Combatting the ever increasing issue in the game of golf in slow play is the focus on the European Tour this week when it hosts the Shot Clock Masters, and it could not come at a better time after the shambles of the amount of time the final group took in the PGA Tour event last week.
This tournament was formerly the Lyoness Open and while the name has changed and the clock has been introduced not much else has changed. After two Rolex Series events and with the US Open next week the field here is weak and last year’s champion Dylan Frittelli doesn’t defend the title.
2017 – Dylan Frittelli
2016 – Ashun Wu
2015 – Chris Wood
2014 – Miguel Angel Jimenez
2013 – Joost Luiten
2012 – Bernd Wiesberger
2011 – Kenneth Ferrie
2010 – Jose Manuel Lara
2009 – Rafa Cabrera Bello
2008 – Jeev Milkha Singh
Shot Clock Format
The field will be placed under a clock this week. The first player in the group to play a par 3 tee shot, approach shot, chip or a putt will get 50 seconds and then those following get 40 seconds. The first player teeing off on a par 4 or 5 gets 40 seconds to hit that shot. If a shot is failed to be hit inside the allotted time they get a bad time penalty which is a one shot penalty. Each player gets two time extensions of 40 seconds each per round.
Although the dynamic of the tournament has changed the course which it will played on hasn’t. The Diamond Country Club remains the venue this week. It is a par 72 which measures 7,458 yards and while the longer hitters find it easier there is a premium on accuracy given the number of holes that has water in play.
The greens here are notoriously small so greens in regulation is usually a key stat this week. You tend to find even poor putters go well here given that the greens are so small. Usually I would go for longer hitters who drive it well but I think this week I’ll place a bigger premium on accuracy off the tee as the last thing we need is someone going cockeyed off the tee and running out of time working out how to get the ball back in play.
We can’t hide from the fact that this is a very weak field but the tournament carries the usual benefits so someone is going to leave the tournament a happy man and the crowds will hope it is one of their local heroes Matthias Schwab or Sepp Straka.
They will be challenged by more household names such as former champions Miguel Angel Jimenez and Ashun Wu while Nicolas Colsaerts and Soren Kjeldsen have both had excellent careers at this level, as has David Horsey. Lorenzo Gagli is in good form while Mikko Korhonen and Lee Slattery have been showing good signs recently.
The local player Matthias Schwab is the 17/1 favourite to win his home event. I would wager this is the first time he has been a favourite for a golf tournament which is a concern and it is not always easy to play under the pressure of expectation of a home crowd either. The field might be weak this week but I’m not sure it is that bad. He’s not for me.
Former champion Miguel Angel Jimenez and Italian player Lorenzo Gagli are next in the betting at 18/1. I wonder just how consistent Jimenez can be but it must be said he has put in two solid outings in the two European Tour events he has played in recent times. Gagli powered home last week and four more rounds like that will make him tough to beat.
Mikko Korhonen and the man who took the lead into the final round in Italy last week in Lee Slattery are 22/1 to win this week. The fact that both are so short is a reflection on how weak the field is here as much as their form but it could be a week where current form is everything, in which case they shouldn’t be written off. It is 25/1 bar.
I’ll go with a couple of main bets this week. I’m not particularly worried about the shot clock because if you can’t hit a shot in 40 seconds you shouldn’t be playing the game but I have gone for a premium on accuracy as detailed above.
With that in mind Ashun Wu is my first bet. He won here in 2016 and put up a decent title defence last year when he finished inside the top 10 and he arrives here with excellent long game numbers in the last three months where he is seventh in the field in hitting fairways and 14th in greens in regulation. We know he can plot his way around this course and we know he can hole putts on these greens so he’s a pretty obvious selection to me.
Gregory Bourdy is another who remains competent from tee to green. In fairness to the Frenchman he hasn’t got anything in the hole for much of the year but on these smaller greens that could well change and it is likely to change here if it is going to change anywhere. Bourdy has been in the top eight in his last three outings here and a return to familiar surroundings can bring out another decent result for him.
Felipe Aguilar is another who is monotonously straight and a clean striker of the ball and in his player blog on the European Tour website he claims the timings he has done in practice take up less than half the allotted time so the shot clock is not going to be an issue with him. Given how straight he is off the tee he is likely to find the greens in the right number regularly and if he can get a few putts to drop the Chilean shouldn’t be too far away.
Finally Ashley Chesters remains a solid contender from tee to green and it might be that in this weak field he is able to show a little more of what he has got and what he is about. Chesters is extremely accurate off the tee so if the rest of his game can be in half decent order there is no reason why he can’t go well. He opened here with a 67 last year and a couple of those should put him right in the mix.
Back A.Wu to win Shot Clock Masters (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 26.00 with Coral (1/5 1-7)
Back F.Aguilar to win Shot Clock Masters (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 67.00 with Coral (1/5 1-7)
Back G.Bourdy to win Shot Clock Masters (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 51.00 with Boylesports (1/5 1-6)
Back him here:
Back A.Chesters to win Shot Clock Masters (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 151.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-6)
Back him here: