Shot Clock Masters Preview, Picks & Analysis
ANOTHER week another revolution on the European Tour, and this one just might be the best of the lot. With most golf fans fed up with the pace of play both at professional tournaments and on their home courses, Diamond Country Club in Vienna hosts the Shot Clock Masters, a 72-hole strokeplay tournament designed entirely to speed up play - with penalties imposed upon those who take too long to play.
The Shot Clock Masters is the first tournament in professional golf to use a clock on every shot as the European Tour finally attempts to stamp out five-hour rounds.
The tour experimented with a shot clock on one hole at the inaugural GolfSixes in 2017, and applied it again when the event was staged this year. It turned out to be hugely popular with spectators, and the players quickly bought into it too.
But how will they react when under the clock for all 72 holes? Every player in the field will have 50 seconds to play approach shot (including tee shots at par threes) chip or putt and 40 seconds for a tee shot on a par four or par five or second or third to play approach shot, chip or putt. And they will incur a one-shot penalty for each bad time incurred and these will be shown as a red card against their name on the leaderboard.
However, everybody in the field can call two time extensions during a round which will permit them twice the usually allotted time.
Two years ago, the tour pledged to speed up the game of golf, introducing a new pace of play policy which included monitoring penalties, handing referees additional powers to target slow players. The tour claims it had an immediate effect, but most bystanders remain to be convinced. It is hoped this latest move will cut round times by around 45 minutes, reducing three-ball timings to approximately four hours, and two-balls to around three hours 15 minutes.
The organisers will be disappointed that most of Europe’s leading players have opted to stay away. In fairness, many of them will be preparing for the forthcoming US Open, but there is a feeling that they have decided to watch from a distance to see precisely what sort of an impact the new rules have.
Action of this kind is long overdue and anybody who plays the game will tell you that 40 seconds is plenty long enough to hit any shot.
One youngster who will have no concerns about such matters is a 15-year-old named Tom McKibbin. You probably won’t have heard of him, but you will do. He comes from Newtownabbey in Northern Ireland and is a member of Holywood Golf Club – the home club of his hero, Rory McIlroy.
The Belfast Royal Academy pupil has caught the attention of the golfing world with a string of victories, most recently at the 2018 Junior Honda Classic (U18) and The Faldo Major Champions Invitational, both in the United States.
McKibbin became one of the youngest players ever to tee it up on the European Challenge Tour in 2016, aged just 13 years and 222 days, when he played in the Northern Ireland Open. He has amassed 16 local, national and international wins so far, with his first coming at the US Kids World Championship in 2015 when he was just 12 years old.
McKibbin has experienced life on the European Tour in the past, playing alongside McIlroy in the Pro-Am at the 2016 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, and he cannot wait to tee it up in Austria.
He said: “It is very exciting to play on the European Tour for the first time, and especially in the first ever tournament like this. Teeing it up at Diamond Country Club will be an amazing experience, but I’m also looking forward to seeing the shot clock technology and how the whole event works. I’m in favour of fast play and I consider myself to be a fast player so I think the idea behind the Shot Clock Masters could be great for the future of golf.
“I’m grateful to the European Tour and the promoters of the Shot Clock Masters for giving me this opportunity. It is my dream to play on the European Tour in the future and I can’t wait to experience the environment and take the chance to learn as much as I can from the players in Austria.”
All logic dictates that McKibbin will go on to become a global superstar but he would do well to sit down and speak to Tom Lewis, who is also in the field. Lewis turned professional when he was still a teenager and won the Portugal Masters in 2011 in only his third start. He seemed destined for the top, and there was no reason to believe that he would not become one the best players on the European Tour.
But as quickly as his star ascended, it came crashing back to earth. He has spent most of the recent past attempting to maintain his playing privileges on the European Tour and has endured some miserable times on the golf course. This season alone the 27-year-old has missed five cuts in six starts.
It has been a spectacular fall from grace for a man who was named after his father’s golfing hero, Tom Watson. As an amateur he famously played with Watson in The Open in 2011 and won the Silver Medal as the leading amateur. He was also a member of the successful Walker Cup team that same year.
And don’t be surprised to see the evergreen Miguel Angel Jimenez in contention to improve his record as the oldest winner on the European Tour. He may now be 54 years old, but he strikes the ball as well as he has ever done and is enjoying huge success on the Champions Tour, winning the Regions Tradition last month. Jimenez has always been a player who likes to get on with things. He is a fast player who definitely won’t be troubling the shot clock and this tournament is being played on a relatively short course that should suit him perfectly.
David Horsey. Underrated player
David Horsey. Consistent performer
Miguel Angel Jimenez. Like a fine wine...
Lee Slattery. One of the nicest men on tour
Ashley Chesters. Better than he thinks he is
Wade Ormsby. Excellent Australian
Dean Burmester. Hits the ball a mile
Nicolas Colsaerts. Showing signs of form at last
Erik Van Rooyen. Another terrific South African, enjoying a terrific year
Tapio Pulkkanen. Challenge Tour graduate right at home on European Tour
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