The PGA Tour is looking to take the next step in data capture and analysis, and they’re starting on the greens.
The Quicken Loans National marked the introduction of three new high-definition cameras surrounding the green on each hole at a PGA Tour event. The cameras capture key information about each putt struck on each putting surface, including the break, the direction and the speed.
These cameras replace the old ShotLink system of human-direction lasers to capture each putting stroke. The system of lasers was really only able to keep track of a ball at rest, telling fans where each shot stopped. However, with these new cameras at each green, the PGA Tour — and, eventually, fans — will have an idea of how the entire putt moves and will get data to show how the putt moves on the green.
This data, which will include thousands of data points for each putt, will then be collected and analyzed using Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform and its artificial intelligence tools. With data points measuring in the hundreds of millions, there’s a lot to go through to find insights. The PGA Tour and Microsoft are kicking off this new effort with putting.
At first, the PGA Tour will work with broadcasters and their in-house digital team to use the automated data insights to help tell the story of their tournaments. The applications beyond that seem obvious, but the Tour will also likely uncover lots of new data points which can be turned into meaningful statistics fans can better understand.
The Tour is also planning to use artificial intelligence to automate the content creation process, particularly for video. They’ll work to provide round recaps for every player in each week’s field, and they’ll be able to add additional video highlights.
According to the Washington Post, PGA Tour vice president of digital operations Scott Gutterman said the eventual goal is to create an NFL RedZone-style operation where fans can go from hole to hole on their own, watching players progress through a round or homing in on specific holes perhaps not getting much TV coverage.