The Dell Technologies Match Play will be the last of the WGCs in the new world order of designated events, LIV Golf and all that comes with it. It also signals the end of match play on the PGA Tour schedule. One hopes that is only the case for the time being.
The WGC Match Play event has long had its detractors over the format since switching to a round robin to largely placate the players who didn’t want to travel only to play once before packing their bags.
Whether it was the current format, or the old one and done, for the occasional gripes, the rare sight of match play was always a welcome one for golf fans.
There was Tiger’s drubbing of Stephen Ames, Victor Dubuisson’s heroics and I am quite certain Nick O’Hern remembers it fondly. (His after dinner speaking career certainly benefitted greatly from it.)
A steady diet of 72 holes of strokeplay means anything different sticks out, even the reduction to 54 holes with a shotgun start for LIV is enough to standout. Yet there is something special about head-to-head golf that has also in part departed when it comes to the amateur game in this country.
It can create passionate rivalries, force friends to briefly to become foes and encourages a different style of play. And quite often a different style of winner.
As players become more powerful in influencing the direction of the PGA Tour, it is understandable that the idea of a match play event each year might not be too palatable to those fortunate to tee it up in the bigger purse designated events. However, perhaps those playing the standard events would be more welcoming to the concept.
In the same way, maybe a sponsor would be enticed at the prospect of owning the naming rights to a completely unique event on the PGA Tour, even though it may not have the prospective of a Rory vs Rahm final in the offing.
You would be hard pressed to find any golfer in the world who wouldn’t agree that more match play at the top level is a good thing from a purely entertainment perspective. Rather than a travel and financial inconvenience.
When it comes to LIV, the most engaging event during the beta year of 2022 was the last because matches were driver of the chase for team victory.
The team element is a point of difference for the Greg Norman run circuit, and the DP World Tour has reinstated the old Seve Trophy concept with a new name this year to better prepare Europe’s Ryder Cup team.
Even though it is mostly a proving ground in front of the captain, the Hero Cup garnered attention at the start of the year, once again showing there is an appetite for battle style golf.
So here’s hoping this week isn’t a permanent goodbye, just a brief farewell for the one-on-one style of the game at the top level.
Given the continual disruption of the game in the past couple of years, you would be brave to suggest match play won’t get another chance somewhere down the line on the PGA Tour.
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