It won’t be until it’s all done and dusted that considered verdicts can be delivered about the European Tour’s innovative GolfSixes. It’s probably so far, so good, though, and this new shortened format certainly caught on straight away with Scottish pair Richie Ramsay and Marc Warren. They recorded the event’s first win and were also the first team to qualify for the quarter-finals at the Centurion Club in St Albans. They did so with a game to spare, succeeding where Scottish football clubs have largely foundered in a Champions League-style format.
Keith Pelley, the European Tour’s effervescent chief executive, wanted this to be a fun event. The sight of Ramsay and Warren wearing smiles as wide as the nearby M1 would definitely have pleased the Canadian as he took in the first day’s action on television and social media to gauge that side of things before experiencing the concluding phase, a series of knock-out matches, live at the Hertfordshire venue today.
“I think it is really good,” said Ramsay in delivering his verdict on an event that certainly seemed to capture the imagination of the 32 players representing 16 international teams. “It is pretty quick [as the title suggests, the matches are played over six holes] and they have set the course up well, including two par-3s that are relatively short.”
While the success of this or any other format that may be rolled out in the future to try and provide something different to the staple diet of 72-hole stroke-play events surely can’t be judged solely on the winner, there’s no denying that this tournament probably needed the likes of Scotland and England to be in that last eight.
Having been in pot four for the draw and then finding themselves up against Thailand, Spain and Belgium, the Scots were perhaps not expected to progress but progress they did. In some style, too, as they clicked instantly under a Greensomes format. Ramsay and Warren were three-under-par in beating Belgian duo Nicolas Colsaerts and Thomas Detry in their opening match. Warren rolled in an 18-foot eagle putt at the last for a 3-2 win. “Our first experience doesn’t get any better,” he said, smiling, afterwards.
Their second performance was even tastier. They went birdie-par-eagle-birdie-birdie-par in that one, winning 3-2 again, this time against Spanish duo Pablo Larrazabal and Jorge Campillo. The eagle in that match was set up by a booming Warren drive leaving Ramsay with just 145 yards for their second, which the Aberdonian despatched to four feet with an 8-iron. “We were in the Group of Death and knew we would have to play well to finish in the top two,” said Warren.
A 3-1 defeat by Thai duo Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Thongchai Jaidee – the second seeds were five-under in that match and already had it won before their opponents made a third eagle of the day and second at the last – didn’t really matter other than seeing them pipped for top spot. It was mission accomplished for the Scots, who now take on Portuguese pair Ricardo Gouveia and Jose-Filipe Lima in the last eight after they won their group. Another team to come out of pot four, they recorded 4-0 wins over both Wales and Australia.
So, is this golf’s answer to cricket’s Twenty20 or sevens in rugby? It’s too early to say, to be honest, but it certainly has different elements to a traditional event. Walk-on music blaring and dry ice erupting as the players made their way to the first tee, for example. On-course commentators were also located at each of the six greens, where they did their best to whip the crowds into a frenzy. “It’s like a Nicola Sturgeon rally,” said the one at the short fifth as Saltires were waved when Ramsay and Warren approached in their first match.
Shot clocks were also in operation, though only at the fourth when it had been thought they would be placed at every hole. American Paul Peterson was hit with a one-shot penalty for taking longer than the 40 seconds (it was reduced to 30 seconds for the final group matches) permitted in the second session. It ended up costing his side a place in the quarter-finals. Joining Scotland, Portugal, Thailand and England there are Denmark, Australia, France and Italy, making it a last-day line-up that can help make this innovative event the success that Pelley is hoping for in his bid to attract a new audience to the game.