Debate: Should top players be made to play in certain events?February, 2014
Should certain Tour events be ring-fenced to stop the big names pulling out?
JT: With the news that Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods have all backed out of the World Matchplay next week, do you think it is time that we started to ring-fence certain events and make them compulsory for the top players?
MT: I don’t see how you can make anything compulsory, it is an individual sport and players can, and will, do what they like. If this was a Major then all three would be playing but it isn’t. It is a week where they might be going home after 14 holes if things go really badly. We all love to watch matchplay but it clearly doesn’t excite the players as much.
JT: You might not be able to force players to play in these events outright, but you could make it worthwhile beyond the financial incentive. For example if it became a prerequisite for being able to play in other events then I’m sure they might reconsider. Do you not think that it just devalues events when the top players decide not to bother turning up?
MT: The players are the star attractions and laying down the law doesn’t really work. In last year’s inaugural Final Series on the European Tour Garcia, Els and Schwartzel missed the season ender in Dubai because they didn’t want to play in two of the three previous weeks. Straightaway there was talk of amending the system.
Maybe Woods, Scott and Mickelson are too worried about getting knocked out in the first round and having their egos take a hit. JT: Which is such a shame because the Final Series proved to be a really good event which produced a worthy Race to Dubai champion and contained many of the best players around the world. I think in some cases the players are the star attractions, for example there’s no doubt that Rory McIlroy’s decision to play in the Scottish Open will come as a huge boost to that event, but with other tournaments I think it’s different. I just think the World Matchplay should be one tournament that everyone should want to play, but maybe Woods, Scott and Mickelson are too worried about getting knocked out in the first round and having their egos take a hit.
MT: Personally I don’t think the very top players are that bothered about anything other than the four big ones. And, other than the actual week of the tournament itself, that goes for the fans too. Nobody can really quote how many WGCs that Woods (an incredible 18), Mickelson (2) and Scott (1) have won. You would think Scott would be more keen to win the Australian Open rather than Doral.
JT: But it would be a sad state of affairs if we are moving towards a situation where the best players just play in the Majors and a few other events. Surely there has to be other prizes that are worth winning? Quoting number of WGC titles is one thing, but I know I look forward to the World Matchplay because it is something different and breaks the monotony of seemingly endless strokeplay events. However, you want the best players in these events otherwise they are devalued hugely.
MT: They will always play in other events but often to help preparations for Majors, or because it’s a course they love or, whisper it gently, for bundles of appearance money. The absence of these big guns is something we all obsess about in the run up to events, once we get 64 players going head to head we can all carry on as usual.