No Shots in the Dark
The PGA Tour has invested millions of dollars in a hi-tech system called Shot Tracker that follows the moves of every player in a tournament
From the Print Edition:
Catherine Zeta-Jones, September/October 2009
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Now when Hayes punches in the final scores for each player, all the scoreboards are instantaneously updated as well as all the statistics. When his group arrives at one of the six holes on the course that have the hi-tech scoreboards, each player can see statistically what he has been doing (just as you can sitting at your computer).
"It's been a lot of fun and doesn't take too long to learn," says Hayes. "Scorers really have the best view on the course, right up close to the players, and now we provide all this information, too. It can get tough when a player isn't playing well and sometimes can be really tough if the group isn't playing well, when you have guys in the water or out of bounds. If you have any doubts, ask the caddy. They know everything."
Hayes has settled in well using the handheld, but he does have one concern. "My biggest fear is that one day I'm going to drop it in the Port-A-Potty," he said. About two thirds of the way down the par-4 10 fairway at the TPC River Highlands, longtime volunteer Phil Medeiros is part of a two-man team running a laser. He lines up the crosshairs on the ball and records the distances. If he can't see the ball in the rough he shoots the player. If he can't see the ball or the player, he can ask the greenside laser to take a shot. If neither laser operator can get an accurate shot, a very accurate guess can me made. Every course is mapped into grid patterns, 5—by—5 yard squares for the fairway venue and 1—by—1 yard squares for the green and its surround. In case a laser fails, there is adequate backup.
"It's pretty simple in the fairway," says Medeiros. "The greenside laser is a lot busier because there are more shots played there and sometimes very quickly. Then you get caddies that sometimes block the view of the ball. But no matter what we will get a very accurate read."
By the way, those greenside lasers are considered survey grade. They cost about $40,000 a pop. And the two command center trucks carry duplicates of everything. As much as Shot Tracker is aimed at John Q. Public, all the gathered information has a practical value to the professional player. Family and friends can follow his progress. Coaches can look for patterns in errant shots. And the Tour provides a four-page statistical profile to players with an almost overwhelming amount of statistics, about 500 in all. Perhaps the most impressive is the putting category, which lists percentages from 14 different lengths and compares one player to the rest of the field.
"My dad takes a look at Shot Tracker a lot," says Tour player Mark Turnesa whose father, Mike, is his coach and a club professional on Long Island. "He's looking for little things. Sometimes he'll ask me how come I hit that shot 20 yards. I have to tell him, 'Dad, I was under a tree.'"
Because distance information is part of the display on the scoreboards, players have access to it. At the Travelers Championship a year ago, Stewart Cink had hit a long drive on the 18th, but it was in the right rough and his caddy wasn't sure of the distance he had to the hole. He decided to step it off. When he got back, he casually asked Cink what he thought it was.
"Ninety-one yards," said Cink.
"How did you know," asked the caddy.
"It's on the scoreboard," said Cink.
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