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Punch Shot: Where and when should the WGC-Match Play be contested?

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SHEBOYGAN, WI - AUGUST 16: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland walks off the second green during the final round of the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits at on August 16, 2015 in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)  - 

Dove Mountain is not exactly one of the pros' favorite tracks on Tour. With its contract up after this year, our panel weighs in on which courses should host the WGC-Match Play Championship.

By Jason Sobel

Here is my official, researched, idealist thought for where the Match Play should be held:

Anywhere but Dove Mountain.

No offense to the course, but it's logistically brutal and as aesthetically pleasing as a cactus prick. OK, so lots of offense to the course. It's unimaginative and uninspiring. And those are a few of its better qualities.

For a tournament that should be the most entertaining non-major of the year, it's a terrible choice. There's a reason Tiger, Phil and Adam aren't playing this week – and it's not because they're too into Olympic curling to leave the couch.

My idea is a rotation to some of the great courses around the world. Yes, world – not country. This is a World Golf Championship, isn't it? Let's spread the love.

As for the timing, I like it as is. Late-February gives us a solid gauge of players' games less than two months before the Masters. While the early-season scheduling would eliminate plenty of northern courses, there are still many other great ones which could host.

Anywhere but Dove Mountain.

By Ryan Lavner

The PGA Tour should take its traveling circus about six hours north, to Harding Park (pictured). The current spot on the calendar certainly works – a San Francisco-based WGC still can be part of the West Coast swing, and Harding Park has shown it can stage a big-time match-play event (2009 Presidents Cup).

But the biggest change needed has little to do with venue or date. There must be an added element of stroke play to ensure that the biggest (and best) names are still around for the weekend.

Why not conduct a 36- or 54-hole stroke-play qualifier, then have a match-play bracket for the low 16 players? Yes, the opening round is one of the best golf days of the year, when any world-class player can beat another over 18 holes, but this proposed format also increases the likelihood that we’ll see a few more titanic clashes over the weekend. That, after all, should be the ultimate goal, not first-round unpredictability.

By Randall Mell

Tough call, because this event always struck me as a perfect way to open the new year, to give the PGA Tour a big-bang start, something akin to Major League Baseball’s Opening Day. As it is, folks outside golf’s niche hardly notice when the tour starts up again in the new year.

The thing is, this event would work best in the middle of the West Coast swing, which needs a WGC event to attract the world’s best and bolster other sagging fields around it. You put the Match Play Championship between Pebble Beach and Los Angeles and you tempt players to come early to play Pebble or stick around to play L.A.

But where do you go? San Francisco sounds like a sexy stop, but February is the rainy season there. Arizona seemed ideal, but Tucson isn’t working. Phoenix can’t support a pair of events, or maybe it could, given the giant gate the Phoenix Open gets.

What’s a commissioner to do? How about finding another worthy place in the Los Angeles area? If South Florida can support back-to-back PGA Tour events, so can Southern California. Just flip-flop the dates of the Northern Trust and stage the Match Play Championship first. Put the site up for a bid. See who wants it and go from there.

By Rex Hoggard

There’s nothing wrong with the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship that a new venue – and a few format tweaks, but that’s a “punch shot” for another day – can’t fix.

For the last time, meager crowds will brave a golf course that is equal parts architecturally flawed and geographically wanting for this week’s event at Dove Mountain.

That’s the good news, and it presents an opportunity that shouldn’t be squandered. The loss of Accenture as a sponsor and Dove Mountain as a locale is a chance to inject new life into an event that should be better.

Since corporate sponsorship is not an issue, the PGA Tour’s Tampa-area stop would be a perfect fit for the Match Play. Innisbrook’s Copperhead course is one of the circuit’s most well-liked, but it has struggled in recent years to draw decent fields.

The move would help clean up two Tour issues: Tampa’s ongoing sponsorship issues, and a World Golf Championship that has suddenly become a must-miss for the game’s top players (world No. 1 Tiger Woods, No. 2 Adam Scott and No. 4 Phil Mickelson are all skipping this week’s Match Play).

And, finally, the move to Tampa would be an easy one for current Match Play executive director Gerald Goodman, who previously held the same position in Tampa.