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.

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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.

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.

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Ortiz leads LAAC through 54; Niemann, Gana one back

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 8:15 pm

Mexico's Alvaro Ortiz shot a 1-under 70 Monday to take the 54-hole lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship in Chile.

At 4 under for the week, he leads by one over over Argentina's Jaime Lopez Rivarola, Chile's Toto Gana and Joaquin Niemann, and Guatemala's Dnaiel Gurtner.

Ortiz is the younger brother of three-time winner Carlos. Alvaro, a senior at Arkansas, finished tied for third at the LAAC in 2016 and lost in a three-way playoff last year that included Niemann and Gana, the champion.

Ortiz shared the 54-hole lead with Gana last year and they will once again play in the final group on Tuesday, along with Gurtner, a redshirt junior at TCU.

“Literally, I've been thinking about [winning] all year long," Ortiz said Monday. "Yes, I am a very emotional player, but tomorrow I want to go out calm and with a lot of patience. I don't want the emotions to get the better of me. What I've learned this past year, especially in the tournaments I’ve played for my university, is that I have become more mature and that I have learned how to control myself on the inside on the golf course.”

In the group behind, Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who is poised to turn professional, unless of course he walks away with the title.

“I feel a lot of motivation at the moment, especially because I am the only player in the field that shot seven under (during the second round), and I am actually just one shot off the lead," he said. "So I believe that tomorrow I can shoot another very low round."

Tuesday's winner will earn an invitation to this year's Masters and exemptions into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open, and final qualifying for The Open.