Golf Tidbits: Needed change coming for Match Play

2:04 PM, Feb 18, 2014   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - With three of the top four players in the world rankings skipping your lucrative event, you know change is coming. You also know this because this is the last year of the sponsor's contract.

Tiger Woods, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson, who are ranked Nos. 1, 2, and 4 in the world rankings, are not competing at this week's World Golf Championship- Accenture Match Play Championship.

Whether it be family obligations or just wanting to stay home and practice more, three of the best in the world will not be at Dove Mountain this week.

And the end of that last sentence is another part of the reason change is coming to this event. Over the years, players have not been the biggest fans of Dove Mountain, which is located in Marana, Ariz.

The weather is generally on the nice side, but seemingly every year there is a frost delay. A few years back, snow forced a delay.

Changing venues on the PGA Tour isn't the easiest thing to do. Events like the AT&T National and The Barclays have survived being played at different venues, but a World Golf Championship with 64 of the best players in the world needs stability.

La Costa hosted for seven years in a row and this will be the ninth consecutive year at Dove Mountain. Those nine years were split - three years on the South Course and the last six years on The Golf Club at Dove Mountain, which uses holes from both the Saguaro and Tortolita nines.

The players haven't been the biggest fans. Mickelson, for one, skips the event yearly to go on vacation with his kids, who are on break from school.

A replacement for Accenture, the tournament's main sponsor, has not been announced at this point. One would have to think the new sponsor would want to bring the event to the city of their choice.

Imagine Comcast being the sponsor and bringing the event to the Philadelphia area. First off, there are more than enough courses to choose from as the host site, so that wouldn't be an issue.

Secondly, and this will be the biggest issue going forward for this event, where will the tournament fall on the schedule? There is precious little room for movement on the PGA Tour schedule, especially now that the Fall Series is the start of the new wrap-around schedule.

There isn't enough time between the British Open and the PGA Championship, and definitely not enough room between the PGA and the start of the FedExCup playoffs.

What does that leave? January through the early part of July. That seems like a long time, but certain events "have their weeks," and there is no getting around that fact.

The Greenbrier Classic has locked down 4th of July weekend. The U.S. Open is Father's Day weekend and The Masters is generally the first full weekend in April or the weekend following the NCAA men's basketball championship.

If the event were to remain in its current slot on the schedule, a new course will have to be chosen, or some of the top players will continue to skip the tournament. That course would have to be in California, Arizona, Florida or Hawaii if the event is kept in the United States.

There aren't many other areas that have courses that are in good-enough shape this time of year. Maybe move the event to Hawaii and start the year with three straight tournaments in the Aloha State.

Two things with that. The Hyundai Tournament of Champions has been rumored to be on shaky footing as the season opener, and it would push back the current California/Arizona events that start the calendar year.

The biggest lull in the schedule is the eight weeks between the Masters and the U.S. Open. The Wells Fargo Championship and the Players Championship are played back-to-back, and along with the Memorial are the three biggest events in that span.

As you can see, there are many factors that will come into play regarding the future of this tournament. It will not go away, but moving it to a later spot on the schedule and to a more northern state will bring challenges.

The tour has done this dance before with other events, but World Golf Championships are a big deal to the PGA Tour, so the possibility of a new sponsor and new venue will be thoroughly examined before anything is announced.

WATSON GETS BACK INTO WINNER'S CIRCLE

Having gone nearly two years since winning the Masters, the questions were there about Bubba Watson. Would he win again, or was the Masters his defining moment?

Watson has been close several times since donning the green jacket at Augusta.

He shot even-par 140 over the final two rounds at the 2012 Tour Championship to lose by five after being two back heading to the weekend. Last year at the Travelers Championship, Watson shared the lead heading to the final round, only to triple-bogey the 16th hole and lose by one stroke.

Three weeks ago, Watson seemed to be in control of the Phoenix Open. He led by two strokes entering Sunday's round, but managed an even-par 71 in the final round to lose by one.

There were other events, too. But at tough Riviera, Watson held strong and showed he has the internal fortitude to win.

After making the cut by two strokes and trailing the leader by eight strokes, Watson went 64-64 on the weekend to soar from well off the pace to earn the win.

Watson, who had missed the cut in two of his previous four starts at the Northern Trust Open, had one huge statistic that helped him win - zero bogeys over the final 36 holes. He was the only player in the field to make that claim.

Afterward, you got another glimpse at who Watson really is: He shed tears while hugging his wife and son, then quoted bible scriptures in post-round interviews.

Watson is a fun-loving guy as you can see in his television commercials, but religion and family keep him grounded more than anything.

And his being grounded was a big factor in his ability to overcome his past failures and hang tough for the win at Riviera.

MINI-TIDBITS

- Days after saying their famous trees survived a crippling ice storm, Augusta National officials announced they have to take down the famous Eisenhower tree, a loblolly pine on the 17th hole. Former president Dwight D. Eisenhower hit the tree so often that he requested it be removed. Instead, the club named the tree after him. The tree, estimated to be some 125 years old, has had a prominent role in deciding many Masters championships.

- As if people in the eastern part of the United States need to be reminded, but there has been a plethora of snow and ice storms this winter. Pinehurst, host of the U.S. Open, and Valhalla, which will host the PGA Championship, haven't lost any famous trees like Augusta, but seeing the three major venues covered by snow and ice is sobering.

This will brighten things up, a little: There are just over 50 days until this year's Masters starts.

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