Las Vegas is currently buzzing with excitement as golf and F1 come together in a peculiar combination.
Las Vegas loves a show, so in the week that Formula One descends on the city an unholy mash-up of golf and F1 was sport as entertainment writ large and with the emphasis on entertainment.
Netflix organized an unexpected event by combining their F1 and golf series for their first live sports broadcast. The tournament took place on the golf course at the Wynn casino, which overlooks the circuit where the Las Vegas Grand Prix will be taking place on Saturday.
Netflix has experienced great success with its F1 series Drive to Survive, and the sport has also greatly benefited from the increased exposure, especially in the US. The golf series Full Swing has also been positively received, especially by the young generation of F1 drivers who enjoy playing golf when they are not busy with their team responsibilities. This was an opportunity to bring together the talents of both sports.
Alex Albon and Max Homa competed in two four-ball matches against Pierre Gasly and Tony Finau, while Lando Norris and Rickie Fowler faced off against Carlos Sainz and Justin Thomas. The matches consisted of eight holes, with the winning pairs moving on to a closest-to-the-pin shoot-off for the Netflix Cup, a large trophy with the word “Netflix” on it.
Each of the four drivers have expressed their passion for playing golf. Norris and Sainz are quick to divert the conversation to golf whenever the opportunity arises.
When inquired if he would be interested in reciprocating and trying out an F1 car, Finau, who was a standout in Full Swing, replied with a smile: “Our sport is much safer. A mistake while driving a car could be fatal.” Thomas added: “We might just end up with a big blister.”
After hitting their initial shots, they hopped into golf carts and raced each other on a track marked on the fairway to the green. This playful competition had a similar feel to the cartoon Wacky Races, but it took a serious turn when Finau sunk a 15-foot putt to secure the win while his competitors were still putting.
Play returned to its usual form for the remaining holes, and it was evident that the F1 drivers were fiercely competitive and giving their best efforts. This was evident at the 5th hole, a 150-yard par-three, where the iconic doll from the series Squid Game was present on the tee, surrounded by the show’s pink-clad guards with batons.
If the doll’s head turned towards them before they hit their shots, the players would face a penalty. Norris attempted multiple times and Gasly’s shot landed straight in the lake. This provided more entertainment than any F1 sprint race this season and could be a refreshing alternative format.
The Sphere, a popular entertainment venue, showcased enormous images of the players, featuring “Team Lando Norris and Rickie Fowler”. These digital giants overshadowed their human counterparts. In the background, hip hop music could be heard from a bar with a DJ located at the 4th tee. Marshawn Lynch, a retired NFL player, was present everywhere, taking on hosting duties, conducting interviews, and entertaining the audience.
As the sun went down and the final hole was lit up with floodlights, Sainz and Thomas faced off against Gasly and Finau in a playoff. To determine who would shoot first, a pair of large dice were rolled down the hill. While this may not become a tradition at the Open, it was a fitting choice for Las Vegas.
Thomas emerged victorious and celebrated with his partner Sainz over a glass of champagne. The outcome of the event was not the main focus, but rather something deeper. It is difficult to deny that there may now be some golf enthusiasts tuning in to watch F1 for the first time this weekend, and possibly some F1 fans who will now view golf as more than just a frustrating walk.