PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — The PGA Tour is completing plans to bring the Match Play Championship to Austin, Texas, starting in 2016.
Three people aware of the negotiations told The Associated Press that Texas-based Dell will be the title sponsor of the World Golf Championship event that features the top 64 players from the world ranking. They spoke on condition of anonymity because an announcement has not been made.
The Match Play would be held next year on March 23-27, the week after the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill and the week before the Shell Houston Open. The Masters is April 7-10 in 2016, which could be ideal for international-based players to stay in America in the weeks leading to Augusta National.
PGA Tour spokesman Ty Votaw said the Tour would have no comment.
Austin Country Club head pro Dale Morgan told Golf.com that the plan had been in the works for months, but was glad the first-ever PGA Tour event in Austin will be at his club.
“It’s great for the club, great for the pro legacy we have here with Harvey Penick, great for Austin, great for Texas.” Morgan said. “Our members still have to vote on this and we wanted to keep it a secret, but it’s hard to keep something this good a secret for long.”
Morgan said the PGA Tour and Austin-based computer company Dell would issue a press release Monday announcing the new partnership. The official vote by the members will likely come at the end of March.
“We’ve done all of our due diligence with past presidents and board members,” he said. “It will be great to have so many good players here in Austin two weeks before the Masters.”
While Dell CEO Michael Dell is not a golfer or a member of ACC, several of his top executives are and they first suggested the club, opened in 1899 and currently undergoing a total renovation by architect Pete Dye and associate Rod Whitman. The course is scheduled to re-open this fall.
“I think Dell wanted to show they are not just a computer company anymore, but a complete business services company and this was the best way to do it,” Morgan added. “The PGA Tour has seen everything we have been doing and is very pleased.”
Former PGA Tour player Joe Ogilvie, who lives in Austin, has also been involved in brining the Match Play Championship to his hometown.
“I think I’ll wait until the official press release comes out on Monday to do much commenting, but it takes everybody,” he said.
Still unclear is how the late March date affects the Valero Texas Open, which currently holds that spot on the PGA Tour calendar. VTO officials had not commented as of Saturday.
Austin Country Club would be the sixth course for the Match Play Championship since the WGC series began in 1999. The tournament was held at La Costa through 2006, with one year at Metropolitan Golf Club in Melbourne. It moved to two courses at Dove Mountain north of Tucson, Ariz., until last year after Accenture declined to renew its title sponsorship.
The Match Play is being held this year from April 29 to May 3 at Harding Park in San Francisco, with Cadillac filling in as a title sponsor.
This year also features a new format. Instead of single elimination, the 64 players will be divided into 16 four-player groups for the first three days. The player with the best record from each group will advance to the round of 16 on Saturday morning, followed by quarterfinals Saturday afternoon, semifinals Sunday morning and the championship match on Sunday afternoon.
That would at least ensure that the top players make it until Friday. Two years ago, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods were eliminated on Wednesday.
When it was in California and Arizona, the Match Play was positioned at the end of the West Coast Swing in late February. Moving to late April for this year meant several international players, such as McIlroy, Henrik Stenson and Martin Kaymer, waited to start their PGA Tour year in Florida.
A move to the end of the March might not help the West Coast.
However, the position on the calendar could add an additional element to the Match Play. Augusta National invites the top 50 in the world a full week before the Masters, meaning the Match Play would be the final event for some players to improve or secure their ranking in the top 50 for a Masters invitation.
Golf.com contributor Art Stricklin contributed to this report