Accenture Match Play – Where is Everybody?
One of our few opportunities for big time match play is coming up in the WGC Accenture March Play this week. Match play is a great change-up from the normal 72 hole slug-fest we see week to week, and it highlights a chance to see individual greats and â€œwannabeâ€ greats go one on one with each other. Itâ€™s considered a particularly keen test of will and confidence, to go through a series of face-downs with no one else anywhere in sight.
And yet, the sponsors are not renewing the event with the PGA next year, and oneâ€™s got to wonder whatâ€™s going to happen to match play. Is it the format thatâ€™s at fault? How could it be? These are golfâ€™s answer to wild west gunfights, and everyone loves those – donâ€™t they?
Apparently not at Dove Mountain in Arizona. This year, three of the top players arenâ€™t coming. We can guess the reason in Tiger Woodsâ€™ case – like most, and more than any, Tiger has a â€œmajorâ€ mania. Itâ€™s primarily what his aspirations are about these days, so heâ€™s going to spend his time preparing for the Masters, the first major of the season. He says that light putting is a priority, and that heâ€™s been chipping out of bermuda grass instead of rye, and wants to get acclimated.
Speaking of the Masters, Adam Scott, last yearâ€™s winner, isnâ€™t coming to Dove Mountain, either. Scott didnâ€™t rely on peripheral excuses. Much of the reason he wonâ€™t be there is due to the course, citing the fact that â€œmy record isnâ€™t very good there.â€
Accenture Match Play Look at a few photos, and youâ€™ll see why. This is a Nicklaus design, but Jack must have been really mad at somebody. There isnâ€™t a single place to stand on the course where itâ€™s advantageous to have two legs of the same length. To say that the fairways and greens are â€œundulatingâ€ is a gross understatement, and from irons to the putter, itâ€™s maddening.
Phil Mickelson isnâ€™t coming for Accenture, either. Itâ€™s strange, that only a year ago, I perceived this as an event nobody would want to miss, but this year, itâ€™s being avoided left and right. Unlike Scott, Phil didnâ€™t blame it on the course, relying on the family vacation/kids are out of school thing. I donâ€™t know, maybe he means it – jut saying.
Apparently, Mother Nature might be playing a role as well. It isnâ€™t just the players who are avoiding Dove Mountain, but the crowds have been disappointing as well. Itâ€™s a bit of a trek to get there, but not any worse than the 150 miles Iâ€™ve driven to see and meet favorite players for the first time. A 25 mile jaunt is nothing, so donâ€™t give me that. No, in case no one has noticed, thereâ€™s been a change in the temperature and weather patterns around the world lately, and Marana, Arizona is allegedly â€œcoldâ€ all of a sudden. Now thatâ€™s a reason for skipping it that I can get behind. The older I get, the more I hate being cold.
The Accenture is still left with some interesting match-ups, and some new faces. With the disappearance of Tiger, Adam and Phil, the 64-man field has issued an invitation to the 65th and 66th ranked players – Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand, and Scott Piercey. The first day will see Aphibarnrat, Asiaâ€™s number one, face off against Henrik Stenson, who has seemingly won everything of importance there is to win lately.
Still, match play on the tour is in a little trouble if nothing replaces this event. Weâ€™re still depending on those Tiger/Adam/Mickelson appearances to draw the purse and the crowds. Maybe a change in the location will be necessary. The course was voted no. 51 in the playersâ€™ preferences, and thatâ€™s not good. Part of getting there is making them want to be there – a little sun and a level place to stand will help.