The latest format iteration of the WGC Match Play Championship is an effort by the golf powers that be to deal with the dual problem of finding a new long term sponsor for this troubled event and satisfy the TV network’s need for an appetizing broadcast offering on the weekend. The traditional single elimination approach for this Match Play event does not and has not guaranteed that marquee players are still on the screen come Saturday and Sunday.
So they have come up with a flighted/round-robin approach that many places use for their match play events which should insure that the fan favorites get to play at least three matches before they face elimination and a courtesy car ride to the airport Friday evening. For the traditionalist this waters down the more mercenary win or go home pressure that characterizes a true match play competition.
Their hope is that improving the likelihood that half of the Sweet Sixteen include top twenty players from the World Rankings will help find a willing $10 million dollar sponsor to underwrite this event going forward and salve the concerns of the broadcasting network that Sunday’s semi-final and final matches will still contain recognizable stars with made for TV golf personas.
As I think about it, match play is truly exciting on TV as a Two-Man Team format-witness the Ryder Cup, Crosby Clam Bake (a.k.a. AT&T Pro Am), and the Champions Tour Legends of Golf events. Much like your club’s Multi-Day Member-Guest the Two-Man Team played in a round-robin format addresses both of their concerns. They could designate the Top 32 players in the World Rankings as the “members” and let them invite as their pards anyone else in the professional spectrum as their “guests”.
With only 32 teams it comes down to 8 four-team groups-the winner of each goes right to the Elite Eight thereby eliminating one round of play shortening the broadcast window by four hours.
Like the Two-Man events mentioned above they would actually get partners who enjoy each other’s company and the high fives and belly bumps would be done with affection. As a Two-Man affair it doubles the offering of quality shots in each match. The “members” would take great pride in picking a partner they know they can win with and this should result with some entertaining pairings.
All that is left is for the sponsors to up the quality of the on-course food stations to fresh seafood catches and steak tartare and give out a color coordinated wardrobe for event. It would feel just like the home course Member-Guest for the devoted millions watching on TV.