Upgrade to PGA Tour scoring includes 'ShotLink in a suitcase' in the Bahamas
Just how far was Tiger Woods hitting his driver in the Bahamas? How many putts was Scottie Scheffler holing from outside 12 feet? Those details from the Hero World Challenge might not have been available until this year.
Those tiny clips all but a few players wore on the back of their belts at Albany is what the PGA Tour refers to as “ShotLink bugs,” enabling the tour to gather most data it typically gets at domestic PGA Tour events.
It’s part of a massive upgrade in the tour’s scoring and data collection which has reshaped the game from a statistical standpoint, providing more data for the media, invaluable statistical analysis for players and more information for fans.
The tour has been testing them on the Korn Ferry Tour for the last 18 months.
Ken Lovell, the tour’s senior vice president of golf technologies, said the devices players wore were accompanied by employees carrying a carbon fiber pole with GPS that can localize data within seconds.
ShotLink is now handled remotely out of PGA Tour headquarters.
“We built them for events like this,” Lovell said.
It’s a big step toward making sure the ShotLink data — distances, tendencies in shot dispersion, ball speed, shape, everything imaginable — is available at all PGA Tour events, even those outside the U.S. And eventually, it will be available at tournaments that have multiple courses, such as Torrey Pines or Pebble Beach.
Another code name for the ShotLink bugs is “ShotLink in a suitcase."
“We cannot ship that much equipment into the Bahamas,” Lovell said, citing costs and other logistics.
It’s a work in progress to make sure the data is accurate to an inch, not a foot. But it’s part of a larger upgrade for the PGA Tour in which the number of 4K cameras used to track shots will increase at tour events.
“A total rebuild,” Lovell said.
The full ShotLink system will be in Hawaii next month for the first time. Lovell also said ShotLink would be provided at the U.S. Women’s Open for the second straight year.
The ballot is in the mail — electronically, of course — for PGA Tour members to vote on their player of the year, and it's all the usual suspects. British Open champion Brian Harman is the only major champion not on the ballot, as that was his only win this season.
Players who choose to vote will decide among Scottie Scheffler (two wins including The Players Championship, money title and lowest scoring average), U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark (two wins), Masters champion Jon Rahm (four wins), FedEx Cup champion Viktor Hovland (three wins) and Rory McIlroy.
McIlroy had only two wins in going a 10th straight year without a major. He was cited for having 13 top 10s in his 18 starts.
Different from previous years, the winner will not be announced until the start of next season at The Sentry at Kapalua.
The rookie of the year ballot has Ludvig Aberg, Eric Cole, Nico Echavarria and Vincent Norrman. Aberg won at Sea Island and played in the Ryder Cup just four months after he turned pro. Norrman and Echavarria won opposite-field events. Cole finished in the top 50 in the FedEx Cup.
Joaquin Niemann had a successful two weeks Down Under, and now the LIV Golf player from Chile has some decisions ahead of him.
Niemann, who didn't have a finish higher than seventh his year on the LIV circuit, was fifth in the Australian PGA and then won the Australian Open. That moved him to No. 59 in the world ranking, though he has no other tournaments this year to try to crack the top 50 and earn another trip to the Masters.
Niemann, however, has two weeks to decide whether to take European tour membership because the Australian Open was co-sanctioned. That would give him a chance to play any of three Middle East events before the LIV season starts.
Niemann resigned his European tour membership in 2022 when he joined the Saudi-backed league. Still unclear was whether he would need to pay any fines, and any effect of not playing enough when he was a member.
His manager, Carlos Rodriguez, said he would speak to Niemann over the next few days. Niemann is playing the Chile Open this week, which is not affiliated with a world ranking tour.
His only other way into the Masters would be to play the International Series on the Asian Tour in the spring, though ranking points are not that high.
Steve Stricker is making his debut in the PNC Championship next week, and he should be thankful he didn't have to choose between his two daughters, both good players. Stricker will be playing with his youngest, Izzi, a Wisconsin state high school champion.
“I didn’t have a choice,” Stricker said. “Plus, Bobbi is a pro, and I think they’re staying away from that part of it.”
Part of the criteria is that partners don't have playing status on a professional tour. Bobbi Stricker, who played at Wisconsin, had Epson Tour status this year. She missed by one getting out of the first stage of LPGA Q-school.
“She’s excited for Izzi, but I know deep down it hurt a little bit,” Stricker said. “We talked about that over the years how cool it would be.”
It's still going to be a family affair. Stricker’s wife and Bobbi will caddie. To be determined is who caddies for whom. “That will depend on personalities,” Stricker said with a laugh.
TIS THE SEASON
The LPGA Tour is wrapping up its rain-delayed Q Series in Alabama. The PGA Tour has its first Q-school in a decade next week near PGA Tour headquarters.
In between is PGA Tour Champions qualifying, which starts this week with a field that includes one major champion (Shaun Micheel) among some 18 players who have won on the PGA Tour.
It also includes former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz, who made it through the first stage of qualifying and now hopes for a second career.
Only the top five earn cards for the 50-and-older circuit (a playoff would decide any ties). Those who finish between Nos. 6 and 30 are allowed to play qualifiers for Champions events.
Tiger Woods finished 18th against the 20-man field in the Hero World Challenge and moved up 430 spots in the world ranking to No. 898. It was only his sixth tournament in the last two years. ... Jim Furyk had to pull out of the World Champions Cup this week at The Concession Club with his lingering back issue. He stays on as the U.S. captain and will be replaced in competition by Billy Andrade. ... Lucas Glover, the former U.S. Open champion, will bring his homespun thoughts to radio. He will host “The Lucas Glover Show” on the SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio channel (channel 92). The hour-long show debuts Wednesday at 8 p.m. EST. ... The Epson Tour has extended its relations with the Annika Women's All Pro Tour. The top two finishers get spots in Epson Tour events, and the top five on the money list get into the second stage of LPGA Q-school.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Scottie Scheffler had an adjusted scoring average of 68.63. It was the seventh-lowest average on the PGA Tour since 1980. The six ahead of him all belong to Tiger Woods.
“You spend more time in the treatment room and weight room than you do on a golf course. That’s just part of wanting to hang around as an athlete.” — Tiger Woods.
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