Tait: Stars’ absence doesn’t help innovative European Tour events

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 17: Matt Jager of Australia reads the 6th green in his match against Paul Dunne of Ireland during day 4 of the ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth at Lake Karrinyup Country Club on February 17, 2019 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images) Paul Kane/Getty Images

Tait: Stars’ absence doesn’t help innovative European Tour events

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Tait: Stars’ absence doesn’t help innovative European Tour events

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Keith Pelley and the European Tour deserve credit for trying out innovative formats, but these new tournaments aren’t going to register much with golf fans unless Pelley can get his top stars involved.

Last week’s ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth in Australia was widely applauded. In case you missed it – and many probably did considering there were no world top-50 players in the field and only eight top-100 players, with England’s Tom Lewis the highest ranked at 55th – 54-hole qualifying determined the 24 who went through to six-hole match-play rounds.

“I think the event’s been a success here the last few years, crowds are fantastic and I’m sure that the concept will work in other places in the world,” winner Ryan Fox said. Just the sort of response you’d expect from a guy who just won his first European Tour event.

Ireland’s Paul Dunne was just as gushing.

“I like the idea of the format,” Dunne said. “I played at GolfSixes, the six‑hole match play. It’s intense, which is good. I think you need to be mentally sharp right from the get‑go … and just try and make as many putts as you can.”

The Super 6 followed the ISPS Handa Vic Open, also in Australia, which featured male and female professionals. Every competitor praised the concept, with the ever-erudite Geoff Ogilvy succinctly summing up the idea.

“The guys and girls thing just makes sense,” the 2006 U.S. Open champion said. “Two real golf tournaments played at the same time on the same course, like the Australian Open tennis, it makes sense.”

It certainly does in 2019, yet it rarely happens.

Throw in Dunne’s aforementioned GolfSixes, the Belgian Knockout and the Shot Clock Challenge as other innovative tournaments the tour has trialled. All good ideas with one big problem: They don’t feature top players.

As highlighted last week, these events are for the European Tour minnows. You won’t see a Justin Rose, Francesco Molinari, Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson or even a minor Ryder Cup player from last year’s victory in France in these tournaments.

Ian Poulter once brutally pointed out the Darwinian nature of tournament golf when he said, “You don’t sell tournaments on the back of guys ranked 100th on the Order of Merit – you sell them on star players.” Mr. Ryder Cup is right.

Tom Murray is currently the 100th-ranked player on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai. Nice guy, Tom, but other than his father, Andrew, winner of the 1989 European Open, and family and close friends, not many fans are going to turn out to watch the 29-year-old. Ditto for South Africa’s Jacques Kruyswijk, the 100th-ranked player on the 2018 Race to Dubai.

Fans will turn out to watch names, which is why they can command huge appearance fees. Yet other than the Ryder Cup and the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, these guys are consigned to a never-ending procession of 72-hole stroke-play events. How many times have you turned on your television on a Thursday to watch the latest 72-hole tournament only to ask yourself why, when there are still another two rounds before you get to the round that matters?

“The format of tournaments we play is very repetitive, so I like what the European Tour is doing from that point of view, trying to mix it up a bit more,” said 2018 European No. 1 Molinari.

Yet Molinari never competes in events such as the Super 6, GolfSixes or any of the other innovative tournaments. Why would he? It would only hurt his world ranking to do so.

Every once in a while, I’d love to see Molinari and Europe’s top stars involved in six-hole match-play tournaments or in foursomes’ golf in the GolfSixes – quick formats that seem to be made for TV.

Pelley’s innovations will only catch on when he gets his stars involved. Gwk

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