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Golf bosses hoping new rules lead to quick change

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A new set of rules is set to shake up the game of golf, including leaving the flagstick in the hole while putting from the green.

Golf's governing bodies introduced more than 30 changes to the rules which took effect on January 1 – aimed at speeding up play.

Changes: Justin Thomas jokingly suggested he wouldn't be following one of the rules that came into effect on New Year's Day.

Changes: Justin Thomas jokingly suggested he wouldn't be following one of the rules that came into effect on New Year's Day.Credit:AP

Under the previous rule leaving the flagstick in the hole when putting from the green would have resulted in a two-stroke penalty.

But, speaking ahead of the elite 34-man Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, nine-time US PGA Tour winner Justin Thomas said he would not be leaving the flag in.

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"I mean, if I have an eight-footer to win a golf tournament, no offence but I couldn't take myself seriously if I kept the pin in," Thomas joked at the picturesque Plantation course on the island of Maui.

"It would be such a weird picture; me on TV celebrating and the pin is in and my ball is up against it."

Several of the changes are expected to have significant impact.

The time allowed to search for a lost ball has been reduced from five minutes to three.

Players are now allowed to improve almost any damage to a putting green – including spike marks – as well as touch the line of their putt.

But perhaps the biggest change is there is no longer a one-shot penalty for a player's ball accidentally moving on a putting surface.

The law faced heavy criticism at the 2016 US Open, when eventual winner Dustin Johnson was deemed to have breached the rule and informed of the controversial decision during his final round.

PGA Tour veteran Webb Simpson, who won the 2012 US Open, applauded the ability to repair spike marks on putting surfaces.

"I like that," Simpson said.

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"I think it's fair, because if you're playing behind a guy who scrapes his feet, you were at a disadvantage. But not any more.

"I don't think it'll slow down play; guys will just tap it down real quick."

PGA Tour players have come under fire in recent years for slow play and many critics believe weekend amateurs are copying their sluggish idols.

Star PGA Tour rookie Cameron Champ supports the change to the time allowed to search for a lost ball.

"I think that will help dramatically," Champ said.

"The old rule was five minutes but sometimes, by the time the rules official gets there, it's even longer than five minutes."

SOME INTERESTING RULE CHANGES:

* The time allowed to search for a lost ball has been reduced from five minutes to three

* There is no longer a two-stroke penalty for leaving the flag in when a putt goes in the hole from the green

* There is no longer a one-shot penalty when a player's ball moves accidentally on the green

* Players are now allowed to improve almost any damage to a putting green – including spike marks – as well as touch the line of their putt.

* When taking a drop, players are now required to drop from knee height, rather than shoulder height.

* Players facing an unplayable lie in a sand trap can now drop outside the bunker for a two-shot penalty.

AAP

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