Assessing a Successful Debut for GolfSixes
Post by Sports Writer Derek Clements
It was a golf tournament, but not like any golf tournament we have seen before. Denmark were crowned the inaugural GolfSixes champions after beating Australia 3-1 in the final at the Centurion Golf Club in St Albans but, let's be totally frank about this, nobody really cares who won. This event was all about introducing golf to a new audience. So, did it work?
There was lots about the two days that was good. There was even a lot that was great. But they didn't get everything right. Full marks, however, to the European Tour and their innovative chief executive Keith Pelley for having the courage to try something different.
The players deserve credit for embracing the spirit of the event. They were happy to mix with the spectators and they actually looked like they enjoyed the experience. My goodness, some of them even smiled.
The six holes were set up perfectly, with pins at the par threes located in bowls, which meant that we saw lots of shots finishing close to the hole. The crowd loved it, so did the players. And long-drive contests? Brilliant, just brilliant. Let's have more of it please.
The Tour missed a trick with the first tee walk-on. Bearing in mind that much of the audience were new to golf, why didn't they introduce each player to the tee properly? For example, England's Chris Wood and Andy Sullivan are Ryder Cup players - why not tell the galleries that fact? The warm-up man told the galleries: “We don’t want you deathly quiet. Be loud, wild, raucous, outrageous,” he instructed. “The golfers have been told, so don’t worry. You’re an important part of the show. Get yourselves on telly.” But shouldn't the spectators have been told: "Player X has this putt for a half?" It would have added some drama and tension to proceedings.
It was a team event, so why not splash out some money to kit out players in identical tops? Some tried to colour coordinate their polo shirts. But did you look closely at the red tops worn by Sullivan and Wood? They didn't quite match. Sullivan is the extrovert of the pair, so why not get him to walk on to the opening tee brandishing the flag of St George, instead of Wood? Oher teams made no attempt whatsoever to match their colour combinations. Yes, it is a minor point, but it matters.
It was great to see Joost Luiten, of Holland, getting his glamorous blonde girlfriend to carry his clubs, rather than have some grizzled old caddie on the bag.
It was encouraging to see so many young children around the course. Wearing face paint, hitting plastic golf balls with plastic clubs, they genuinely looked like they were having fun. Unfortunately, the weather didn't play ball. In an ideal world, the sun would have been shining from a cloudless blue sky. The reality was that some of the players were so heavily wrapped up against the biting cold as to be almost unrecognisable.
The Tour was breaking new ground with 16 teams of two starting the weekend and battling it out first in a group stage and then a knockout over six holes in greensomes.
By Sunday evening only two teams remained and it was Thorbjorn Olesen and Lucas Bjerregaard who took home the trophy after a hard fought win over Scott Hend and Sam Brazel in front of an excitable crowd.
Entrance music, pyrotechnics and a sprinkling of celebrity (if you can call Vernon Kay and Denise Van Outen celebrities) gave the event a whole new feel but the real bonus was the quality of the golf on display, with Olesen claiming his second team win for Denmark in six months after his victory at the ISPS HANDA World Cup of Golf alongside Søren Kjeldsen.
Denmark finished second in Group A on Saturday and 2-1 victories over France and Italy got them to the final against Australia, who finished second in Group C before beating Thailand and Scotland on Sunday.
A birdie on the third gave Australia a 1-0 lead in the final but Denmark then won the final three holes.Hend and Bjerregaard hit huge drives down the third but Olesen went long with the Danes' second while Hend was left with 18 feet for an eagle. The two-time European Tour winner got down in two and with Denmark failing to get up and down, Australia led 1-0.
The scores were soon level again, though, as Hend and Brazel put their tee-shots in the water on the fourth to record a bogey, with Denmark winning the hole in par. At the fifth Bjerregaard put his tee shot to four feet and Olesen holed the putt to send Denmark up the last with a 2-1 lead.
Olesen nearly put Denmark's second shot in the water on the sixth but an excellent recovery from Bjerregaard meant the Danes had two putts for the win.
There was drama in the third/fourth place play-off as Scotland won a nearest the pin contest at the second attempt on the playoff hole to beat Italy 2-1.
Bjerregard said: "It feels really good.It's been a couple of tough matches today. It's been a little more business than yesterday. Yesterday was a little more banter and it was all good fun but it feels good to sit here right now. I think it's definitely got the crowds' attention. I was really happy to see how many kids came out these last couple days, and hopefully that will get some of them into golf and think it's fun.
“I wouldn't mind a few events a year like this, especially if I have Thorbjorn as a partner.I could see it really taking off, no doubt. You could do it in many different ways.You could do a two?man team.You could do individual. I think the fact that it only takes an hour and ten, 15 minutes to play, could make for good TV and people are not out here for necessarily seven hours to watch a round of golf.”
Hend said: "It’s a tad disappointing, but Denmark played well and putted the last few holes a little better than us, so they deserved the win. Lucas hit a great shot into the fifth hole, and then Thorbjorn just rolled in a five-footer. We pretty much knew they were going to make a birdie there. And then we had to try to make an eagle, so we pretty much thought they were going to make birdie at the very least. Where their ball finished up for the second shot, it's just meant to be. Just one of those things.”
So yes, the event was a success, and we would like to finish with a plea to the Tour: PLEASE introduce the shot clock for all regular 72-hole tournaments. There is no reason on earth why any tournament professional should take more than 40 seconds to hit a shot. We have all had enough of the likes of Jason Day and Keegan Bradley taking an eternity to line up and then hit their shots. Brandt Snedeker takes 15 seconds to play each shot, and is far more fun to watch than Day or Bradley. And if we are going to see a repeat of the format, let's have some pressure put on the sport's big names to take part.
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