By Duncan @ DEVEL Golf
This week sees golfers gather in Baltusrol to compete for the USPGA Championship.
Marketed until recent years as “Glory’s last shot,” the USPGA is the final chance saloon to win a major in 2016. It is also a competition which until the late 1950s was a match play competition.
Professional golf is now predominantly played over a stroke play format. With the exception of the WGC Match Play, Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup and smaller events such as next week’s Paul Lawrie Match Play, it's all about four rounds of 18 holes.
Contrast that with the amateur game, where a large proportion of events are match play. The two most prestigious amateur events, the Amateur Championship and the US Amateur, are both decided by that method.
So with stroke play dominating pro golf, is our judgement being clouded when it comes to how we recognise “great” players?
At the moment we judge the greatest golfers by how many major championships they have won. Given we have four majors which are all stroke play events, it’s as good as any method of determining who the great golfers are. However, it doesn’t account for golfers who are better in match play than stroke play.
There can be no doubt that certain golfers prefer a match play environment and thrive on these type of events. Colin Montgomerie and Ian Poulter are fearsome match play competitors but haven’t won a major. Had the USPGA retained its match play format, who is to say Monty or Poults wouldn’t be a major winner by now?
And if winning your first major is the hardest thing to do, could they even be multiple major winners?
Given that none of the existing majors are likely to be changed, it’s a reasonable proposition that we need a fifth major. Women’s professional golf has five, so arguably there’s a comparable reference point for a fifth in the men’s game. Surely a match play major would be the obvious choice to balance out the stroke play events that are currently in place?
I for one prefer the competitive element of match play tournaments. The tournament I most enjoyed going to as a youngster was the Alfred Dunhill Cup at St Andrews, a match play/stroke play hybrid that is unfortunately now defunct.
My second favourite event was a trip to the Volvo World Match Play at Wentworth in 1998, where Mark O’Meara triumphed over Tiger Woods in the final. To this day I still prefer watching these type of tournaments.
Next week sees the European Tour return to Scotland for the Paul Lawrie Match Play. Hopefully having events like this on tour will result in more match play events being introduced.
It may even lead to other formats being invented in the long term, but that’s a discussion we’ll have next week . . .
The Devel's Advocate is our resident golf blogger. With long experience of covering golf there aren't many issues he doesn't have an opinion on!