The Norman Transcript

Sports

February 26, 2014

Future of Match Play up in the air

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — During a 7 1/2-minute chat with reporters on the Match Play Championship future, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem used the word “change” only once when he said, “I wouldn’t assume we’re going to change at this point.” On two occasions he said, “I wouldn’t rule out anything.”

The future depends largely on whether — or how quickly — the tour can find a title sponsor to replace Accenture. A sponsor would have a lot of input on where it was played. While the players were not fond of Dove Mountain, Accenture loved being at The Ritz-Carlton.

Colombia remains a big part of the discussion. It’s critical for golf to make a good first impression in the Olympics in 2016 — the IOC decides in 2017 whether to keep it on the program beyond 2020 — and getting South American fans acclimated to the highest level of golf wouldn’t hurt.

The Match Play Championship hasn’t left the U.S. since it went to Australia in 2001 and 28 players didn’t show up. That was mainly because it was held so close to the holidays. Then again, there is concern a move out of the country would keep some players (most Americans) from going.

Thomas Bjorn noted the absence last week of Tiger Woods, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson and said, “You’ve got to be careful that you don’t put it out where more guys say no. It’s a big deal that they’re not here. If it goes to Colombia, you still get 90 percent of the guys. And you’ll be missing a few.

“Tiger and Phil not here matter this week,” he said. “Any World Golf Championship, if they’re not teeing it up, loses the feel of a big event. The tour needs to speak to them.”

Good returns:A year ago, the only way Jordan Spieth could get into a PGA Tour event was through help of a sponsor’s exemption. By the end of the year, he was a PGA Tour winner and regarded as one of the rising stars in golf.

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