Match Play Madness

The Accenture Match Play Championship once again showed golf fans that rankings don’t really matter.

Thrash TalkCollege basketball has March Madness, which happens to be one of my favorite times of the year as a sports fan. Golf fans get the Accenture Match Play Championship a month earlier than its basketball counterpart, and it has quickly turned into one of my favorite events of the golf season. I’ve showed my support for the World Golf Championship events before, but I want to take this opportunity to do it again. The WGC events get two thumbs up from me!

Geoff Ogilvy played great this past weekend en route to winning the 2006 Accenture Match Play Championship. Ogilvy entered the week as a #13 seed. That obviously didn’t hold him back. The young Aussie knocked off reigning U.S. Open champion, Michael Campbell, in the first round. Ogilvy followed that with victories over Nick O’Hern, Mike Weir (a Masters champ), David Howell, Tom Lehman (a British Open victor) , and Davis Love III (a PGA Championship winner). It was, in a way, a march through the Majors for Ogilvy. A “march” in which every golfer Ogilvy faced was ranked higher than he. This made the accomplishment even more impressive.

That’s one of the many great things about the Accenture Match Play Championship. I have come up with a few reasons why the event is great for golf fans worldwide. As always, there is a possible negative or two as well. I’ll start with the positives and then get into the negatives. I’ll finish like I usually do by giving my final thoughts on the subject.

Great Field and Course
There is no better field than the one assembled for the Match Play Championship. Sergio Garcia and Thomas Bjorn were the only notables missing from the field of 64. That’s going to happen every year in this event, so it’s no big deal. It would have been great to see Garcia and Bjorn, but I still slept fine at night knowing they weren’t in the field.

The top five golfers in the world were in the same event for the first time in 2006, and that definitely counts for something. Like last year, Retief Goosen went the farthest of the number-one seeds, but he still didn’t finish as high as most people expected. It would have been nice to see a couple of the top five make it farther, but I’ll get into that a little later.

The event was once again played at La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, CA. This course is definitely one of the most underrated in the world. I never hear any talk about it, but it’s a great layout. I enjoy courses that bring water into play. That being said, there are several holes at La Costa where water can determine the winner and loser of a hole or match.

There are long par 3s and some shortish par 3s. There are par 5s reachable in two, and there is a par 4 where some of the big bombers can reach the green off the tee (or at least come very close). I saw a lot of birdies and eagles throughout the week, and I saw guys struggle to save pars and bogeys. Overall, the course was awesome, and it could definitely host a major championship somewhere down the line.

My wife and I printed off two brackets last Tuesday night and filled them out with our “not-so-expert” picks. When Saturday morning rolled around, David Howell was the only golfer I had picked correctly, and my wife didn’t have any golfers left. Needless to say, Howell was out shortly thereafter. My final four prediction of Tiger Woods, David Howell, Chris DiMarco, and Jim Furyk never happened. In fact, I was way off on my predictions, as I’m sure everyone else was. Also, just for the record, I did beat my wife in the “Thrasher Bracket Challenge,” but it wasn’t by much.

Geoff OgilvyThe upsets were all over the place this past week in the Match Play Championship. As I mentioned earlier, Geoff Ogilvy upset every opponent on his way to winning the entire event. If anyone says they picked the Aussie to win it, they are lying. I had him losing in the first round, and I bet 95% of the golf fans worldwide predicted the same thing. That’s why I filled out my bracket for fun instead of money.

To make a long story shorter, upsets are awesome! It’s nice to see a #16 seed upend a #1 seed every now and then. The top seeds are definitely favored, but that’s why they play the round. It’s great to see guys like Geoff Ogilvy and Zach Johnson step up to the plate and get the job done against the greatest golfers in the world. Hopefully Ogilvy and Johnson will become household names in the golf world because of their performances this past week.

I said it was nice to see a #16 seed knock off a #1 seed from time to time, but it was also great to see the greatest golfer in the world competely dominate his first-round opponent. By the way, don’t piss off the best golfer on the planet. As if Tiger Woods needed anymore motivation, Stephen Ames said he had a chance because Tiger had been hitting the ball all over the place recently.

Stephen Ames’ plan backfired in a bad way. Tiger Woods was dormie after the ninth hole! That’s nearly unheard of. I could have played Tiger Woods as well as Stephen Ames did last Wednesday. Sure, it would have taken me more shots to put the ball in the hole, but the end result would have been the same. Luckily for Ames, he tied Tiger on the 10th hole to lose 9&8 instead of 10&8.

I’m not a big fan of Tiger Woods, but I enjoyed watching him play against Stephen Ames. There isn’t a golfer in the world that could have beaten Tiger last Wednesday. Luckily, Chad Campbell rarely speaks at all. He didn’t give Tiger the extra motivation and went on to upset Woods to advance to the quarterfinals.

The Lone Negative
There are a lot of great things about the Accenture Match Play Championship, but there may be one negative as well. It really depends on how you look at it. I mentioned how much I enjoyed the occasional upset in this event. On the other hand, however, there may be too many upsets at times. This year’s event was a good example. None of the #1 seeds advanced to the final four, and that ruined the event for a lot of fans. It would have been awesome to see a Tiger vs. Vijay or Ernie vs. Retief final.

