Joy of Golf: PGA and European Tours spice-up formats to attract new fans

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Super start: Louis Oosthuizen.

This week’s World Super 6 Perth on the European Tour is the first of three brand new formats being tried by professional golf tours to lure in the millennials and expand its fan base.

From April 27-30, the Zurich Classic in New Orleans on the PGA Tour will feature a team format, and this will be followed by the recently announced GolfSixes, also on the European Tour, which will be a two-day, two-man, nationbased team event on May 6-7.

Off the three, the GolfSixes is the most interesting one, because it is completely different. The World Super 6 is the usual strokeplay for the first three days, followed by a shootout between the top-24 players.

The Zurich Classic will be a 72-hole format with the teams playing Foursomes (alternate shot) during the first and third rounds and Four-Ball (best ball) during the second and fourth rounds. Both the tournaments will be four-day affairs, but not GolfSixes.

The 16 teams (of two players from each country) will be divided into four groups for round-robin matches on the opening day over six holes, followed by knock-out between the top two teams from each group the next day.

It will have shorter matches, will create more excitement because it will generate national fervour, and there are various add-on gimmicks planned like walk-in music, players with mics and enhanced interaction with the fans.

To get a player’s view, I asked Henrik Stenson what he thought of the new innovations, and he had a brilliant perspective on these innovations.

“I don’t think there is anything wrong with the current format of strokeplay golf, which is a complete test of a player over 72 holes. But I am all for it if new formats bring new fans to the game. My only issue is that the tournament winner should be the one who has better overall skills. It should not come down to something silly like the championship getting decided by how far one can throw his golf shoes,” said Stenson.

There are a couple of issues with these tournaments that need to be ironed out. The first and foremost is how world ranking points will be allocated in such events.

That is very important because ranking points is the biggest attraction for most elite players. There cannot be any world ranking points for Zurich Classic, nor for the GolfSixes, as both are team events.

Jordan Spieth.

Jordan Spieth.

Then, there is also the question of how many points to be given to players playing shorter formats. While the World Super 6 looks like a well thought out format, just imagine a scenario where a player who is leading by half a dozen shots after three strokeplay rounds, is knocked out in his first shootout round.

Of course, it is foolish to expect a perfect product as soon as it is launched. These tournaments will have to go through a period of trial and tribulations.

In the meantime, lets just applaud the efforts being made by the Tours to take the Royal & Ancient game to a more modern fanbase.

COMPARISONS ARE GREAT

Really, players must get used to comparisons. Of course, they are odious. But they also provide great talking points for fans.

Anyone who has seen Tiger Woods dominate the golf world in the 2000s, wants to know if he was as good, or better, than Sam Snead in the 1940s.

When Jordan Spieth wins nine PGA Tour titles before turning 24, you’ve got to be curious as to who is above him and who is below him in that list.

And once you do that, it is natural to compare. So, here is the list of the three youngest players since World War II to win nine titles:

Tiger Woods – 23 years, 5 months, 7 days

Jordan Spieth – 23 years, 6 months, 16 days

Jack Nicklaus – 24 years, 19 days

When you are faced with such a stat, you have got to compare. In this case, because majors are considered the greatest yardstick of success by most players, Nicklaus claimed three majors in his first nine wins, Spieth two and Woods just one.

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods

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How to play golf at Trump International Dubai

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Dubai welcomes a new striking landmark this February with the opening of the widely anticipated Trump International Golf Club, Dubai – the city’s first new golf course in seven years and a premier lifestyle destination for the city.

Designed by renowned golf course architect, Gil Hanse, with its crumpled fairways, swathes of native grasses, generous open spaces and flowing teeing grounds, Trump International Golf Club, Dubai exhibits many of the same characteristics as an ancient Scottish links.

The Club is now accepting a limited number of founding memberships and on Wednesday opened bookings for February tee-times and it’s Golf Academy ahead of its February 19 opening.

Trump International Golf Club, Dubai is located within DAMAC Hills, on the doorstep of Arabian Ranches and Studio City.

Open 7am to 10pm contact Contact [email protected] for golf bookings or telephone 04 245 3939.

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Joy of Golf: Matsuyama’s is Japan’s finest

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In fine form: Matsuyama.

This could well be a Tiger Woods-like season for Hideki Matsuyama. With his play-off win in the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Sunday, the Japanese has won his fifth title in his last nine starts – dating back to the Japan Open in the third week of October.

That includes multiple wins on the PGA Tour – apart from Phoenix, he has also won the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai – and the tournament hosted by Woods, the Hero World Challenge. He also has two runners-up finishes.

And while he may not have moved much in the world rankings – up one place to fifth – what he has done is close the gap against the top-four players. With 8.7964 average ranking points, he is now slightly more than 1.15 points behind No1 Jason Day (9.9346). So another victory has the possibility to take him very close to the Australian.

Everyone seems to be in awe of his ball-striking these last few months, but his close friend on the PGA Tour, India’s Anirban Lahiri, has another take on the Japanese’s success.

Lahiri pointed out three areas where Matsuyama has worked extremely hard over the past 18 months – his putting (and he pointed out to the long one-handed sessions he has everyday), his diet intake, and most importantly, his fitness level.

In between all this, Matsuyama is also trying to learn English.

Is he the greatest ever Japanese golfer? Matsuyama himself will vehemently deny that. In fact, ask any Japanese golfer, and that status belongs to Jumbo Ozaki.

But Jumbo played most of his career in Japan, and won most of his 110 worldwide titles there. On the other hand, Matsuyama has proven himself all around the world.

Just looking at his stats – he is one place away from matching Tommy Nakazima, who became the highest ranked Japanese player in the world at No4 and his four PGA Tour wins are the most by any Japanese (he overtook Shigeki Maruyama) – people will soon start changing their opinion.

Lara’s take on Woods

One of the things I greatly admired about Brian Lara’s batting was how nimble-footed he was. Spin, or pace, Lara seems to have an answer for anything that was thrown at him, and with plenty of time to spare.

The former West Indian star, who is a die-hard golfer, has been in the UAE these last couple of weeks. He played the Abu Dhabi Invitational, and the Gary Player Invitational earlier this week.

I caught up with him at Yas Links, where he revealed his massive excitement at getting to watch Tiger Woods during the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

So, that was just the cue needed to ask him an awkward question.

‘Who did he think was cricket’s version of Tiger?’

I was betting on Sir Vivian Richards as the answer, but Lara just shuffled across and swatted it with a beauty.

“Because cricket is a team sport, I will go with a team. I think my choice would be the West Indies cricket team of the 1970s,” he said as if prepared for the question.

“We have had some great individual performers before that, but Clive Lloyd’s team changed the whole dynamics of the game, just like Tiger did in golf.

“They made a demography shift like Tiger. It no longer remained a game dominated by England and Australia. And much like him, they won wherever they went. Conditions and pitches did not make a difference.”

Golf’s most wanted shoes

The golf version of one of the most iconic basketball shoes – Air Jordan – have been released in the US market. Nike Golf recently unveiled the Air Jordan I Retro High golf shoe, expected to retail at $200.

The first Air Jordan was released in 1984, the same year Michael Jordan started playing golf. The American is Hobe Sound, Florida.

Of course, Nike had to make a few changes to ensure that the high-top of the shoe in not a hindrance while playing golf. They have put extra padding in the ankle area, while the outsole is similar to what was part of their TW ‘13 collection.

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