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August 1, 2016

A Month at the Majors

July brought us two majors, The Open Championship and PGA Championship, here are a few observations from the two events

By: GARRETT JOHNSTON

For the first time in a major championship, ProTracer provided a live visual board on site that showed the real-time yardage, carry, launch angle and much more at the Open Championship’s range at Royal Troon (pictured). It was able to do this with one player at a time. ProTracer CEO Daniel Forsgren was pleased with his product at work.

“It’s been very engaging for the fans to watch, they’ve been looking at the longest drives, we have a leaderboard and the fans have been cheering for the players,” Forsgren said.

Long bomber Jason Day had the longest drives of the day for five of the seven days of Open week. Forsgren is hoping to incorporate his technology into future practice ranges at other big events, as well. Open Championships are often more affected by the elements, but at Troon this year the practice range was essentially playing downwind all week. Most players didn’t even attempt to hit lower shots on the range with the exception of Gary Woodland and Padraig Harrington.

“It’s tough this week because the range is straight downwind so you can’t really get a lot done,” Brandt Snedeker said. “You’re just trying to get some rhythm going and just hit shots.”

Jim Furyk echoed Snedeker’s observation. “The hard part about hitting balls over here or preparing on a range for a course is you’re just stuck with the same shot over and over again,” Furyk said of the range at Troon.

It took a unique player to go against the grain. Troon member and veteran Colin Montgomerie was impressed by Phil Mickelson’s dedication. “The wind on the range is normally down and out of the right, but that’s why Phil Mickelson has been very sensible and he goes to the other end and hits into and out of the left which is a much tougher wind,” Montgomerie said.

Montgomerie made the point that the first seven holes played to the same wind, but by the time you got to the eighth and ninth and you turn through the back nine you were facing a wind direction into the face that you haven’t dealt with all day. Mickelson found a way to work around this.

But on Championship Sunday, strangely enough, Mickelson returned to the regular part of the range and warmed up downwind with the rest of the mortals. It didn’t seem to impact his performance, however, as he and Henrik Stenson paired for one of the most compelling final rounds of major championship golf in recent memory.

As professional golf headed to its next major, it seemed that players didn’t take too much of a different approach to their range sessions during the PGA Championship at Baltusrol.

The range at Baltusrol was built onto the first hole of the Upper Course, a short par 5 lined with trees. Players appreciated a tight target practice layout versus a wide-open range.

“I kind of like that when you have trees right there and you can fade it around or draw it around and have some good sight-lines,” Harris English said. “I like that better than just having a straight open range. It’s like you’re playing a hole.”

As third round leader and eventual winner Jimmy Walker warmed up before his final round, he began hitting a number of draws with all of his woods, setting up for some of Baltusrol’s tee shots.

“That’s my normal ball flight, that’s the shot I like to hit is a tight draw so that’s what I was working on,” Walker told Golf Range Magazine. “My normal good hard shot is a draw.” Thanks to that draw,Walker hoisted the Wanamaker.

Korea’s Ben An’s 347-Yard Drive Wins PGA Long Drive Championship

Ben An’s 347-yard drive on No. 1 of the Lower Course at Baltusrol Golf Club rolled past both Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy (345 yards) and Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts (341 yards), to capture the 2016 PGA Long Drive Championship at the 98th PGA Championship.

Following in the tradition of the Championship, the top three finishers received a gold, silver and bronze money clip (respectively), inspired by the one that Jack Nicklaus received when winning the first of his two consecutive PGA Championship Driving Contest titles, in 1963. That year, Nicklaus, using a persimmon driver and wound golf ball, hit a winning drive of 341 yards. Additionally, through PGA REACH, the charitable foundation of the PGA of America, the top three finishers were granted charitable donations of $25,000, $15,000, and $10,000, respectively, to the player’s designated charity of their choice.

The Long Drive Competition has gained in popularity since returning to the PGA Championship in 2014. Regardless of skill level, what golfer doesn’t love the chance to grip it and rip it? For range operators, the long drive contest can be a great way to increase traffic, provide a fun competition for golfers and perhaps even raise a little money for charity.