Match play golf used to be a more regular staple on the PGA Tour. It wasn't until television came along and fans of pro golf expanded that the formats of most tournaments revolved around stroke play. Then in 1999, Accenture started sponsoring the annual match play championship.
The 2012 field has seen some surprises. The different format gives golf fans something relatively new to think about instead of following the same golfers for four days. As the 2012 tournament enters into its third day, it's important to remember that some strategies in match play differ from stroke play.
One hole won't ruin your tournament unlike stroke play. If a pro golfer hits a double bogey on one or even two holes in a match, that person only goes down by the number of holes conceded. Match play consists of the number of holes won against a single opponent over 18 holes.
Let's take the hypothetical example of a Rory McIlroy versus Tiger Woods matchup. Say Woods get into trouble on a par four and double bogeys. McIlroy hits the perfect drive with the wind and winds up with an eagle on the same hole. McIlroy only gains one point on his opponent instead of four strokes if they were playing stroke play.
Dropping two or three strokes on one field of 125 players can be devastating if the players around you are doing well on the leader board. In match play, you can easily make up ground on the next hole. In some respects, match play gives underdogs a chance to win. Golfers don't have to be perfect. In fact, if they excel in just one aspect of golf they can still win a match play round.
Match play also lets you play into your strengths more easily. If your driver is off but your putting is beyond belief, you can tailor your match play tournament around your strength. Consider doing better on par three holes, average on par four and hoping for the best on par five drives.
Instead of playing against 125 players, golfers can focus on just one opponent. Golf is an individual sport, but knowing your opponent will help win the match.
Arnold Palmer writes on his website that he preferred stroke play. Yet match play offered him a chance to take risks on holes he wouldn't normally take. If a golfer is behind in later holes, the greater risks he or she must take to try to win.
In match play, you can be done after 18 holes instead of staying for the next round if you make the cut. That's part of the fun and the challenge of match play over stroke play.
William Browning has covered sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network including golf and local golf courses in southwest Missouri. He currently resides in Branson, Mo.
- Match play
- stroke play