from the hole-in-one dept

For golf fans such as myself, one of the great joys over the past few weeks has been the return of live golf to the television screen. As one of the sports that is most naturally aligned with the need for social distancing and crowdless events, it was also one of the first to come back. Still, with COVID-19 running rampant throughout the world and America in particular, not every last thing is coming back. For instance, the pandemic has led organizers for the R&A’s signature gold event, The Open in the U.K., to at least delay it from its July 16th start, or possibly cancel it altogether.

With that being said, what do sporting event organizers in 2020 do when they cannot play their IRL sports tourneys? Well, for one, they turn to esports of course! R&A has announced it will hold an e-Open event, using TopGolf’s WGT game to allow literally anyone to compete in this year’s Open.

In a first for The R&A, it’s turning to esports to launch its inaugural e-Open. Sponsored by Mastercard, the virtual stroke play tournament–which takes place between July 13 and September 8–is being powered by WGT by Topgolf, “the world’s most realistic free virtual golf game”, across PC and mobile devices.

The R&A is actively encouraging players of all skill levels to take part–returning to its roots as an “open” championship. Much like its real-life counterpart, The e-Open’s course will be Royal St George’s in Kent, England, where The 149th Open will be played next year.

Suddenly, The Open has become available to the entire world, whether you’re a golf fan or not. It’s a way to keep to the tradition of having The Open. And actually harkening back to its roots. It was entitled “The Open” for a reason, after all, as it was originally supposed to be open to all players that qualify to play in it. This dive into virtual sports to make up for the lack of IRL sports is one we’ve been covering for some time now, but the inclusion of more participation by the general public is a fantastic method for connecting with golf fans during these incredibly frustrating times.

But R&A didn’t stop there. Using modern technology, the organizers also announced a televised event it’s calling The Open for the Ages. Using video-editing tools, and again looking to get golf fans directly involved, this broadcast will virtually pit legends of golf across multiple decades against one another in a single Open championship.

From Thursday 16 to Sunday 19 July, this concept will be brought to life through ‘The Open For The Ages’ – an innovative project culminating in a three-hour broadcast production that will show many of the best players of the last 50 years battling it out for the Claret Jug at the home of golf.

Real footage from past Championships at the Old Course has been expertly edited and woven together with modern graphics and new commentary to produce a compelling narrative, designed to recreate the drama of an Open final round. What is more, this unique event will give fans the opportunity to experience the likes of Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Sir Nick Faldo, Tom Watson, Rory McIlroy and more all contending together at St Andrews for the first time.

The “winner” of The Open for the Ages will be based on a combination of actual scoring by modern and historical players on this iconic golf course combined with fan voting. It’s a very, very cool idea and again a great way to engage fans when no actual IRL golf can be played.

The winner of ‘The Open For The Ages’ will be determined by a data model developed by NTT DATA, which combines the votes of over 10,000 fans with player career statistics to calculate the victorious golfer. and The Open’s YouTube and Facebook channels will provide comprehensive coverage of ‘The Open For The Ages’, including in-play clips, leaderboards and highlights of the first three rounds from Thursday 16 July to Saturday 18 July.

If you’re not a golf geek like me, I don’t expect you to be shaking with excitement the same way I am. However, you should be able to recognize both how amazing it is to see technology used this way to fill in the gaps during a pandemic, and the innovative ways R&A is fulfilling its mission to keep golf fans engaged during these troubled times.

Filed Under: covid, golf, open golf tournament, pandemic, virtual golf
Companies: r&a

Categories: Technology