Technology adds to experience for players, fans
Jonathan Bartlett, the event's champion, would stand over a birdie putt and observers might debate over its length. Was it 14 feet? 15? 12?
This week at the Greenbrier Classic, Bartlett had similar putts, but there was no doubt about their length. With the lastest technology, there are no estimates, and many fans on the course are getting the numbers firsthand.
The Tour does it with seeming ease, with a high-tech stat-keeping arm called ShotLink. A army of volunteers, 280 this week, works in coordination with a full-time staff of 13 in a computer-laden trailer.
Every playing group has a "walking scorer" on the ground, essentially tracking the number of strokes by each player and the area (green, rough, fairway, etc.).
Each hole has a laser volunteer at greenside, with operators on the fairways of par 4s and par 5s. With their equipment, the ball's location is precisely identified, both in distance from the tee or previous position, and in distance from the hole.
Among the ShotLink crew members are coordinators for the walking scorers, three producers, a network administrator and an LED technician, who keeps the 10 automated video boards humming along.
On those boards, you would have learned that Bartlett missed a par putt of 12 feet, 9 inches, or that he made a 7-foot, 5-inch putt on the 17th hole but missed a 15-8 bogey putt on his disastrous 16th.
All the data - and we mean all of it - is archived and transmitted to hospitality rooms, the media center, the Internet and PGA Tour headquarters. The amount of data from the PGA just might "outnumber" that in Major League Baseball.
For example, Bartlett's drives averaged 287.9 yards for the tournament, and he hit 29 of 42 fairways with those drives. His longest was 321 yards on the sixth hole Saturday. The longest putt? An 18-footer on the 15th hole in the second round.
He didn't hit any putt of more than 25 feet, but the pros are hitting 5.51 percent of those for the season. All told, Bartlett made five of his seven putts from 5 to 7 feet and five of 10 putts from 7 to 10 feet. The tour average from 5-10 feet is 54.66 percent.
Too much information?
Consider Jeff Overton, the leader after three rounds. He is averaging 307 yards on his drives, with a 350-yard blast on the 17th in the first round. His longest putt is 20 feet, 11 inches on the eighth hole Saturday, a birdie that triggered a turnaround from his 2-over start.
A few pertinent tournament numbers, also courtesy of ShotLink:
Michael Bradley has holed out the longest shot, hitting from 119 yards for an eagle on the par-4 first hole Friday.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or dougsm...@wvgazette.com.