Joy of Golf: Rory McIlroy triumph a welcome boost for Match Play

Joy Chakravarty 10:46 07/05/2015
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Big-match player: Rory McIlroy captured his first WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship.

It was a Rory McIlroy masterclass at the revamped World Golf Championship Match Play last week at TPC Harding Park, and I guess the quality and status of the eventual champion would have left the PGA Tour officials patting their own backs for the changes made.

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This is exactly what they wanted – to have one of the top players in the world playing the final. This is also precisely what the television channels desired, and I can assure you that the ratings will be way higher than last year’s duel between Jason Day and Victor Dubuisson – which, by the way, was a much more interesting match than the 4&2 hiding Gary Woodland got from McIlroy.

And this is what Dell would have wanted to see after agreeing to become the title sponsors of the tournament for the next four years. A McIlroy, or a Jordan Spieth, playing the final is the kind of bang for the buck they want for the reported $12 million per annum deal that they have signed.

Obviously, there was divided opinion on the new format, which saw the 64 players divided into 16 groups and playing round-robin match play for the first three days before the top player from each group advanced to the Round of 16, from where it became the usual do-or-die affair that makes match play the most unpredictable format in the game.

Spieth, after crashing out in the group stage, tweeted: “In my opinion… if change in format was needed… makes sense to do stroke play the first three rounds then top-16 into bracket.”

Former champion Stenson could see the bigger picture, but said: “I can see why we’re doing it – there’s been some big upsets and disappointments over the years… But for me, match play is do or die. You lose, you go home.”

And there were several who thought the new format was just the right kind of mix that fans needed.

PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem was satisfied with the way things panned out, and was happy that there was a debate and differing opinions.

“It is different. It is new. It kind of reminds me of the FedEx Cup the first two or three years. Everyone’s asking: ‘How does this work?’ That’s healthy. The process will be better understood a lot more after this first event,” he said.

I personally like the changes. And considering that only five players with the highest world ranking in their groups – McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, Jim Furyk, Rickie Fowler and JB Holmes – managed to advance to the Round of 16, shows that the fickleness of the format is still very much alive.

Keegan-Jimenez face-off
The firing line: Keegan Bradley.

I am a big fan of Miguel Angel Jimenez, but when he went noseto- nose with Keegan Bradley in an incredible on-course spat, I thought the stylish Spaniard was way out of line. He had no right to ask Bradley’s caddie to ‘shut up’.

During their group match on Friday at the WGC-Cadillac Match Play, Jimenez did not like something about the way Bradley was taking a drop from the cart path, and was perfectly within his right to walk up and question him.

He could have done that, and he could have even argued with the player and the referee who was present, but to be rude to the caddie was not very good on Jimenez’s part, especially considering he used to be a caddie himself before turning professional.

Tiger’s reasoning
Tiger Woods believes the No1 reason for young African-Americans not playing golf is the advent of electronic golf carts.

He has a point there. Carts have replaced caddies in most golf courses in the US, and the former world No1 believes that was the most fertile place to find budding talents.

Speaking on the dearth of successful coloured players, Woods said: “Being caddies, it helped introduce the game to many youngsters. We don’t have a pool of players who are getting introduced to the game.”

Quote of the Week
“I always said if these two guys (Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao) fought each other, I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to go”
– Rory McIlroy before the Saturday night fight. Eventually, he could not attend as his quarter-final match did not finish on Saturday.

Tweet of the Week 

– A self-deprecating Jason Dufner tweeted after knowing McIlroy could not make it to the fight.

Stat of the Day
50 – Balls in the water in the first round of the 2007 Players Championship at the famous 17th hole with the island green. That’s a record for TPC Sawgrass’ 17th, and possibly a record for any hole in the world in a professional tournament.

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