Hail GolfSixes! Entertaining fans is key to European Tour
by James Morrison
This an odd period of the season where I won’t play for over a month on the European Tour so to break up the month and play the Sunningdale Foursomes was tremendous.
I love it. It’s such a good fun event and I will always try and play in it. You see guys you’ve not seen for years, you can have a beer afterwards and also get to play some semi-serious golf.
My partner is a good mate who looks after all my financial planning and plays off plus one at Burhill. He is the same shoe, glove and clothes size as me so he has all my old bits and looks like a Tour pro. He’s an absolute golf pervert and he just wants to learn all the time. He just gets it and he is always asking questions and advice on certain shots.
After the week-in, week-out nature of playing strokeplay, it was very welcome to play against just one opponent. I think it goes back to my cricket days or other team sports where you can really get stuck in and, if you make a big number, then it’s just one hole.
I did OK as an amateur in the knockouts and would rate myself as maybe a 9/10 in matchplay while in strokeplay I might be about 7.5.
For most of the week we were flying along, on the Wednesday and Thursday we were 16 under for three rounds. I even got given a shot in two matches which hasn’t happened for about a decade – and we lost both holes! Paul Lawrie went out giving 10 shots.
Matchplay rarely goes to plan. In the quarter-final we gave five and won three of those. We were then on to a winner. Then we went out in the semi-final when we weren’t quite there and they were winning holes with pars. But it was a great week and we had a big hug at the last.
If you asked the majority of the players on Tour, though, if they would want more matchplay events then the answer would probably be no. Strokeplay might not be as immediate and exciting but that is what competing is all about. In matchplay you could shoot five under and lose so you want an element of fairness.
If I was to win 10 tournaments over the course of my career I would want them all to be strokeplay. In matchplay there will always be an element of luck with the draw or the opponent. I suppose it is the same argument as having more links tournaments; we all love it a few times a year but you wouldn’t want it every week.
Obviously that doesn’t mean that things shouldn’t move forward. I’m on the European Tour’s players’ committee and we think we are moving in the right direction with the variety of events. It’s no big secret to say that we are trying to be more like the PGA Tour, though they have something like 50 million golfers whereas, in Europe, we have around nine million. The two just aren’t comparable.
Golf is big business over here but it is massive in the States with things like the Golf Channel and all the TV rights, so we have to be doing things a bit different like Perth and the GolfSixes event at Centurion.
You don’t want to be gimmicky or lose sight of the great game but you do have to keep people entertained and be innovative.
Keith Pelley made a good point recently in that a group tees off and then there is 12 minutes of silence. Wentworth is the only event where we have a big electronic screen on the 1st tee and it just has basic stuff about the players.
In the States it seems like there is a big screen on every hole with every stat imaginable and even, it seems, what size boxers I wear. There is so much information that the fans can take in and it keeps everyone in the game and interested. The more information that the fans can connect with then the more interest that they will show.
Social media is the way everything is driven and Keith will encourage us to use it and make use of the enormous potential that there is. We now have 10 guys from the UK inside the top 60 in the world so we have a great product and Keith’s job is to bring the Tour into the modern world.
The next 10 years really should be great.