India news January 7, 2013

From fours to fore! IPL about to infiltrate golf

Indian golf takes inspiration from the Indian Premier League, with a franchise-based tournament

One would have thought golf is rich enough and packed full of prestigious events already. And of such a serene nature that only by reverting to the format commonly found on British seaside resorts could the sport have any chance of being open to artificial razzmatazz. But Shiv Kapur, an Indian golfer whose first love is cricket, is having a go and thus, the Golf Premier League (GPL) is scheduled for February 8-10 at Aamby Valley in Pune.

The prize fund is a paltry US$400,000 - a figure you can sweep up on your own for finishing third at any of the four majors - but Kapur is confident in three year's time GPL can attract the sponsorship to get a name like Tiger Woods involved.

Eight city-based franchises are being sold - one of them, the Colombo Sixers, to Mahela Jayawardene - with four players on each team: two Indians, one European and one from a different part of Asia. Darren Clarke, Angel Cabrera, Michael Campbell and Rich Beem, major champions all, will feature in the three-day tournament, encompassing two rounds of strokeplay followed by a final round of better-ball. All of them day-night with a 30-second shot-clock on each stroke.

But a sport won't have felt the breath of IPL on its neck unless major radicalisation takes place. So for the first time since the 18th century, golf will be played over a different number of holes than 18 with only 14 being used to create a three-hour window that will be popular for television.

Will that be enough to make a sport once described as a "good walk ruined" by author Mark Twain, into something "cool" and "sexy" - the adjectives Kapur is targetting?

Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo

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