It can’t be easy attracting attention to one of the most uninspiring tournaments on the PGA Tour roster – especially when it is played alongside a World Golf Championship – but the Reno-Tahoe Open’s tournament directors have done just that.
It was announced this week the tournament – played, since 1999, on the Jack Nicklaus designed Montreux Golf and Country Club – had switched to Modified Stableford for 2012 in a bid to gain an increased profile, something which appears to have been a shrewd move.
For a start, more people than ever are talking about the tournament. The event – which normally attracts minuscule coverage – is being discussed at length before any ball has been hit, and given far more prominence on golf websites than ever before.
In case anyone is unfamiliar with the format, golfers will be awarded eight points for an albatross, five points for an eagle, two points for a birdie, nothing for a par, minus one for a bogey and minus three for a double bogey.
The cons of this format? You will have to ask traditionalists for those. The pros? It is captivating, exciting and encourages aggressive play.
The last time a Modified Stableford format was employed on the PGA Tour was in 2006 at the International, which used to be one of the most anticipated events of the season.
Many golf fans will remember the drama of 2002 – where Steve Lowery and Rich Beem were embroiled in one of the most thrilling tussles in PGA Tour history – and, by extension, the drama such a format can provide.
Beem made seven birdies and an eagle in his final round, which should have been enough to cruise to victory. Lowery, however, made a birdie, an eagle and an albatross over the final five holes, sensationally holing his second to the par-5 17th from 217 yards.
Standing on the 18th tee, he needed a birdie to win, but saw his 10-foot putt for the title slide agonisingly past the hole. In the subsequent furore, Beem said to Lowery: “It doesn’t get any better than that.”
And who could disagree? Not only has the move to the new format increased publicity tenfold, it will actively encourage people to follow the progress of the tournament.
The downside? It isn’t being broadcast on Sky Sports, which is a real shame. If the Bridgestone were to hit a lull and I had the option, I would genuinely consider changing channels – something that simply would not have been an option in the past.