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LONDON (Reuters) - Chief executive Keith Pelley is pleased at the early response to his new European Tour Pace of Play policy and has again said that slow rounds of golf are simply unacceptable.
Referees are now allowed to combat slow play with a 'monitoring penalty' that began at last month's Abu Dhabi Championship and continued at the Qatar Masters and the Dubai Desert Classic.
In Abu Dhabi the time for an average round was cut by five minutes compared to 2015 and in Qatar it was reduced by 10 minutes in round one and four minutes in round two compared to 2012, the last time that event had similarly windy conditions.
In Dubai there was a reduction of two minutes in average rounds compared to 2015. The new policy is only being implemented in the opening two rounds of each tournament when there are more players competing ahead of the halfway cut.
"We said before our new measures were introduced in Abu Dhabi that we wanted to take the lead on pace of play and it is terrific to see the policy has had an immediate effect," Pelley said in a news release on Thursday.
"We are continually striving to make our product even more appealing and entertaining for our fans and this is a good starting point. Our players are now more aware than ever that slow play is unacceptable."
The 'monitoring penalty' allows referees to more effectively identify slow players and gives them an additional method of encouraging all competitors to keep to the scheduled pace of play.
If they do not respond to the promptings, referees can officially time players and eventually enforce a one-stroke penalty if indiscretions continue.
Ninety-five groups were 'monitored' in the Middle East and five players were given penalties, among them world number one Jordan Spieth during the first round in Abu Dhabi.
Competitors who have been told they are being 'monitored' must then play a shot within 40-50 seconds. Spieth was informed on his ninth tee that he had received a warning.
The five players will be fined an undisclosed amount the next time they receive a monitoring penalty this season with the fines increasing for each subsequent offence.
Pelley, who took over as chief executive from George O'Grady last year, has pledged to try and reduce round times by 15 minutes.
Editing by Pritha Sarkar