Professional tournament golf is 72 holes stroke play most of the time played over four days but there is something different on the European Tour this week. Golf Sixes is a pro-am team event played in the matchplay format and each match is played over six holes. Cricket keeps striving to find the golden nugget and T20 is just that and some sports lend themselves to abridged events but its debatable whether golf is one of them. The idea is to attract a younger audience who take information in small chunks.
One of the beauties of golf is the swings in momentum over 18 holes. One missed putt or poor drive can change the dynamic but over six holes there will be fewer swings. A player can be two up in matchplay after 16 holes and lose the match. If a player leads by two holes over six holes the outcome is unlikely to change. The organisers of Golf Sixes have made this a international event with the added ingredient of celebrities and two women’s teams. Spain are the favourites for the two-day event.
There are 16 teams in the competition who compete over six holes in the four groups of four teams. The top two teams from each group progress to the knockout rounds. The matches are played in greensomes which means both players tee-off. The best drive is selected and the players then hit alternate shots. Shots must be played within 30 seconds and there are longest drive and nearest the pin holes. Spain are represented by Pablo Larrazabal and Adrian Oteagui but England Women have an eye catching partnership of Georgia Hall and Charley Hull who could win this event.
The Wells Fargo Championship on the PGA Tour is a conventional 72 holes event. The tour tried something different last week with their own two-man team event. Players often say they like some variety but deep down I think they don’t like being out of the comfort zone of four rounds over four days with a cut after 36 holes. There is a reason why most events are regular stroke play and that is what the players want and there is no massive desire to introduce other formats. The Wells Fargo event has the regular format in which the best player comes out on top.
The tournament is being played at Quail Hollow which is the regular host so there is plenty of course form to assess. The course is a superb examination of the world’s best players. For players that miss the fairways there is plenty of trouble to be found with penal rough and several water hazards. That means there is a greater premium on accuracy over distance, especially as the ball can be chased on to the greens on many of the longest holes. The large greens are undulating and difficult to read.
The 2017 tournament was played on another course because Quail Hollow was used for the PGA Championship. Rory McIlroy has won twice on the track and he is the favourite this week. Rickie Fowler won the championship in 2012 and he is in the field which also includes Patrick Reed who plays for the first time since winning the US Masters last month. Since 2006 every winner other than McIlroy was a US player and the average winning score in that time excluding last year is 13 under par.
The field also includes Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods who are not best mates. However, age and experience may have resulted in more respect but neither player is expected to win this week. McIlroy can become a three-time course winner at a venue where he has positive memories.