AVONDALE, La. – The Zurich Classic is a one-week oasis from the desert of 72-hole stroke-play tournaments. Sure, there is the WGC-Match Play and the opposite-field Barracuda Championship employs the stableford scoring format, but in this “Super Season” of 50 events, these novelty acts are few and far between.
In post-Masters hangover season and with the PGA Championship just weeks away, the Zurich Classic’s decision to adopt a two-man team format (two rounds of four-ball, two rounds of foursomes) in 2017 feels like a master stroke.
The PGA Tour needs to think outside the box more often, even if it is hard to mess with a successful formula. The powers-that-be may want to listen to one of its own, Graeme McDowell, who after recounting his ace on Friday, pitched the concept of a 72-hole foursomes tournament.
“I kind of believe it’s the purest form of the game,” McDowell said. “There’s nothing more difficult than having to hit one and then hand it over to your partner and then having him hand it back to you.”
So, that prompted a question: would other Tour pros sign up for McDowell’s event? It depends who you ask.
Zurich Classic winners Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith answered with a resounding no.
“That would be too stressful,” Smith said.
“I would be too worn out by Sunday night, I think,” Leishman added.
Smith thought about it some more and added: “Definitely not 72 holes of alternate shot. I think Leish and I wouldn’t be friends at the end of that.”
Playoff loser Louis Oosthuizen agreed with the champion’s assessment.
“I think you’ll be taking two weeks off after it because you’ll be so stressed,” Ooshuizen said.
But McDowell has his supporters of his concept, too.
“That would be awesome,” said Viktor Hovland. “We don’t get to do it a whole lot, and it’s very stressful at times, but no, I think it gives you a lot of kind of pleasure after the day – like (Friday) after being 2-over par and then signing the scorecard for 3-under, that was a really good score, especially in those conditions and in that format. It’s just when you do well, it gives you that much more pleasure, I think.”
Count Bubba Watson, who said he enjoys the mental grind of alternate shot and noted it would lead to faster play, and his partner, Scottie Scheffler, as on board.
“I would love it. That would be awesome,” Watson said. “I’d be the first one to sign up.”
“Alternate-shot is the kind of days where you can separate yourself because you’re making birdies and bogeys. Best ball it’s really just birdies,” Scheffler said. “The ability to separate yourself, especially on a golf course like this where there’s a lot of trouble, I think alternate shot would be a lot of fun.”
Fun is good. More fun, please. And more thinking outside the box, too.