After the European Tour trialed a new event with split formats at the ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth, Richard Kaufman discusses whether the tournament can be considered a success.
As Keith Pelley said in Australia this week, the latest European Tour event was a chance to “showcase something different”.
The tour’s chief executive was hoping for excitement and entertainment and a chance for the game to evolve. So how did it go, was it a success and does it show another way forward to promote the game and attract new fans?
Given the on-air times, you might not have had the chance to watch the week unfold in its entirety. Leading the coverage on Sky Sports this week, I was able to watch the golf from start to finish and this is just my take.
I think it’s fair to say there was plenty of scepticism at the start of the week and a lot of head-scratching as the format was explained. Written down it seemed fairly complex, but once put into action it wasn’t that difficult to follow.
Days one and two felt like just any other golf tournament. But it was Saturday where the event took its first twists and was the day I felt the concept was a big success. In fact, I would go as far as saying it was the best Saturday of a regular European Tour event I could remember for a long time.
With the chase for the top 24 and a chance to play in Sunday’s match play, this was a moving day with a difference. For once, the focus wasn’t on who was leading at the very front.
Some like Mark Foster and Matt Griffin were left devastated as they went from inside the mark to packing their bags with late dropped shots, while others like Phachara Khongwatmai stole a birdie at the death to get into the play-off.
It was fairly apt that Khongwatmai, the youngest player in the field, should play such a central role to the weekend’s drama in a format which is supposed to be attracting a youthful audience.
If this had been a normal Saturday, Brett Rumford – who was five shots better off than anyone else after 54 holes – would have seemingly had it in the bag.
Instead, the only reward for and the other players in the top-eight was a bye into round two of the Super 6s on Sunday. Is that enough payback for playing the best golf for three-quarters of the week’s action?
One player got in touch with me on social media to say he felt there was not enough reward for their stroke play efforts. I can sympathise with this view, as the only reason the debate was quietened is because the leading man after day three also came out on top in match play.
But isn’t that the point? It’s meant to be a different format. It’s like athletes attempting to qualify for the 100 metres final in the Olympics. They need to do enough to qualify and if they can run record breaking times for their heats, it won’t guarantee them the medal.
In fact, so good was the Saturday extra cut, I think it should be a full time feature on the European Tour. Not with the play-off feature, just maybe for the top 32 players and ties.
We could have Sunday twoballs every time, which would mean the pace of play would be quicker and there would be fewer issues with weather delays. It also brings the added Saturday drama.
While I would say day three was as near to perfect as the tournament organisers could have hoped for, I thought Sunday didn’t quite work as well.
I like the six-hole match play format and the concept of the Shootout Hole, but there were a few issues. The whole day took about 10 hours from start to finish, so it’s hardly golf’s answer to cricket’s Twenty20! I understand the reasons for wanting the final hole and the shootout hole in front of the same galleries, but it felt clustered.
The original idea for the shootout hole was for a nearest the pin challenge but that got changed, I think, because of world ranking point regulations. There must be a way to allow that format to be sanctioned, as it would add to the excitement and cut down on the repercussions of endless returns to the same tee.
Rumford had to wait two and half hours after winning his second round match to wait for his quarter final opponent. Khongwatmai made it through to the semi-finals before some players had completed their second round clashes.
It all felt a bit of a mess at times and players fighting it out for seventh and eighth all seemed unnecessary. It’s an event that needs a bit of streamlining, a bit of tweaking.
With the European Tour announcing during the event that they had signed a “strategic alliance” with the PGA Tour of Australia, there might be the opportunity to make this event part of an Australian Swing. By putting this event in a run together with the Australian Open and the Australian PGA Championship and it would attract an event better field and purse.
The birth of an exciting format for golf? Maybe. The fear was that events like this may risk turning a European tour event into a gimmick. I don’t think that was the case.
This was not something that was supposed to replace the traditional 72-hole stroke play, but instead something to add to golf’s portfolio. As a starting point and a first attempt, the ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth had a lot more going for it than negatives.