Editor’s Column: Could fourball events be the way to televise golf?

By Alex Gallemore | Editor

With lockdowns and social distancing now part of everyday life, the Tours need to think outside the box to keep events alive. It costs around $150 for each test and players, along with their caddies, need testing every day of each tournament. The tours would also need to test everyone officiating during tournament week. That would include everyone from television crews to marshals.

Prior to the Covid-19 lockdowns, large scale events would require around 500 people on the course each day to assist the running and operating of a tournament. With a player field exceeding 140 players that would be around 650 tests a day totalling $97,500 per day. If the PGA Championship were to resume in August it could cost the USPGA close to $1million just in testing alone.

Outside of television revenue, the Majors normally generate huge amounts through ticket sales but with the travel restrictions in place and social distancing that cash will be heavily reduced. Or, more than likely, all events will be played behind closed doors if the events get the go-ahead.

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This leaves me to believe that the events could be restructured to feed the TV hungry golf fans, while limiting costs and safeguarding all concerned. In Europe, most of the Tour players are under lockdown in their home countries, with the exception of the likes of McIlroy and Poulter who reside mainly in America.

Rory, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff will be teeing it up in the first televised event since the Players Championship was cancelled on the 12th of March.The $3million charity skins event supported by TaylorMade is providing much needed financial support for the COVID-19 relief effort in America but it also lights the way for a new format for televising golf.

In the UK alone there are a host of great names unable to compete, such as Tommy Fleetwood and Matt Wallace. So, why not hold a series of knock-out events with a national final. You could have an English Open split into four regional qualifying events held over a single day. Each one would be an invitational fourball based on Official World Ranking points. The winner of each region would go through to the final of the English Open. This would give events a lifeline and a means to feed audiences that are crying out for any form of live golf.

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Following one group might not be the same as a challenging leaderboard over four days but the global audience for the TaylorMade skins game will be huge as there is no alternative. The other plus side at the moment to fourball events is the fraction of resources required to implement testing and broadcasting.

We could have the winners of the English, Scottish and Irish Opens battle it out over two days for the British Masters title. Just go through the European Tour schedule and it would be far easier to negate the political red tape and costs to run regional fourball qualifying events than trying to put a full field event back in play this year.

Television coverage means happy sponsors, which would generate funds enabling the Tours to survive the pandemic until some sort of normality returns. It could create a lifeline for professional golf. I’m sure golf followers would prefer to watch a stripped-down version of the professional game rather than wait for things to get automatically better.