By Steve Elling
MARANA, Ariz. -- The Dove Mountain course was designed, explicitly, with match play in mind.
So when players basically deemed the host venue for this week's Accenture Match Play Championship as the second-worst course on the PGA Tour, it had to sting.
The venue's contract to host the tournament expires after this week, and depending on your personal view, it might come as mixed news that signs point toward the mega-money event staying put.
"Right now, we're heading in the direction of keeping it here," PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said Wednesday morning.
GolfWorld magazine last month ranked the courses in recent use on the tour and the Jack Nicklaus design finished ahead of one other venue, the critically savaged Liberty National course, which has hosted exactly one tour event.
So, in other words, the Dove Mountain course finished dead last among courses in annual use in tour competition.
The primary beef with players is that the greens are far too severe, as evidenced by the humorous exchange that Rory McIlroy this week recounted after he ran into Nicklaus at a South Florida shopping mall.
"He asked me what I thought of this golf course and I said it was great," McIlroy said, choosing the next few words very carefully.
"He asked me about the greens, and I went, 'they are okaaaay,'" McIlroy said, drawing laughs.
He made the point without underscoring it. The course is also located about 30 minutes from central Tucson at about 3,000 feet of elevation, whcih can cause issues when the weather changes. It snowed and hailed during the match-play finale last year. Fan attendance at the venue, which is tough to walk because of its proximity to the mountains, has been decent at best.
David Pillsbury, the tour's executive vice president of Championship Management, which runs the event, said there would be no announcement about the future fate of the site until after the tournament ends.
"We'll see how it goes, see what the attendance looks like, all that," Pillsbury said.
That said, Pillsbury strongly indicated that despite indications of the contrary, the event won't migrate far -- either in terms of geography or the calendar. The Associated Press, citing two tour sources, said there have been discussions about moving the match-play championship to Harding Park in San Francisco and slotting it in October as part of the revamped fall start to the season. According the the AP, the two sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss negotiations. Both stressed that the option was in the early stages of consideration.
"It'll be in this market and in this time frame," Pillsbury said Wednesday.
For how long?