ISPS Handa World Super 6 Preview, Picks & Analysis
BRETT RUMFORD returns to Perth to defend his ISPS Handa World Super 6 title and admits that he is desperate to do well in front of a home crowd.
The tournament takes place at Lake Karrinyup Country Club and Rumford has great memories of his 2017 victory. “The West Australian crowds are always incredibly passionate and the support they have shown me throughout my entire career has been amazing,” said Rumford. “I have wanted to win a big title at home for a long time, and to get across the line here last year was extra special for me. The format is interesting and it’s nice to hold a little slice of golf history as the inaugural champion. I am really looking forward to defending my title next year.”
A unique format certainly caught the imagination of players and fans alike. The first 54 holes are standard stroke play, with the leading 24 players then going forward to play five rounds of matchplay – the twist is that the matchplay rounds are played over six holes, so players cannot afford to make mistakes. Rumford led after 54 holes in 2017 and then went on to beat all comers on the Sunday, beating Thailand’s Phachara Khongwatmai in the final after also defeating Adam Bland, Wade Ormsby and Hideto Tanihara. He had led the field by five shots after rounds of 66, 65 and 68.
Having witnessed the success of the inaugural event, a number of the European Tour’s top players have decided to make the trip Down Under, with 2016 Masters champion Danny Willett and Lee Westwood all hoping to get in on the fun.
This is a huge year for 44-year-old Westwood, who has been unable to arrest his fall down the world rankings. Crucially, he is now outside the top 50, and that means no automatic entry to The Masters, US Open, Open or US PGA Championship, and his place in the World Golf Championship tournaments is also under threat. Westwood finds himself in a Catch 22 situation – the majors and WGC events are where huge amounts of world ranking points are there to be won. If you can guarantee playing in them and make the cut then you will probably earn enough points to remain in the top 50. Once the slide begins, it becomes ever more difficult to find your way back in.
Westwood has always been a terrific driver of the golf ball, and remains so. He remains a terrific ball striker with all clubs, but would be the first to admit that, in recent years, he has struggled with his short game. He has never been a great putter but over the past couple of years he has begun to look especially vulnerable, especially with three-foot putts. The problem is that when you lose confidence on the greens it becomes increasingly difficult to convince yourself to attack the hole because you really don’t want to race it past and keep leaving yourself ‘one of those’.
The Englishman succeeded Tiger Woods as World No. 1 in 2010. He has won 42 times around the world in an incredible career, picking up around £45m in prize money along the way, and has contended in the majors on countless occasions without ever being able to finish off the job – 18 top 10 finishes is a remarkable achievement. His last victory came at the Indonesian Masters in 2015. Westwood has played in the Ryder Cup on 10 occasions and would dearly love to make it 11 in Paris later this year. But he must know that if he is going to make Thomas Bjorn’s European team then he is going to have to play his way in because he is highly unlikely to be given a captain’s pick.
Westwood has won in Australia before. He beat Greg Norman in a playoff to claim the Australian Open title – way back in 1997. He may be in the autumn of his career but on any week when Westwood turns up with a warm putter he is still capable of beating the very best.
This is also a crucial year for Danny Willett, whose game has been in freefall since that amazing day in April 2016, when he kept his head as all around him were losing theirs to win The Masters, beating Westwood and Jordan Spieth. Willett has suffered horribly with back problems throughout his career but there were some hopeful signs towards the end of last season that he was approaching something like full fitness.
“I can’t wait to come back to Perth for the ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth. I have competed in tournaments at Lake Karrinyup before and the course is always great fun to play,” said Willett. “I am also looking forward to playing the strokeplay/matchplay hybrid, I think these non-traditional formats are interesting to break up the regular 72 hole strokeplay.”
Sadly, Tyrrell Hatton, who had been installed as favourite, has had to withdraw after suffering a wrist injury. But Andrew “Beef” Johnston has taken his place and the fans will love him.
”I adore Perth, I’ve been there twice before and always had a good time,” said Johnston. “I really like the place, I love the beaches there and the people so it’s always a good spot to go to.”
An exciting player by nature, Johnston said he expects some aggressive play over the first three rounds to qualify inside the top-24 come Sunday. “You’ve got to play well in the first 54 holes, I think you’ve got to play aggressive and if you can get in to the match play anything can happen so it’s completely different but I think it’ll be good fun.”
“Australia loves a larrikin, we love to embrace personalities that are talented, fun and that embrace the Aussie way of life. When you think of pro golfers who fit that mould, one player immediately comes to mind; Beef Johnston,” said Gavin Kirkman, CEO of the PGA of Australia which owns the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia. “We are very excited that Beef will be joining us at the ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth. With this tournament we aim to attract high calibre players who will also embrace the innovative format; we believe Beef is the perfect fit for the tournament.”
Andrew Johnston. Format is made for him
Lee Westwood. Showed some encouraging signs in Malaysia
Brett Rumford. Great memories
Andrew Johnston. Ready to win again
Lee Westwood. Needs to find some form soon
Brett Rumford. Brilliant short game
Thorbjorn Olesen. Underrated Swede
Ryan Fox. Big hitter
David Lipsky. Excellent American
Danny Willett. Finally fit again
Hideto Tanihara. One of Japan’s finest
Wade Ormsby. Loves playing in front of his home fans
Alejandro Canizares. Looking for his best form
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