Should the Tour Championship be match play?

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 14, 2012, 2:35 pm

Next week’s Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta will conclude the FedEx Cup playoffs. With the points reset, the top five players in the standing control their own destiny and all 30 players, theoretically, have a chance to win the cup. It's setting up for an exciting finish, but would a match-play finale be more thrilling? Our writers weigh in.

By JASON SOBEL

Contesting big-time professional tournaments in match play format is like having a third slice of pumpkin pie after Thanksgiving dinner: It always sounds like a good idea beforehand, but never turns out the way you planned.

Don't get me wrong. I don't dislike the format itself. Match play is the purest form of competition in our game. I have zero problem with it one time a year at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. And I love it at the U.S. Amateur.

It simply wouldn't work for the Tour Championship, though.

Let's not be naïve. The FedEx Cup is big business. It is dependent on things like ratings and ticket sales and overall general fan interest. As the current points system is configured, it's highly unlikely to find a season finale that doesn't have at least a few of the major movers and shakers in the mix on Sunday afternoon.

Case in point: Entering next week's Tour Championship, needle-movers Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson can each win the title with a tournament victory.

Match play provides too great of a variable. There's just as good a chance we'd get some combination of those superstars as John Huh, John Senden and Scott Piercy. No offense to those guys, but making such a change doesn't seem like a very sound business decision.

The problem with the FedEx Cup – if there is one – is that it tries to both reward the season's best player while also serving as an entertaining race to the finish. Match play wouldn't solve either of these problems.

Just like in Tucson every February, the first round would be must-see TV and each subsequent day would be met with growing apathy. Sure, there'd be a big payoff if Rory and Tiger met in the final match, but that's too much of a gamble – and it doesn't improve the current format.


By RYAN LAVNER

If done properly, a resounding yes.

The TOUR Championship still needs to have some stroke-play component to it, some way to whittle down the 30-man field to keep it from morphing into a bracket-busting free-for-all.

I’d recommend two rounds of stroke-play qualifying – on Thursday and Friday – that determines the top eight. Then, on Saturday, they would play the quarterfinals (and semifinals, perhaps). And on Sunday, they would play the semifinals and finals for the Tour Championship, the FedEx Cup and everything that goes along with it, including the $10 million bonus.

Could we wind up getting John Huh vs. Scott Piercy in the match-play final? If they play well enough, sure. But they’d need to beat 22 others in stroke-play qualifying, and then win three matches against some of the best players in the world. It’s virtually fluke-proof.

There’s a particular charm about match play, too, an inherent sense of desperation not found in other events. What’s exciting about Rory McIlroy finishing sixth at East Lake, for instance, and then taking home the cash? The winner of the last event of the FedEx Cup season needs to be the overall winner – period. That’s how playoff systems work. It’s the last man (or team) standing.

At the very least, this new format would save Golf Channel’s Steve Sands from standing in front of a dry-erase board, manically writing and rewriting various formulas and explaining it to a confused TV audience.

The simple fix: Battle for three playoff events to reach the top 30, and then the Tour Championship becomes a dynamic match-play event that determines the tournament winner, the FedEx Cup winner, and, you know, the guy who never has to worry about money again.


By REX HOGGARD

When it comes to next week’s Tour Championship and FedEx Cup finale it’s not the format that needs fixing it’s the math and no amount of perceived match play magic is going to change that reality.

Each year on the eve of East Lake, pundits opine that if the FedEx Cup finish instituted some form of match play that the event would resonate more easily with the fans, yet this premise ignores the fact that the PGA Tour schedule features just a single match play event for a reason.

Match play doesn’t work with the modern game because golf at the highest level is driven by its stars and the odds of, say, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy advancing through whatever match play format the circuit concocts to face off for the $10 million payday are slim (see Accenture Match Play, WGC).

By comparison the current system – which is not without its flaws, most notably a pre-Tour Championship points reset that has virtually mitigated McIlroy’s dominance this post-season – has delivered a marquee money match in the past (2009) and the stage is set this year for a similar bout between Nos. 1 McIlroy and 2 Woods.

Besides, for all the handwringing 72 holes of stroke play is the accepted format for crowning a true champion by most tour types. It’s why the Olympics adopted the format for the 2016 Games and why it works at East Lake.

Day (68) just one back at Australian Open

By Nick MentaNovember 24, 2017, 6:40 am

Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.

Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)

What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.


Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who held the lead at this event last year and captured low-amateur honors in 2014, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.

Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.

Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.

Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

"It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’


Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

“Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.

The golf world celebrates Thanksgiving

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 6:01 pm

Here's a look, through social media, at how the golf world celebrates Thanksgiving.

Lexi Thompson:

Baking time!!

A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi) on

David Feherty:

Jack Nicklaus:

GC Tiger Tracker:

Steve Stricker:

Golf Channel:

Frank Nobilo:

Ian Poulter:

Tyrone Van Aswegen:

Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017

By Grill Room TeamNovember 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.