The unique format of the ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth is back for a second time at Lake Karrinyup this week, having already made fans of two of the European Tour’s veterans.
Both Lee Westwood and Brett Rumford heaping praise on the event and format, which sees the field cut after 54-holes of stoke play to just 24 players before a series of knockout six-hole one-on-one matches decides the winner, as they prepared in Perth on Tuesday.
“Obviously, I heard a lot about the format as well, sounds like an interesting format,” Westwood said. “I do well at stroke play and match play, so it's nice to see somebody use their initiative and combine the two. I watched a little bit on TV last year and it looks like an exciting format.”
And Rumford was singing from the same hymn book when asked for his opinions about the tri-sanctioned event he claimed the inaugural staging of in 2017.
“The format's – it's a different one, it's interesting,” he said. “It's quite physically demanding as well as mentally when you're trying to play for a championship, so it's quite a unique tournament in that respect.”
The willingness of the players to adapt to the non-traditional tournament, which this year will add players being mic’d up and conversing with the Fox Sports commentators as cricketers do in the Big Bash, goes a long way to explaining how the event has grown in stature so quickly. And why the European Tour is fast gaining a reputation as an innovator in a sport so often dubbed as dull, with its players throwing their support behind it.
Alongside Westwood and Rumford will be the likes of Masters champion Danny Willett, Tour winners Thorbjorn Olesen, Marcus Fraser and Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnson as well as a host of up and coming players from the PGA Tour of Australasia, Asian Tour and Europe all hoping to be part of Sunday’s match play portion.
“Every player in this event, once the match play begins, is a threat,” Rumford said when discussing the strength of the field. “Six-hole match play, if you get off to a slow start or someone gets off to a fast start, which every single player in this field is capable of doing, then you're on the back foot, so everyone's a threat this week with the format.”
While 2018 will be his first experience of the varied play format, Westwood echoed the West Australian’s words when discussing his approach to surviving till Sunday to give himself a shot at the title.
“It's no good edging your way in, I think you've got to come out as fast as you can and obviously make the cut on Friday night, but then getting in that top 24, so you might as well be aggressive and go for everything,” Westwood said. “I like the quickness of the six-hole match play, that's once again fast and furious, and you want to get off to a fast start in that, too, so I'll try and make that my approach.”
That the format excites a player like Westwood, who has nearly seen it all in his long professional career, is a major boost for the tournament organisers and golf in Australia. With the country also earning plaudits from the Englishman many consider the best player to never win a major, even perhaps more so now that Sergio Garcia has replaced the monkey on his back with a Green Jacket.
“It's been a while since I've been down in Australia,” the 1997 Australian Open champion said Tuesday. “I think it was a couple years ago I played the Australian Open, and I've always enjoyed coming down here. I've been coming down here since 1994 I think the first time. Just a great place to come and play, especially this time of year when the weather's miserable at home.”
Westwood’s eagerness to tee it up in Perth, in what will be his fourth consecutive week of tournament play, might come as a surprise to some who would forgive the 44-year-old of starting to slow down. But the former World No.1 experienced a return to form last week with a T11 in Malaysia, that has the man from Worksop in England’s north believing he may still yet shed the majorless tag, even if he claims it doesn’t faze him.
“I'm not too bothered about it,” he said of the not collecting one of golf’s grand slams. “I have played well in the major championships and finished top 3 in all of them without winning one. There's been various reasons for not winning one.
“No, I still feel fit and strong, I still hit it far enough to contend in tournaments, so there's no reason why not.
“I finished second, what, two Masters ago, so still feel like I've got a chance.”
The mental strength of 25-year professional to overcome his major disappointments is likely to be relied upon during the exhausting Sunday matches, where Rumford shone brightly last year. Displaying similar grit and determination himself after losing his Tour card and battling through illness, with the six-time European Tour winner also having bigger tournaments on his mind in 2018.
“Back to Europe and obviously playing a fairly busy schedule, but obviously with the WGC, The Open Championship and the HSBC at the end of the year, there's some great events that I got into,” he said of his plans for 2018. “So, it's really just focusing on the European Tour and obviously the Race to Dubai first and foremost.
“Just looking to just have a good year all around, and this game, it's a crazy game. Winning opens up doors and you've got a fairly cemented schedule, but playing well and winning changes that dramatically.”
Before either player can look towards the rest of their year, however, they will be fully focused on this week and the challenge of Lake Karrinyup. And if Rumford has his way it won’t be any of the big name first timers like Westwood, Willett and Johnston taking his crown overseas.
With the 40-year-old even ruing the poor timing of the World Super 6 in relation to the recently completed, and Australian dominated, Ashes. Spoiling his plan of potentially employing another cricket innovation, like the microphones on players, to help his cause.
“That's pretty much all done,” he said when asked of any sledging with the English contingent in Perth. “… but for the fact that it was all over and we gave them a fairly good dusting, it's a bit of a non-event really.”
For its part the World Super 6 Perth certainly can’t be described as a non-event and the tournament will again grow in stature and popularity this year if the excitement the format delivered in 2017 is repeated.
Another home-grown winner like Rumford or one of the marquee names, such as Westwood, emerging as the final survivor on Sunday might not hurt the event’s cause either.