Over the past few years there has been some debate internally, and by golf media and fans about the best way to continue the WGC Dell Match Play. The ongoing discussion about how continue exciting head to head golf, but also ensure that especially for the prominent players, they don’t just get one opportunity to play, lose and have it seem like it’s a wasted week.
Two years ago the organizers came up with a compromise to the “lose and go home” format. Instead, at the strong suggestion of the PGA Tour and European Tour prominent players, they instituted “Pool Play” in 16 groups of four players. This way you are ensured of three matches, at least, before the pool winners are determined Friday afternoon and the field of 16 begins single elimination matches Saturday.
Last year, names like Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed and Zach Johnson all pulled through into the “Sweet 16” giving organizers, fans, and television the wish of having the biggest names still relevant going into the most watched days, Saturday and Sunday.
It’s obvious that pool play is serving it’s purpose to both the players wishes for more golf for their time commitment and still everyone’s wish for eventual “one match” drama on the weekend.
But, not everyone is in favor. As we wrote earlier this month, two prominent European golfers, Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose, have chosen to skip this latest installment in Austin, TX. While Stenson came right out and said that he’s not a fan of the adjusted pool play format, Rose was more reserved, if not cryptic, saying he wanted to prepare for bigger stroke play events (i.e. The Masters).
Bottom line, neither are fans of the new WGC Match Play.
Also, American Rickie Fowler pulled out of this week’s event last weekend, but it’s not clear if Fowler was more unhappy with the format or because he won the Honda Classic at PGA National a few weeks ago, and is also prepping for Augusta in two weeks, also.
Here’s the bottom line. You are never going to please everyone all of the time and the new format is an improvement that most wanted. This is especially, when it comes to Saturday and Sunday being the ultimate four round “win or else” competition.
You can look at how NASCAR, the most popular of all motor sports in the U.S., has struggled with lagging fan attendance/interest on T.V. and serious loss of revenue in recent years. And part of it is, they’ve adjusted their end of season playoff format numerous times. And now, much to the disagreement of fans and media/observers, they have also confused things further with their regular season race by race format being changed, as well.
That’s an example of repeatedly changing something, not because it really need to be “fixed,” but rather because you are almost panicking trying to please everyone and dig yourselves a deeper hole. Maybe, they will climb out, but maybe not.
Instead, NASCAR, should have followed simple advice: “Don’t change.”
Yes, how simplistic, but also effective. Come up with a format, “stick to your guns,” grow it over a short period and reap the benefits.
Back to the WGC Match Play. Same thing. The organizers heard the complaints and came up with a really good compromise/solution to ensuring that everyone gets three days of matches prior to the “knockout” matches.
Now, stand firm.
Yes, some might balk and skip the event. But, by and large the biggest names in golf will be (and are this week) participating with genuine interest on their part and from golf fans around the world.
Leave it alone.