Disorderly Golf

February 21, 2010 7:02 AM

Give Some Love to the Pros' Club Championship

Why don't we care about the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship?  Ian Poulter, of England,  pitches to the seventh green during the semifinals at the Match Play Championship golf tournament Saturday, Feb. 20, 2010, in Marana, Ariz.jpg

The cumbersome name doesn't help.  Neither does the one-off format.

When so many golfers are so good, anything can happen in an eighteen-hole match.  (When the PGA Championship was a match-play event, in its early years all matches were 36 holes; later, they were 18 holes for the first two rounds and 36 thereafter.)  The sixty-fourth seed can beat the top-ranked player, and it's an upset but not unfathomable.  Ross McGowan did beat #1 Steve Stricker in the opening round this year; #64 John Rollins gave Tiger Woods a scare in 2004 before losing, 1 up.

Seventy-two holes of stroke play may provide a fairer test, but match play goes back to the game's roots.  Golf was played for several hundred years before anyone thought to assign a "par" to each hole; it was a head-to-head sport, and no one worried about the overall score, just the state of the match.  

A match-play bracket is good enough for the thousands and thousands of club championships played all around the world.  The Accenture brings together the top sixty-four players in the World Golf Ranking, and pits them against each other.  (This year, two of the top three skipped the week, for divergent reasons.)  While the results can be quirky, the last seven runnings have been won by Tiger Woods (three times), Geoff Oglivy (twice), David Toms, and Henrik Stenson.  Not a shabby group for an event that gets no respect.  There's an occasional Jeff Maggert or Kevin Sutherland on the list of winners, but the four majors have coughed up a Trevor Immelman, a Todd Hamilton, a Shaun Micheel, and a Michael Campbell in the same period.

casey villegas.jpg
Watching one pair play thirty-six holes can make for tough television, but give some props on Sunday to Ian Poulter and whoever survives the Camilo Villegas-Paul Casey match. They're playing golf the way it was meant to be played -- one on one, for the toughest club championship there is.

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