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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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

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Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

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Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.

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In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.