Enough with 72-hole stroke-play events. Here are 10 new formats for professional golf to ponder
Last week in Australia, the PGA Tour of Australasia and Ladies European Tour jointly held the Vic Open. Judging from its coverage, you might not have heard much about it, but it was notable for its unusual format: men and women playing the same course at the same time in two concurrent tournaments, each with equal prize money. Ryan Hawkes won the men’s event and Minjee Lee the women’s. By most accounts, everyone seemed to love it. More importantly, it was a good idea!
This week in Australia, the European Tour holds for the second time its World Super 6 Perth event, a combination stroke-play/match-play event that concludes with five six-hole showdowns on Sunday to crown a winner.
I’m not going to go so far as to say that all the professional golf tours must introduce these types of novelties into their annual schedule—the PGA Tour seems to be doing fine—but it’s always fun when they do. Who didn’t enjoy the team format adopted at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans last year. Most would agree that it elevated the status of that tournament. And who doesn’t love the Match Play when it rolls around the calendar? (Fine, there are a few, but they’re wrong). And beyond the Super 6, the upcoming Belgian Knockout on the European Tour sounds like it’s going to be extremely awesome.
With these examples in mind, I have 10 ideas for the PGA Tour (or any major golfing body, really) to incorporate into their regular-season schedule. I have a long history of making helpful suggestions to the tour—from the Olympics to the FedEx Cup playoffs. So far, the officials in Ponte Vedra Beach have not taken my advice even once. I have a sinking feeling that these ideas might also go unheeded, but the innovation train must chug on.
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1. A partners’ event featuring PGA and LPGA players
This one is actually Cheyenne Woods’ idea, outlined after she played in the Vic Open:
The experience got Woods thinking about the possibilities here in the U.S. with a certain famous uncle.
“You could do teams, you could do partners and I would pick (Tiger) as my partner,” she said. “I hope he would pick me! I think that would just be awesome.”
That would be amazing for all the right reasons, and also for some of the wrong ones: Watching the more uptight dudes get angry at their LPGA partners? It would be a solid sideshow.
2. A team event featuring captain's picks
We’re starting to see this in All-Star games—the NBA does it now, and the Pro Bowl tried it for a while—and it would be pretty spectacular in golf. The format could be pretty simple, where teams of eight compete in stroke play, or it could have match-play elements at tournament’s end, akin to the Belgian Knockout. But the big novelty would be the captain's picks. This isn't like the Ryder Cup, where someone like Tom Watson picks a guy because he sent flattering text messages and then pretends it was because of his grit, or something. No, this would be public—a group of the top players in the world would be designated as captains, and they’d pick their teams at the start of the tournament on TV.
The problem with this format for the players is that it would entail great public humiliation, especially for really strong players who get picked last because nobody likes them. But what great motivation! Wouldn’t you want to see Patrick Reed in unquenchable anger mode, beating Rickie Fowler, 10 and 8, because he’s upset at being picked 150th?
3. Intra-American Regional Ryder Cup
I want an America-only tournament where four different regions compete against each other in a Ryder Cup-style competition. I am from the northeast, and I know my region would get absolutely waxed by the southeast and southwest and probably the northwest, too, but I want to become the first diehard Team Northeast fan. I’ll be featured on the local news at age 90 when they finally win one, just sobbing my eyes out, saying, “I thought I’d die without ever seeing them win!” (This would be based on where each player was born, by the way, not by where they live, since they all live on the same street in Florida.)
In reality, the regions would probably have to be: Southeast, Southwest (including Texas), California and THE NORTH. My team would have an entire half of the country, and we’d still get slaughtered. I have very little faith in a team whose future depends on the success of Vermont native son Keegan Bradley.
4. "Last Man Standing" Elimination Playoff Tournament
Here’s how I see this going: First three days are basically normal, and half the field gets cut after Saturday. After that, you divide the remaining 80 players into 16 groups of five. Those groups of five players start out together on the first hole on Sunday morning, and play a sudden-death playoff until only one remains from the group. The 16 playoff winners are then sorted into four groups of four, and they do it again. That will leave four golfers, and those four go head-to-head in the very last playoff group, with the winner taking top prize.
You may have to read that last paragraph a few times to understand it, and even then it may still sound crazy. But I think it would make for an extremely compelling, extremely chaotic, and extremely weird Sunday. I would not miss it. The beauty of it is that each group could end on the first hole when someone birdies or eagles, or it could extend indefinitely. You could theoretically win on Sunday by playing just three holes.
5. The Random Bag Tournament
Each player in the field is randomly assigned a bag of clubs from another player each day. The winner of the tournament will have played with four different bags that are not his own, and could be safely judged the most versatile, able golfer of them all.
A few predictions for how this would work out: First, Dustin Johnson would win, because he is very talented but seems like he may not notice that he was playing with different clubs. Second, Bryson DeChambeau would nearly go insane. Third, the players forced to play with Bryson DeChambeau’s clubs would actually go insane. Fourth, Pat Perez would break somebody else’s clubs in a fit of anger.
6. A Miniature Golf Tournament
The Major Series of Putting seemed to resonate with many people late last year. If you forced them to take a miniature golf tournament seriously with a real cut and the same prize money as a normal event, this would be great. I want to see Bubba Watson rant to Ted Scott about the unfairness of the windmill hole.
7. A Four-Club Event
You get a putter, one wedge, one iron, and one wood. Plan well, and good luck to you.
8. An Old-Club Event
Everyone has to use the same persimmon niblicks and mashies and brassies, or whatever. This would obviously have to take place in Scotland, and for added historical accuracy, mounted English knights could randomly chase certain players around the course.
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9. A "Scores Reset" Tournament
You cut 40 golfers every day, but after the cut, scores go back to even. It would put a premium on both consistency and pressure play, since you can’t have a single “off” day, but you also need to step up on Sunday when everyone is starting from the same place. I get the sense that if golf worked this way all the time, Rory McIlroy would either have won twice as many tournaments, or half as many, since his Friday/Saturday 78s would eliminate him before he could turn in the Sunday 64.
10. The "Distractions Welcome" Tournament
Every single hole is like the 16th at TPC Scottsdale. You can’t touch the player, or otherwise impede his swing, but everything else is fair game. Every single player who could feasibly skip this tournament would do so, but for the players who need status, it would be a necessary stop. I’ve seen firsthand how shaken players are after coming off the 16th hole at the Waste Management, so this might actually induce real, lasting trauma. Especially if the tournament was held in Philadelphia—people are legitimately crazy there. But hey, Mr. 150th place on the points list, if you want to keep your card, you're going to have to deal with the guy in a hot-dog costume who somehow has a picture of your wife on a placard and is taunting you by shouting the name of your middle-school bully. (You really can find anything on Google, can’t you?)
OK, so, look: A lot of these ideas are outlandish. And I’m not necessarily sure if any of them are feasible, even the not-as-stupid ones. But if the stock market crashes, and the tour is desperate, they’re here on the trash heap of ideas, waiting for the moment when there’s no choice but to shake things up in professional golf.