The jury is out on the inaugural GolfSixes, the two-day, two-man team event introduced last week by the European Tour.
The tournament, won by Denmark, had its fair share of critics, but also received rave reviews as a fantastic effort to introduce a new format to the sport – one that will hopefully catch the fancy of millennials and increase the fan base of the Royal & Ancient game.
Obviously, there were several good things happening at the Centurion Club. I personally loved the way players energised the fans – it created a Ryder Cup-like atmosphere that is difficult to replicate in most other tournaments – and I have become a fan of the shot clock, which was actually reduced from 40 seconds on the first day to 30 for the rest of the tournament.
The entrance made by the players on the first tee, accompanied with loud music, pyrotechnics and waving flags, was amazing to watch on TV, and I am sure it would have been the same for fans on ground.
As for the shot clock, the logistics of using it in a full-field event from tee to green will be difficult to execute, but it is an innovative way of making sure that pace of play is fast. It is one way to answer what seems to be the biggest grudge of most Tour players and serious fans across the globe. However, as with every new thing we experience, there are shortcomings that needs to be addressed.
The first concern would be to find a time and place for such events, because as good as the inaugural GolfSixes was, it cannot become an integral part of a regular Tour.
The first problem I see is how you distribute world ranking points to such events? That is something that concerns more players than how much money is on offer that week.
Another important decision that the Tour needs to make is how much TV coverage to give to such events?
Would major sponsors like DP World and BMW be happy to see an event, worth a couple of million dollars, getting almost half the TV time that they get for putting in excess of $10m? I guess not, unless the Tour can somehow make them stakeholders in the event.
Events like GolfSixes cannot replace the mainstream tournaments, but they definitely can play an important role in popularising the sport going forward.
SOCIAL MEDIA EXEMPTION
So, a much talked about Twitter poll to determine a final sponsor’s exemption spot at the ShopRite Classic on the LPGA Tour has come to an end, with India’s Sharmila Nicollet winning it by a mile.
In the end, 27,652 votes were polled, with Nicollet landing 39 per cent to beat American Blair O’Neal (30 per cent), Scotland’s Carly Booth (25 per cent) and Bolivia’s Susana Benavides (6 per cent).
Not everyone was happy with how the spot was granted, and the biggest complaint was that someone who was more deserving was denied a place in the tournament.
I’d disagree with that. If someone deserves to play in a tournament, he or she would make it through the various categories. The sponsor’s exemption is at the sole discretion of the company putting up the dollars to make the tournament a possibility. A player ranked 150th in the world – surely more ‘deserving’ than the four ladies in question – would never have generated such publicity, if she was given the spot.
The sponsor has the full right to give that spot to anyone they think can add some value to their event. It could be a leading amateur, or a semi-retired major winner, or some big name who not only gets the spot, but also top dollars as appearance fee.
More often than not, the sponsors are arm-twisted by player management companies to give a spot to one of their lesser-known players in return of one of their big stars playing the tournament.
Just the fact that so many people chimed in their opinion, shows the gimmick delivered. There were fans in Europe and India talking about a tournament they perhaps did not even know about.
For a tournament that had only 2,700 followers on Twitter before they started the poll, they got more than 10 times the votes. That is great publicity.