Golf will unveil a "revolutionary new format" at the inaugural World Super 6 Perth this weekend – a tournament that could do for the sport what Twenty20 has done for cricket.
Sanctioned by the PGA Tour of Australasia and the European Tour, the event "will combine 54 holes of traditional stroke play across the first three days with an exciting knockout match play format for the fourth and final round", say the organisers.
How it works:
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
The tournament at the Lake Karrinyup Country Club in Perth, Western Australia, will start out as
normal with a regular cut after 36 holes.
The field will be whittled down to 24 after the third round with ties settled by a play off. "Those remaining players will then earn their places in the six-hole shoot-out", says the European Tour.
This is where it gets complicated. The top eight seeded players are given a bye for the first round, while the remaining 16 pair off against each other over six holes.
The winners of the first round take on a seeded player in the second round over another six holes and the tournament progresses like a cup competition until there are only two players left, says the World Super 6 Perth website.
And that's not the only innovation.
Matches tied after six holes will be decided by playing a new 90-metre "Knockout Hole". If that doesn't separate the two players they must "take on a nail-biting decider, with the victor decided on a nearest-the-pin contest where only the first shot counts".
Why's it happening?
The sport is "desperately trying to widen its fan base", says Golf Digest. While the likes of Rory McIlroy and Jordan Speith are attracting a younger audience, it's not enough in the eyes of many.
"The surveys insist the millennials are golf's prime growth area and, with the ageing supporter base limping towards the clubhouse, golf, like cricket and rugby union, needs to find its format to entice entry and so pull down those dusty old signs," says James Corrigan of the Daily Telegraph.
The organisers believe it will rival successful innovations in other sports, such as Twnety20 cricket, Fast5 netball and rugby sevens.
The new era will get off to a low-key start judging by the entry list.
"The tournament does boast names like Alex Noren, Louis Oosthuizen and US Amateur champ/native Australian Curtis Luck," says Golf Digest. "However, most of the European Tour's notable players are skipping the event, and the tournament's marquee attraction, Patrick Reed, dropped out a few weeks ago."
Noren is the only player from the world's top 12 in the 156-man field.
What's the reaction?
"Is the conservative golf world ready for an innovative format?" wonders the magazine.
Keith Pelley, CEO of the European Tour believes so. He has promised “pyrotechnics”, says the Telegraph. "Pelley is a pocket-rocket of ideas and plans, including shot-clocks and wacky costumes and PA announcers. And do not be surprised if walk-on songs greet the players to the first tee at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in three months' time."
There has been criticism from some quarters but there are also calls to give the format a chance.
"It's as if the family has spent all year dropping hints that they're sick of turkey at Christmas – and then collectively turn up their noses when mum roasts a goose," says Matt Cooper of ESPN.
Some things are bound to go wrong in Perth, he warns, but that doesn't mean the format is fatally flawed.
"The sensible response will be to remember that golf needs something new," he says. "By all means we should point out the mistakes, but we should also commit to future tweaking rather than dismissing the concept out of hand if, for example, a completely unknown golfer triumphs."
Continue reading for free
We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.
Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.