By Shane Bacon
Admit it, you love match play. Absolutely love it. It takes golf to another level. Instead of playing the usual format (you versus everyone else including the golf course) you are HEAD-to-HEAD against one guy, loser jumps on the phone with their travel agent.
It used to decide one of the majors, is the format to the best in both men’s and women’s golf (Ryder and Solheim Cups) and is what us regular folks play everyday when competing against friends on the links.
So, why in the world is it only once a year?
I know the reason why we only see it in one big event each season. Match play is feast or famine for networks, because if Tiger Woods plays Phil Mickelson in the finals, and all the matches before that, eyes will be glued to the television. If the finals are Ian Poulter and Paul Casey (like in 2010), it will be me, Elling and Nick Faldo watching on Sunday.
But just once could we forget about the money and viewers and advertisers and all that and just make match play more relevant? It’s a beautiful format that changes the way professional golfers play the game. It brings in a whole new edge to the golf world, and as we’ve seen in the past, some are good at it, and some aren’t (Good? Geoff Ogilvy, Poulter, Tiger, and Casey. Bad? Vijay Singh, Vijay Singh and Vijay Singh).
If your opponent hits his drive into a Jumping Cholla, you can hit iron off the tee and let him battle with the cacti. If your opponent drives the green, you are most definitely pulling out the big dog to try and answer his feat. Putts are just as much about strategy as they are about the line, and the whole goal is to win that shot, that hole, and honors.
It gives golf an almost tennis feel. Rafeal Nadal talks in his book about just the point he’s in, and how neither the point before or the point after matters. That’s very similar in match play. Sure, when you play stroke play the shot you’re playing is the only thing you have control over, but it’s your whole round that matters. In this format, you can play the entire hole backwards in your mind, figure out exactly what you plan on doing, and execute it that way in hopes your opponent won’t have the same game plan.
Match play is beautiful, simple and exciting. It mixes golf with the shootout of hockey, the overtime of the NFL and buzzer beaters in basketball. It makes us think of March Madness (the best sports time of the entire year) and has a side comedy factor that one minute some millionaire golfer is out playing to win, and the next he’s figuring out how to get out of the rental agreement on his mansion in the foothills of Dove Mountain.
I just wish we had it more than once a year. I wish the PGA Championship still went with this format because I think one major should be decided by match play, but I guess for now, enjoying the week and being excited about all the outcomes is the way to go.For more golf news, rumors and analysis, follow Shane Bacon and Eye On Golf on Twitter.