GET INTO GOLF: Get into match play madness
Brackets are filled with the best competitors from around the country.
In many cases international players will travel to their destination, preparing for battle with a worthy rival. Opponents are seeded by past performance, making each round that much more challenging for the victors. In the early matches, a few upsets are likely, yet the cream will rise to the top. A champion will be crowned and the moments will be etched in our memory.
It’s not the NCAA’s March Madness, it’s the WGC — Dell Technologies Match Play Championship. The top 64 players from the World Golf Rankings are invited compete in a single-elimination match play event. Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Jason Day, all started the event and each match this week should yield some great stuff.
Week in and week out the PGA Tour events are composed of four 18-hole “stroke play” rounds. In stroke play, the player simply adds up the number of strokes for a total in each 18-hole round. This total is then compared to the other players. After the first two rounds a “cut” is made and the top players move on to play in the final two rounds.
“Match play” is a different animal (or, if you prefer, a ‘horse of a different color’). In this week’s format, there is no aggregate score. Each player has a single opponent and the match is determined on a hole-by-hole basis. When one player has won more holes than the number of holes that remain to be played, that player is the winner.
For example, on the first hole, Phil has a score of four and Justin has a score of five. Phil wins the first hole and is considered “1 Up.” It doesn’t matter if the score is an eight versus a 14, the hole is either won or lost, depending on your point of view. Were Phil to win the first 10 holes, the match would be over. Phil would be “10 Up,” with eight holes to play.
Before the advent of television, much more of the events were in the Match Play format. Yet, if a match were to be won earlier in the round, the match is over. Phil and Dustin would simply head to the locker room. Television sponsors would not appreciate the decline in ratings or coverage.
Stroke play, in which the players touch all eighteen holes regardless of performance, is much more predictable for television.
Also, to encourage television sponsors, the early rounds have become a “round robin.” The players in each of the early brackets play multiple rounds within a group. The leader then moves on to the ‘heads up’ elimination rounds. This gives the marquee players more than one opportunity if they were to lose an opening match.
Following the round robin, the winner of each match goes on to face another winner until you have two finalists. This is a unique, fun format. The championship began in 1999 in Southern California, but this year is being played at the Austin Country Club, a Pete Dye designed course in Texas.
So, while March Madness is still underway away, you can also download the PGA Tour brackets (www.worldgolfchampionships.com) and watch some great golf. Televised coverage is on NBC this weekend. Enjoy.
John Renslow is a PGA Professional, VP of Yugi Golf Management, and provides golf instruction at local courses.
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