Randall's Rant: It's time for a shot clock

By Randall MellOctober 23, 2017, 6:10 pm

A shot clock in golf?


It’s like putting a wristwatch on the Statue of Zeus in Greece, one of the seven ancient wonders of the world.

That is the gag reflex to the idea of adopting a tick, tick, ticking clock in golf.

The idea seems so incompatible with the game’s pastoral nature, so loathe to the game’s aesthetics.

It’s unfortunate that we’ve come to this, but we have come to this, to something so jarring to the game’s sensibilities. A shot clock is an idea that has become as necessary as it is revolting.

And so bravo to the innovative, risk-taking Keith Pelley, the European Tour’s chief executive.

Slow play has been the talk of golf for decades, but that’s all the game’s brass has ever done. Talk about it. Nobody’s really done anything meaningful to address the problem.

Until now.

Until Pelley’s bold experiment.

The European Tour made its plans official Monday with the release of the details of its new “Shot Clock Masters” in Austria next June. It will become the first tournament in professional golf to use a shot clock on every shot.

The European Tour tested the idea in a limited way earlier this year, with a shot clock used on one hole at its GolfSixes event in England. At the Shot Clock Masters, formerly the Austrian Open, every player in the 120-man field will be on the clock over every shot, with the first player in a grouping getting 50 seconds to play and other players getting 40 seconds. Players will be assessed a one-shot penalty for every violation.

The European Tour projects the shot clock could reduce the time to play a round by 45 minutes, with the hope that threesomes would finish in approximately four hours and twosomes in three hours and 15 minutes.

Also, importantly, a player will get two timeouts in a round, should he require extra time to prepare for a more a challenging shot.

It doesn’t seem possible a pro twosome could finish a tournament round in three hours and 15 minutes, but if that hope becomes a reality, let’s hope this becomes more than experimental and that the PGA Tour adopts the shot clock, too. Yes, it would complicate Tour operations, with officials required in every group, but if the European Tour can do it to improve the game, why can’t the PGA Tour?

This observer’s tolerance of a shot clock was influenced by a summer experience watching the Lakeland Flying Tigers Single-A minor-league baseball team play with a 15-second pitch clock. I went with a friend this summer, and I was annoyed when the game began and the pitch clock re-set before every pitch. At first, I wanted to take a bat and smash the clock. It seemed sacrilege putting a clock on a game that appeals, in part, because it’s played without a clock.

But it didn’t take long to become a convert.

Three innings into the game, I wasn’t paying any attention to the clock anymore, but I was noticing how the game was flowing so naturally at a freshened pace. No batters constantly backing out of the box to fix their batting gloves, or adjust their uniforms, or excessively kick the dirt for a deeper foothold. No pitchers aimlessly wandering around the back of the mound to juggle a rosin bag or stare into the clouds.

The game lasted barely more than two hours.

The pitch clock worked, and it gives hope a shot clock in golf might work exactly the same way, naturally speeding up a game to where we eventually don’t even notice there’s a timepiece ticking somewhere.

Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

Leaderboard: Cameron Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Jason Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

What it means: Jordan Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.

Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Web.com Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday. 

Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his Web.com card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."