The NCAA men's Championship will have a new look in 2014.
No, the championship committee hasn’t done away with match play. That will still determine the team champion, as it has with great drama since it was implemented in 2009.
Instead, the committee has approved a change to the individual championship, returning the competition to 72 holes. The recommendations were originally reported here late last month.
Since 2009, there has been a 54-hole stroke-play qualifier that determined both the individual champion and top eight teams that advanced to match play. The tournament ran Tuesday-Sunday.
Now, the stroke-play qualifier will run Friday through Sunday, then cut to the low eight teams for match play.
On Monday, however, the low 40 individuals and ties will now compete in the fourth and final round of stroke play to determine the individual champion. Then on Tuesday, the top eight teams will battle in the quarterfinal matches, followed by the semifinals later that afternoon. The finals will be held Wednesday.
These changes will take effect next year at Prairie Dunes. Golf Channel will begin broadcasting the men’s NCAA Championship in 2014 – Monday through Wednesday – and both the men and women in ’15. The weekday finish will allow for no conflict with pro tournament coverage.
The new format will certainly be an adjustment for coaches, some of whom were critical of the proposed changes last month.
Two main issues arose:
• The prospect of having both the quarterfinal and semifinal matches on the same day wasn’t desirable. With the quick turnaround, it may be difficult to sustain momentum in the afternoon after an emotional quarterfinal match, for instance.
• Those individuals on an advancing team who were not in the top 40 would essentially have a day off Monday, when the fourth and final round of the individual championship is contested. That could become a problem if a player is, say, 35th in the individual race coming down the stretch, but his team is safely into match play. With his chances to win the individual title likely over, could he intentionally play himself out of the top 40 to get a day of rest and match-play prep? It’s possible.