ISPS HANDA World Super 6 brings a format unlike any other

Sweden's Alex Noren will be one of the highest ranked players in the field this week at the ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth. American Patrick Reed had been scheduled to play but withdrew from the event citing an illness. Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

It is one of the many paradoxes of golf that whilst amateurs enjoy playing the game in a seemingly endless variety of formats, professionals find themselves stuck playing stroke play just about every week.

In a further layer of contradiction, when a tournament does bite the bullet and tinker with the formula, patience is invariably thin. It's as if the family has spent all year dropping hints that they're sick of turkey at Christmas -- and then collectively turn up their noses when mum roasts a goose.

On the European Tour, this has manifested itself in cries for more team events ("something like the Ryder Cup") before the reality of the Seve Trophy prompted disappointed mutterings of how it wasn't really like the Ryder Cup after all. Ditto the Royal Trophy. Ditto the EurAsia Cup.

It's typical of people, not just golf folk: We demand change, yet have no patience when it is delivered.

It's a dichotomy we'd all do well to remember when the ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth is launched later this week, because elements of what happens next are bound to go wrong. The sensible response will be to remember that golf needs something new. By all means we should point out the mistakes, but we should also commit to future tweaking rather than dismissing the concept out of hand if, for example, a completely unknown golfer triumphs.

Because that's something else that happens with new ideas. Remember when the World Golf Championship introduced the World Match Play in 1999?

Traditionalists rejoiced at the idea of the greatest golfers in the world playing the greatest format of the game. Jeff Maggert winning, cried the money men. Kevin Sutherland winning three years later, howled the fans. Peter O'Malley dumping Tiger Woods in the first round, sobbed the sponsors.

The latter disaster -- early departure of the big names -- will not happen at the World Super 6: It has been insured against by utilising stroke play for three days prior to a final day of match-play shootouts.

If that sounds familiar -- it mimics the common format of leading amateur competitions such as the U.S. and British Amateur Championships -- then it is only in a passing sense, because what happens Sunday will be anything but a cozy reminder of the establishment.

The format runs like this: a full field plays two rounds of stroke play prior to a 36-hole cut. So far, so normal. A second cut at the conclusion of the third round will leave 24 players for Sunday's match play, but to alleviate the potential for the third rounds of the 36-hole leaders to be redundant, the field will chase two levels of qualification: the top eight get a bye to the second round of match play, and those ranked ninth to 24th will not.

On Sunday morning the innovation steps up a gear, and it is perhaps no coincidence that the format change has been initiated in Australia, a country that has embraced Twenty20 cricket. Just as that version of the game distils four or five days into three hours, the final day of the Perth tournament will compress a golf match to six holes.

Six-hole matches? Many, of course, will be shorter (at last year's WGC World Play, 12 of the 16 knockout stage contests finished before the 18th hole; in 2015 that number was 13).

Should a match be unresolved after six holes, the departure from the norm takes full hold. Players will head to a purpose-built tee 90 metres from the 18th green and will replay this "knockout hole" until a winner is determined.

Certain dynamics of the golfing week will be very different. In the past 250 regular European Tour events, do you know how many players placed T-100 or worse after 18 holes went on to win? Just one (Andy Sullivan, when he was T-114 in the 2015 Joburg Open). Only six of that number were outside the top 70.

In other words, during a normal week nearly half the field instinctively knows it has only a tiny chance of winning at the conclusion of Round 1. This week the route to the trophy stays wider longer: They're not chasing the lead, but the top 24, because once Sunday comes, the slate is wiped clean.

Whether you think this is a good or a bad thing is perhaps moot -- it's different, it gets us thinking and isn't that why we want an alternative to stroke-play?

Will gaining a top-eight ranking matter? Gut instinct says that with six-hole matches almost certain to be volatile, winning five in row will be a monumental task.

The tournament has already lost one big name -- Patrick Reed pulled out last week -- but on the final day the likes of Alex Noren and Louis Oosthuizen (should they qualify) will have no more than a handful of holes to assert their authority over, conceivably, the likes of Rory Bourke and Brad Moules. It's an intriguing prospect.

