Jordan Spieth became a victim of the European Tour's new policy on slow play when he was told by rules officials late in his round at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on Thursday that he had taken too long on a putting green.
Spieth, the No. 1 player in the world, took too much time to putt on the eighth green, his 17th hole. He was told on the ninth tee that he had incurred a "monitoring'' penalty under a new system that went into place this week and announced to players on Tuesday.
On the fourth tee (their 13th hole), the group was informed it was being monitored.
"It was a bit odd,'' said Spieth, who shot 68 to trail American amateur Bryson DeChambeau by four strokes. McIlroy shot 66. "The guys behind us hadn't even reached the fairway. So it didn't make any sense to me. If I can, I'll try and wash it away ... because it doesn't affect this round, but if I get another one, I get fined, and I don't think there was necessarily a reason to get that bad time. Rory and Rickie were very surprised.''
Spieth used terminology that is in play on the PGA Tour, where players are warned if the group is out of position, with an accumulation of bad times leading to fines that are not announced.
The European Tour has taken it a step further. A second monitoring penalty would bring an announced fine of just less than $3,000 for Spieth.
"Pace of play on the European Tour is measured by whether a group keeps to the starting interval between groups, rather than if they are on the same hole, as it is in America,'' said European Tour rules official John Paramor. "Jordan was assessed a monitoring penalty after he hit a putt on the eighth hole, which I advised him of as he walked to the ninth tee.''
Under the new rule, a player has 40 seconds to hit his shot (50 seconds if he is the first to play in the group) after being advised the group is being monitored.
"It was a bit of a weird one,'' McIlroy said. "Sometimes the refs have to use common sense. With the time we're allowed, if you take an extra look at a putt you're over the time. But if we're in position [to the group in front], there's no reason to time us.''