What If The Tour Championship Was Match Play Format?

2023 Tour Championship, East Lake Golf Club,(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
2023 Tour Championship, East Lake Golf Club,(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

Is it time for the Tour Championship to introduce Match Play?

Professional golf is very much a sport of the lone wolf and mercenary, a game relegated to the individual who is willing to traverse the course alone with only a trusty caddie at their side. The camaraderie of team play that many golfers participate in throughout high school and the collegiate ranks has all but disappeared from the PGA Tour.

The Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup are the only opportunities for golfers now to join in intense match play, with the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play tournament no longer on the docket for next year’s tour schedule. LIV Golf has a team format but that is more of a total point accumulation rather than a true match play design.

Golf fans truly crave match play as you can see by the building excitement for this year’s Ryder Cup as well as the controversy around captains’ picks and who should be playing to represent the USA and Europe.

The PGA Tour is missing a tremendous opportunity to fill the unique vacuum left by the absence of the WGC Match Play event. The Tour would be wise to elevate this style of event, a format that regularly heightens the drama and ramps up intensity. What would be more intense than the lucrative FedEx Cup purse being on the line at the last tournament of the year during a match play Tour Championship?

A Tour Championship Match Play Format

What we are proposing here would not be difficult to implement and would maintain the current three-leg FedEx Cup playoff tournament structure.

The FedEx St. Jude Championship would still include the top seventy golfers based on FedEx Cup points and the same tournament course. The BMW Championship would be whittled down to the top fifty golfers on the points list with the same course.

The Tour Championship would then be cut down to the top thirty-two golfers instead of the top thirty golfers from the previous format. That means that this year would’ve included Sahith Theegala and Chris Kirk as the number 31 and 32 seeds in this match play format.

The tournament would be single-elimination similar to NCAA March Madness. There would be no starting strokes based on points placement but strict 1-32 seeding instead, giving the advantage to the top golfers on tour throughout the season. This is what it could look like.

"Tour Championship Match Play Format"

Imagine potential matchups between Wyndham Clark and Collin Morikawa or Xander Schauffele and Tony Finau in the first round?

A plethora of potential upsets combined with players who came into East Lake hot this year would have made it entirely in the realm of possibility that a different FedEx Cup champion might have been crowned in 2023 in this scenario.

Perhaps the outcome would’ve been the same with Viktor Hovland taking the crown at the Tour Championship even in a match play finale, regardless of whether or not that remained the case, a match play format is a different animal entirely and still would have been ripe with surprises and incredible drama throughout.

The tour is certainly lacking match play events during its regular schedule and the insertion of a format like this during one of the most vital stretches of the season would certainly build intrigue and thrill for all golf fans.

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There is still a cloud of mystery and uncertainty with the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, and LIV Golf merger on the horizon, but envision the level of cutthroat match play competition by additionally throwing in the players from LIV to this pool of golfers.

Competitive golf has a bright future ahead but it would be a shame if match play wasn’t a part of it during the PGA Tour season.