Hero Challenge given thumbs up by Scottish fans at Dundonald

Patrick Reed of the US poses with the trophy after winning the Hero Challenge ahead of the AAM Scottish Open at Dundonald Links. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images
Patrick Reed of the US poses with the trophy after winning the Hero Challenge ahead of the AAM Scottish Open at Dundonald Links. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images
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It may not have been the 
traditional golfing fare in Scotland – Old Tom Morris, in fact, was probably spinning in his grave – but an enthusiastic home crowd gave a huge thumbs up to the home of golf’s first Hero Challenge, a one-hole innovative knock-out contest.

A lovely sunny night at Dundonald Links certainly helped – the Isle of Arran and Ailsa Craig were part of a stunning backdrop – but there was no getting away from the fact that this concept was a winner as a warm-up for the £5.5 million Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open.

It featured eight players, headed by Open champion Henrik Stenson, who was joined by Russell Knox, Patrick Reed, Tyrrell Hatton, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Matt Kuchar, Anirban Lahiri and Alexander Levy.

On a specially-created hole measuring just 
137 yards and using the 18th green to provide a stadium feel, they played a series of straight knock-out matches, which were more about having fun than anything else.

Being shown live on 
Sky Sports, the event was hosted by Vernon Kay and Kirsty Gallacher, with Wayne Riley in his usual role as on-course commentator and adding wit to the occasion as always.

Having been whipped into a frenzy beforehand by a warm-up artist, a sizeable crowd loved it and it was good to see so many youngsters enjoying themselves on a golf course.

This is the sort of event that Keith Pelley, the chief executive, is keen to see on the European Tour to mix things up from the staple diet of 72-hole stroke-play events – and, on this evidence, there’s certainly a place for them.

Not on a weekly basis and certainly not at the expense of proper tournaments, but golf has to provide platforms for players to be able to enjoy themselves a bit more and, at the same time, give spectators a chance to interact – scream and shout, too – more than they normally get the opportunity to do.

Not that it really mattered all that much, but the winner was US Ryder Cup star Reed, who, after eliminating Knox in one of the earlier matches, beat Levy, who’d won the inaugural Hero Challenge during the British Masters at The Grove last October, in the semi-finals then Hatton in the final with a birdie.