The PGA Tour will give fans an unprecedented look at players’ athleticism and fitness levels this season.
Whoop fitness straps will monitor the heart rates and other biometric data of players “during defining moments throughout the season”, providing real-time information on how the world’s top pro golfers control their physiology under pressure.
Around 1,000 of the devices have been made available to players on the PGA Tour, Korn Ferry Tour and PGA Champions circuit.
In addition to helping players monitor their fitness, data from the strap may have indirectly identified Nick Watney of the US as the tour’s first case of COVID-19 during last June’s RBC Heritage Classic in South Carolina.
“They’ve done studies where if your respiratory rate goes up during the night, that’s sort of a telltale sign that you might have something,” four-time major champ and former world No 1 Rory McIlroy said following initial tests of the strap.
“It was actually his Whoop that told Nick his respiratory rate went up, and that’s why he thought maybe he could have the virus.”
Heart rate is monitored through the strap on the player’s wrist, rather the chest, and uses a measurement called photoplethysmography (PPG) rather than the traditional ECG(electrocardiography).
PPG measures arterial volume (blood flow to and from the arm), whereas ECG is a measurement based on the electrical activity of the heart.
The PGA hasn’t specified exactly how the data will be used or displayed during televised tournaments, but players who permit its use will be indirectly compensated.
“Featured players will receive a $10,000 contribution to the charity of their choice,” the tour said in a news release. It will also show the data in an online archive called PGA Tour Active, “a new initiative highlighting health, fitness and lifestyles of professional golfers”.
PGA Tour players aren’t typically noted for athleticism, but that has changed in recent years with stars like US Open champ Bryson DeChambeau, who routinely uses a $25,000 Trackman launch monitor device to optimize his swing, ball speed and other parameters to gain an advantage.
After boosting his workouts and putting on 10 kilos, DeChambeau averaged over 330 yards (301 meters) per drive last year, and recently said he’s gunning for drive speeds of 210 mph (338 kph) in 2021－40 mph above the tour average.
Meanwhile, Augusta National Golf Club announced on the weekend that it intends to have limited fans on-site for this year’s Masters.
“Following the successful conduct of the Masters Tournament last November with only essential personnel, we are confident in our ability to responsibly invite a limited number of patrons to Augusta National in April,” said club chairman Fred Ridley.
“As with the November Masters, we will implement practices and policies that will protect the health and safety of everyone in attendance. Nothing is, or will be, more important than the well-being of all involved.”
This year’s Masters is scheduled to be played April 8-11. World No 1 Dustin Johnson of the US is the defending champion after shooting a record 20-under 268 to win by five strokes.