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November 17, 2017

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Putting for dough: High-stakes tournament gives players a chance to feel like a pro

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L.E. Baskow

The Major Series Of Putting stadium course is nearly done and ready for play located behind Planet Hollywood Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. L.E. Baskow.

Major Series Of Putting Course

The Major Series Of Putting stadium course is nearly done and ready for play, a one-of-a-kind 18-hole putting course by Nicklaus Design, located behind Planet Hollywood Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017.  L.E. Baskow. Launch slideshow »

Almost anyone who has stepped on a golf course has imagined kneeling on the 18th green of Augusta National with one putt remaining in the final round of the Masters.

Sink it and you leave a legend wearing a green jacket.

It’s actually just you and buddies at a local course, and making the putt only relieves the obligation of buying the first round in the clubhouse, but every golfer wonders what the pressure of putting for a championship feels like.

The Major Series of Putting, which comes to Las Vegas this week, aims to make the feeling a reality.

Ten tournaments — singles and team-based — are scheduled from Oct. 27 to Nov. 5 at a 20,000-square-foot stadium with 18 holes near the Strip. Prizes total $268,750.

“Every golf tournament ... ends with a guy finishing up, holding his putter and pumping his fist because he made a putt,” said former PGA tour pro Brad Faxon, who will host the All-Pro tournament Oct. 30-31. “Putting brings jubilation at the end, but at the same time, what other part of the game drives people more crazy than putting? That’s what I love so much about this concept.”

The temporary stadium sits behind Planet Hollywood at the corner of Harmon Avenue and Audrie Street, with winding synthetic greens, a players’ lounge, restaurant and bar.

Each hole begins with players dropping their golf ball at a starting point, and taking as few putts as possible to reach the hole. The holes range from 6 feet to 60 feet away, with few in between.

“When a normal golf course is designed and its pin locations chosen, they try to make six easy holes, six medium and six hard,” said Guillaume Beland, president and general manager of the series. “That’s not what we try to do, because the medium (holes) are not interesting. Those 25-footers, everybody is going to two-putt them.”

The short holes force players to make it in one shot, while the long holes are difficult to two-putt, making tie scores less common.

“We’ve run a lot of tests, and it is amazing when you get into a zone,” Beland said. “Those putts drop, and then you get good scores.”

It won’t be putt-putt golf with windmills, clowns and secret trap doors. The course is designed by Nicklaus Design, founded by Hall of Famer Jack Nicklaus, and sculptor of some of the greatest courses in the world, including Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky., and Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio.

“The idea ... came to me at Oakmont Golf Club,” Beland said. “I played there and had a terrible round. Then, after dinner, the members were kind enough to organize a putting tournament. We played on this huge practice putting green. I won the tournament against all the members and had a great time.”

Putting is a skill most people can physically perform, so the average person can practice for a few months and be able to perform at a competitive level. Entrants have earned a way into contests at MSOP by paying the entry fee or by winning one of the more than 500 qualifying events staged over the past year.

“When I first heard the idea, I thought, ‘I don’t know if this is going to work,’ ” said Faxon, who won eight PGA tournaments and led the tour in putting three times during his career. “But then I started listening and, the more I found out, I started thinking it’s a really cool idea. This is right up my alley because it’s putting, it’s fun and it’s competition.”

The contest is similar to the World Series of Poker, where professionals and amateurs can come together in a wager-based competition.

“People, and millennials especially, want to have skill-based games to compete,” Beland said. “They are not looking for contests of luck.”

To register, find more information and see tournament schedule, visit msop.com

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