RENSLOW: 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 to compete in a single-elimination match play event. Mickelson, McIlroy, 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.
A match is won when a player is up (won more holes) than there are holes to be played. So, if a player is “3 Up” with two holes to play, that player wins 3 & 2.
This is why we don’t see match play on television very often. In stroke play, each player completes 18 holes. Those who sponsor players or purchase advertising want the marquee players on the course as long as possible.
If Phil or Rory or Jordan have a match that ends on the 15th hole, this is not good for the sponsors. Stroke play is much more predictable.
Also, if a marquee player loses their first match they could be on a jet plane to their next event. Again, this is not ideal. Most people are watching the tournaments on the weekends and, of course, more tune in when they recognize the names.
So, the WGC folks made an adjustment a while back. The first few matches are in a ‘round robin’ style. Groups of four players compete with the winner of the four moving on to the next round. A field of 64 players is divided up into 16 groups. The winner of each group advances to fill a bracket of 16 players. This is who we see on the weekend.
It gives every opportunity for the better players, the bigger names to make it to prime time.
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 has changed locations and this year is at the Austin Country Club in Texas.
So, while March Madness is still underway, 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 Class A Professional and Instructor at Alta Sierra Country Club. Please contact John with your questions or comments at email@example.com.
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