QBE, Lexi-Finau Good Fun

QBE is Fun Event at End of Golf Year, Overlapping the Tours

The beginning of winter, even with the holidays on the way, can be a time of mourning for avid golfers and equally enthused golf spectators. Outside of the possibility of golf gifts under the tree, northerners in harsh climates won’t be able to play for a little while. Thanks to Greg Norman, that annual heartache has been in part alleviated. We have just completed the 2018 version of the QBE Shootout held in Naples, Florida, played on the famous and infamous Tiburon course. This is a two-player team event playing from multiple formats, but I have omitted the term “two-man,” because Lexi Thompson plays on one of the teams, and that’s part of the fun.

The QBE Shootout is designed to remain competitive, with all the concentration that goes into any tour event. However, it is also the first chance in several months to exhale, smile, exchange a joke or two, play something other than golf, and for a brief time, overlap the men’s and women’s tours. The players were selected from the ranks of former champions for an event going back two or three decades, the top twelve Fed Ex points leaders from the PGA, and ten special exemptions. I assume that’s where Lexi comes in – great idea.

Attached to the Shootout, Norman and QBE have added an entertaining periphery to the three professional rounds, including Pro-Am rounds, Yoga on the 18th Fairway, a five-kilometer run open to public spectators, and a lengthy visit to the  Naples Beach Brewery. An instructional clinic is provided by Norman and a group of fellow pros, hopefully before the Brewery visit and not immediately after – and oh yes, an evening concert following the first round.

Flight Deals? No Problem! Find a flight on CheapAir.comThe various formats, including the pro rounds, serve as an interesting contrast to regular tour play. One is based on the “scramble,” where all team members hit a tee shot, and all play from the spot of the best one. Another round is played in the “shamble” format, one with which I was not familiar until today. In shamble golf, all team members hit a drive and play from the spot of the best, but playing their own ball the rest of the way. The best individual score is assigned as the team’s ultimate score. The final round is played on the “modified alternate shot”  model. In this format, all members hit a drive, then swap second shots. Following the second shot, each member selects one ball, and play alternate shot the rest of the way.

Such formats reduce the gap between long and short hitters. Lexi Thompson is not a short hitter, but if she were to team up with one of the PGA freaks who belt it 380 yards as a habit, her 280 would not be a drag to the team, provided her partner keeps his drive within the county. Paired with Tony Finau, Thompson’s team played very well, with both shouldering their share of success, and winding up tied for fourth. The pairing looked like a good one, with excellent “sympatico” between them. I was particularly struck by a post-round interview, in which both players were able to make it clear that they were both concentrating on playing well and competing, but at the same time letting their hair down a little and enjoying some relief from the occasionally grim look of tour competition. They spoke of how they both enjoyed family appearing in the gallery. It was, I am certain, nice to win $92,000 each, and yet feel as though the QBE Shootout was not just another day at the office.  Refreshing was that an LPGA champion did not put us through another rehash of the male/female competition. Thompson competed brilliantly against a male field, but she also collaborated with a male team member and had a good time instead of characterizing it as a matter of the universe hanging in the balance.
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Norman and the QBE deserve congratulations for this ongoing event. I would personally like to see more inclusion of LPGA and PGA collaborations in such team play, overlapping the spectator bases to a greater degree. Meanwhile, Finau and Thompson have the appearance of an excellent model for things to come.

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