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Players ready for a world first at the inaugural Shot Clock Masters

June 06, 2018

Home favourite Matthias Schwab is relishing the opportunity to be involved in a world first this week as the Shot Clock Masters debuts on the European Tour.

Diamond Country Club, near Vienna, Austria, is the venue for the first tournament in professional golf to use a shot clock on every shot.

Players ready for a world first at the inaugural Shot Clock Masters, © Getty Images

“Really anything that improves pace of play is great for the game. I see myself as a relatively fast player so I don’t think I’ll have too many issues with the new format. It’s great for me that they are testing it here in Austria. I know the course well, I’ve played here a lot of times. I don’t see myself having too many troubles with the shot clock. It will be fun for sure."

It may be a week of innovation, but the surroundings are certainly familiar for the 23 year old, who made his professional debut on this course last year after graduating from Vanderbilt University in the United States.

“It’s been a very exciting year. I played a lot of golf on the Challenge Tour last year, which was fun for me. Then I made it through Q School and I’ve been playing quite a lot on the European Tour this year so a lot has happened. I’m pretty fortunate to call myself a European Tour player now and I’m happy about it. I’m looking forward to the next tournaments."

He plied his trade on the Challenge Tour for much of last season before securing his European Tour card through Qualifying School, and has enjoyed positive 2018 so far, finishing inside the top 30 four times in ten European Tour appearances - including tied fourth at the Hero Indian Open in March - and making his Rolex Series debut in the Italian Open last week.

“It’s golf, everything can change by the week. I’ve been playing OK the last few weeks. I need some improvements with my putting, last week wasn’t the best putting week I’ve had. If I can find something on the putting green and continue the way I have been hitting it should be a fun week.”

Charismatic Spaniard Miguel Ángel Jiménez also has an affinity for this event, which is the latest incarnation of Austria’s national open, having recorded six top 20 finishes in seven previous appearances. The 21-time European Tour winner, who has a home in Austria, arrives at Diamond Country Club on a high after securing his first Senior Major title at the Regions Traditions in the United States last month.

“It’s nice to see a different format, to see how we are with the timings. I think it will be very interesting to see how we can deal with that."

“When I first turned pro I didn’t think I would see a tournament like this. They have improved different elements of the game the last few years, trying to make something different, and trying to see how much we can improve the show."

“The game is feeling good. I still play the ball left to right, right to left as I am always doing and I still have the same distance. I still feel great on the golf course. I like this place very much, it’s a great golf course. It’s a golf course that is demanding all of the clubs in the bag. It’s very flat but I think it is a very nice golf course, I like it.”

The fans favourite is intrigued by the prospect of the Shot Clock Masters format, with experienced campaigner Søren Kjeldsen of Demark - who is making his 559th European Tour appearance this week - and former Ryder Cup player Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium also looking forward to another innovative week on the European Tour.

“I think the debate has been on the table for a long time now about trying to speed up play somehow so I’m quite curious to see if this format will make a difference," said Colsaerts.

“I tend to think that I’m always early enough not to be bothered by any sort of clock whatsoever but I’m sure it will be in the back of the mind of a few players.

“Most of the time you think that 40 or 50 seconds is a long time, or enough time actually to pull the trigger and hit a shot, but on some occasions you will come quite close to it. I think it’s just a matter of being ready on time and just be aware of what’s going on in a group and be aware when it’s your time to go.”

The European Tour experimented with a shot clock on one hole at the inaugural GolfSixes in 2017 – a move which proved popular with both players and fans. In a marked difference to the GolfSixes model however, this week’s Shot Clock Masters will embrace the Tour’s official timing policy (similar to policies used across the world of professional golf) over 72 holes, with an intent to showcase an event played at a more compelling pace.

In accordance with this official policy, each player in the field will have 50 seconds for a first to play approach shot (including par three tee shot), chip or putt and 40 seconds for a tee shot on a par four or par five or second or third to play approach shot, chip or putt.

A digital clock mounted on a buggy will travel with each group and will be accompanied by a referee who will be responsible for operating the clock and determining when to start the clock for each shot. The clock will be controlled by an iPad using a bespoke app.

On each occasion that a player fails to hit his shot within the time limits, a one-shot penalty will be added to his score for that hole. However, each player can call for a “time-extension” up to twice in any one round, allowing a further 40 seconds over and above the above allowances to play the shot in question.

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