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PGA Tour Match Play Championship moves to TPC Harding Park, changes format

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The PGA Tour’s Match Play Championship will see a new format in 2015, which was long overdue.

News broke on Wednesday morning when PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem announced that the event will be switching venues to TPC Harding Park next year and will have a format that is more like the World Cup than NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournament, with group play prefacing elimination matches. In the updated format, 16 groups consisting of four players in each group will play each other before determining a winner to enter single elimination play.

You can watch Finchem’s full press conference (6 minutes and 51 seconds) in the video below.

The event will also move its spot on the PGA Tour schedule, as it will now be played from April 29–May 3, making it the week before The Players’ Championship. A decision to change the timing of the event, according to reports, was made to increase the odds of playing in dry conditions at Harding Park. It is only set to host the match play in 2015 and the event is yet to have a title sponsor since the Tour’s contract with Accenture ended this year.

If you follow golf, you know that Finchem has had the reins on the PGA Tour for the past two decades and has implemented many initiatives that have resulted in the immense growth and popularity for the Tour.

Some argue that Finchem’s success as commissioner has come due to good fortune and timing, while others believe the growth and success of the PGA Tour product would have happened regardless of what was going on behind the scenes because of Tiger Woods’ immense popularity. Nonetheless, it is hard to deny the huge strides the Tour has made during the Finchem Regime.

With regards to the Match Play tournament, Finchem and the Tour’s biggest issue was its format. By having the field, which is known as one of the best of the year since it’s a WGC event, cut in half after day one was a public relations and television nightmare. While a few different format changes were discussed back in February, the Tour has adopted a round-robin, play-in style format, which gains three opening rounds before elimination starts.

“It’s a lot more golf,” Finchem said. “It’s a ton of golf. We know the fans here will relish the opportunity to have that much more golf.”

I love this change. Intensity from the players won’t diminish since each round is still very crucial, but most importantly, this format will keep the best players in the world around for at least three days instead one. Well done Tim, well done!

tpc-harding-park

TPC Harding Park, the upcoming venue for 2015’s updated Match Play Championship, has bitten off quite a large chunk of championships in the upcoming years. After hosting the match play in 2015, Harding Park will also host the PGA Championship in 2020 and the Presidents’ Cup in 2025.

The course is no stranger to big events, which has hosted the Lucky International (1961-1966, 1968), the San Francisco Open (1944, 1945 and 1969), the WGC American Express Championship (2005), The Presidents’ Cup (2009) and The Charles Schwab Cup Championship (2010-2012).

World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship - Final Round

Why did the venue for the Match Play Championship move from the Jack Nicklaus-designed desert beauty at the Ritz Carlton Resort at Dove Mountain? Well, the event wasn’t terribly fan-friendly because of the course’s large property and long walk between holes. Also, the course is quite literally in the middle of nowhere, making travel to the course difficult as well. Fans struggling to get to a course that isn’t very fun to be at didn’t prove to be a successful formula.

The San Francisco area, which is buzzing with golf events recently and in the future, should provide a solution to Match Play’s problem. In addition to hosting this event, the area recently held The Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic in April, and the event is also set to return to Lake Merced nearby in Daly City in 2015. The U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship is set make its national debut nearby in 2015 at Olympic Club, site of the 2012 U.S. Open.

The San Francisco area golf fans and TPC Harding Park will relish the opportunity to have the match play event, but I’m just happy the format finally made an improvement, one that we can all enjoy.

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Oliver Berg is a golf fanatic whose roots in the game were formed in the rugged and rocky golf links of Southern Ontario, Canada. By putting the pen to paper, or more appropriately, his fingers to the keyboard, Oliver turned his passion for ‘talking golf’ online by starting The High Fade Golf Blog. Oliver works in the digital marketing space in the fashion industry in Toronto and has applied what he’s learned from social media marketing to his own Instagram golf account - @thehighfade. Having grown up in a family of golfers, Oliver was given a special gift at young age from his grandmother -- a pillow that reads “Life’s a game, but Golf is serious” is something that he sleeps beside every night, and he pretty much lives by that!

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Dennis Clark

    Jul 9, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    They need to go with a field of 32 and play 36 hole matches; sponsors have a better chance of getting the marquis names on Sunday

  2. Rich

    Jul 4, 2014 at 8:41 pm

    What a shame about the venue. I loved watching this event at Dove mountain. It was such a different course compared to all the other places they play during the season. It was one of my favourite courses in the tour. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see if the events works as well now. I don’t like the format change either but not a game changer for me.

  3. MFB

    Jul 4, 2014 at 12:19 pm

    The week before the Players means no Tiger Woods for sure and probably a few other big names will be skipping also.
    But the biggest problem with the event has been the format and not the location. Big names out early lead to fewer people at the event and watching it on TV.
    This is probably a one year stop and then on to somewhere else or the event will just go away.

  4. Pingback: PGA Tour Match Play Championship moves to TPC Harding Park, changes format | Spacetimeandi.com

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