Catriona Matthew to partner Thomas Bjorn in GolfSixes
In a world first for professional golf, the pair will become the first male and female to play together in competitive match play.
They will form a ‘Captains Team’ - one of four wild-card pairings being introduced this year - in the innovative event at the Centurion Club in St Albans on 5-6 May.
“I was delighted when Thomas asked me to play GolfSixes,” said Matthew, the long-time Scottish No 1.
“I had to move my schedule around a little bit but the moment I heard about the chance to play, I definitely wanted to be part of it.”
Part of European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley’s bid to shake up golf, GolfSixes is a shortened version of the game and involves music and pyrotechnics on the first tee. A shot clock was also in force on one of the tees at last year’s event.
“The fact it is something different for golf is great – in terms of the round robin match play format then head-to-head matches, in addition to the men and women playing together of course,” added Matthew.
“All Tours are trying to think of ways to make golf different and encourage a new and younger audience and so I think this whole concept is very exciting.”
Scotland, represented by Richie Ramsay and Marc Warren, finished third in the inaugural event, won by Danish duo Thorbjorn Olesen and Lucas Bjerregaard.
“I was playing in a tournament last year but I watched some of the inaugural GolfSixes on the television and read a bit about it and I always thought it was a good idea,” said Matthew. “Obviously, the matches are much quicker and match play itself tends to be exciting so it’s a good mix.”
The former Women’s British Open champion won’t be the only female involved, either. An ‘England Women’s Team’ will comprise of Georgia Hall and Charley Hull while a ‘European Women’s Team’ is set to feature England’s Mel Reid and Suzann Pettersen of Norway.
“I am really excited about playing GolfSixes,” said Bjorn as he echoed Matthew’s comments. “There are so many 72-hole tournaments around the world that there has to be room for something else which puts a different spin on golf and brings more interest.
“This is not your normal golf tournament where everyone is very serious and has their heads down. This is completely different, it’s more about having fun and portraying the game in a good way.
“I think it’s hugely important to also try and break down the barriers that have existed in golf between the men’s and women’s games.
“When this opportunity arose to play as Ryder Cup captain, I thought it was only right to speak to Catriona as the Solheim Cup captain about forming a team, and we’re both really looking forward to it.
“It also sends the right message to our players too, that we’re European captains and being a European captain of any team is not just about your own Tour and your own players – it’s about representing everything about this great continent of ours.”
The fourth and final wild card team will be revealed towards the end of next month alongside the 11 men’s national teams who will qualify automatically from the European Tour’s category ranking list.
All 16 teams will compete for a total prize fund of €1 million with the eventual winners receiving €100,000 each.
“GolfSixes is something that we championed last year to do something a little different, not just in terms of a different format, but also to bring a different form of entertainment from a golf perspective,” said Pelley.
“There was a lot of talk about what we were going to do differently this year while remaining credible but entertaining, and today’s announcement is the result of those discussions. It’s a natural progression and I think the potential for GolfSixes in terms of the overall brand and format is terrific.
“The concept of Thomas and Catriona playing together is a wonderful idea and then to be able to add in four of Europe’s leading women players in Georgia, Charley, Mel and Suzann is fantastic and will make for a great event. We thank both the LET and the LPGA for helping make this happen.”
Data from the inaugural GolfSixes tournament last year showed a 42 per cent increase in new golf fans at the event compared to regular European Tour events. Those attendees were also 14 per cent younger than those seen during the rest of the golfing calendar.