I love team golf but 72-hole strokeplay is still the best way to identify the top players each week and in the rankings.
Our star columnist explains why golf’s format changes should be applauded by all, even if he is a 72-hole traditionalist at heart.
I’ve been really encouraged by the new formats the European and PGA Tours have been trying and I think team golf is fantastic in the doses that we have it. I don’t see it as a model for every tournament going forward, but I think the events that have implemented it right now are going to be very successful because they’re the exception, not the rule.
The Zurich Classic benefited amazingly from switching from traditional 72-hole strokeplay to a twoman team format this year. There were some exciting partnerships and the strength of the field really benefited as well. I think people were really into it and the television ratings were through the roof from their normal Thursday and Friday numbers. There were a lot of positives and I thoroughly enjoyed it, even though it didn’t work out with myself and Henrik Stenson in terms of getting a good result on this occasion. It’s something we’re both keen to do again, which is a good sign.
Over in Europe, the GolfSixes looked like a lot of fun and hopefully I get a chance to participate in something like that on the European Tour at some point. But it all boils down to scheduling for the elite players, especially over the summer. If these events are at the right time of year where you can approach them with a more relaxed mindset then they’re going to attract the top players. But when the majors and big events are coming thick and fast through the summer, you want to keep in your rhythm and have a really good read on your game.
The good players know that if they minimise all the variables then their game is going to take them to the top of the leaderboard. I’m still very much a traditionalist in the sense that 72-hole strokeplay is the most trusted way of finding the best player over the course of four days. Whereas if you’re playing formats where things are a bit more unpredictable then who’s going to win becomes more unpredictable. Of course, this is exciting for the crowd, but not necessarily for the players when your livelihood, titles and world ranking points are all on the line.
I know there has been some criticism of the world ranking system but I think it’s incredibly representative of the best players in the world. If you want to squabble over who’s 60th, 70th or 80th then you’re probably not going to keep everyone happy, but if you look at the top end – which is what I think really matters – they’re incredibly current and accurate and they do represent who’s playing the best golf.
I don’t really buy into the claim by a couple of Americans that it’s easier to climb the world rankings by playing on the European Tour. The strength of field on the PGA Tour is very, very deep and the quality of golf you have to play to make cuts is stronger, so I can see how it could be tougher to break into the top of the leaderboard if you’re in the middle order. But then again, there are a lot more world ranking points to play for in America than there are in Europe. All of the guys at the top end of the world rankings are playing their golf predominantly on the PGA Tour, so that really shoots the theory down for me.
We’ve seen many changes at the top in the last three to five years since the end of Tiger’s dominance. The guys at the top deserve to be there. They’ve earned that position and it’s very reflective of their two years of results that are factored into the ranking. Dustin Johnson has created a gap at the top, which he thoroughly deserves because of his incredible play.
For me, the level of golf amongst the top seven players in the world rankings is something we’ve never seen before. To have six guys averaging more than seven world ranking points (and Henrik Stenson making seven, until recently) is incredibly strong golf. I’ve been number three in the world at seven points and you could be 7th or 8th in the world with the same now. All the top guys are winning and it shows just how strong the game is at the moment.
‘I don’t buy into the US players’ claims that it’s easier to climb the world rankings on the European Tour ’