Belgian headliner Thomas Pieters has warned against looking ahead to Sunday’s knockout phase of the ISPS HANDA Super 6 Perth as players vie for a place in the final 24 starting with Thursday’s opening round at Lake Karrinyup Country Club.
Pieters will tee off from the 10th tee at 7.10am on Thursday alongside Perth local Jason Scrivener and New South Welshman Dimitrios Papadatos, following on from the group containing Perth prodigy Min Woo Lee, Vic Open champion David Law and rising Victorian talent Lucas Herbert.
The feature afternoon groups include 2006 US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy playing with Japan’s Yuta Ikeda and Adelaide’s Wade Ormsby at 12.10pm to be followed by England’s Tom Lewis, Adrian Otaegui from Spain and Victorian Matthew Griffin.
After two rounds of stroke play on Thursday and Friday the field will be cut down to the top-65 plus ties for Saturday before the top-24 advance to the six-hole match play knockout phase of the tournament on Sunday.
Having hosted the inaugural Belgian Knockout last May – a tournament that moved into two days of match play after a 36-hole cut – Pieters knows how the wrong mentality has the potential to bring a player undone.
“I guess when you're just around that number on Saturday you might differ in some of the holes, how you play them,” Pieters said of having one eye on the top 24 cut-off. “But you try to get up that leaderboard as high as you can at any tournament.
“At my tournament I found it difficult. I remember on Friday afternoon I was a top-64 qualifier – I was maybe 20th or something – and you get a bit careless. You know you've got four shots to play with on the last three holes and I think that's something maybe when you're lying fifth, sixth, seventh at this tournament on a Saturday, you can get a bit careless.
“The top eight players get a bye (in the first round of match play), so that's a big bonus as well. I think you want to just get in the top eight.”
A two-time winner of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, Geoff Ogilvy absolutely has his sights on qualifying for the final 24.
After finishing 35th at the Vic Open a week ago, Ogilvy knows that all the pieces of his game are coming together and likes his prospects if he can make it through to Sunday.
“I'm not sure how that's going to feel – six holes in match play, because that's very quick – but match play's always been one of my favourite forms of the game,” said Ogilvy.
“You kind of throw the scorecard out. It's just me and you, let's go. I really, really, really enjoy that.
“If I can play well, I can do okay, but the goal would be to make the match play and see what happens.
“I feel like if I can get to the match play I have as much chance as anyone else in the top 24.”
Battling illness since flying into Perth on Monday, Pieters credited his sister, Leiselotte, for devising the concept behind the Belgian Knockout and is adamant that golf must explore innovative tournament formats in order to engage with fans.
“I just like new ideas and I think it makes it interesting for the public to watch on TV,” Pieters explained.
“I think that's where golf is going to go or needs to go, especially with young guys playing aggressive golf. Like I said, I think it's fun to watch.
“We wanted a tournament in Belgium and we wanted something different. I can't really remember who came up with the idea but I wanted a match play event.
“When you start match play on Thursday, people can get upset if you just lose your first match and you have to go home. This way everybody gets two rounds like a normal tournament, and the ones who play well move on.
“I lost my first match last year on Saturday at my tournament and it hurt, you know.
“I played at 8 in the morning and at 9.30 was back home and I lost. That's golf. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.
“Same thing here. On Sunday you can be back at the hotel at 9.30am.”
One of golf’s more cerebral thinkers, Ogilvy too believes that the game needs a greater variety of formats and that the Super 6 concept in particular is one worth persisting with.
“There's plenty of room in golf for different stuff other than 72-hole stroke play,” said Ogilvy.
“Pure match play tournaments don't seem to work commercially because half the field's gone every day. But this is kind of that happy medium.
“The traditionalists are happy because we're playing stroke play for three days, and the 20/20 crowd is happy because we're playing the six-hole match play (on Sunday).
“I hope that they can keep it going because I think it's a good idea.”
The first groups of the ISPS HANDA Super 6 Perth tee off at 6.40am on Thursday with the first of the afternoon groups to start at 11.40am.
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