THE defining moment of the new ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth tournament at Lake Karrinyup Country Club may not occur on Sunday.

Curiously in golf, where we are fed a steady diet of last-day crescendos on Sunday afternoons, any departure from the norm is often greeted with mixed reactions. There’s an indefatigable familiarity to 72-hole strokeplay tournaments, even if it’s a format adopted only once a month by regular golfers. The count-’em-all approach permits the kind of dependability fans like from a game with few certainties.

But not this time.

After three rounds, the World Super 6 Perth from February 16-19 will revert to matchplay by pruning the field to the top 24 on the leaderboard and settling any ties for 24th spot via a potentially large playoff. Sunday will see a series of six-hole matches with deadlocks resolved on the ‘Shootout Hole’ – a 90-metre journey played from the last fairway at Lake Karrinyup to its 18th green. This purpose-built hole will only be played once in full, as lingering ties will be broken by a nearest-the-pin contest on the second playing. The winner will move on or, in the final match, become the inaugural champion of the tournament tri-sanctioned with the European and Asian tours.

Once the 24 players have been decided, the leading eight will be seeded directly into the second round of elimination matchplay. The other 16 players will be split into eight matches for the first round, with the eight winners paired against the eight seeded players for the second round. From there, the match results will progressively prune the field in half until the last two players contest the final.

Billed as golf’s answer to Twenty20 cricket, rugby sevens or Fast4 tennis, the innovative format represents change but not all changes bring progress. The idea does add drama and unpredictability, but the knocks on it include that this will look just like any other tournament all week until late on Saturday and that a 10-stroke leader on Saturday night could be the first golfer sent packing on Sunday.

The only other time the PGA Tour of Australasia ventured down this path was six years ago at the one-off Surf Coast Knockout held near Geelong in January 2011. Winner Scott Laycock was the last of the 32 players to make the matchplay rounds yet left the Bellarine Peninsula cradling the trophy.

Change, however, is in vogue in tournament golf and any considered attempt to alter the norm is to be applauded. This April, the US PGA Tour’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans will switch for the first time to a two-man pairs event in order for that middling tournament to stand out from the pack. Officials cannot predict the outcomes of the events they administer, but they can plan and innovate, feeding the golf-viewing public something more than a never-ending smorgasbord of 72-hole strokeplay.

And there’s definitely curiosity among the players.

“The format sounds very interesting,” says Perth’s Nick O’Hern, who beat Tiger Woods twice at the WGC–Accenture Match Play Championship. “If I come back home to play in it hopefully I can make it to the final day. I’ve always loved matchplay.”

Jin Jeong, the Melbourne-raised Korean who captured the Perth International at Lake Karrinyup in 2013, says his fellow players will embrace the event – especially those for whom the cutthroat nature of matchplay appeals.

“I’ve spoken to a few European Tour players and they’re intrigued by the concept,” Jeong said. “It’s important to try something different. I love matchplay and it’s going to be good for the crowds.”

Nine-time PGA Tour of Australasia winner Peter Lonard took a self-deprecating view on the new format, joking that it may actually be the boost his evergreen career needs. “After 30 years I still haven’t learnt to master traditional four-round tournaments, so if I can work this Super 6 format out I’ll be happy,” he said. “If it gets the crowds involved in the game and encourages them to get out and watch other tournaments then I’m all for it.”

Aussie European Tour star Wade Ormsby likened the World Super 6 Perth to qualifying school. “Having to make that top-24 cut-off will feel like a tour school – there will certainly be some added pressure,” he said. “Everyone loves coming down to Australia to play our courses, so having a tournament with a point of difference will only enhance that interest. I’m sure the European Tour will get right behind it. The game does take a lot of time and it’s hard for people to sacrifice that time to come out and watch us play so this should lend itself to a better spectacle.”

Other players saw different benefits to the switch in format.

“I think it’s good. You’ve got to think outside the square a little bit. It’s something different so why not try it?” says Craig Parry. “I’ll be excited about the new format if I can make the final cut. Lake Karrinyup hasn’t been kind to me in the past! I do fancy my chances on the Shootout Hole, that’s probably my favourite distance – around 90 metres. I reckon I could hit it pretty close.”

Michael Sim, who grew up fine-tuning his craft on Perth courses, says the pressure of making the two cuts could encourage some exciting play. “With the golf course at Lake Karrinyup there are some opportunities to maybe play the first hole forward and make it a bit more exciting for the crowd,” Sim said. “Going in to that final round, if you’re in 20th or even if you’re in 50th spot, you can have a crack and take on a couple of shots you wouldn’t normally.

“I hope the Perth fans get behind it. You look at the Perth Scorchers getting a sellout every Big Bash game, and I’m sure with this new format of our sport people out here will get behind it.”

Rhein Gibson also cited how the innovations other sports have taken have worked wonders in terms of growth. “The shorter format in other sports like T20 cricket and the Fast4 tennis have really been great for them. Hopefully the crowd can buy in to the World Super 6 Perth,” Gibson said. “You’re starting to see these innovative formats a lot now. The PGA Tour just announced their two-man team event in the Zurich Classic. Golf is always considered a certain type of event so anytime you can change it up and maybe build some crowds, I think it’s good for the game.”

A huge proponent for golf’s need to adapt and find a shortened format is Keith Pelley, the chief executive of the European Tour. “This initiative was something that we spoke about at great length to our tournament committee, led by chairman Thomas Bjorn,” Pelley said. “We are thrilled to participate in this because, at the European Tour, we believe that golf needs to look at new and innovative formats.”

While the World Super 6 Perth’s format can be potentially brutal for the 54-hole leader, matchplay specialist O’Hern has some simple words of advice. “It’s a bit like a tennis match – it’s you versus one other guy. In the WGC–Matchplay, 64 plays 1 and 1 might get beat … that’s what’s it’s all about. It may be a bitter pill to swallow but in the World Super 6 Perth you’ve got to suck it up and play your best.”

How does the World Super 6 Perth format work?

The World Super 6 Perth will combine 54 holes of traditional stroke play across the first three days, with an exciting six-hole knockout match play format for the fourth and final round.

A standard cut to the leading 65 professionals and ties will be implemented after the second round (36 holes).

The field will be further reduced with a second cut being made after the third round (54 holes) to the leading 24 players who will battle it out over six-hole matches until one man is left standing.

If after the third round there are any ties for the 24th position, the players to advance will be determined by a sudden death playoff after the conclusion of the third round. The playoff hole is yet to be determined.

The top-8 players after the third round (54 holes) will be rewarded with automatic seeding into the second match play round.

If there are ties for the top-8 positions they will be decided by a score count back based on the last 18, 9, 6, 3 and 1 holes.

In the Knockout round, any matches not decided after the six hole match play will be decided by playing the new ‘Shootout hole’.

A purpose built 90-metre hole will be constructed at Lake Karrinyup with a new tee placed adjacent to the 18th fairway and utilising the 18th green.

The Shootout hole will be played out once and if players remain tied, they will return to the new tee and continue to play from this tee until a winner is determined by stroke play. This person, will then progress to the next round of the Knockout or, in the case of the final match, win the tournament.