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SHO and Tell: The Latest on The Shell Houston Open
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Saturday's Notes & Quotes - April 22, 2006
Yards, feet and inches

Billy Schroder sat down to dinner Friday night at 9, got back to his hotel by 10 and was up at 5:10 a.m. to begin Saturday’s 14-hour day at the Shell Houston Open.

Schroder is the manager/producer of SHOTLink, the four-year-old system that tells you John Daly just hit a 316-yard drive or Stuart Appleby is facing a 47-foot, six-inch birdie putt on No. 18, whether you’re watching on TV or checking out a scoreboard on the course.

SHOTLink tracks every shot, by every player, for the entire tournament. “It’s extremely accurate,” said Schroder, who works 200 long, long days a year.

Satellite maps break down the Redstone course into tiny grids. SHOTLink uses lasers set up on tripods at every logical landing area on fairways to provide driving distances and yards to the green. The lasers are positioned on towers at the greens to give a more accurate reading, down to the inch for putts.

The information is relayed to the SHOTLink trailer, off the beaten path at Redstone, located across the bayou from the 17th fairway. The statistics are then sent to the electronic scoreboards, computers in the Media Center and TV trucks and anyone who wants to follow the tournament on the Internet.

“We used to get extremely excited (when TV used our information),” said Schroder. “They’re our biggest client. We love to see graphics. TV can show a list of birdie putts for a player with exact distances.”

A red, hot line phone connected directly to the TV graphics truck keeps Schroder in touch with any desire TV needs during a telecast.

You might think the system makes caddie yardage books obsolete, but the boards that show the distance to the pin information are carefully positioned facing the crowd around the green so that the player can not see the yardage from the fairway.

“We want to be as low profile as possible,” said Schroder. “We don’t want to corrupt the integrity of the game. It’s mainly for spectator enhancement.”

The mammoth greens result in lengthy putts for the pros, fun facts for fans that are reported to the inch by SHOTLink.

The operation uses 11 full-time people at the tournament and relies on 200-300 volunteers to operate the orange lasers and the walking scorers, who also relay information by palm pilot. Volunteers go through a two-hour training session to use the lasers.

“We can get information on a hole-in-one out in five seconds,” said Schroder. “We used to have wait to the other two players putted out and the scorer gave the data to (the permanent scorer at the hole).”

After the last player has putted out on the last hole to end the day, Schroder’s Crew is still working, preparing the pairings for the next round.

“You get tired, but that’s what Diet Cokes are for,” he said.

Stars and pars

“Go Vijay!” yelled several fans while a threesome walked off the 18th green, their round completed.

Singh, the defending champ, had just bogeyed the final hole to shoot 75, playing his way out of contention in the third round. Paul Goydos, who had shot a 4-under-par 68 for an 8-under score of 206, walked off the green almost unnoticed.

“Vijay sells tickets,” said Goydos. “If this tour didn’t have its stars, Vijay and Tiger, it wouldn’t matter. I want them to yell ‘Vijay.’ If he plays, the people are here and everybody’s having a good time. They weren’t out there to watch me. At some point if I win the next six tournaments, they’re going to be yelling ‘Paul.’ It’s up to me, not Vijay.”

Goydos played in a different pro-am Wednesday, then went to the driving range where he said he hit about 50 bad balls.

“We have a job to do, and that’s part of the war,” he said of life on the range. “That’s not the fun part.
Vijay seems to have good success spending a lot of time on the range. I’m assuming my alignment got out of whack (Wednesday) and it caused problems.”

Goydos, 41, arrived 10 minutes earlier than normal for Thursday’s round, hit a few extra wedges to get in rhythm and shot a 3-under 69 in the first round.

“That happens,” he said. “You look at my record. I’m not in the top five every Sunday. I have days when I struggle. It’s part of who I am and what I do.”

The Warren Commission

Charles Warren looked ready to make a move, sitting at six under through six holes Saturday. Then his putter got him. Warren three-putted the next two holes.

“The three-putt at seven was extremely dumb,” he said. “The three-putt at eight was from the front fringe, a long way away.”

Warren ended up with an even par 72, leaving him at three under for the tournament.

“I’m hitting it great,” he said. “I’m hitting it as good as anyone right now. I’m just not scoring. Statistically, I know I’m up there in ball striking. I’m not making the most of my chances. It’s an irritating way to play golf. You’d rather hit 10 greens and shoot 70 than hit 17 greens and shoot 69.

“I’m just not making anything. My speed was off today. I’m not missing any short putts. I’m just not making anything from 8-15 feet for birdie.”

Warren tied for 13th last year in Houston.

“I like the set up, I like everything, the area, the golf course,” he said. “They do a great job with this event. This is one of the better events we play all year.”

He wasn’t pleased to learn that the tournament was moving to a new course this year, until he saw it.

“There were some grumblings last year about this golf course, and I don’t know why,” he said. “They were pretty unwarranted. This golf course sets up perfectly for me. That’s what frustrates me even more.”

Name to remember

Keep an eye on Jeff Overton, the 6-4 rookie who shot 69 Saturday to stand at 7-under-par 209 after three rounds.

Overton earned his card in his first shot at the Q-School and made the cut this week for the fourth time in seven tournaments on Tour this year. His best finish was a tie for 24th in his first event at Hawaii.

“I hit a lot of good shots today especially a lot of good drives,” he said. “It’s really key to hit fairways out here, with as many holes that have water on them. I think I only missed two greens.

“The greens are phenomenal. If I get a few putts to start dropping, I’ll be right there. Constantly trying to make 10-15-footers wears on you.”

Overton said he didn’t get caught up in scoreboard watching despite his good round.

“I try not to,” he said. “I took a peek on 17. You kind of have a feel for where you are.”

Overton said he won eight tournaments the last two years in college at Indiana. “You come out here wanting to win,” he said.

Confidence game

Austin’s Bob Estes said he took three weeks off the Tour for his 40th birthday, which surprised everyone since he looks about 32.

Estes missed three cuts in a row before tying for 68th last week at Hilton Head. “I played really well in stretches,” he said of that tournament. “I was getting closer and closer to playing better.”

It happened this week. Saturday Estes shot a 6-under 66 Saturday to move into a tie for third entering Sunday’s final round, four shots behind leader Stuart Appleby.

“I still don’t have everything where I want it,” he said. “My confidence is good enough to shoot 66 on a pretty good course Saturday. My problems are more physical than mental. I don’t beat myself up the way a lot of guys do.”

Estes, who played at the University of Texas, almost hated to leave the course.

“When you play a round like that, you’d almost like to take a short break and go to the tee again,” he said. “It’s fun playing the heat. I like it when it’s warmer. Like some guy said today, it’s nice to make Texas proud.”

Sand Saves

Stuart Appleby, the third round leader, is either hot or cold in Houston. The 1999 winner of the Shell Houston Open also tied for second in 2003. But he missed the cut in his three other appearances in the tournament, in 1996, 2000 and ’01. … Greg Owen, who began the third round one shot behind Appleby, tied for fourth last year in his only previous Houston appearance. He slumped to a 75 Saturday … Mathias Gronberg, in second place starting Sunday, tied for 43rd in 2004 and tied for 34th here last year in his only two previous SHO tournaments.


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