How can we get the best players in the world together more often? It’s a phrased that’s been muttered in golf circles for much of the past two-and-a-half-years.

While well-intended, that sentiment ignored the fact golf is a game of opposites. To hit the ball high, a golfer needs to hit down steeply. To curve the ball left, the swing path needs to sling out to the right. To create interest in those who play golf, the solution rests with those who watch it. All this time, the game should’ve been wondering how to get the best fans in the world together more often.

The answer is simple: put the fans first and work backwards from there. That is evident at the Ryder Cup every two years, and the Masters every year. It is also, on a smaller scale, what LIV Golf tapped into with its successful Adelaide event last week. In South Australia, the start-up league did not uncover some secret recipe. Rather, it just reminded the game what the Masters and the Ryder Cup already knew – fans are the most important ingredient.

The second edition of LIV Golf Adelaide benefitted from that approach in two ways: firstly, the tournament didn’t suffer when its biggest stars failed to reel in Brendan Steele, who fired a 68 and at 18-under par (198) earned a one-shot win over former Open champion Louis Oosthuizen. Secondly, LIV’s first team playoff was played in front of a raucous crowd.

The atmosphere was already electric when the home side, Cam Smith’s all-Australian team, Ripper GC, went into a playoff against Oosthuizen’s all-South African Stinger group. Thousands walked in the fairway just behind the playing group and surrounded the green.

They turned on Oosthuizen and teammate Dean Burmester, who both made bogeys on the second extra hole to hand Ripper a $US3 million team title. The chaotic scenes at The Grange will no doubt be shown by LIV in highlights and promotional material until next year’s Adelaide stop.

“It was pretty wild; I was terrified over that wedge shot, to be honest,” Steele said, having bagged $US4 million for his first LIV win.

It was the first time in LIV’s timeline the team component truly overshadowed the individual tournament. “The environment around 18, I don’t think I’ve ever heard golf fans scream that loud,” said Smith’s teammate, Lucas Herbert.

Fans and organisers were probably not dreaming of a win by Steele – a likeable guy and a phenomenal driver of the ball but by no means a big name. Most were cheering for Smith, while some hoped that big-hitting, crowd-pleasing Bryson DeChambeau would drive every par 4 and blow the field away.

It didn’t matter. The buzz about The Grange Golf Club was created long before Sunday’s final round in Adelaide. Last year, with the gift of a guaranteed, 48-player field, LIV officials devised a plan to put the fan experience first. Select a good golf course on Adelaide’s oceanside sandbelt, use the state government’s investment to promote the heck out of it, have music concerts play and have a hook.

In LIV Adelaide’s case, that was a party hole similar to the par-3 16th at TPC Scottsdale during the WM Phoenix Open. On a smaller, but no-less rowdy scale, LIV officials perfectly executed an arena-style hole at the par-3 12th. Music blaring, a cheeky, beer-drinking crowd that had practised its banter at cricket matches, and a 150-metre hole was all it needed. Chase Koepka aced the 12th on the final day and footage of the bedlam that ensued went viral around the world. A year later, it was more refined (except when a fan disappointingly threw a bottle at Herbert’s caddie).

LIV didn’t reinvent the wheel. The Ryder Cup cultivated a fan culture with epic grandstands on the first tee each edition, among other things. The Masters has used its machine-like event efficiency, vintage food-and-beverage prices and no-mobile-phone policy. Even in Australia, the Vic Open grew from a humble state open with a $300,000 purse to a $3 million, joint DP World Tour/Ladies European Tour event simply because it had men and women competitors, a great golf course and a festival vibe where fans could bring their dogs.

LIV Golf has looked after its players, handsomely. Both through compensation and through its 54-hole format and 14-event schedule. But going forward, fans would hope its Adelaide event serves as a reminder that in order to grow LIV, fans will be the biggest asset. Not more high-profile signings. LIV revealed this week its plans to reproduce Adelaide would focus not on trying to find the same markets, but out-of-the-box ideas like golf under lights and home-and-away tournaments.

“It’s very subjective for the individual but no matter what the golf course and weather conditions are, when the people show up and they’re more excited than you are, it’s what makes a tournament great,” said Rahm, who tied for third behind Steele. “It’s what happens in majors, the Ryder Cup. It’s not really us; it’s not really the golf.”

Added Smith: “I think having support like we have this week is different to what we have 51 other weekends out of the year.”

It shouldn’t be different though. For all tours, it should be the rule, not the exception. Professional golf, for years, has banked its stars to carry tournaments. Maybe that’s a hangover from Tiger Woods’ prime. Maybe the game has been putting the cart before the horse.

Professional golf is divided, and last year’s June 6 agreement, between the Saudi PIF and the PGA Tour, seems no closer to getting signed. As a result, DeChambeau and Rory McIlroy have both said, fans are “losing interest”.

As administrators try to piece the game back together it’s fans, not players, on whom they should be leaning.