Other formats can be fun sometimes, but let’s stick with stroke play

Maybe I’m in the minority, but I’ve come to this conclusion: Our great game doesn’t need gimmicks to remain great.

Which begs the question: Is the alternate-shot format, used at the Zurich Classic last weekend, truly a gimmick? Or is it a fun innovation that most fans like?

When I first heard that the Zurich, one of the lesser events on the PGA Tour, had adopted the format that has proved so popular in the Ryder Cup and other team events, I thought I would be intrigued.

It sounded like a nice change of pace. But then, when it came time to flip on the television and watch, I was strangely unenthused.

It wasn’t that the golf was bad. It wasn’t that the format was bad. But there just didn’t seem to be the same intensity – or maybe I got that impression because my intensity was so questionable.

I couldn’t get excited about it for several reasons, starting with the simplest one of all:

The reason alternate shot is so fascinating in the Ryder Cup, at least to me, is because each team is part of a larger team, either the U.S. or Europe. There’s a clear rooting interest.

Not so in Louisiana. I really didn’t care if Jon Rahm and Ryan Palmer closed it out, which they did, or if they got caught by another two-man team.

But then I thought of this: There’s something about watching a normal stroke-play tournament come down to the finish. Each player must play every shot to get to the finish line. There’s no relying on a partner, no avoiding difficult tee shots.

It creates far more drama, a drama with which we all can identify. It’s how we normally play.

I would not argue for a second that no one should ever play alternate shot. It’s kind of like playing a scramble. I don’t like scrambles. I’d prefer to never play a scramble.

But every once in a great while, it can be kind of fun. I understand why so many tournaments go with the scramble – it’s the best way to speed up play. If your team is having fun and playing well, it can be exhilarating.

Only in small doses, however. Maybe some of those tournaments should consider alternate shot instead. Just a thought.

Anyway, my strange lack of enthusiasm for the Zurich brought to mind another thought: Is the PGA Tour further increasing the chances of being gimmicky by moving the PGA Championship to May?

No, I would argue. This makes too much sense to not try it. We had to get the playoffs away from football, at least for now, and this is the best way to do it.

Thankfully, the PGA no longer is a match-play event – that was its format until 1957. I like match play, too, and enjoy the annual WGC event that features it, but I don’t like having it in a major.

To me, majors should be decided by counting total strokes. That makes for the most drama. Yes, we are accustomed to it, which is not always a good reason to keep doing it. But I’d rather see all four majors require the winner to have the fewest strokes overall. That’s the best test of skill.

So let’s stick with our bread and butter – stroke play. We don’t need no stinking gimmicks.

Leave a Reply