Should the Tour Championship be match play?

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 14, 2012, 2:35 pm

Next week’s Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta will conclude the FedEx Cup playoffs. With the points reset, the top five players in the standing control their own destiny and all 30 players, theoretically, have a chance to win the cup. It's setting up for an exciting finish, but would a match-play finale be more thrilling? Our writers weigh in.

By JASON SOBEL

Contesting big-time professional tournaments in match play format is like having a third slice of pumpkin pie after Thanksgiving dinner: It always sounds like a good idea beforehand, but never turns out the way you planned.

Don't get me wrong. I don't dislike the format itself. Match play is the purest form of competition in our game. I have zero problem with it one time a year at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. And I love it at the U.S. Amateur.

It simply wouldn't work for the Tour Championship, though.

Let's not be naïve. The FedEx Cup is big business. It is dependent on things like ratings and ticket sales and overall general fan interest. As the current points system is configured, it's highly unlikely to find a season finale that doesn't have at least a few of the major movers and shakers in the mix on Sunday afternoon.

Case in point: Entering next week's Tour Championship, needle-movers Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson can each win the title with a tournament victory.

Match play provides too great of a variable. There's just as good a chance we'd get some combination of those superstars as John Huh, John Senden and Scott Piercy. No offense to those guys, but making such a change doesn't seem like a very sound business decision.

The problem with the FedEx Cup – if there is one – is that it tries to both reward the season's best player while also serving as an entertaining race to the finish. Match play wouldn't solve either of these problems.

Just like in Tucson every February, the first round would be must-see TV and each subsequent day would be met with growing apathy. Sure, there'd be a big payoff if Rory and Tiger met in the final match, but that's too much of a gamble – and it doesn't improve the current format.


By RYAN LAVNER

If done properly, a resounding yes.

The TOUR Championship still needs to have some stroke-play component to it, some way to whittle down the 30-man field to keep it from morphing into a bracket-busting free-for-all.

I’d recommend two rounds of stroke-play qualifying – on Thursday and Friday – that determines the top eight. Then, on Saturday, they would play the quarterfinals (and semifinals, perhaps). And on Sunday, they would play the semifinals and finals for the Tour Championship, the FedEx Cup and everything that goes along with it, including the $10 million bonus.

Could we wind up getting John Huh vs. Scott Piercy in the match-play final? If they play well enough, sure. But they’d need to beat 22 others in stroke-play qualifying, and then win three matches against some of the best players in the world. It’s virtually fluke-proof.

There’s a particular charm about match play, too, an inherent sense of desperation not found in other events. What’s exciting about Rory McIlroy finishing sixth at East Lake, for instance, and then taking home the cash? The winner of the last event of the FedEx Cup season needs to be the overall winner – period. That’s how playoff systems work. It’s the last man (or team) standing.

At the very least, this new format would save Golf Channel’s Steve Sands from standing in front of a dry-erase board, manically writing and rewriting various formulas and explaining it to a confused TV audience.

The simple fix: Battle for three playoff events to reach the top 30, and then the Tour Championship becomes a dynamic match-play event that determines the tournament winner, the FedEx Cup winner, and, you know, the guy who never has to worry about money again.


By REX HOGGARD

When it comes to next week’s Tour Championship and FedEx Cup finale it’s not the format that needs fixing it’s the math and no amount of perceived match play magic is going to change that reality.

Each year on the eve of East Lake, pundits opine that if the FedEx Cup finish instituted some form of match play that the event would resonate more easily with the fans, yet this premise ignores the fact that the PGA Tour schedule features just a single match play event for a reason.

Match play doesn’t work with the modern game because golf at the highest level is driven by its stars and the odds of, say, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy advancing through whatever match play format the circuit concocts to face off for the $10 million payday are slim (see Accenture Match Play, WGC).

By comparison the current system – which is not without its flaws, most notably a pre-Tour Championship points reset that has virtually mitigated McIlroy’s dominance this post-season – has delivered a marquee money match in the past (2009) and the stage is set this year for a similar bout between Nos. 1 McIlroy and 2 Woods.

Besides, for all the handwringing 72 holes of stroke play is the accepted format for crowning a true champion by most tour types. It’s why the Olympics adopted the format for the 2016 Games and why it works at East Lake.

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 9:20 am

Following an even-par 71 in the first round of the 147th Open Championship, Tiger Woods looks to make a move on Day 2 at Carnoustie.


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McIlroy responds to Harmon's 'robot' criticism

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:53 am

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said during his pre-championship news conference that he wanted to play more "carefree" – citing Jon Rahm’s approach now and the way McIlroy played in his younger days.

McIlroy got off to a good start Thursday at Carnoustie, shooting 2-under 69, good for a share of eighth place.

But while McIlroy admits to wanting to be a little less structured on the course, he took offense to comments made by swing coach Butch Harmon during a Sky Sports telecast.

Said Harmon:

“Rory had this spell when he wasn’t putting good and hitting the ball good, and he got so wrapped up in how he was going to do it he forgot how to do it.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“He is one of the best players the game has ever seen. If he would just go back to being a kid and playing the way he won these championships and play your game, don’t have any fear or robotic thoughts. Just play golf. Just go do it.

“This is a young kid who’s still one of the best players in the world. He needs to understand that. Forget about your brand and your endorsement contracts. Forget about all that. Just go back to having fun playing golf. I still think he is one of the best in the world and can be No.1 again if he just lets himself do it.”

McIlroy, who has never worked with Harmon, responded to the comments when asked about them following his opening round.

“Look, I like Butch. Definitely, I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical and someone that's – you know, it's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening,” McIlroy said. “I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing. He doesn't know what's in my head. So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate. But unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it.”

McIlroy second round at The Open began at 2:52 a.m. ET.

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How The Open cut line is determined

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:57 am

Scores on Day 1 of the 147th Open Championship ranged from 5-under 66 to 11-over 82.

The field of 156 players will be cut nearly in half for weekend play at Carnoustie. Here’s how the cut line works in the season’s third major championship:


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


• After 36 holes, the low 70 players and ties will advance to compete in the final two rounds. Anyone finishing worse than that will get the boot. Only those making the cut earn official money from the $10.5 million purse.

• There is no 10-shot rule. That rule means anyone within 10 shots of the lead after two rounds, regardless of where they stand in the championship, make the cut. It’s just a flat top 70 finishers and ties.

• There is only a single cut at The Open. PGA Tour events employ an MDF (Made cut Did not Finish) rule, which narrows the field after the third round if more than 78 players make the cut. That is not used at this major.

The projected cut line after the first round this week was 1 over par, which included 71 players tied for 50th or better.

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How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:30 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on GolfChannel.com.  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; GC.com=GolfChannel.com or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)