What We Learned: WGC-Accenture Match Play

By Bailey MosierFebruary 24, 2013, 11:55 pm

Each week, GolfChannel.com offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from the world of golf. This week, our writers weigh in on Matt Kuchar's win in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, whether the tournament should remain at Dove Mountain despite problems this week with snow, and Ariya Jutanugarn's heartbreaking loss in the Honda LPGA Thailand.

I’m not going to make any major proclamation about Matt Kuchar soon becoming a major champion. If there’s any bad news for this year’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship winner, it’s that only two of the previous 14 winners of this event followed it with a major title later in the year. (That would be Geoff Ogilvy in 2006 and Tiger Woods in ’08.) So even though Kuchar vaulted himself into The Masters conversation on Sunday, it would be too narrow-minded to declare him on the verge of earning major hardware. Instead, I’ll use this opportunity to celebrate one of the more fascinating careers of the current era. Kuchar was, of course, a highly ranked amateur, making the cut in three of five majors before turning pro. He won in his first full PGA Tour season, but the train to superstardom soon derailed, as Kuchar found himself back on the Nationwide Tour just seven years ago. At that point, it was hard to picture the once heralded phenom as an elite player, but that’s exactly what he’s become, winning a top-level tourney in each of the past three seasons. Kuchar is still searching for that elusive first major, but his journey toward becoming one of the best without one deserves to be celebrated. – Jason Sobel

I initially favored the anchored putter ban when the U.S. Golf Association proposed it last November, but after hearing PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem speak Sunday at Dove Mountain, I may be changing my tune.

'If there’s one thing that prevailed across a lot of players and a lot of our board members was that, (anchored putters have) been around for a generation, and the game of golf has done quite well … Most players are saying, 'Without a significant upside and no competitive advantage, let’s don’t do it,'' Finchem relayed.

In so many words, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. However the ruling plays out, I give major kudos to Finchem and members of the PGA Tour for heavily weighing the pros and cons of the issue, and for taking a stand for what they believe. It made me change my stance, and who knows ... perhaps it will have a similar effect on the USGA. – Bailey Mosier

The Match Play needs a new home in 2015. This was painfully obvious before the freak snowstorm that hit the high desert last week. For years players have grumbled about the greens at Dove Mountain, which feature myriad humps and mounds. The isolated location isn’t ideal. The course is never jammed with spectators. The weather is too unpredictable, with snow, of all things, two of the past three years. If the PGA Tour doesn’t want to put the “world” back in the World Golf Championships – and move the Match Play to Brazil or South Africa, for instance – how about sending the 64-man event to Las Vegas? Or maybe Puerto Rico? You know, some place where it won’t snow in late February. – Ryan Lavner

There's yet another teen phenom ready to challenge the world's best women.

Despite Ariya Jutanugarn's heartbreaking stumble losing the Honda LPGA Thailand at the 72nd hole Sunday, the 17-year-old Thai joined 15-year-old Lydia Ko as the most compelling storylines in the LPGA's first two events of the 2013 season. Jutanugarn lost her bid to become the first Thai to win an LPGA event and the third youngest player to win on that tour, but she scripted a riveting tale doing so. It is remarkable how the women's game consistently delivers these precocious talents.

Two years ago, Lexi Thompson became the youngest winner of an LPGA event at 16. Last year, Ko topped her, winning the CN Canadian Women's Open at 15. Ko took a share of the final-round lead  into the LPGA season opener in Australia last week before fading.

It's all enough to make Michelle Wie feel old at 23. – Randall Mell

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Match-by-match: 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies, Day 1

By Will GrayMarch 21, 2018, 6:32 pm

Here is how things played out on Day 1 of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, as 64 players take on Austin Country Club with hopes of advancing out of pool play:

Group 15: (15) Pat Perez vs. (50) Si Woo Kim, halved: The first match of the day ended up in a draw, as the top seed rallied from a deficit to salvage half a point. Kim won three of the first six holes and held a 3-up lead with seven holes to go, but Perez fought back with four birdies over the next six holes to draw even.

Group 15: (24) Gary Woodland vs. (37) Webb Simpson, halved: This group remains entirely up for grabs since nothing was decided on the opening day. Woodland took a 3-up lead at the turn, but Simpson rallied by winning four of the next seven holes, including a birdie on No. 17 that brought him back to all square for the first time since the third hole.

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Watch: Thomas saves par from impossible position

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 21, 2018, 5:18 pm

Luke List was just hoping for an opening in his Day 1 match against Justin Thomas at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

Thomas cracked the door on the par-4 ninth, but then quickly slammed it shut. Thomas, 3 up through eight holes, was in terrible shape after two shots at No. 9. But his third shot was a beauty, and a heartbreaker for List.

Thomas made the putt to halve the hole and make the turn 3 up.

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LPGA's new Q-Series to offer deferrals for amateurs

By Randall MellMarch 21, 2018, 4:36 pm

The LPGA’s new Q-Series, which takes the place of the final stage of Q-School beginning this year, will come with a revolutionary new twist for amateurs.

