ShotLink may be the answer to slow play

By John HawkinsJanuary 16, 2012, 7:55 pm

Slow play is pro golf’s version of health-care reform: the problem with lots of answers but no solutions, the issue that won’t go away. An optimist might suggest those playing for seven-digit winner’s checks should take all the time they need to hit a 6-iron, oblivious to the notion that a Tour pro who takes two minutes to strike a shot is harming the game both commercially and recreationally.

It’s wrong. It’s selfish. And it’s supposedly against the law on the PGA Tour, which has a slow-play policy but enforces it arbitrarily, if at all. Fining a Tour pro for 10 bad times is a detour, not a deterrent. It’s a convenient way to address the matter without rectifying it.

Players must be penalized competitively for any policy to have an impact, a point I made last Wednesday when asked about slow play on “Morning Drive.” I was somewhat unsatisfied with my response, however, so I gave the issue more thought. How do you truly curb the slow-play scourge without imparting too much effect on a tournament’s outcome? Do you institute one set of guidelines for Thursday and Friday, then use a different set for the final two rounds?

At some point Sunday, a rare burst of reason led to an idea. More than anything, Tour pros don’t like to be embarrassed among their peers. Why not use ShotLink to time all players between shots, and then post the results with the rest of the statistics? I’m not talking about sticking it down at the bottom of each profile with their average distance to the hole from 100-125 yards – you post it with the primary stats: driving distance, greens in regulation, etc.

The Tour currently allows a player 45 seconds to put his ball back in play, which is a very reasonable standard. If a guy is taking 78 seconds per shot, he’s costing the field about 40 minutes, which is more than enough to ruin the overall pace and affect the performance level of those behind him, which is unacceptable. If the Tour is serious about combating the problem, and at this point, there’s little reason to believe it is, it has to do something that works.

It has to find a comfort zone that is two parts sensible, one part radical – particularly in the early-season events on the West Coast, when there is limited daylight. Since debuting in the summer of 2001, ShotLink has made tremendous strides in terms of providing the pro game with a statistical database. The system isn’t perfect, but from a wide-angle perspective, it works well. From the avid golf fan who watches at home every week to the media and those who attend tournaments, there is value in the information.

If we’re going to provide details of every stroke made at events overseen by the Tour, there’s no reason not to include the length of time required to make those strokes. That is, unless the Tour is afraid to expose the slowpokes with an official, factual formula, which I suppose could very well be the case. At that point, we’re right back to where we started – with twosomes taking almost 4 ½ hours to play a round of golf. Ridiculous.

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.