12 Apr 2023

David Howell: The end of match play on the traditional tours is a crying shame

Sam Burns, then, is the man to bring down the curtain on two decades of WGC events with his convincing win in the Dell Technologies Match Play against Cameron Young in a one-sided final.

The fireworks came a little earlier in the day with the big beasts of McIlroy and Scheffler being tamed in extra holes. The dream final at one stage looked odds on, but the young pretenders had other ideas and final hole birdies took things into extra time, the vagaries of match play laid bare for all to see once more.

The delight showed by Sam Burns in victory was a reminder of how the WGC events were held in the minds of the world’s best players, and in my mind its a shame that they have now fallen by the wayside. At one point in the early days when they moved around the globe, to Australia, Spain, London, Ireland and China they seemed like a wonderful platform for the interested golf fan across the globe to glimpse the stars from the TV play in meaningful tournaments.

Tiger dominated them but that made it all the more interesting when an unsung player managed to clinch one, or a big-name player consolidated his image with a well-deserved victory. Who could fail to raise a smile at the sight of Shane Lowry winning at Firestone, or Darren Clarke taking down Tiger Woods in the match play final.

I can recall the delight I felt when I tapped in on the 72nd hole at Mount Juliet back in 2004 to see I had finished third on my own behind Ernie Els and Thomas Bjørn – a stepping stone towards the top of the game had been made. I think they were good days for golf, not a global tour, but with the best players going global often enough to make it feel that way. It’s a shame they’ve gone in my mind, but the professional golf landscape has changed beyond all recognition in the last eighteen months, of that there is no doubt.

So the no cut WGC events have been replaced by the no cut designated events on the PGA Tour, the world’s best players now have to become members of the PGA Tour to compete against the best players outside of Major Championships. However, as there is no minimum event requirement, this is actually no big deal as I see it. Lets face facts, 99% of professional players want to be PGA Tour members anyway. For the likes of the 25 year old me, trying to make great strides in the game, the route now is to get one of the ten cards on offer from the DP World tour, then bang out a good week or two on the regular PGA tour schedule and jump into the designated events, a clear route to riches beyond most people’s wildest dreams.

Back on the DP World Tour, our mission is to take golf around the globe, showcasing not only the wonderful countries and venues that we are so lucky to visit, but also to show off the incredible talent that is bubbling away on our tour. Matt Wallace recently won the opposite event in Punta Cana on the PGA Tour pipping regular member Nicolai Hogaard to the spoils.

Top class talent is always on show on the DP World Tour, and this month we break new ground once again by visiting the golfing mecca of Japan for the first time in our history. A proud golfing country that has hosted some wonderful events over the years, a few of which I have been lucky enough to grace, albeit back when I had a full head of hair. Golf in Japan was just a little bit different – the sound of the ball entering the cup with a ping instead of a dull thud, the wonderful vibrant colours of the golf bags and clothes, the back drop of Mount Fuji as your ball rolled serenely across a green so pure the stimp-meter read 15. All wonderful stuff in front of enthusiastic galleries.

Our first visit alongside our partners at ISPS Handa will be an important first step to building up a new event from scratch and hopefully together we can build another tremendous event for the Japanese golf fans to visit in their thousands in years to come. South Korea is the next stop and whilst we have been there before it has been a few years since we graced their shores, another welcome addition to the schedule in a golf centric country, sadly I wont be there but my colleagues I’m sure will have a great two week trip.

The death of the WGCs also heralds for now the end of match play on the traditional tours which is a crying shame in my opinion, and a situation which will no doubt be changed in quick time I hope.

In a world of fast content and short attention spans it always pleasantly surprised me how well the World Match Play Championship at Wentworth worked for many decades. Thirty six hole matches between the world’s best 12 golfers. Simple, elegant, old fashioned and popular, it is something worth remembering in this ever-changing landscape in my opinion.

Match play is a wonderful format, head-to-head with players you respect, its just the best. My debut in the WGC World Match Play was against Steve Elkington. I couldn’t have been more excited to take on the sweet swinging PGA Champion, it was a feather in my cap when I pipped him late on. To deny the professional player this joy would be a crying shame.

On a final note, the roll back bifurcation debate is now raging after the R&A announcement and in a paragraph I sit on the side that says it is right to do something to reign in the distance the ball is going, but I think I would start with the size of the driver head – smaller heads equals smaller sweet spots, which equates to shorter shafts and slower swings for most.

Related articles

Scheffler is the man but keep an eye on Brooks

Having just got home from four straight weeks on the road...

Pete Cowen: Golf is at a Major crossroad

I’m in America at the moment, working with my players, but...

Guy Kinnings takes the helm of the DP World Tour

A new chapter in the history of the DP World Tour...