ShotLink adds modern twist to Match Play

MARANA, Ariz. – Example No. 3,675 that this isn’t quite like pro golf when your grandfather watched. Heck, it’s not much like your father’s golf, either.

We’re talking about ShotLink, that high-tech computer software that measures distances on everything from 300-yard drives to the shortest of putts. It is used at every PGA Tour event – including the ongoing Accenture Match Play Championship – and produces statistical matter that makes your head spin.

Players are generally ambivalent about the technology, but in the match play format where it so often matters who’s away, ShotLink has suddenly become of interest to players.

Case in point here at the Accenture: Sergio Garcia, who several times in his third-round match Friday against Tim Clark turned to ShotLink personnel to offer an answer. One had to wonder about Garcia’s distance judgement, because it appeared clear that Clark was away at the par-4 15th as they went to play their second shots.

ShotLink personnel confirmed what was obvious – Clark was 93 feet 9 inches away, Garcia 71-4.

Great, but the needless delay was bothersome and perhaps the Spaniard learned there was an easier way.

Ask the walking rules official.

In this morning’s quarterfinal match against Oliver Wilson, Garcia did just that at the par-5 eighth hole. He and Wilson had both lagged long birdie tries within several feet of the hole.

Wilson, who had putted after Garcia, marked his ball and suggested he was still away. Garcia wasn’t sure. Trying to maintain his 2-up lead, the Spaniard wanted to putt first and first turned to ShotLink, then had second thoughts.

He called in walking rules official Andy McPhee, who looked at Garcia’s putt, then at Wilson’s – and ruled that it was Garcia’s play.

Great set of eyes, Mr. McPhee, because when ShotLink was later checked, Garcia’s putt was 3 feet 7 inches, Wilson’s 3 feet 5 inches.

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