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Shotlink tracking speed of players
March 24, 2010

The Shotlink technology on the PGA Tour does more than just chart each shot of every player in every round. It also documents how long it takes them to hit each shot.

The information is not available to the public, only the players. The idea is for them to see where they rank among their peers, another layer of evidence should they need to pick up the pace.

“We use it as a tool for players to analyze where they may have room for improvement,” said Andy Pazder, the tour’s senior vice president of tour administration.

Brett Quigley looked up his ranking last week at the Transitions Championship and was perplexed—not because he was No. 12 on the list of players who take the shortest time to play, but who were the 11 guys faster than him.

The timing is not scientific, but it has shown to provide an accurate snapshot.

Unlike an official timing when a player is out of position, the volunteer entering the Shotlink data hits the button as soon as the first player in the group hits a shot. The next player is “timed” until he hits his shot. That doesn’t account for waiting for the previous player to pick up his tee and move to the side, or any other delays.

The first player to hit in each group is not timed. The tour throws out the top 10 percent of fastest times and top 10 percent of the slowest times. Also thrown out is whenever a player requires a ruling or has to take a drop.

After studying the data for a couple of years, and measuring that against which players were put on the clock most frequently, the tour found the two lists to be comparable.

John Daly, Chris Riley, Dustin Johnson, Mark Calcavecchia, Pat Perez and Quigley were around the top of the ranking. Portions of the list were obtained under the condition the slower players were not identified to avoid embarrassment, although it’s safe to say there were no surprises.

The times have been made available to players since 2006, and there is no evidence that it is helping. But this goes beyond timing and a ranking. Because the Shotlink data can process so much information, players can even find out where they are slow. The system studies how long it takes players to hit off the tee, from the fairway, when they go for a par 5 in two, when they lay up on a par 5, around the green and putting.

“We can go to a player and show, for example, that he’s good everywhere from tee to green, but once he gets on the green he slows down,” Pazder said. “It’s turned into a pretty good resource.”

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