The QBE Shootout is held each year in mid-December, traditionally held in the off-season, this is now final event of the year before the PGA Tour’s winter break in the current wrap around calendar.
Unlike the 72-hole stroke play format of most tournaments, the QBE Shootout is a team event comprising of 12 pairs competing across three days and 52 holes.
The host of this event is co-founder Greg Norman, who established this contest in 1989. Initially held at the Sherwood Country Club in California, the QBE Shootout spent one year at the Doral in Florida before settling at Tiburon Golf Club, also in Florida, from 2001 to the present day.
Tiburon’s Gold Course where this is played was designed by Norman himself, with Tiburon the Spanish translation of shark, the two-time Open Champion’s nickname.
Like most PGA Tour events, this has been dominated by homegrown players over the years but there has been an English winner. Ian Poulter teamed up with Dustin Johnson back in 2010 when they secured a two-stroke victory over the Northern Irish pairing of Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell.
|Tiburon Golf Club||Naples, Florida||7,288 yards||$3,300,000|
QBE Shootout Recent Winners
|Year||Winner||To Par||Winning Margin||Course|
|2020||Harris English & Matt Kuchar||-37||9 Strokes||Tiburon Golf Club|
|2019||Rory Sabbatini & Kevin Tway||-31||2 Strokes||Tiburon Golf Club|
|2018||Brian Harman & Patton Kizzire||-30||1 Stroke||Tiburon Golf Club|
|2017||Sean O'Hair & Steve Stricker||-26||2 Strokes||Tiburon Golf Club|
|2016||Harris English & Matt Kuchar||-28||1 Stroke||Tiburon Golf Club|
|2015||Jason Dufner & Brandt Snedeker||-30||2 Strokes||Tiburon Golf Club|
|2014||Jason Day & Cameron Tringale||-32||1 Strokes||Tiburon Golf Club|
|2013||Harris English & Matt Kuchar||-34||7 Strokes||Tiburon Golf Club|
|2012||Sean O'Hair & Kenny Perry||-31||1 Stroke||Tiburon Golf Club|
|2011||Keegan Bradley & Brendan Steele||-32||3 Strokes||Tiburon Golf Club|
Tiburon Golf Club
In keeping with the generally relaxed feel of the QBE Shootout, Tiburon Golf Club provides this standard of golfer with a lot of scoring opportunities. Before you factor in the format of the tournament, which sees a scramble on Friday followed by greensomes on Saturday and then better ball on Sunday, the Gold Course at Tiburon is highly gettable as they say on the PGA Tour. If you want birdies and eagles, this is the tournament to watch and it should be a lot of fun.
Greg Norman, the host of the QBE Shootout, is rightly proud of his work designing the Gold Course. But there is a reason it is situated in a tourist location and is used for an unofficial PGA Tour event rather than a ranking event. There is little on the Gold Course to really concern players of this standard from tee to green. It is on the greens where players are really able to separate themselves from the competition and strokes gained putting has long been an important metric at the QBE Shootout, with a super-low score needed to win.
Expect to see the players notch up a whole host of birdies and even the odd eagle as they thoroughly enjoy themselves on a beautiful but rather unchallenging course. Whilst things are easy for the players, they are not easy for punters, with a lot of unpredictability at a course where anyone can win.
About the QBE Shootout
The QBE Shootout is one of an increasing number of non-standard tournaments that feature on the golfing calendar but, dating back to 1989, it is certainly one of the older ones that falls into that category. It bills itself as the “premier PGA TOUR post-season event” and now takes place in mid-December during the break the wraparound season takes at that time of year.
The tournament is unusual in a number of ways, being a team event, featuring just 24 players and also being played over 54 rather than the customary 72 holes, from Thursday to Saturday. Although it offers a total prize fund of more than $3m, it is an unofficial money event on the Tour, a category into which tournaments such as the Hero World Challenge and the now defunct PGA Grand Slam of Golf also fall.
Greg Norman helped found the event and has now hosted it for many years. In the first ever tournament he was paired with golfing legend Jack Nicklaus, the duo finishing tied fourth. Curtis Strange and Mark O’Meara won that year and Norman would have to wait until 1998 for his one and only win when he and fellow Aussie Steve Elkington got the job done.
