The Perfect Match

By John FeinsteinFebruary 22, 2011, 2:18 am

The WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, which begins Wednesday in Tucson, Ariz., is one of the most fun events on the PGA Tour.

In fact, the case can be made that, outside the majors, it is the most fun event on Tour. From the start there’s suspense: top seeds are frequently knocked out on the first day and again on the second day. There is more happening on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday than on most other weekdays during the long golf season.

Some have been suggesting for a while that The Tour Championship be turned into a match play event. Instead of sending 30 players to Atlanta, send 32 and tee it up on Wednesday. The last two players go 36 holes on Sunday for all the marbles – and the millions.

That isn’t going to happen because network TV won’t stand for it. Even if Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson tee off in the first group on Sunday, that’s better than not having them around at all. TV does a wonderful job of convincing people that the stars can make a run from way behind. If Jim Furyk had a dollar for every time Johnny Miller talked about the possibility of Woods shooting 62 on the last day of the 2003 U.S. Open that Furyk won (Woods shot 75 that day) he wouldn’t have needed the $10 million he made for winning the Whatchamacallit Cup last October.

So there won’t be match play anytime soon – or ever – at the Tour Championship. That’s a shame. But how about the Tournament of Champions? No event on Tour could use an infusion of new excitement like the season-opener. The tournament has become such a snooze that it’s a wonder the players don’t fall asleep wandering around the Plantation Course for four days.

The decline of what was once a big event on the golf calendar has been the subject of lengthy conversations during meetings of both the Players Advisory Committee and the Tour Policy Board – more so the PAC because that’s where most new ideas come from. There have been sponsorship problems: Mercedes bailed two years ago, then SAS came on board for one year. Now, Hyundai has the sponsorship.

Commissioner Tim Finchem has suggested the possibility of strengthening the field by inviting champions from the last two years rather than just one year. That’s still not going to get Woods and Mickelson to show up. In fairness, a format change may not do it either.

But how about this? Make the tournament match play. Usually the field is about 30 players. If you have more than 32 in a given year, make the bottom players play into the field of 32 a day early ala the NCAA basketball tournament. There are plenty of ways to deal with an odd number of qualifiers. The seeds would be based on the previous year’s money list – not the world rankings –  because if you use money maybe a few more top players will want to play Fall Series events.

The commissioner could also tell players who qualify that if they fail to show up, their first application for an ‘opposite event,’ exemption – as in Mickelson going to Abu Dhabi instead of the Bob Hope or Woods going to Dubai instead of Pebble Beach – will be turned down. They’ll scream and yell about it but let them yell.

So now, if you follow my instructions to the letter here’s what you have: the golf season starting with an event people are going to want to turn on from Day 1 because of potential upsets. TV should love that. You’ll have something different, not just 30 guys knocking it around with nearly six figures guaranteed if you can make your tee time four days in a row. And, if Finchem is willing to play a little hard ball with his stars, you could conceivably have that Tiger-Phil final people have been fantasizing about since the WGC Match Play began back in 1999. Even if you don’t get Tiger and Phil – and you probably won’t – you’re going to get two good players who are, at the very least, familiar names.

If the Plantation Course has nothing else, it has a lot of good match play holes, especially the 18th where one would expect a lot of the matches to be decided.

Make the Match Play’s opposite-field tournament in Mexico a full-fledged event, complete with a Masters exemption to the winner. Obviously that field will be strengthened because in this case there wouldn’t be a Match Play, and you can bet the field at the Honda Classic – the first Florida stop – will also be strengthened because some players will take the previous week off and opt to play at PGA National, one of the better courses on Tour. The fact that Honda has been a title sponsor longer than anyone (30 years next month) should make Finchem feel good about strengthening that field.

There is no downside. Sure, you’d lose a WGC event but there are too many anyway. If 64 is the magic number, invite European Tour winners too and make the TOC more international.

It would be a cool way to start the golf season. And it would give a much-needed boost to an event in need of new life.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.