Tight Lies Tour Going High-Tech
Now, the Texas-based tour believes it has the future of golf.
Only it's not a player.
Starting next year, the Tight Lies Tour will become what is believed to be the first professional golf tour to allow players to use an electronic device to get yardages during competition.
The tour has become partners with SkyGolf GPS and its SG2 rangefinder, which uses satellite-based technologies to measure the distance to the green, to carry a bunker or to lay up short of a water hazard.
Tight Lies Tour president Gary DeSerrano said the primary reason is to help the pace of play.
'We started analyzing some of the slow play that goes along with the professional golf ranks,' DeSerrano said. 'The majority was finding yardages and going through the routine. This new technology is the future of golf, and we have no doubt that SkyGolf will be an asset for our tour and our professionals.'
There's just one problem - it's against the Rules of Golf.
According to the Rule 14-3, a player cannot use an artificial device 'to gauge or measure distance or conditions that might affect his play.'
'We've made a local rule that allows our players to use the device in competition,' DeSerrano said. 'We'll monitor the pace and see how this affects it.'
That means the Tight Lies Tour can no longer rely on the U.S. Golf Association - which governs golf in the United States and Mexico - for any other decision related to the rules.
But the USGA is hardly frowning on the use of rangefinders.
'I don't think it's any secret that the USGA favors allowing them to be used under the rules,' USGA executive director David Fay said. 'My personal view is that it enables guys like me to get the type of yardage assistance that (caddie) Steve Williams is providing Tiger Woods.'
The USGA allows players to use rangefinders when posting a score for handicap purposes, although they are illegal in competition.
What keeps the USGA from pushing harder for rangefinders is its harmonious relationship with the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, which sets the rules everywhere else in the world. The next time the rules can be changed is 2008, but the R&A is in no hurry to adopt an electronic yardage book.
'I think many people in the UK are opposed to these devices,' R&A secretary Peter Dawson said. 'These items are much more prevalent in the U.S., despite the fact they are against the Rules of Golf. It's remarkable they are allowed for handicapping purposes.'
Told that the Tight Lies Tour was going to use the SkyGolf GPS rangefinder next year, Dawson replied, 'That staggers me. I suppose they're not going to have stroke-and-distance for going out of bounds?'
Rangefinders have been around for years in various shapes and sizes.
Some of them are hand-held lasers, which shoot a beam at the flagstick. PGA Tour caddies use this type during practice rounds to double-check yardages. One company, Laser Link Golf, earlier this year got the endorsement of Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer for use at their home courses, The Bear's Club and Bay Hill.
The newest models use GPS, in which the device instantly flashes the yardage to the center of the green and other points on the golf course. Some of the high-end golf courses have installed the GPS version on golf carts.
The SkyGolf GPS model is about the size of a cell phone that players can attach to their belt or their bag. Players don't have to point them, only read the yardage and go about selecting a club. It claims to save an average of five shots per round and up to 25 minutes every nine holes.
Richard Edmonson, chief executive of SkyGolf GPS, believes it will level the playing field on the Tight Lies Tour.
'The PGA Tour has caddies and extensive yardage books. They never hit a shot without knowing the exact distance,' Edmonson said. 'On the Tight Lies Tour, all of them don't have caddies. They don't have all the detailed information that enables a player to play the way the course was designed to be played.'
The Tight Lies Tour will not supply its players with the SkyGolf GPS rangefinder; players can buy them for $350. DeSerrano said the cost is about the same as a player would pay for detailed yardage books at the 21 tournaments on his circuit.
And therein lies the heart of the debate.
DeSerrano and Edmonson - and even Fay - have a hard time justifying why rangefinders are illegal when similar technology is used to measure yardages found on sprinkler heads, and to create yardage books used in competition.
'It's a natural extension of getting a yardage on the sprinkler head,' Fay said. 'I don't think it affects the skill required to play the shot.'
They believe it does affect pace of play, which is why DeSerrano kept thinking about SkyGolf when he first saw its product three years ago at the PGA Merchandise Show.
DeSerrano noticed rounds on the Tight Lies Tour were getting longer, especially on the weekend when players - who pay $1,000 to join the tour and $1,000 for every event - were in contention. He believes the alliance with SkyGolf GPS will reduce rounds to four hours.
'Everything else, we abide by USGA rules,' DeSerrano said. 'We're not trying to buck the system. We just think it will better our product.'
It might look a little different, although Edmonson says it's all a matter of perception. Any player (or caddie) at a PGA Tour event will get to his ball, pull the yardage book from his back pocket and figure out the distance to the front of the green, plus however many paces to the flag.
He believes golf and its 500 years of tradition can be slow to embrace technology.
'I suppose the R&A could perceive someone walking down the fairway with some projector screen,' Edmonson said. 'But the way we designed our product, it's palm-sized. I can carry it in my back pocket. I can pull it out and look at the palm of my hand like I was looking at a yardage book.'
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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut
If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.
Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.
But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.
Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.
Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:
Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180
Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70
Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5
Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450
Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200
Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000
Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements
SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.
Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.
“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.
Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.
“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”
Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.
“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”
Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back
SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.
Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.
Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim.
Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.
Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026
SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.
“Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.
“We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.
In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010.