For many years the tournament has been known as the Shark Shootout, honouring Norman, whose nickname is the Great White Shark, or just Shark. The exact name has changed over the years, largely for sponsorship reasons and whilst some still think of it as the Shark Shootout it has been QBE Shootout since 2017.
Format & Course
As well as changing its name, the tournament has also moved around a fair bit over the years, although it has been played in Florida, where Norman has long lived, since 2000. Initially it called California home, the first 11 editions being played at Sherwood Country Club. Doral took over for one year using a course designed by the tournament host himself. In 2001 the Shootout moved to Naples in south west Florida, one of the wealthiest cities in the States.
Tiburón Golf Club has hosted this event since then, tiburón being Spanish for Shark, with the Gold Course (one of two designed by Norman at the golf club) being used. From the Championship tees the course is a fairly standard par 72 that stretches to almost 7,400 yards, closing with a tricky 493-yard par four.
As with many tournaments that don’t follow the standard 72-hole stroke play format, the structure of the event has been tweaked a number of times over the years. The 12-team, 24-player format has stayed constant but other than that pretty much everything else has changed.
ESPN outlined the current format when it was introduced in 2014, under the rather disparaging headline, “Silly-season event adjusts format”. The first round is a scramble (essentially both team members tee off, choose the best shot, both play from there and then repeat), with the second 18 played as greensomes. The decisive round is played under more conventional fourball better ball rules.
Due to the way the course is set up and the relaxed nature of the tournament, alongside the structure outlined above, scoring is invariably superb. In 2019 only one team finished with a score worse than 20 under par. Below we can see the best scores from each round/format for the 2019 edition of this fun contest.
Top 2019 Scores
|1: Scramble||55||Ryan Palmer & Harold Varner III|
|2: Greensomes||65||Graeme McDowell & Ian Poulter, and also Viktor Hovland & Matthew Wolff|
|3: Better Ball||60||Viktor Hovland & Matthew Wolff, and also Rory Sabbatini & Kevin Tway|
If that scoring sounds almost insanely good, it should be noted that Rory Sabbatini and Kevin Tway, who won that year, “only” managed to shoot a 31 under par score of 185. In 2013 Harris English and Matt Kuchar went even lower, shooting 64-60-58 (under a slightly different format) to finish on a 34 under par score of 182.
Unusual Structure Doesn’t Stop Format Specialists
A tournament like this can almost seem random in nature, with such low scoring suggesting that picking the winner may seem like something of a lottery. However, we have seen enough multiple winners here to draw on the data and have a pretty good idea of what sort of player tends to thrive. Take a look at the multiple winners of this event in the table below.
|3||Steve Elkington||1998, 1995, 1993|
|3||Scott McCarron||1997, 2000, 2001|
|3||Brad Faxon||1994, 2000, 2001|
|2||Hank Kuehne||2003, 2004|
|2||Jeff Sluman||2003, 2004|
|2||Fred Couples||1990, 1994|
|2||Tom Kite||1992, 1996|
|2||Jerry Kelly||2006, 2009|
|2||Mark Calcavecchia||1995, 2007|
|2||Kenny Perry||2008, 2012|
|2||Matt Kuchar||2013, 2016|
|2||Sean O’Hair||2012, 2017|
|2||Steve Stricker||2009, 2017|
|2||Harris English||2013, 2016|
The high number of repeat winners is indicative of the fact that 1/12th of the field wins each year (there are just 24 players and, as a team event, two winners). However, given how low scoring has to be you would expect great putters to thrive and that is borne out by the stats.
A few names on the list above leap out as great putters, with Steve Stricker always in any discussion of the best around and indeed was ranked the very best according to one analysis. Also on that top 10 were Matt Kuchar and 2015 champ Brandt Snedeker.
Brad Faxon is another player with a huge reputation as one of the best putters of all time. Indeed, in 2000 he needed just 1.704 putts on every green he made in regulation, the best stat ever recorded for that metric.
Another interesting factor to consider is that more relaxed players have tended to do well. This is a team contest and although good money is up for grabs it is also not an unofficial tour event. Looking for a duo that get along well and like each other’s company and can thrive in this sort of lower key environment is also important.