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Teeing Off: Does golf need more match play?

Shane Bacon
Devil Ball Golf

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Welcome to Teeing Off, where Devil Ball editor Shane Bacon and national columnist Jay Busbee take a day's topic and smack it all over the course. Suggest a future topic by hitting us on Twitter at@shanebacon and @jaybusbee. Today we look at match play, and why it can't be in our lives more.

[Also: Obama on golfing with Tiger Woods: ‘He’s on another planet’]

Bacon: It's safe to say that the 2013 PGA Tour season is in full swing. We've had a Tiger win, we've had Phil dominate, and we've had some other big names snag a victory here and there. But now comes the first World Golf Championships event of the year, and a packed field is in Arizona ready to kick off on Wednesday. With all that said, I ask you, is this the best non-major event of the year?

Busbee: I've always got a soft spot for Colonial, Bay Hill and the Memorial, but in terms of flat-out excitement and anticipation, yeah, it's hard to beat the first Match Play event of the year. Although TV hates and fears Match Play, the fans seem to love it; you think there's any chance it'll ever bust out of its current walled garden? Olympics, maybe?

Bacon: You hit on the one problem that is the Accenture Match Play; if the big names lose early, NOBODY WATCHES. Well, you and I watch, but we're golf dorks and we, ya know, get paid to watch it, but fans seem to tune off when Paul Casey is up against Geoff Ogilvy. While I wasn't alive at the time, I miss the idea that one of the major championships had a match play format, and while it will never go back to that, I wish SOMETHING big would take this on, and that's why I think the Olympics is the best option. We see stroke play events all year long, why not mix it up and use a format that most fans seem to really enjoy? Is match play too big of a ratings killer to creep into our big golf events?

Busbee: For the Olympics, where golf is a secondary sport at best, and for golf, for whom the Olympics is a secondary pursuit at best, I see no reason why we can't have a more unusual (sort of) format for the Games. The possibility that some unknown could play the matches of his life and take down Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy in succession? It could happen in match play. It's just that the unpredictability of the format runs completely counter to everything that TV needs: a defined timeline ending in a Sunday-afternoon showdown with the biggest names. Though, I dunno, the NCAA Tournament has seemed to do OK with it. Are we back to that old bit about golf being too dependent on star power?

Bacon: I believe so. As much as some of us enjoy seeing an underdog have a chance at an event like this, I don't see a lot of this country getting up for a K.J. Choi vs. Stuart Appleby finals in the Olympics, which could very much happen if we went to match play. I just ... there has to be some way to incorporate it into that format to make it interesting. The Accenture is one of my favorite events to watch all season because of the unpredictability, so why not allow this to leak into other events? Maybe it'll be slow to start, but why couldn't this work for the finals of the FedEx Cup or something? I feel like people would enjoy it way more than they initially would think.

Busbee: How about double elimination? Have two brackets going, so that if Tiger spits the bit on Wednesday he's got a chance to get back in it. Sure, it's gimmicky, but so's golf in general. I'm with you, there has to be a way to make this work to bring a little more of the head-to-head competition to the sport. So, who ya got this weekend?

Bacon: I'm picking Luke Donald, mainly because he's done well in this format before and I have to buck the trend of picking winners that end up missing the cut (no cut here!). I think this is the hardest week of the year to try and pick a winner, because there is no final round 64 out there to leaps you up a leaderboard, but yeah, Donald is my guy. Who are you blindly picking?!

Busbee: I'll go with the reiging match play maestro, Mr. Ian Poulter. He tears it up in the Ryder Cup; let's watch how he does it without an entire continent to back him up. My guess? He'll roll anyway ... and he'll figure out a way to be insulted by this, too.

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