THINGS have been getting fairly heated in the world of golf lately. So heated, in fact, you could probably brown a piece of bread on a toasting fork simply by holding it close to Greg Norman’s strongly worded letter to the PGA Tour.

Some of you – perhaps all of you – are no doubt sick to the back teeth of reading about Norman, the proposed Saudi Super League, Phil Mickelson and the general hoopla and hoo-ha that’s consuming the Royal & Ancient game these days.

Indeed, the mere sight of the words ‘multi-million-dollar breakaway circuit’ probably now gives you the kind of shuddering grimace a toddler would deliver when force-fed a spoonful of cod liver oil.

As for the golf writers? Well, it keeps the cogs of our industry clanking along as we thrash away at the laptop keys like Little Richard in the merry midst of a piano-pounding frenzy.

Norman’s confrontational, rabble-rousing epistle to PGA Tour supremo Jay Monahan the other day, in which he accused the top brass of “bullying and threatening” those players who were tempted by the suggestive Saudi eyelash fluttering while declaring “this is not the end”, was another lively twist in the on-going saga.

It followed hard on the heels of Mickelson’s explosive and well-documented Saudi comments and subsequent mea culpa which created so much seismic activity, it just about cracked the plaster on the walls of the National Earthquake Information Centre.

That crashing noise you hear in the background, meanwhile, is the sound of poor old Phil’s lucrative endorsement deals literally falling off his cap and polo shirt and hitting the ground with a thud as his major sponsors disown him. It’s been quite the week.

With plenty happening in the upper echelons, one of the observations you hear a lot is that golf at the top end of the professional circus “needs to change”. A number of observers suggest the established tours are archaic business models that don’t showcase the most exciting version of the pro game. It needs to be faster and more engaging as a spectacle. The idea then of a Super League, with team elements flung into the mix, is, despite the moral misgivings about the source of the money, an alluring concept for many.

As it stands, golf essentially takes the same product around the globe week-in, week-out. Outside of, say, the majors or a Ryder Cup, there can be a distinct lack of prominence and sense of occasion.

A couple of weeks ago, Lee Westwood, one of a number of golfers who signed a non-disclosure agreement about the Super League and is clearly tempted by the prospect of unbridled riches, suggested that golf “has to move with the times and become more heat-of-the-moment, volatile and impactful from the word go, and a team aspect gives you that.” He bemoaned the staple diet of 72-hole strokeplay and championed the cut-and-thrust of matchplay.

These, of course, are long-standing areas of debate and it got me thinking – not very deeply, but thinking nevertheless – about golfing innovation in recent years. On the European Tour, now rebranded as the DP World Tour, there was a brief flurry of invention with events like the Golf Sixes, a rapid-fire team shoot-out over half-a-dozen holes, and the Shot Clock Masters, during which players got a limited time to hit their ball and were followed around the course by a Countdown-style tick-tocking device on a buggy.

You could say they were admirable efforts to “move with the times” and do something a bit different but they have unfortunately withered on the vine. There is a tendency within golf for people to groan and grouse that the game is too stuck in its ways but then continue to groan and grouse with sneering indifference when a tournament with some forward thinking and a willingness to experiment comes along.

The reality for events like Golf Sixes or the Shot Clock Masters, of course, is that their success is defined by the players who are competing in them. Oh, and that small matter of money. Without box office names – and big cheques – outside the box thinking tends to get, well, put back in the box. Such contests are ultimately viewed as gimmicks, not goers.

Let’s face it, Westwood would never have entertained the idea of doubling up with a fellow Englishman in something like a Golf Sixes which, by its short-form nature, was “impactful from the word go”. But a Super League? The idea of golfing innovation is fine … as long as there’s a golden carrot being dangled on a stick.


All this on-going chatter about closed shop Super Leagues for the rich elite may be the talk of the golfing steamie but events on the PGA Tour on Sunday showed that variety can still be the spice of life.

Sepp Straka started 2022 at No 213 on the world rankings and was 176th going into last week’s Honda Classic. By the end of a final round of fluctuating fortunes for those in the mix, the Austrian ended up winning his first PGA Tour title by a shot from Shane Lowry. The only thing predictable in this game is its unpredictability. And that remains one of golf’s wonderful strengths.