Is This Really The End Of The World Golf Championships?
The WGC-Match Play will be the last of its type, at least for the foreseeable future – is there any scope for it to return?
This week's WGC-Match Play could mark the end of an era for not just the tournament but all World Golf Championships, with confirmation coming earlier in the month that the event would not be played in 2024.
That concludes the demise for a type of tournament that has become a favourite on the calendar since it was introduced in 1999 and which, just four years ago, comprised The WGC-Mexico Championship, WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational and WGC-HSBC Champions along with the remaining event.
True, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has hinted that the WGC-Match Play may return, while the China-hosted WGC HSBC-Champions is still officially in existence, but in the latter's case, Covid restrictions have put paid to it for the past three years, and Monahan has said: "It's difficult to foresee when we would play."
It's ironic that this week's WGC-Match Play is a designated event because it's the introduction of the big-money tournaments that has sped up its demise.
Originally, World Golf Championships were introduced to bring the best players together more often outside the Majors, and there's no doubt that has happened. Even this week, with LIV Golf players reportedly denied the chance to play and World No.10 Justin Thomas missing out, eight of the world's top 10 will play.
Meanwhile, the list of previous winners of World Golf Championships is packed with household names from Tiger Woods to Phil Mickelson, up to last year's WGC Match-Play winner Scottie Scheffler.
Those designated events, though, mean there is now no shortage of occasions featuring the world's best players - and that will become even more concentrated next year, with more no-cut, limited-field events coming to the schedule.
Monahan even confirmed that designated events are the main reason for the WGC-Match Play becoming obsolete, saying: "I think right now, you see the direction the PGA Tour's heading in; it is with these designated events, it's with the concentration of the best players on the PGA Tour competing in them, and I really don't expect that to change as we go forward."
Certainly, the PGA Tour is placing great emphasis on the designated events with the LIV Golf threat still in the background. While we'll know more next year just how well the more streamlined format of some of them has been received, there will no doubt be plenty who would prefer at least one WGC tournament in the schedule for its match play element.
Meanwhile, perhaps unsurprisingly, one of LIV's most high-profile players, Mickelson, has pitched the team format of the circuit as ideal for filling the void.
At last week's LIV Golf Tuscon event, he said: "It's a perfect format and opportunity to fill the Match Play void because the negative of the Match Play is that the most exciting days are earlier in the week, and then the fans and sponsors only have one or two matches to follow on the weekend, and the team aspect could make the Match Play much more exciting.
"There's an opportunity with the team dynamic that LIV Golf could have a match play scenario. It's certainly something that we are discussing as a possibility for the season-ending event."
Whether that comes to fruition – or even if it would capture the imagination of fans -- is for the future. For now, after the Walter Hagen Cup is lifted on Sunday and the sun sets over the famous Pennybacker Bridge overlooking Austin Country Club, it is probably wise to assume that so too, it will set on a unique type of tournament that has been part of the fabric of the game's calendar for 24 years.
Mike has over 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on a range of sports throughout that time, such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance staff writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the game's most newsworthy stories.
He has written hundreds of articles on the game, from features offering insights into how members of the public can play some of the world's most revered courses, to breaking news stories affecting everything from the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to developmental Tours and the amateur game.
Mike grew up in East Yorkshire and began his career in journalism in 1997. He then moved to London in 2003 as his career flourished, and nowadays resides in New Brunswick, Canada, where he and his wife raise their young family less than a mile from his local course.
Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.
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