We sadly won’t see an individual match play event on tour in 2024, but NCG’s Matt Chivers discusses whether this is actually a bad thing…
There will be a significant absence on the PGA Tour in 2024.
The WGC Match Play was a staple of the calendar that represented a welcome break from the regularity of stroke play.
But the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play executive director Jordan Uppleger announced in March that it won’t return next year.
Many golf fans, and match play fans, were stung with disappointment as arguably golf’s most compelling format was wiped from the top of the game.
The event started in 1999 as part of the inception of the World Golf Championships, which are now extinct following the match play’s demise.
This doesn’t mean it won’t return, but if you consider the nature of the event, should it return?
Should we have a match play event on tour?
Match play events are great fun to watch. They pit the World No.64 against the World No.1 and you can’t predict who will win.
Straight knockout is a huge success in other sports with the latter stages of the FIFA World Cup firstly coming to mind.
The group stages are full of jeopardy too with no team immune to an upset as we see every four years.
Unfortunately, golf is not the same and the match play could be a tiresome week for both the players and viewers.
When it was just a knockout format before 2015, players would head to the likes of Dove Mountain and La Costa to potentially play one game of golf.
Are you coming or going? Do we need accommodation for the entire week or just a day?
The introduction of the group stages guaranteed three matches for each player, making the commitment somewhat more tolerable.
The opening days of the event were certainly fun for viewers, as there were players all over the course, with putts dropping and results coming in from every angle.
However with a Wednesday start and a Sunday finish, if you go all the way, the fatigue will no doubt build as a competitor.
From 2016, the event was staged at Austin Country Club at the end of March and in close quarters to the Masters.
Surely a gruelling week is the last thing you want ahead of the first major of the year?
As the week of the match play grew on, its limitations as a viewer became more obvious too. More and more matches left the golf course, so there was less and less action.
By the semi-finals, you’d be watching four players on the golf course, and again on finals day with the meaningless 3rd-place wooden spoon showdown going out beforehand.
The business end of the tournament could become quite a dull viewing experience.
Some golf fans watching on television already have plenty to say about the amount of adverts shown during the action.
This is never more stark when there are four balls on the golf course and more time than ever that can’t just be filled by analysis on commentary.
But then what is the solution? I, for one, want the match play back which could conceivably happen in the future.
A pairs format perhaps? A four-day league?
You might believe there’s no fix required and the event should live on, but from where I’m standing, there are wide holes to plug if a match play is to return and thrive.
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