02/20/2014

Hey, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

A popular saying, one that probably doesn’t apply to Dove Mountain’s match play. Not to say the Accenture Match Play is really broken, but there is certainly a feeling the tournament should be a little more popular than it is. Why isn’t it? With a myriad of options for changing the tournament, there are a few ideas in the mix to improve the WGC-Accenture Match Play.

As the only Match Play format tournament on the PGA Tour, many think the tournament often fails to create the buzz it deserves. If the Ryder Cup is any example, golf fans and pros alike love Match Play. So why isn’t the WGC-Accenture Match Play a bigger deal?

Some say it is the course. The tournament is played at Dove Mountain in Tucson, Arizona, and has been played there since 2009. Out of all the suggestions being thrown around, a change in golf course has been a unanimous must for the Match Play. Simply put, not many of the pros love the course. I had a chance to play at Dove Mountain in 2012. Quite honestly, I would love to go back to play in the desert – but unfortunately some of the pros don’t feel the same way. Dove Mountain may be diverting some players like Tiger away from the tourney, so it will be changed. But regardless of where it goes, there are some other changes that could also help.

Another popular idea is to change the seeding process. Currently, the top 64 players in the Official World Golf Rankings are invited to play. From there, the process is simple. Use those rankings to set up a 64 person bracket, with number 1 facing off against 64 and so on. For each player inside the top 64 who decides not to accept his invite, the next player in the OWGR is granted an invite. This model doesn’t create much controversy.

People inside the game feel it would be a good idea for everyone to play stroke play format the day before, using it as a seeding round. This allows players that are hot at the moment to have a better seed and avoids the dreaded one-and-done (plus $46,000 appearance fee) that scares guys away from the event. In my mind, this is a great way to go about things during an amateur event, but not for the Pros. It could create some very interesting match ups early on, but I don’t think the PGA Tour would enjoy the possibility of Tiger vs Phil in the first or second round. Or maybe it would….?

I did, however, read a great article by the Golf Channel’s Ryan Lavner suggesting a way to fix the seeding process. Lavner thinks that by taking the tried-and-true selection style of the ever popular NCAA Basketball Tournement, along with a change in golf course, the WGC-Accenture Match Play could add some zing to the event. I can’t say I disagree at all. Instead of using a qualifying round to seed players, a selection committee would be used to invite certain players as well as seed them more appropriately. This would create a bit more up to date rankings, giving players that have played well recently a better chance to be ranked higher.

The hypothetical process certainly brings human judgment into play instead of what is now a very non-controversial method. Normally one wouldn’t think that controversy is a good thing, but if the selection show could create even half as much buzz as the NCAA’s Selection Sunday it would be a good thing for the tournament.

While the future for the WGC-Accenture Match Play is still very much in the air, we think we know one thing to be true, a change will be in store. At this point the ideas being thrown around are just that – merely ideas – nothing set in stone for 2015, but until we find out for sure, there is nothing wrong with playing around with the idea of a little late February Madness on the PGA Tour.

Levi Smith