More match play, please.

The PGA and European Tours should consider putting more match play events into their schedule. I know there are reasons not to do this, so I’ll just talk about the reasons why it makes sense.

  1. Every match matters, from Day 1: In this day of DVRs, I find myself not watching much of the first two or even three days of a tournament. That’s not true of majors, of course, but the first day of stroke play tournaments doesn’t usually hold much excitement.  I just check the news and scores at the end of the day and then decide if it is worth looking at.  But some of the best match-ups in a match play tournament could well be the first or second days.  In fact these matches might be even more compelling than the final day.
  2. I don’t like to watch stroke play tournaments where lots of golfers go really low.  I know many disagree with this, especially golf channel commentators, but I want to see pros really, really tested. With the quality of play so high and equipment so good, fewer and fewer courses can offer that sort of a challenge. In match play, however, what matters is the visual appeal of the course, not its difficulty.  I don’t care if players are making birdies in a match play environment.  It’s the head to head competition that is exciting.  So you would bring in the possibility of playing many interesting and historically significant courses that aren’t considered for stroke play events.  For example, I would love to see more tournaments played at great links courses.  How about a tournament played on a venerable links course with older equipment once a year? I think the appeal would be enormous.
  3. In a time when there were only a few real “stars” in professional golf, it was important to have them on the course as much as possible for ratings and attendance.  That is far less true now where there are so many fantastic and interesting golfers competing every week, each with their own backstory. Focusing on matches would allow us to get to know golfers much better, much like we do during the Ryder Cup or President’s Cup.
  4. When asked to comment about their attitude going into final rounds of a stroke play tournament, most pros repeat the mantra about just playing their own game and not worrying about anyone else. Frankly, I am getting tired of hearing this all the time. In a match play environment, this attitude is, to be frank, stupid. You need to be aware of your opponent and where you are in the match at all times. If you aren’t you are not really playing your best. You need to know when to be aggressive and when not to be, not just based on course management skills, but based on how you read your opponent and where the match stands. From a spectator’s point of view, this sort of additional mental pressure is a good thing.
  5. Not as much in the United States, but around the world match play is a very common format among regular golfers. Maybe professional golf should reflect how the game is played by amateurs.
  6. I don’t have any statistics to back up this next argument, so I will just call it a guess rather than an alternative fact.  I have a feeling that many professional golfers would actually enjoy playing more match play. Ask them.
  7. I know that golf, like all professional sports is driven by financial considerations. Attendance and television revenues are very important.  I suspect if the financial virtues of match play were easy to point out, we would already have more match play events. But I am usually impressed by the skill and creativity of the “managers” of professional golf to keep the game exciting and commercially successful. I am sure if they put their minds to it, they could do the same with match play.
  8. The PGA Tournament is sort of the forgotten major.  Where it is played can make up for that to a great degree. But why not make it a match play event, so it will have its own unique character?

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