What will observers (and competitors) think if the 54-leader loses his first six-hole match to a player he thrashed by ten shots in the stroke-play? If it happens -- and it might -- we'll see.

One potential problem was hinted at during a novelty of late 2016, when, at the British Masters, eight players contested the one-hole, par-3 night-golf Hero Challenge.

It was popular, but it could have been sharper. Practice swings should have been outlawed, the players tended to hang back like awkward guests during the wedding photos, and the jokey banter sagged quickly, getting in the way of the action.

As a first effort, it was forgivable, and all it needed was stronger stage management, but the World Super 6 organizers should have been taking notes. That's not to say they must insist that players run between shots and swing like idiots, but they should demand that they are ready to play and are well-drilled about what to expect and where they need to be.

The potential is huge. The best-case scenario is a vibrant day of ebb and flow, with victory and defeat occurring at a rapid rate, and the winner crowned after a knockout hole. The worst-case scenario is dawdling golfers no one has heard of waiting for someone to remind them what to do next.

As if to give the tournament a vote of confidence before a ball is hit, the European Tour started this week by announcing another glimpse into the future as imagined by chief executive officer Keith Pelley.

GolfSixes (the tour is all-in on the idea of six-hole golf) will debut in early May at the Centurion Club in England and will be a two-man event featuring 16 national teams played over two days. Adding more spice to the six-hole pot, they will play greensomes, which involves both players hitting a tee shot, selecting the best positioned and playing alternate shot until the hole is completed.

Continuing a persistent theme of Pelley's reign, the spectator experience is promised to be as revolutionary as what happens inside the ropes with point-of-view cameras, caddie cams and on-course interviews for those at home, as well as amphitheatre grandstands, pyrotechnics and music for those walking the fairways.

"We want to broaden the appeal of our sport to the millennial demographic," said Pelley, "and I think this format will do that, not only through the quick and exciting style of play, but also with the interactive digital experience fans will enjoy on-site and the innovative television coverage people will enjoy at home."

When he added "we're also delighted to have brought a country versus country element to the fore," it brought to mind a further addition to the schedule, which will first appear in August 2018 -- a European Championship held in conjunction with the Ladies European Tour hosting a men's, a women's and, crucially perhaps, a mixed competition.

If that suggests the opportunity to achieve something the Olympic golf tournament failed to do (develop an idea that goes beyond the week-to-week norm of stroke play with zero interaction between genders), then the fact that the tournament is part of a multisport festival seals the deal.

Indeed, Glasgow 2018 will be a revolution (of sorts) for European sport, never mind European golf. Drawing together the European Championships of seven distinct sports (athletics, aquatics, cycling, gymnastics, rowing, triathlon, golf) it hopes that what were disparate events will enjoy economies of scale, both financially and in terms of fan and media engagement.

The legacy of Scotland staging the 2014 Ryder Cup was a driving force in golf joining this particular party (indeed, Gleneagles will again host) and whilst the early August setting will impact field quality (it will be up against the PGA Championship or WGC Bridgestone Invitational), the chance to lay down a marker for future Olympic golf competitions is not one that should be fudged by the authorities.

If golf's future is to be dynamic, then association with athletic sports has to be a good thing. If golf's future is to be inclusive, the two genders need to cease operating in separate spheres. If golf's future is to be less staid, then formats must look beyond the obvious.

As with all change, some will be met by resistance. At last year's Turkish Airlines Open, Pelley said of night golf: "It will definitely be here next year. I think you would get buy-in from 95 percent of the actual players."

"That would be a useless idea," retorted Danny Willett. "It would be OK for a giggle but not for a real tournament and Race to Dubai money."

Skepticism of change is not always a bad thing, just as change for the sake of change often rushes headlong toward the gimmick. The best new ideas rarely arrive fully formed and we should, at the very least, give the World Super 6 a fair crack of the whip.