The PGA Tour is reducing the size of the field for the 2018 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas from 144 players to 132 players, citing pace-of-play concerns and a move on the schedule limiting daylight to complete the opening rounds.
Golf Channel reports the Tour has informed players of the change through a memo, with the Policy Board hoping dropping 12 players (a group per wave on both the first and 10th tees each day) will prevent rounds from spilling over to the next day at TPC Las Vegas.
Th event moved from mid-October to early November in 2016, with it coming a slightly smaller time frame with sunlight. The sun sets about 2 minutes sooner each day until the Winter Solstice in December, meaning there’s about 14 fewer minutes available. That alone justifies reducing the field.
However, report author Rex Hoggard digs in on pace-of-play data from the PGA Tour to suggest the nature of five-hour threesomes on Thursday and Friday weighed on the decision as well. Players are typically allotted 40 seconds to hit a shot on the PGA Tour unless they’re first to go from the tee, fairway or green, when they’re given 50 seconds. The PGA Tour average is 38 seconds, though that average wipes pro-am tournament round shot times and shots requiring a drop, other ruling or a provisional shot to be struck. Some of a player’s slowest times are also excluded from their individual averages, considered outliers.
Hoggard also addresses the reality of the PGA Tour’s pace-of-play enforcement policy. Players are actively timed under pressure when their group falls behind their allotted time to play and have an open hole (a par 3) in front of them. From there, the Tour starts timing players, warning them for the first violation while being timed. A second violation would trigger a penalty stroke.
It’s unclear if the PGA Tour will consider reducing field sizes for other events, including those on the West Coast Swing in 2019. The Genesis Open has a 156-player field at The Riviera Country Club, and a mid-winter sunset can lead to spillover to the next day.