PGA Tour’s decision to stop match play was a mistake. Here’s how to fix it

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy hits a shot on Sunday on the 13th hole at Austin Country Club.

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“Yeah, I just think, I think for right now, for next season’s schedule, it didn’t work. But match play has been a staple out here. It’s been a staple on the DP World Tour. I think that there’s — that will certainly be a consideration as we go forward.” — Jay Monahan, PGA Tour commissioner, March 7 

Consideration? Match play doesn’t need to go to a committee. This is a gimme, to steal a term from the format. 

Play it. Play it. Play it. Play it. Play it. Play it. Play it! 

Sam Burns of the United States follows his shot from the eighth tee during day five of the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club on March 26, 2023 in Austin, Texas.
Sam Burns dominates Cam Young for the final WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play title
By: Jack Hirsh

Seven statements. In honor of seven statements by this year’s WGC-Match Play winner, Sam Burns. Play it again, Sam. Damn, he was good, right? Three wins in group play. A 2-and-1 win over Patrick Cantlay in the round of 16. A 3-and-2 quarterfinals win over Mackenzie Hughes. Sunday was most special, though. A 21-hole win over Scottie Scheffler — his Tour bestie, no less — in a shocker in the semifinals. A 6-and-5 finals demolition of Cameron Young, who had dispatched Rory McIlroy earlier in the day. Good stuff.   

And now it’s over, with the Monahan quote above, said during the Players Championship, addressing the news of the WGC-Match Play’s demise after this year.

The bracket is busted.

The one-on-one is done. 

Talk about an upset. March madness? March sadness!

“The PGA Tour can’t abandon match play,” tweeted NBC analyst and longtime caddie John Wood, joining a lengthy chorus of support. “1 week a year. It’s so refreshing & fun to watch,to play,to commentate. I think the players love it, as do the fans. Maybe 1 of the designated events will take a look at it. It will make them stand out from the crowd.Find a way to keep it in.”

Agreed. 

Of course, money talks here, and Adam Schupak at Golfweek expertfully reported some of the ins and outs of the decision to end the event at Austin Country Club. We get it. But let’s get creative here, like the electric format itself. 

Here, then — for your consideration — are seven ways (!) to continue to play match play on the PGA Tour. 

1. Keep it as is. Keep it at Austin Country Club. 

The city is great. There’s barbecue. Who doesn’t like burnt ends? 

And Pete Dye-designed Austin CC — with its scorable holes and drivable par-4s (plural) and water and sand and trees — fits. Beautiful carnage. 

“Yeah, and I don’t think it would be a favorite course for stroke play,” Jon Rahm said. “But, again, for match play, it really, really, really works.”

A collage of winners of World Golf Championship events with Greg Norman.
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Three reallys? Wow. You’d have to keep it designated to work, but he tournament experience is peerless.

2. Move it to TPC Scottsdale. Make the WM Phoenix Open match play.   

If the concern is money, the fans will come to TPC Scottsdale. If you’re worried about having just four players on the final day, the fans will still come to the WM Phoenix Open. 

But mainly here, No. 16 must have match play. Our one suggestion would be to move it up in the routing — possibly as the 11th hole — so every match goes through. And let the good times roll and the booze flow. 

3. Move it to tournament-starved areas. Move it to Chambers Bay. Move it to Whistling Straits. 

Same as above. If the issue is the bottom line, go to where fans have been saving up. Move match play to tournament-starved areas. 

Chambers Bay? Yes! After the 2015 U.S. Open, it deserves another shot

Whistling Straits! Yes! Another Dye course. Ryder Cup memories. Spotted Cow beer. 

And on and on. Golf doesn’t need to be played in just California, Florida, Texas and the East Coast. 

4. Move it to the exotic. Move it to Bandon Dunes. Move it to Seminole. 

Fans may be an issue here. But viewership wouldn’t be. There’s your money. 

Bandon Dunes? Yes! Drone shots along the Pacific? Yes! Trophy presentation at McKee’s? Yes!  

Seminole? Yes! We loved the 2020 event there. We loved the 2021 Walker Cup there. Let’s run it back. 

And on and on. If Augusta National can open its doors, so can some other ooh-la-la tracks. 

5. Make a non-elevated tournament match play. Let’s have a bracket at the John Deere. 

We’ve heard some concerns from the non-designated folks. (The Fire Pit Collective wrote a wonderful piece here.) It’s understandable: If the stars are going to the big events, the little guy gets lost. Here’s the answer: Make yourself unique. Stand out from the stroke-play sea. 

You hearing this, John Deere Classic?

Rory McIlroy
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Rahm may even be in. Earlier in the week, he was asked if he would play a tournament if it had match play, regardless of its designated status. 

“I most likely would, yeah” he said. “I love match play. Why not? It’s a really fun format, so I probably would, yes.”

6. Make the Tour Championship match play 

To make this fair, you’d have to bake in some byes. A long season deserves some spoils. 

But do you really want to determine your Tour champion?

Make it mano a mano

For all the money. 

7. 32 PGA Tour players. And 32 LIV Golf players. Match play. 

LOL. Probably not gonna happen.

(Whispers: But you’d watch.)

Sam Burns
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By: Nick Piastowski

We’ll end this with Rahm again. And this exchange. 

“You talked about how much you love match play. If you were giving a presentation and had to convince people and say this is why we need a match-play event on the calendar every year, what would be the 30-second pitch?”

“That’s not my job. I could only tell you as a player, right? I wouldn’t know how to convince a sponsor. As a player, it’s just an opportunity to play kind of a different golf, right?

“It’s really the only time throughout the year besides maybe the Ryder Cup where you’re playing truly against the person in front of you, which is much more relatable to every sport we play in the world, which is basically about just playing better than the team in front.

“Usually it’s very much about you minding your own business and hopefully beating the other 150 players in the field. It’s fun. It’s a lot more aggressive. You see more birdies. You see a lot of things happen.

“Again, one of the things you mentioned, when you have a lot of matches out there, you see a ton of highlights and a ton of great things happening. When you only have one or two on the course, I can understand why it can be a little bit hard to — as a product, I wouldn’t know how to sell it. I honestly can’t tell you.

“I can tell you why I love it so much.”

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Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at nick.piastowski@golf.com.

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