Planet Golf — 24 February 2014 by GW staff and news services
WGC Match Play future up in the air

MARANA, Az — PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said Sunday he hoped there would be a decision by April on the future of the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship.

Accenture’s sponsorship agreement ends this year, and there has been speculation that the tournament might move to another venue or that there could be a change in the match play format.

“We’re looking at a lot of different options, talking to a lot of different potential sponsors, including Accenture,” Finchem said. “So I wouldn’t rule out anything at this point. We haven’t moved in any one direction. We don’t have any particular agenda.

“We’re just looking at all the opportunities that are out there, and my guess is it’s going to be several weeks before we settle on it.”

Finchem, who said the location of the event didn’t hinge on the identity of the title sponsor, did not rule out returning to Tucson. He also said that other venues are being considered — although likely not in a market where the PGA Tour already stages a golf tournament.

“I’m not saying we wouldn’t do it, but that wouldn’t be a priority,” he said.

A move outside the United States is another “possibility,” Finchem said. The last time the Accenture Match Play Championship was contested outside the United States was in 2001 at Royal Melbourne in Melbourne, Australia.

Finchem says the current late February date has worked well from the standpoint of “global player movement.” At the same time, a move away from the West Coast brings weather considerations “so you move the schedule to relate to the market,” he said.

“There are some other potential dates. I’ll just say that.”

The knock-out format, which means half the field of 64 heads home after the first day of matches, has also been a matter of speculation. Among the potential changes being bandied about would be a stroke-play component that decides the players to advance to the match play portion of the event or round-robin play similar to soccer’s World Cup that determines the semifinalists.

Finchem pointed out that 98.5 percent of the eligible players have competed since the tournament began in 1999.

“So … I don’t think that’s a major issue,” Finchem said. “I think it’s more a question of depending on where you’re playing and the market you’re in, is there another format that for whatever reason is significantly more exciting or interesting to fans. Of course, our television partners play into that. So we’ve looked at it before and we stuck with this format.

“We’re going to look at it again. … I wouldn’t assume we’re going to change at this point.”

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