Cape Town - European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjørn and Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew will join forces in a world first for professional golf when the innovative GolfSixes returns to the European Tour schedule in May.
The Dane and the Scot will be the first male and female professionals to play together in a competitive match play format when they form the 'Captains Team' in the second staging of the tournament at the Centurion Club in St Albans, England, from May 5-6.
The 'Captains Team' is one of four exciting wild card selections introduced to this year's event, with two of the other three being; an 'England Women's Team' comprising Georgia Hall and Charley Hull; and a 'European Women's Team' featuring England's Mel Reid and Suzann Pettersen of Norway, all of whom will join defending champions Denmark.
The fourth and final wild card team will be revealed towards the end of next month alongside the 11 men's national teams who will qualify automatically from the European Tour's Category Ranking List.
All 16 teams will compete for a total prize fund of €1 million with the eventual winners receiving €100 000 each.
It is appropriate that the current Ryder Cup captain is at the forefront of the latest innovation from the European Tour as the Wednesday of the 2018 Ryder Cup week at Le Golf National will also feature a showcase GolfSixes event.
"I am really excited about playing GolfSixes. There are so many
72-hole tournaments around the world that there has to be room for something
else which puts a different spin on golf and brings more interest," said Thomas
"This is not your normal golf tournament where everyone is very serious and has their heads down. This is completely different, it's more about having fun and portraying the game in a good way.
"I think it's hugely important to also try and break down the barriers that have existed in golf between the men's and women's games. When this opportunity arose to play as Ryder Cup Captain, I thought it was only right to speak to Catriona as the Solheim Cup Captain about forming a team, and we’re both really looking forward to it.
"It also sends the right message to our players too, that we're European Captains and being a European Captain of any team is not just about your own Tour and your own players - it's about representing everything about this great continent of ours."
"I was delighted when Thomas asked me to play GolfSixes. I had to
move my schedule around a little bit but the moment I heard about the chance to
play, I definitely wanted to be part of it," said Catriona
"The fact it is something different for golf is great - in terms of the round robin match play format then head to head matches, in addition to the men and women playing together of course. All Tours are trying to think of ways to make golf different and encourage a new and younger audience and so I think this whole concept is very exciting.
"I was playing in a tournament last year but I watched some of the inaugural GolfSixes on the television and read a bit about it and I always thought it was a good idea. Obviously, the matches are much quicker and match play itself tends to be exciting so it's a good mix."
Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of the European Tour, said: "GolfSixes is something that we championed last year to do something a little different, not just in terms of a different format, but also to bring a different form of entertainment from a golf perspective.
"There was a lot of talk about what we were going to do differently this year while remaining credible but entertaining, and today’s announcement is the result of those discussions. It's a natural progression and I think the potential for GolfSixes in terms of the overall brand and format is terrific.
"The concept of Thomas and Catriona playing together is a wonderful idea and then to be able to add in four of Europe's leading women players in Georgia, Charley, Mel and Suzann is fantastic and will make for a great event. We thank both the LET and the LPGA for helping make this happen."
As part of the festival feel to GolfSixes, the Centurion Club will once again this year feature an array of entertainment for spectators to enjoy outside the ropes in the centrally-located Fan Zone.
Amphitheatre-style stands around tees and greens, music and pyrotechnics on the first tee and player engagement across the course will also bring fans closer to the action.
Data from the inaugural GolfSixes tournament last year showed a 42 percent increase in new golf fans at the event compared to regular European Tour events.
Those attendees were also 14 percent younger than those seen during the rest of the golfing calendar.
By virtue of attracting a younger following, social media engagement around the event also exceeded the average rate seen at other European Tour tournaments by 24 percent, delivering more than 20 million social impressions.