The television ratings probably aren’t as good when the big guns get eliminated before the weekend. The ratings would have shot through the roof if a couple top seeds advanced to the 36-hole final. I have nothing against Geoff Ogilvy, Davis Love III, Tom Lehman, or Zach Johnson. However, I would by lying to myself if I said I was happy to see these four guys make it to Sunday instead of Woods, Singh, Els, Goosen, etc. The upsets are great, but too many of them can also be a bad thing. Luckily for golf fans, there is always next year!

The Final Say
It’s no secret I really enjoy the Accenture Match Play Championship. It gives golf fans a change of pace from the usual tournament format. Also, the intensity level of the matches is usually higher than in normal tournaments because each player knows first-hand what his or her opponent is doing from shot-to-shot. It’s definitely a unique format, and I hope it’s here to stay. There may be a negative or two along the way, but the positives definitely outweight the negatives when all is said and done.

I really wanted to talk a little bit about the wacky women’s world rankings this week, but I had too much to say about the Accenture Match Play Championship. I’ll save the women’s world rankings for next week, so look for that. I have plenty to say on that issue.

That’s all I have to say this week. It’s time for you to speak your opinions on the topic. Do you enjoy the Accenture Match Play Championship? If so, how did your bracket look this year? If not, what reasons do you have for not enjoying the event? Finally, where does the event rank on your list of favorite tournaments throughout the golf season? If you have anything to add, feel free to comment below or discuss it in our forum. Thanks for reading Thrash Talk this week and start getting those clubs ready for the spring!

[Editor’s Note: Regular readers of The Sand Trap will note that Cody Thrasher has returned to write for us. Welcome back, Cody.]

Photo Credit: © Getty Images.

9 thoughts on “Match Play Madness”

  1. While I think La Costa is dramatically underrated, I also fail to believe that it will ever host a major (barring any major reconstruction).

    Here’s another negative: boring ass play in the final matches, and starting one group ten minutes ahead of the other, which lead to hold-ups all day for the final match.

  2. The biggest problem that I have with the match play is that it starts with the most exciting days and ends with the most boring. The first three days are great with multiple matches going on and ending throughout the day. You end the tournament with two groups playing. Watch them hit the shot then sit and wait for them to get there and hit the next shot. This is the bigget drawback to match play tournaments. Deadtime during the final matches.

    Why not start with stroke play on Wednesday. Cut it down to 32 for matches on Friday. Seeding the matches based on the stroke play score like the Amateur. Play 36 on saturday and have the semi-final in the AM on Sunday and Final in the afternoon. You still get upsets. You have a potential for a huge playoff on Thursday for the 32nd spot. Your favorites have a better chance to make it to the weekend so networks will want the weekend coverage. I think the matchplay is a great change but it just needs some tweaking.

  3. If anything I think La Costa is overrated. The damp, marsh-like conditions have given the course a new nickname, “Lake La Costa.” Goosen said that he didn’t like the course very much because he has a pretty high spin rate on his iron shots and the soft greens aren’t very receptive to these approaches.

    Also, the WGC won’t be played at this course for much longer, maybe never again. I can’t recall if they’re moving it to Tucson next year or later.

  4. Jeff,

    You are correct. It will be in Tuscon next year. I would like to see it played at La Costa obviously, but the weather has been a factor more often than not. This year was just lucky I suppose.

    Thanks for posting your thoughts.

  5. They had to move the match play to a new course. La Costa is extremely boring and the water rarely comes into play (disagree with article completely). How many players found the water on any hole? I would bet very few.

    Here are my suggestions:

    Tourney should move to a course that has numerous risk versus reward holes (of which there is 1 at La Costa).

    Tourney should be played at a different course each year (in an ideal world).

    Tourney should be played right after a major or 2 weeks after. This might add some fuel to a rivalry that may have come up at a major. Example would be Vijay and Phil after the Masters a few years ago or Tiger and Sergio after the PGA a few years ago.

    Lastly, they should play the tourney at a different international course each year. Imagine the top 64 at Ballybunion or Bandon Dunes or Cypress Point (just examples).

    Some off the wall ideas to spice it up.

    How about giving each player a mulligan to add some strategy, and they would have to pay 20K to purchase the mulligan. The mulligan could go to charity.

    How about the leader after going up by 3 loses a club of his opponents choice.

    How about playing one day of matches with only 3 or 4 clubs.

    The above items would add some excitement.

  6. They’d add some excitement, Andy, but at the expense of golf. Golf with three to four clubs is a great thing for the Big Break, but it’s not “golf.”

  7. My point of my comment was the PGA needs to liven up match play tournament somehow. I think many people have pointed out the pitfalls in the current format.

    A course change would be 1 way to improve the golf tournament, but not necessarily the TV aspects.

    By the way, playing with 4 clubs forces a player to improvise using their golf skills and is just as much Golf as playing with 14 clubs. It is just not what we have defined as traditional golf.

    I think having 1 day of the tourney like this would add some excitement (which Golf needs badly). Maybe the proposal would be more suited for a silly season event, but someone needs to energize the world match play event.

    I think the tour schedule for 2007 is just an example of a change that is/was needed, but I do not feel they are headed in the right direction. Just my thoughts.

  8. The Match Play Championship only happens once throughout the PGA Tour season, so I really think people are making too big of a deal about it.

    It’s fun, it’s different, and the problems listed aren’t that big of a deal honestly.

    Like I said, it only happens once a year.

    People should just have fun with it and respect the tournament for what it is. It’s not the end of the world or anything.

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