Match Play golf to adopt World Cup-style group format
Organisers hope to breathe new life into the event with pool system
A revamped WGC-Match Play Championship will take a leaf out of soccer's World Cup in Brazil when it is staged for the first time at the TPC Harding Park in San Francisco next year.
Apart from a change of venue, organisers hope that a "World Cup-type format" will breathe new life into the first of the season's four elite World Golf Championships events, in which top players have often made early exits in the past.
Instead of the traditional "tennis-style" draw, where the top seed takes on the 64th seed in the opening round, the 64 players who qualify via the world rankings will be organised into 16 groups of four and guaranteed a minimum of three matches.
"We're going to do it differently next year," PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said after Harding Park had been announced as the venue for the 2015 edition. "It's going to be a World Cup-type format.
"It's kind of nice that we're able to talk about that in the context of everybody in the United States being riveted to that format over the last month in Brazil where we'll be playing golf in the Olympics for the first time in '16."
Golf will be returning to the Olympics for the first time since 1904 when the Rio de Janeiro Games are held in 2016.
"The 64 players will be broken down into groups of four - 16 groups of four - and then on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, they'll all play each other," Finchem said of the new Match Play Championship format.
Former world number one Tiger Woods is a three-time winner of the event, but he has also suffered early disappointment, losing at the first hurdle in 2002, 2011 and last year and going out in the second round in 2005, 2009 and 2012.
Finchem outlined three good reasons for the format change.
"It's a lot more golf," he said. "There are going to be 96 matches for fans here to go out and watch on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Secondly, over time, the best players rise to the top.
"Third, if you're a Steve Stricker fan or a Bubba Watson fan or a Tiger Woods fan, you're going to be able to follow your favourite player for three days hoping that he makes it into the round of 16."