For the first time, the LPGA will offer deferrals that will allow amateurs to win tour membership in December but delay turning pro until the following June or July, tour commissioner Mike Whan told GolfChannel.com.

It’s a notable change, because the deferral will allow a collegiate player to earn tour membership at the end of this year but retain amateur status to finish out her collegiate spring season next year, before joining the tour.

“We haven’t done that in the past, because we didn’t want an onslaught, where every player in college is trying to join the tour,” Whan said.

The way it worked in the past, a collegian could advance through the final stage of Q-School, but if that player earned the right to a tour card and wanted to take up membership, she had to declare after the final round that she was turning pro. It meant the player would leave her college team in the middle of the school year. It was a particularly difficult decision for players who earned conditional LPGA status, and it played havoc with the makeup of some college teams.

Whan said the revamped Q-Series format won’t create the collegiate stampede that deferrals might have in the past.

“It will take a unique talent to show up at the first stage of Q-School and say, ‘I’ll see you at Q-Series,’” Whan said. “There won’t be a lot of amateurs who make it there.”

Under the new qualifying format, there will continue to be a first and second stage of Q-School, but it will be much harder to advance to the final stage, now known Q-Series.

Under the old format, about 80 players advanced from the second stage to the Q-School finals. Under the new format, only 15 to 25 players from the second stage will advance to the Q-Series, and only a portion of those are likely to be collegians.

Under the new format, a maximum of 108 players will meet at the Q-Series finals, where a minimum of 45 tour cards will be awarded after 144 holes of competition, played over two weeks on two different courses. The field will include players who finished 101st to 150th and ties on the final LPGA money list, and players who finished 11th to 30th and ties on the final Symetra Tour money list. The field will also include up to 10 players from among the top 75 of the Rolex Women’s World Rankings and the top five players on the Golfweek Women’s Collegiate Rankings.

“We feel if you make it to the Q-Series finals as a college player, you are probably among the best of the best, and we ought to give you the opportunity to finish the college year,” Whan said.

University of Washington coach Mary Lou Mulflur said she would prefer amateurs not be allowed to compete at Q-School, but she called this a workable compromise.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” Mulflur said. “It’s better than the way it’s been in the past. That was hard, because it broke up teams.”

Mulflur said she disliked the tough position the former policy put college players in at the final stage of Q-School, where they had to decide at event’s end whether to turn pro and accept tour membership.

“I can’t imagine being a kid in that position, and I’ve had a couple kids in that position,” Mulflur said. “It’s hard on everybody, the player, the family and the coaches. You hear about coaches standing there begging a kid not to turn pro, and that’s just not the way it should be, for the coach or the player.”

Mulflur agreed with Whan that the new Q-Series format should limit the number of collegians who have a chance to win tour cards.

“I believe it’s a good compromise, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out going forward,” Mulflur said. “Kudos to the commissioner for giving kids this option.”

University of Miami coach Patti Rizzo, a four-time LPGA winner, applauds the deferral option. Two years ago, Rizzo lost her best player, Danny Darquea, who turned pro in the spring. It hurt Miami’s team.

“That was probably our best chance in seven years to win the nationals,” Rizzo said.

Rizzo said her concerns seeing a player turn pro go beyond how it affects her team.

“What all these girls need to realize now is that a degree is more important than ever,” Rizzo said. “In my day, it was like, 'My chances are pretty good. I will get my card.’ But it’s so much more competitive now. And financially, it’s hard to make it. I think it’s so much harder than it ever was. So many girls aren’t making it, and they need a backup plan.”

Darquea is playing the Symetra Tour now, but Rizzo said she is also back in Miami taking classes to finish up her final semester and get her degree.

“It’s great she is doing that, but it would have been better if she could have stayed in college three more months and got her degree and then turned pro,” Rizzo said. “I think this deferral option is great, and I would think all the college coaches will think so, too.”

Whan said collegians who take deferrals will be counseled.

“We will sit down with them and their families and explain the risks,” Whan said. “If you take a deferral and start playing on July 15, you might find yourself back in Q-Series again later that year, because you may not have enough time.”

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Tour still focused on security after death of suspected Austin bomber

By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2018, 4:07 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Although the suspect in the wave of Austin-area bombings was killed early Wednesday, the PGA Tour plans to continue heightened security measures at this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club.

According to various news outlets, Mark Anthony Conditt has been identified as the bombings suspect, and he was killed by an explosion inside his car in Round Rock, Texas, which is 19 miles north of Austin Country Club.

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“We do not comment on the specifics of our security measures, but we are continuing to work in close collaboration with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in Austin to ensure the safety of our players and fans at this week’s tournament,” the Tour said in a statement. “Regardless of the recent developments, our heightened security procedures will remain in place through the remainder of the week.”

Authorities believe Conditt is responsible for the five explosions that killed two people and injured five others in Austin or south-central Texas since March 2.

Play began Wednesday at the Match Play.