IS THIS A NEW OPTION FOR TOURNAMENT GOLF?
There was an air of scepticism about another “exciting new format” for golf as the European Tour headed down under for the inaugural World Super 6 event in Perth, Australia this past weekend. A 54-hole stroke play tournament with the top 24 players moving into six-hole match play on the final day. A gimmick or something worthwhile?
For this author, even with his most cynical sunglasses on, this format really worked as it took many of the problems with televising match play golf and fixed them for a captivated TV audience.
As social golfers, we all play more than our fair share of match play golf. But outside of one World Golf event and that little shindig called the Ryder Cup, it really does not transfer to the pro market. You can start with the 64 best players in the world but if No.47 is going to take on No.58 in the final, the viewing figures are going to catastrophic for the networks and their advertisers.
Even if the forthcoming WGC Matchplay event in Austin, TX sees a final along the likes of Dustin Johnson v Jason Day or Phil Mickelson v Henrik Stenson, there are huge gaps in the coverage whilst only two players are on the course and viewers start reaching for the remote control.
The six-hole format fixes that. Matches take just over an hour to complete and there is excitement and meaningful shots from the start. The use of the sudden death par-3 to decide ties is another good introduction and hence four rounds of matches can be played in the single day as happened in Perth.
“I think they’ve got a good concept” said former Open champion Louis Oosthuizen who finished 5th on Sunday. “I think a few tweaks here and there would make it really good but it’s nerve-racking standing on that little 66-metre hole. It’s nice pressure and good fun.”
The one drawback with this format is that a player can be leading by a mile after 54 holes of golf and find himself dumped out at the start of the matchplay round. But this happens in events such as the US Amateur all the time with 36 holes medal qualifying leading to the knockout stages and the No.1 seed being beaten in the first round.
Winner Brett Rumford had a five-shot advantage on Saturday night in Perth but avoided those questions being asked when he came through four knockout matches to claim his sixth European Tour title. “This format is the way the game is heading and I guess I was OK with it as I wound up winning,” he said happily holding the trophy.
Oosthuizen’s comments about tweaking the format are spot on as the choice of holes is critical to the excitement level. You would want at least one short hole, one par-five that can be reached in two and definitely a short decision-making par-four in the layout. The 24-player format is probably right as you want to give the top players a bye through to the last 16 to reward them for their success in the medal part of the event.
“Everything goes so quickly in those six holes” said Australian Jason Scrivener who finished 4th. “I think it’s been great for all the spectators and I’m sure everyone at home watching is enjoying it as well. I think more of these would be great.”
So the ball is now on the tee for the organisers around the world. An event like this on the PGA Tour could really work for the TV audience and would send CBS’ Jim Nantz and Sir Nick Faldo totally over the edge on a Sunday afternoon. New World No.1 Johnson in a one-hole shoot out with a hot-putting Jordan Spieth? Rory taking on Patrick Reed again? And how about Ryder Cup demon Ian Poulter getting on a roll through round after round?
This format is here to stay and although it will not replace regular 72-hole tournament golf, and nor should it, it is an idea that works and made a convert of this sceptic writer.