Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

GOLF NOTES ; Match Play Change Still Leaves Meaningless Matches

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

GOLF NOTES ; Match Play Change Still Leaves Meaningless Matches

Article excerpt

AUSTIN, Texas - The latest format for the Dell Match Play was intended to create more possibilities going into the final day of group matches. It generated a little more confusion, though the numbers would suggest a slight improvement.

From the 64-man field, 22 players already were eliminated before the final day of round-robin matches. That's the same number as a year ago.

There were six matches on Friday in which nothing was at stake for either player (one was conceded when Daniel Berger withdrew with a sore wrist). A year ago, there were eight matches that had no bearing on who won the group. There were four playoffs, compared with only one last year.

Two players last year, Rickie Fowler and John Senden, clinched a spot in the round of 16 on Thursday. No one did that at Austin Country Club.

The biggest changes this year were the lack of a tie-breaker in group play, and allowing for matches to be halved in group play instead of going extra holes. Chris Kirk defeated Branden Grace in the opening round, while Dustin Johnson beat Kiradech Aphibarnrat in the second round. Because of ties, they had to go to a sudden-death playoff. Kirk and Johnson wound up winning anyway.

Perhaps the most curious decision was when to start the playoff.

Kirk and Grace were the opening two matches on Friday and won easily. A year ago, they would have gone right back out, cutting in front of players who had yet to begin their match. This time, both had to wait more than two hours until the last match had started. That meant brief interviews, lunch, waiting around and then warming up again.

Why not just send them right out?

A year ago, there were 17 matches in round-robin play that ended up going extra holes. Some players who had warmed up and were ready to go had to wait as much as 30 minutes before they were allowed to tee off. That's why the tournament staff this year decided to make all playoffs on Friday wait until the final match was off.

Was it fair to Grace, who drove into a fairway bunker, flew that over the green and lost with a bogey? Match Play is still about the opponent. Kirk faced the same circumstances.

As for the meaningless matches on Friday, that's the last thing any player wants to face. …

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