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Win-or-go-home mindset softened by WGC Match Play’s pool format

AUSTIN, Texas – Golf doesn’t do ties and, no less than on the highest stage, the thought of a mulligan is broadly frowned upon, so when the circuit transitioned to pool play for its model of March Madness, the response was predictable.

Although opinions diverse on the brand new format when it was launched on the 2015 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, the consensus was easy – simply win.

Prior to ’15 the occasion adhered to the standard ruthlessness of match play, with a win-or-go-home commonplace that will have been widespread amongst gamers however left officers trying to find options when the sport’s stars had been despatched packing early. The outcome was three days of pool play amongst 16 four-player pods.

That first 12 months largely went to plan, with 12 of the 16 gamers who superior to the weekend going 3-0. But since that high-water mark, these numbers have skewed within the different route. In ’16, simply six of the Sweet 16 had been good, and final 12 months that quantity slipped to only 5. In whole, lower than 50 % (.475) of gamers who’ve superior previous pool play since ’15 have posted good data.

Although there’s a giant portion of gamers who’ve superior with a tie, which might technically depart them undefeated, there are some high-profile examples of a one-loss participant making it to the weekend, most notably this week’s defending champion Kevin Kisner, who misplaced to Ian Poulter on Day 1 in ’19 (the ’20 occasion was cancelled due to COVID-19) however was good the remainder of the best way.

Justin Thomas ready for ‘challenge’ at WGC-Dell Match Play

That statistical actuality has created an evolving outlook for gamers from “just win” to “just advance.”

“Certainly, on Monday and Tuesday I’m thinking I got to go win all three matches,” Jordan Spieth stated. “If you get to a loss or a tie, I guess it is a nice feeling to know that there is a chance still.”

The format labored as marketed in ’19 when Tiger Woods misplaced to Brandt Snedeker on Day 2 and nonetheless superior to the weekend to arrange a marquee Saturday showdown towards Rory McIlroy. Yet whereas gamers perceive the necessity for pool play, if not the chance for a possible mulligan, some nonetheless adhere to the notion that the standard format can be higher.

“I’ve got mixed views on it. I think it’s great for the fans that you can have this group stage. Justin Thomas loses to someone that’s well outside the rankings, he goes home on Day 1, it’s not great for TV, it’s not great for people at home,” Matthew Fitzpatrick stated. “I think there’s a lot of guys that kind of just want to do straight knockout and just get on with it, and if you lose, you lose, and you win, you’re on to the next one.

“But guys who win the first round probably think the opposite. It doesn’t really bother me too much.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Matches

Thomas can be one thing of an authority on the matter primarily based on his WGC-Match Play profession. In 4 begins within the occasion he’s superior out of pool play simply as soon as, in ’18 when he was an ideal 3-0-0. He is a mixed 2-6-1 in pool play in his different three begins.

“It’s kind of weird and different just because obviously your match is most important and you just keep winning your matches, it doesn’t matter what everybody else does, but it does matter at the same time,” Thomas stated. “When you’re going through the pod play you hope other guys do something else, especially once you get to that second and third round, but you know if you go 3-0-0 you’re going to be fine. That’s something I’ve struggled with in the past is looking too much at maybe other matches or worrying about what else is going on or playing to my opponent too much.”

Most gamers adhere to an analogous mindset that match play – true match play – is the best type of aggressive democracy. Win or go dwelling. But these aggressive wants have been softened by the leisure realities {of professional} golf and pool play.

Players will nonetheless spend Monday and Tuesday at Austin Country Club poised for an ideal run via pool play, however statistically that’s not the case extra occasions than not.

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