklaus played the last of each major at the 2000 U.S. Open, 2000 PGA Championship, 2005 Masters and 2005 Open; Woods won each of those tournaments.

8. Torrey field

The Farmers Insurance Open has a good field, with five of the top-10 ranked players in the world, but it's missing a few usual competitors, namely top-ranked Spieth, who is playing the Singapore Open. Spieth made his pro debut at Torrey Pines in 2013 on a sponsor exemption and played each of the past two years.

Bubba Watson, who won the tournament in 2011, has skipped it for the second straight year, opting to appear at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando. And of course, Woods, a seven-time winner of the event who has played it 15 of the past 19 years, is missing as he recovers from back surgery.

The tournament still has defending champion Jason Day, as well as fourth-ranked Fowler, No. 7 Justin Rose, No. 8 Dustin Johnson and No. 10 Patrick Reed. It also has hometown guy Phil Mickelson, who has won the tournament three times.

9. Promising start

It was just one tournament, but Mickelson's 21-under-par effort at the CareerBuilder Challenge was impressive considering he switched coaches and hadn't played in a tournament in four months. He had an eagle and 22 birdies with just three bogeys and played the last 40 holes without a bogey.

"This is a great week for me,'' Mickelson said. "I'm playing the way I wanted."