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

By Randall MellOctober 23, 2017, 6:10 pm

A shot clock in golf?

Ugh.

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.

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Finau lifts team to opening 62 on improving ankle

By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 6:24 pm

AVONDALE, La. – Tony Finau continues to thrive on his injured ankle.

Playing for the first time since the Masters, where he tied for 10th despite a high-ankle sprain, Finau matched partner Daniel Summerhays with six birdies to shoot a combined 10-under 62 in fourballs Thursday at the Zurich Classic.

Finau still isn’t 100 percent – he said he's closer to 70 percent – even after two weeks of rest and physical therapy. During that time he worked with doctors at the University of Utah Orthopedic Center and also the training staff with the Utah Jazz. Before the Zurich, he had played only nine holes.


Full-field scores from the Zurich Classic of New Orleans

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“Sometimes simplicity is huge in this game,” he said. “There is not a lot of thoughts in my swing in the first place, so there can’t be that many thoughts when you don’t practice. It served me well today.”

Partnering with Summerhays, his fellow Utah resident and a friend for more than a decade, they combined to make 12 birdies during an opening round that left them only two shots back of the early lead.

Asked afterward how his ankle felt, Finau said: “Feeling a lot better after that 62. A great remedy for something hurting is some good golf.”  

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Sources: Woods returning to Wells Fargo

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 26, 2018, 6:07 pm

Tiger Woods is expected to return to competition at next week's Wells Fargo Championship, according to multiple Golf Channel sources. The news of Woods' participation was first reported Thursday on "Golf Central."

Woods has not played since a T-32 finish at the Masters. A winner at Quail Hollow in 2007, Woods has not made the cut there since a fourth-place showing in 2009 and has not played Wells Fargo since 2012. He missed last year's PGA Championship at Quail Hollow because of injury.

Woods has until 5 p.m. ET Friday to officially commit to next week's field. When reached for comment by GolfChannel.com, Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, explained that Woods' plans were not yet finalized.

"We don't know right now (if Woods will play)," Steinberg said. "We'll know later this afternoon. We're working on a couple things."

A trip to Charlotte would be another sign that the 42-year-old is ready to return to a customary schedule, as next week's event would be followed by Woods' expected return to The Players for the first time since 2015. Woods has already committed to the U.S. Open, which will mark the 10-year anniversary of his last major victory.

After starting the year ranked No. 656 in the world, Woods is up to No. 91 in the latest world rankings. He recorded three straight top-12 finishes during the Florida swing, including a runner-up finish alongside Patrick Reed at the Valspar Championship and a T-5 finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

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USGA receives more than 9,000 U.S. Open entries

By Will GrayApril 26, 2018, 4:31 pm

The field of contestants for golf's most democratic major has been set.

The USGA announced that it received 9,049 entries for this year's U.S. Open, with the deadline for entry expiring at 5 p.m. ET Wednesday. That total includes 515 applications on the final day, 115 in the final hour and a buzzer-beater from Drew Caudill, a 32-year-old pro from Mount Vernon, Ohio, who beat the entry deadline by only 23 seconds.

This marks the seventh straight year that the USGA has received more than 9,000 entries, but the total marks the second straight year of a decline in applications. At least 9,860 players entered each year from 2013-16, topping out in 2014 when 10,127 applications were received. But last year there were 9,485 entries for Erin Hills, and this year's return to Shinnecock yielded only one more application than the USGA got in 2005.

For the vast majority of entrants, the next step is a spot in 18-hole local qualifying which begins April 30 and runs through May 17. The fortunate few advance from there to 36-hole sectional qualifiers, played May 21 in Japan and June 4 across 11 other sites in the U.S. and England.

A total of 54 players are already exempt into the 156-man field, including 12 former winners. The only remaining ways to earn an exemption from qualifying are to win either The Players or BMW PGA Championship next month, or be ranked inside the top 60 in the Official World Golf Rankings on either May 21 or June 11.

The U.S. Open will be played June 14-17 at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y., which is hosting the event for the first time since 2004.

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Report: Houston Open may move to Memorial Park in '19

By Will GrayApril 26, 2018, 3:48 pm

Still without a permanent spot on the PGA Tour schedule, the Houston Open appears to be on the move.

According to a report from the Houston Business Journal, there is a proposal in place to shift the tournament downtown in 2019, returning to Memorial Park Golf Course which previously hosted the event from 1951-1963.

While formal relocation plans have not been announced, the tournament officially reached the end of an era this week when the Golf Club of Houston, which has hosted the event since 2003, informed the Houston Golf Association that it would no longer serve as tournament host moving forward.

"We received notice this week from the Golf Club of Houston regarding the club's decision to no longer host a PGA Tour event," read an HGA statement obtained by GolfChannel.com. "Currently, the HGA's focus is on securing a long-term title sponsor. The Golf Club of Houston has been a great venue for the Houston Open dating back to 2003 and we look forward to maintaining a great relationship with the club."

Such a move would be a win for Houston mayor Sylvester Turner, who has expressed an interest in returning the tournament within city limits. The Golf Club of Houston is located in Humble, a suburb 20 miles northeast of downtown.

"This move would place the tournament on center stage in downtown Houston, creating a central location for the city to rally around," read marketing materials cited in the Business Journal report. "Houston Proud Partners of the Houston Open would have the opportunity to collaborate with the Houston Golf Association on this historic move and make a lasting statement that would be seen for generations."

The Houston Open's lineage dates back to 1946, but its future remains in question. Shell Oil ended its 26-year sponsorship of the event in 2017, and this year it was played without a title sponsor and financed in part by the HGA.

The tournament has also carved out a niche with its pre-Masters slot on the schedule, where it has been played every year but once since the advent of the FedExCup in 2007. But next year that coveted position will go to the Valero Texas Open, leaving Houston's place on a revamped 2019 schedule in question.

The Houston Open remains one of only two tournaments on the current Tour calendar without a title sponsor. Earlier this week Charles Schwab signed a four-year deal to sponsor the Fort Worth Invitational beginning in 2019, and a report this week indicates the other unsponsored event, The National, may be on the verge of moving from the Washington, D.C. area to Detroit.