NCAA seeding could be key to fixing Match Play

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 18, 2014, 4:45 pm

Seemingly everyone has a way to fix the Match Play.

Change the format and introduce a stroke-play qualifier.

Send it to a different venue, one that the players don’t despise.

Move the tournament to another spot on the calendar, further removed from the upcoming WGC at Doral.  

Fine suggestions, all of them, but those logistical changes won’t bring more eyeballs to the event.

Here’s one that will: The Match Play should take a page from the most popular team tournament in the country and develop a new seeding process, NCAA Tournament-style.

By now you probably know how the NCAAs work: Thirty-two teams receive automatic bids for winning their conference tournaments. The other 36 schools rely on at-large bids, which are determined by a 10-person selection committee. Once the field is set, the teams are seeded based on such factors as record, strength of schedule and what they call their Ratings Percentage Index, known to hoopniks as RPI.

Each year the selection process, which culminates in a nationally televised Selection Sunday TV special, sparks passionate debate among fans, media and certified bracketologists.

WGC-Accenture Match Play bracket

Fantasy: Play Golf Channel's Bracket Challenge

In golf? Well, we have the Official World Golf Ranking. That determines the top 64 available players. Those players are then seeded 1-64 based on that ranking. Then they duke it out for five days, whether it’s in Tucson or San Francisco or wherever the Match Play is headed in 2015.

Hey, the system is easy to comprehend. There’s no drama, since there is an OWGR cutoff date. There’s certainly no controversy. And the only people who truly care about the process are either the bubble boys or world-ranking gurus.

It’s a fine system … so long as you don’t care about current form.

Consider this week’s field:

• Jimmy Walker, who has three wins in nine starts this season, is a 6 seed.

• Harris English, who won in Mexico and has four other top 10s, is a 9 seed.

• Kevin Stadler, who won a few weeks ago in Phoenix, is a 13 seed.

• Heck, even Jordan Spieth, now a week-in, week-out force, is a 3 seed.

How, exactly, is that a fair draw, an accurate representation of the best players, right now, on Feb. 18? Teams in the NCAA Tournament are seeded based on the present, with an eye on what transpired the past few months.

It might never – OK, will never – stimulate the same kind of fervent debate and produce the same monster ratings as the NCAAs, but that doesn’t mean the Match Play can’t follow the same proven process.

The suggestion here is to give the top 50 in the world an automatic spot in the Match Play field, then use a committee – the International Federation of PGA Tours, which already governs the WGC events – to determine the remaining 14 spots.

Anyone outside the top 50 is fair game – players such as Brooks Koepka and Peter Uihlein and Ryan Palmer and Charles Howell III, all of whom are watching their week’s event from the couch. Indeed, those chosen will be whomever the committee deems worthy, after taking into account current form, not the players’ position in the world order, which is based on a two-year cycle.

After the field is set, the committee would then rank the players, 1-64, taking into account such factors as record, quality of wins, world ranking, etc.

Every year, Selection Sunday and the ensuing NCAA Tournament are must-see TV events.

How are we notified about the 64-man Match Play field? With an emailed link to the latest world rankings.

Of the myriad ways to fix the Match Play, this at least has the potential for the greatest impact.

Getty Images

McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

Getty Images

Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

Getty Images

Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

Getty Images

Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.