I like match play.
I find it interesting to have the additional component of playing against a person. more so than trying to post a low score.
Both require a similar skill set in that you are trying to produce good shots, but in one case, you get to compete against a visible opponent while in the other, it’s you against someone you might or might not see.
I particularly like to watch the best players in a match play environment, both male and female. It’s entertaining to observe them when the battle is action packed with birdie after birdie, head-to-head, one on one.
How do you ever top the excitement of Rory against Patrick Reed in last year’s Ryder Cup, swords swung with vengeance, clanking vehemently as each warrior rose up to strike putt after putt into the hole?
Galleries were supercharged and the combatants didn’t disappoint them, displaying fun-loving gestures of encouragement toward each other. The fans loved it. The players loved it.
When one of the best players of all-time, Tiger Woods, goes up against a lower ranked player like Charles Howell III and is defeated, you can’t tell me that even a tiny little bit of you was cheering for a different outcome than the 2&1 victory of Howell at the WGC-Accenture Match Play in 2013.
Or, if you like history, how about the number one player, Sam Snead against the diminutive Paul Runyan in the 1938 PGA Championship? Snead outdrove Runyan by as much as 75 yards, but “Little Poison” won 8 & 7 in one of the most lopsided victories of all-time.
The greatest match ever played wasn’t between two players but rather two teams in a better ball match held at Cypress Point. Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson took on Harvie Ward and Ken Venturi – the two best pros in the world against the two best amateurs.
Venturi and Ward were nine under after 10 holes and were one down thanks to a nifty 85-
yard hole-out by Nelson on the 10th.
They remained one down to the 16th tee, the entry to the most terrifying, difficult, monstrous golf hole in the world, a 235-yard shot across an ocean inlet to an almost island green.
Into a harsh wind as waves crashed against the rocks, Nelson and Ward using drivers, tied with birdies. Hogan and Nelson won with a score of 57 to Venturi and Ward’s 58. The foursome recorded 27 birdies and one eagle, but many of the numbers are often disputed due to a lack of scorecard and conflicting accounts.
Evidence of what makes golf the greatest game came in the Ryder Cup at Royal Birkdale in 1969. Tony Jacklin squared off in the final match of the day against Jack Nicklaus. As they strode down the last fairway, they were tied and the total score of the competition was also tied.
Jack parred the last hole and Jacklin rolled his first putt about three feet past the hole. Nicklaus walked over and in a gesture that made every person who has ever played golf proud, he conceded the putt and the Ryder Cup ended in a draw, although the U.S. retained the Cup.
You can watch that below:
Next week, the Austin Country Club will host the 2017 WGC-Dell Match Play Championship. The top 64 PGA Tour players will tee-off to see if they can march their name up the match play ladder.
The part I wish we could see better is the importance of each match. Why don’t they have a huge board with all of matches being played and tell how much money each match is worth and how many FedEx Cup points are at stake?
Given our ability to make mathematical deductions with a computer why doesn’t the TV broadcast provide such information?
For example: we know that in 2016, Jason Day won $1,620,000 for 1st prize and 550 points. Louis Oosthuizen won $1,018,000 and 315 points.
We also know that a player finishing in a tie for 51st and earns $52,000 and 15.5 points. Why don’t we know that before they tee-off so we know that a player standing over a three-foot putt on the 17th hole is putting for a difference of $12,000 and 11.5 points?
Part of match play is the pressure of elimination. Part of elimination is the exact amount of money and points available.
This situation can only be calculated in match play because the money and points for each position of finish are pre-determined, unlike a regular medal play event where each position can be affected by ties.
If the player’s knees are trembling let me share in their experience. Let me know what they know, so I can shake along with them.