It takes too long, is too difficult, and too individual.
The professionals know it, fans know it, and thankfully, the Tours are beginning to understand.
At the Zurich Classic this week, PGA Tour Professionals will be trying a completely new format to give fans a different look at their typical 72-hole strokeplay event. Next week, the European Tour will be hosting the ‘GolfSixes’, again a new format to embrace further innovation by a sport perceived as archaic.
The Sports Blog is all for this front-foot change in order to provide a better fan experience. Professionals will be forced out of their comfort zone of grinding it out in strokplay and into a space where they will have to work as a team on every shot.
Here we will break down the different formats, and see whether they really are the beginning of a long term solution to make the game more engaging.
Let’s start with the more conservative of the two.
The Zurich Classic
For the first time since the 1981 Walt Disney Classic, the PGA Tour will have a team format. For the first two weekday rounds, pairs will play a foursomes alternate shot format, with the weekend changing to a fourball better-ball.
Pairs will have to become the best team, and not simply play the best golf, in order to win a share of the $7.1 million purse. Expect plenty of conversation, green reading and high fives.
This tournament still counts towards the FedEx Cup and the player’s money lists for the PGA Tour. Thus ensuring a certain level of legitimacy to the tournament and promises tension coming down the stretch.
Justin Rose pairs up with Ryder Cup teammate, Henrik Stenson, JDay and Rickie form a salivating partnership whilst J.B. Holmes and Bubba Watson will be combining for 700 yards off the tee.
Compared to their European cousins, the PGA Tour has stayed relatively conservative, but this is still landmark change.
The European Tour has really pushed the boat out here. Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of the European Tour, did not mess about when choosing how to make golf faster, more entertaining and optimised for the TV.
Players will compete in pairs, as above, with a group stage on Saturday qualifying for a Sunday knockout. The format will be greensomes, alternate shot, with players choosing which is their better tee shot. This tactical element will give an immediately interesting dynamic to each hole.
The European Tour has booked celebrities to interview players between shots, golfers will be wearing heart monitors for certain holes, and a 40 second shot clock will be used on the 4th hole. Some of these will work, and some may get in the way, but the intent of adding excitement to what would otherwise be a run-of-the-mill golf event is nothing but positive.
What this means for Golf
Those at the top of the game agree that golf needs to modernise. Modernise in the sense of;
- Becoming more accessible – cheaper club memberships and make the game easier
- Making it faster – six hole formats and quicker play are required
- More engaging for the fan – viewers on TV deserve better content to warrant their attention
The World of Golf will watch the next two weekends with baited breath. Some elements may not work, but the point is that they are trying new initiatives to develop the game we love.