If you’ve been following golf for any period of time you’ll know that the speed of play is a big issue in the game. Many players, pundits and fans are frustrated with the slow play they see week in week out on the professional tours but there will be none of that this week on the European Tour. The Shot Clock Masters is a revamp of the Lyoness Open where the first player in a group has 50 seconds to play their shot and the remaining players just 40 seconds.
Although many people are talking about the Shot Clock Masters, it’s fair to say that the field is far from top class. That said, there are some quality players in the betting including former Ryder Cup star, Nicolas Colsaerts. The Belgian has played some good golf since the birth of his first son and is a class above many in the competition so he surely represents good betting value at 33/1 with Coral.
This tournament is still, in effect, the Austrian Open. That’s how it was known when first held in 1990 and due to the prestige of the event it is still held at Diamond Country Club, one of the premier golf venues in Austria. The par 72 layout measures a challenging 7,458 yards.
While it’s fairly flat, Diamond Country Club is open to the elements while water is in play on half of the holes. Hitting it a long way off the tee and putting well are never going to hurt a player’s chances of winning but previous tournaments at Diamond CC show that the key skills are hitting greens in regulation and/or regularly scrambling for par.
|Diamond Country Club||Atzenbrugg, Austria||7,458 Yards||$1,000,000|
The list of recent winners includes some very classy European Tour players. Joost Luiten and Chris Wood have a nine European Tour wins between them while Mikael Lundberg won his first event on tour back in 2005. Wu Ashun and Dylan Fritelli were slightly more surprise winners but again they’ve both won professional tournaments around the world. The one thing that binds all five most recent winners is that they all hit significantly more greens than the field so if history tells us anything it’s that the best ball strikers have an edge at Diamond CC.
|Year||Winner||To Par||Winning Margin|
|2017||Dylan Fritelli||-12||1 Stroke|
|2016||Wu Ashun||-13||1 Stroke|
|2015||Chris Wood||-15||2 Strokes|
|2013||Joost Luiten||-17||2 Strokes|
Analysis: Class and Potential the Way to Approach the Shot Clock Masters
As mentioned above, the Lyoness Open was won by some classy players and there is no reason to believe that things will be any different with the addition of a shot clock. It makes sense, therefore, to approach this week’s tournament with a staking plan made up of a mixture of quality ball strikers and younger players with the potential to kick on and win multiple times on tour.
Colsaerts to Bounce Back from Rolex Series Disappointment
It’s been a frustrating couple of years for Nicolas Colsaerts. Things are going swimmingly for the Belgian away from the golf course but he’s struggled to find his best stuff consistently enough to improve on a world ranking that has been in steady decline for some time. There have been glimpses of the Colsaerts of old though, most notably when finishing second at the Turkish Airlines Open at the end of last season and his quarter final appearance at the Belgian Knockout.
Colsaerts was no doubt encouraged by the home galleries at Rinkven International but the way that he took to a new tournament was worth noting. ‘The Dude’ as he’s sometimes known, has the mentality to take these sort of new challenges in his stride and he should have no problem dealing with the shot clock. He comes into the week on the back of two missed cuts in Rolex Series events but Colsaerts will have no problem getting the better of this field should he be able to find his best golf. At 33/1 with Coral, Colsaerts looks worth chancing to rediscover his form and claim his third European Tour title.
Straka to Rise to the Challenge of Playing at Home
Sepp Straka may look on at golfers like Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm or Jordan Spieth who made their breakthrough at the top level very young with envy but the 25-year-old has lots of time left to forge a successful career for himself. He could take a big step forwards this week.
Like many players who are still trying to ‘make it’, Straka has been taking his opportunities where he can find them. He’s played most of his golf on the Web.com Tour this season and the confidence he’s gained from some good results in America will doubtless aid his chances of victory this week. Straka will also take confidence from his seventh place finish at Diamond CC last year so an each way bet looks in order at 50/1 with Bet365.
Howell a Classy Option at Triple Figures
David Howell’s return to European Tour action after suffering with injury has been welcomed by his fellow professionals but the field in Austria this week will be wary about a player of his class returning to form. Howell has five European Tour wins to his name and on his day is as good a ball striker as anybody else competing in the Shot Clock Masters. It’s never easy getting back into the rhythm of professional golf but Howell’s experience is such that he’s capable of turning it on at any time so he is well worth a small each way bet at 150/1 with Betfred.
Final Verdict: Nicolas Colsaerts to Win
The Shot Clock Masters looks very much a tournament for those with something to prove. Colsaerts is very much among that number after such a long time since his last win. He’ll need to refamiliarise himself with the course but should he work out a solid plan, Colsaerts’ class could just see him through at a generous price.
The Shot Clock Masters will be hosted for the first time in 2018. The tournament will replace the Austrian Open that has run from 1990 and has been designed as the European Tour’s way of trying to combat slow play on the golf course.
The format will be same as any other stroke play event, in that players will play 72 holes in total, with the winner being that of the lowest score over these 72 holes. But, for each shot that the player takes, a shot clock will be called, with the first player having 50 seconds to play and the subsequent players then having 40 seconds each to play their shot. These rules are in accordance with the current structure on the European Tour, although not always enforced.
If players fail to stay within these time limits, then a 1 shot penalty will be enforced on the player and they will be denoted with a red card on the scoreboard to signify this. The Tour are hopeful that this could speed up round time by as much as 45 minutes and has been widely welcomed by the players. Each player will be allowed 2 timeouts per round where they will be given double the allotted time to take their shots.
The format, whilst experimental, will give the Tour and likely other tours a better idea as to how quick it would be realistic to force players to play and ultimately eliminate slow play.