The Chris Hanson Column
SO, I guess you want to know, from a Challenge Tour player’s point of view, if the Mixed Open in Jordan worked? As well as playing in the event I was following closely on social media and from what I read it seemed that people away from the tournament had quite a split decision on the format.
I can certainly see it happening again; it was an interesting format and I think everyone who played had an open mind to the set-up. It was never going to be 100 per cent fair and each category of player was going to have an advantage at some point. But having said that, as a format I can’t see it happening much more than once a year, and maybe it will be seen as more of an ‘exhibition’ than a big tournament.
But I’m pretty sure the players who didn’t like or agree with the format didn’t travel to play the event – and that was their loss – as it was quite fun, extremely interesting and for a CT player this season, one of the biggest prize funds on offer.
There were some interesting differences though: the results for ladies and seniors counted for their respective Orders of Merit, but not for Challenge Tour players. In theory all 40 seniors or ladies could miss the cut and still get points as if they had finished top 40 in the tournament.
I believe after chatting with the powers that be that, if the event is to happen again, the Challenge Tour will be pushing for a 72-hole tournament and also for it to count towards the OOM. The biggest grumble I had heard pre-tournament was that the seniors didn’t like the fact they had to make a cut.
Seniors normally play 54-hole, no-cut events – bar the majors – so they were under a bit of pressure to perform to make some money from the week, but they still got valuable OOM points, which to some of them are priceless. I’m sure the biggest talking point through the week was the tee box positions.
Again, an extremely difficult aspect for the tournament organisers to get right, as if it favoured a certain category too much it would make a mockery of the event and upset too many people – then it would never happen again! I believe the idea, for example on a par-4, was that once all three players had teed off they wouldn’t necessarily be in the same place on the fairway, but they would be hitting a similar second club into the green.
The organisers then had to take into account that the ladies don’t hit the ball as high as the men or spin the ball as much, so pin positions were another extremely important factor – something of a sore point for the CT players as 90 per cent of pin placements were towards the back of the green where spin was not needed, and made the course too accessible, especially as there was zero rough.
For me, only two tee boxes really felt a disadvantage to the CT players. The eighth played long for us as we were going in with 6 irons when the ladies and seniors only had approximately 100 yards for their second shot, and the fairway bunker off the tee wasn’t remotely in play for them. Also the third as when it went down wind both the seniors and ladies could pretty much drive the green and we didn’t have that chance from our tee box as we were 100 yards further back.
But I heard the stats showed that we played the par-5s a shot better per round as a group of players, so we must have gained a slight advantage there. Guess it’s swings and roundabouts. Overall, taking everything into account, I feel the event worked very well, the only thing that possibly would have made a mockery of the format would have been Ernie Els playing in the seniors or someone who fits that description who still sends it well over 300 yards off the tee.
Or if Anne Van Dam had played in the ladies’ section, the length she hits the ball would have made it so hard for the organisers to make it remotely fair. So, I think this format will happen again, just when and where are extremely important. Maybe it’s nowhere near as easy as we think to make it happen, but good luck to everyone involved.