PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The PGA Tour is completing plans to bring the Match Play Championship to Austin, Texas, starting in 2016.
Three people aware of the negotiations told The Associated Press that Texas-based Dell will be the title sponsor of the World Golf Championship event that features the top 64 players from the world ranking. They spoke on condition of anonymity because an announcement has not been made.
The Match Play would be held next year on March 23-27, the week after the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill and the week before the Shell Houston Open. The Masters is April 7-10 in 2016, which could be ideal for international-based players to stay in America in the weeks leading to Augusta National.
The Match Play initially would be held at Austin Country Club, though that still requires a vote of the membership, one person said. Austin Country Club dates to 1899, though the current course was designed by Pete Dye in 1984.
PGA Tour spokesman Ty Votaw said the Tour would have no comment.
It would be the sixth course for the Match Play Championship since the WGC series began in 1999. The tournament was held at La Costa through 2006, with one year at Metropolitan Golf Club in Melbourne. It moved to two courses at Dove Mountain north of Tucson, Arizona, until last year after Accenture declined to renew its title sponsorship.
The Match Play is being held this year from April 29 to May 3 at Harding Park in San Francisco, with Cadillac filling in as a title sponsor.
This year also features a new format. Instead of single elimination, the 64 players will be divided into 16 four-player groups for the first three days. The player with the best record from each group will advance to the round of 16 on Saturday morning, followed by quarterfinals Saturday afternoon, semifinals Sunday morning and the championship match Sunday afternoon.
That would at least ensure that the top players make it until Friday. Two years ago, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods were eliminated on Wednesday.
When it was in California and Arizona, the Match Play was positioned at the end of the West Coast Swing in late February. Moving to late April for this year meant several international players, such as McIlroy, Henrik Stenson and Martin Kaymer, waited to start their PGA Tour year in Florida.
A move to the end of March might not help the West Coast.
However, the position on the calendar could add an additional element to the Match Play. Augusta National invites the top 50 in the world a full week before the Masters, meaning the Match Play would be the final event for some players to improve or secure their ranking in the top 50 for a Masters invitation.