The coterie of PGA Tour executives who masterminded the format used for the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play clearly didn’t seek the advice of prematurely the writings of nineteenth-century theologian Tryon Edwards.
“Compromise is but the sacrifice of one right or good in the hope of retaining another, too often ending in the loss of both,” Edwards famously wrote.
The unbending outdated minister had some extent, at the very least because it pertains to golf in its purest kind. For if we’re to dilute the very essence of match play competitors — win or hit the street — then we should count on a more rewarding pay-off for the sacrifice than Billy Horschel vs. Scottie Scheffler.
That’s not meant as a rap on Horschel and Scheffler, each of whom earned their locations in Sunday’s WGC closing at Austin Country Club, however it’s an indictment of the facile effort to quasi-engineer an final result favorable to rankings on the expense of competitors. Golf and match play are innately capricious, and attempting to fabricate from them a selected situation is a idiot’s errand.
That desired final result is explicitly uncomplicated, if unspoken explicitly: showcasing the sport’s brightest stars in head-to-head matches on the ultimate day. With all due respect to Messrs. Horschel, Scheffler, Perez and Kuchar, none of Sunday’s opponents are luminous stars of the magnitude imagined.
Billy Horschel throughout the fourth day of the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club. Mandatory Credit: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports
It was in 2015 that the Tour distributed with the simple 64-man knockout bracket used because the inception of the WGC-Dell Technologies occasion sixteen years earlier. A round-robin format was instituted by which 16 four-man teams play over three days to find out who advances to the knockout part. Early returns appeared to recommend this aggressive contortion was yielding the hoped-for product. From ’15 to ’17, the event was gained by two No. 1 seeds (Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson) and one No. 2 seed (Jason Day).
But which will have owed more to kind than format.
Match Play Sundays have sometimes been the area of gamers with more expertise than celeb, males who unquestionably deserve their success however who seldom hearth curiosity amongst followers. The solely factor assured by the addition of group play is an oddball assortment of outcomes that appear jarring in elite competitors.
Horschel and Perez, for instance, had been each defeated on Thursday but confronted off in Sunday’s semi-final. Ryan Palmer and Xander Schauffele didn’t lose a match however each had been eradicated Friday, in Schauffele’s case with a document similar to that of Scheffler, a win and two halves. Brian Harman misplaced his first-round match to Patrick Cantlay, however contested a quarterfinal on Saturday afternoon. Cantlay gained two matches however didn’t attain the knockout stage. Abraham Ancer met the identical numerical destiny, whereas the person he beat on Thursday, Kevin Streelman, did advance. Daniel Berger trounced Erik Van Rooyen, 6 and 4, on the primary day, however you may most likely guess by now which considered one of them nonetheless had a tee time within the closing 16.
Scottie Scheffler made his birdie putt on No. 11 within the semifinal match of the ultimate day of the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play golf event at Austin Country Club. Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports
None of that is the fault of the gamers. They can solely contest no matter format is offered. The unnecessary complexity of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is the accountability of the Tour, which has seldom met a conundrum it couldn’t additional complicate (that’s why the FedEx Cup playoffs system has had more touch-ups than Cher). What the format delivered in 2021 is that this: the best seed to succeed in Sunday was No. 30, Scheffler. Rounding out the final day foursome had been Nos. 31, 32 and 52.
Thirteen main championship winners started play on Wednesday. Only considered one of them — Sergio Garcia — was alive on Saturday afternoon, whereas among the many different dozen solely Watson and Jordan Spieth made it out of group play. Just two — TWO! — of the highest 31 ranked gamers on the planet made the ultimate 16: Rahm and Tommy Fleetwood.
The vagaries evident in ’21 proceed a pattern. At the final Match Play, in 2019, Forty eighth-seeded Kevin Kisner edged No. 23 Kuchar. The 12 months earlier than that, Kisner was seeded thirty second and misplaced the ultimate to No. 35 Bubba Watson, whereas Justin Thomas was solely one of many high 12 seeds to succeed in the ultimate eight.
As Saturday evening fell in Ponte Vedra Beach, someplace a swimsuit sobbed whereas staring on the sure-thing algorithm he was satisfied might sidestep the gorgeous, binary simplicity of W-L and 64-man brackets and ship a compelling tv showdown.
Golf is a fickle mistress and match play its most mercurial format. That is obvious not solely in each version of this event, however in Ryder and Presidents Cup play too. If Tour and TV executives wish to guarantee model names function within the Sunday closing of the WGC Match Play — don’t count on an official acknowledgment of this need — there’s just one option to accomplish that: invite solely model names to take part. Because in case you prize Goliaths, you’d greatest cease inviting Davids to the social gathering.