Quiet rev­o­lu­tion brews at Su­per 6 event in Aus­tralia

The Star Late Edition - - SPORT -

MEL­BOURNE: Golf has clung slav­ishly to its cen­turies-old tra­di­tions and long ig­nored grow­ing calls for re­form, but the an­cient sport will be nudged gen­tly to­wards moder­nity at the in­au­gu­ral World Su­per 6 tour­na­ment in Aus­tralia this week.

The Euro­pean Tour co-sanc­tioned event at Perth’s Lake Kar­rinyup Coun­try Club will ditch con­ven­tion by de­cid­ing Sun­day’s win­ner in a fi­nal day match­play shootout af­ter three rounds of reg­u­lar stroke­play.

The in­no­va­tion will prom­ise a more “punchy” fin­ish for spec­ta­tors and tele­vi­sion au­di­ences, or­gan­is­ers hope, as a full field whit­tled down to 24 play­ers com­pete in pairs in six-hole play­offs un­til only one re­mains.

While more evo­lu­tion than rev­o­lu­tion, it’s a tweak un­prece­dented on any of the world’s ma­jor pro­fes­sional tours.

It also counted as a nec­es­sary ex­per­i­ment for a game that was strug­gling to lure a new gen­er­a­tion of par­tic­i­pants and fans in golf ’s ma­ture mar­kets, ac­cord­ing to the Aus­tralian PGA Tour.

“The chal­lenge for a lot of sport, and par­tic­u­larly for golf, is the de­mo­graphic of the av­er­age golfer and golf fan is a bit older,” PGA Aus­tralia’s chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer Steve Ayles told Reuters yes­ter­day.

“We’re ba­si­cally the num­ber one sport for over-45s.

“This form of event cer­tainly ap­peals to a younger de­mo­graphic and cer­tainly ap­peals to peo­ple who are time-poor.

“And we be­lieve that this will be a great spec­ta­cle.”

The Scot­tish city of Perth is renowned for its rich golf her­itage, with King James IV hav­ing made the first recorded pur­chase of golf clubs from a lo­cal bow­maker there in 1502, but its Aus­tralian name­sake is an un­likely launch-pad for re­form.

With most of the world’s top golfers com­pet­ing at the $7 mil­lion Los An­ge­les Open on the PGA Tour, a mod­est field head­lined by Swedish world num­ber 11 Alex Noren and for­mer Open win­ner Louis Oosthuizen will bat­tle in the $1.34 mil­lion event at Lake Kar­rinyup.

“I think it’s great that we try new things and I think it’s go­ing to be ex­cit­ing for the crowds and nice for the TV view­ers too,” Noren said.

“I think any­thing where the crowd ex­pe­ri­ences a new way for us to play the game is good. I think we should work out more ways to do this kind of thing.”

The top 10 rank­ings are laden with 20-some­things, in­clud­ing Aus­tralian world num­ber one Ja­son Day and North­ern Ire­land’s sec­on­dranked Rory McIl­roy, but in the sport’s tra­di­tional mar­kets, fans and par­tic­i­pants are age­ing and thin­ning.

Aus­tralia, where huge crowds once flocked to lo­cal cour­ses when favourite son Greg Nor­man was in his pomp, has bat­tled to at­tract spon­sors and fans to its mar­quee events in re­cent years, while strug­gling to ar­rest de­clin­ing rates of par­tic­i­pa­tion.

Golf tourism fu­elled by in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors has taken up some of the slack for the em­bat­tled in­dus­try but scores of lower-pro­file pri­vate clubs have slashed fees to lure new mem­bers.

Aus­tralia has never wanted for a pi­o­neer­ing spirit, how­ever, and lo­cal sports have gladly ditched tra­di­tion in a bid to in­no­vate and open new mar­kets.

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