Another week, another gimmick on the European Tour, but given the soporific pace of play these days the Shot Clock Masters is a gimmick worth supporting, Phil Casey writes.
While a shot clock was in play on one hole during Golf Sixes, this week’s event at Diamond Country Club near Vienna is the first in professional golf to use one on every shot.
Each player will have 50 seconds to take their shot if they are first to play, including tee shots on par threes, or 40 seconds for tee shots on other holes or when second or third to play.
Players will incur a one-shot penalty for each bad time incurred and these will be shown as a red card against their name on the leaderboard. They also have the right to call two time extensions during a round which will give them twice the usually allotted time to play the shot.
Unfortunately it says a lot about the quality of the field that world number 326 Matthias Schwab is joint-second favourite behind the 54-year-old Miguel Angel Jimenez, who at least comes into the week on the back of a maiden major title on the Champions Tour and a tie for 14th in Italy.
Jimenez is also based in Vienna and is already the oldest winner in European Tour history, but odds of 14/1 make little appeal in what looks a wide-open contest.
With the notable exception of Renato Paratore, who is strangely not competing, pretty much everyone in the field is in danger of picking up multiple penalties.
But although the concept is new, the venue has hosted the Lyoness Open for the last nine years so we at least have some course form to go on, which leads us to a first selection of Gregory Bourdy.
Bourdy has course form which reads 8-6-6 and although he has missed his last two cuts, both were by a single shot and the latter was despite shooting three under par in Italy.
The last of his four European Tour victories came back in 2013, but in a difficult event to gauge, that course form warrants an each-way bet at 45/1.
Our next selection’s course form is not as impressive as Bourdy’s, but Matthew Baldwin has still recorded three top-25 finishes in four starts and was ninth in the recent Belgian Knockout.
The qualifying school graduate could reward a small each-way bet at 100/1.
And finally, Ryan Evans has finished in the top 40 twice at Diamond Country Club and comes into the week after narrowly missing out qualifying for the US Open at Walton Heath on Monday.
Evans, who won on the Challenge Tour last year, has missed just two cuts this season and can be backed each-way at 60/1.
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