The Shark Shootout

I didn’t write about Greg Norman’s Shootout on a timely basis because I felt that the European Tour’s Dubai World Championship was, in fact, a tour championship and thus warranted all the attention I gave it. And in the end, it was a worthy gold mine of mastery topics to write about.

But, it turns out so was the (formally) Franklin Templeton Shootout. They played it at the Tiburon Golf Club at the Ritz-Carlton Resort in Naples, Florida and it was another one of those refreshing, season-ending tournaments with an eclectic format. It was 12 two-man teams and they played three different formats:

In the first round they played an alternate shot format. Two teams shot 9-under par 61 and one could only manage a 2-under 70.

In the second, they played a best ball format. One team shot a 12-under 60 and one of the favorite teams could only manage a 7-under 65.

And in the final round, they played a wide-open scramble format where each player plays each shot and they continuously choose the best shot until they’re in the hole. Think of it as professional players playing “mulligan golf.” And the scores reflected it. The two best scramble teams shot 14-under, 58. And here’s another way to put that in context. The five guys who shot 59 on the PGA Tour (Al Geiberger, Chip Beck, David Duval, Paul Goydos and Stuart Appleby) did that by themselves. It just goes to show you how good and how exceptional a 59 actually is.

Probably the most interesting thing that came out of the actual playing of the tournament is that the final round found the final group comprised of the young guys versus the old guys. We had Tour rookies Keegan Bradley and Bendan Steele paired with Mark Calcavecchia and Nick Price. And what was interesting about it is that “Calc” and Price held their own finishing T2.

Why it was interesting is that Bradley and Steele were a perfectly matched team. Steele is known for his consistent, if not long, driving and Bradley is known for his long driving. So Steele would get up and hit his tee shot in play in the fairway freeing up Bradley to hit it as far as he could knowing that Steele’s drive was their fallback.

The other interesting thing about them was that they were dead-serious about the way they played the tournament. For some it might have been a “slap-and-tickle,” nice-payday lark. But they didn’t treat it that way. They were deep inside it the whole time, treated it like a real Tour event. And they won by three shots.

But it was fun to see the sparkling future of the Tour matched up against its glorious past and for both factions to do extremely well.

On the other hand it was surprising to see the incongruously paired Rory Sabbatini and Jhonattan Vegas synch up like long-lost brothers and finish T2 with Calc and Price.

It was also surprising to see everybody’s favorite cheeseheads, Jerry Kelly and Steve Stricker four strokes back when you might have thought their simpatico pairing would have them laughing all the way to the bank. They did finish T4.

Anyway, this is not a great tournament with historic implications…which is the largest part of the charm of these post-season gatherings. And for what it was, it was a very satisfying event. Its longevity proves the point.

And finally, we got to see the heroic Greg Norman on the stage at least one more time. That’s always a good thing.

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