European Tour’s bold shot clock concept is here to stay

ATZENBRUGG, AUSTRIA - JUNE 10: Mikko Korhonen of Finland tees off on the 15th hole during day four of The 2018 Shot Clock Masters at Diamond Country Club on June 10, 2018 in Atzenbrugg, Austria. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
ATZENBRUGG, AUSTRIA - JUNE 10: Mikko Korhonen of Finland tees off on the 15th hole during day four of The 2018 Shot Clock Masters at Diamond Country Club on June 10, 2018 in Atzenbrugg, Austria. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images) /

The European Tour used a shot clock for the first time this week at the Shot Clock Masters in Austria. Now the PGA has to consider doing the same.

Mikko Korhonen won a European Tour event on Sunday that was unlike any other.

The 37-year-old Finn Korhonen ran away with the inaugural Shot Clock Masters, winning by six shots at 16-under. What made this tournament, played at Diamond Country Club in Atzenbrugg, Austria, unique was the introduction of a shot clock.

The idea behind the shot clock is simple: speed up play. Players are given 40 seconds to hit their shot. Referees accompany each group in a cart with a board showing their time. If the clock hits zero before the player swing, they are given a one-stroke penalty. Four penalties were handed out during the week.

Reviews from the players were generally positive. Nicolas Colsaerts, who finished tied for third, believes it still gives players plenty of time.

"“This is great. This is how we should play week in, week out,” he said after the round. “I mean, you have plenty of time. You have to be ready, of course, but I think most of the time we still have 15 to 20 seconds to go when we hit shots.”"

Keith Pelley, CEO of the European Tour, surveyed players to see if they would be in favor of the change. 70 percent of respondents said yes. Pelley says if players make the adjustment and play faster, it increases the enjoyment for everyone.

"“I think that we saw this week that this can definitely improve the game. And it also shows that, if the players get into the mindset…then they can play quicker,” he told SkySports. “They can play where, I think, it makes for a better viewing experience.”"

The shot clock certainly had an impact on the length of rounds. The duration of a round was down 33 minutes through the first three days compared to the tour average.

The PGA Tour has yet to make a similar commitment to address slow play. PGA policy allows a player 40 seconds to play a shot, but they are only timed if the group is out of position. Just two slow play penalties have been assessed since 1995. With the successful roll-out of the European Tour’s shot clock, the pressure will only increase on PGA Commissioner Jay Monahan to do something to combat slow play.

Not everyone is happy with the new idea, however. Geoff Ogilvy is one of them. Ogilvy acknowledges slow play is a problem but doesn’t believe the shot clock is the solution.

"“It’s completely against the spirit of golf. You may need five more seconds to get the wind right. A shot clock doesn’t take anything into consideration except how long you’re taking. If the wind switches, you’re going to take another club out. To penalize someone for that is absurd,” he told Morning Read‘s Adam Schupak."

Korhonen didn’t seem to mind the shot clock. He came into the final round with a five-shot lead, and although he made his first two bogeys of the week his score of 69 was enough to win by six. The win was a long time coming for Korhonen, who has made 12 trips to European Tour Q-School. It was his first career victory in his 146th attempt.

"“It’s been a long wait, so feels so good,” he said after the round. As for whether he ever doubted he would win: “Yeah, I’ve thought that. I’ve been up there a couple of times. Couldn’t do it though at those times, but now I’m so happy and relieved to have done it.”"

Korhonen has come close before. He was runner-up in this same event, then known as the Lyoness Open, last season. Connor Syme, a 22-year-old rookie from Scotland, made a 60-foot birdie on the 18th to finish in second.

Despite the success of this tournament, Pelley says the tour has no immediate plans to make the shot clock permanent. He says the tour will take time to analyze what happened this week before making any decision.

"“Now we’re going to digest everything that happens. We’re not going to rush in to making a decision that is detrimental to anything that we’re doing on the tour or in global golf,” he said."

The European Tour is taking bold initiatives to combat slow play. Now the PGA Tour has to consider what they can do to modernize the game.

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