Quiet revolution brews at Super 6 event in Australia
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.