With 64 of the best players in the world heading to Arizona for the World Golf Championship-Accenture Match Play Championship this week, there will be a bit of a change from previous PGA Tour play.
The players have counted all of their strokes and added up all their scores thus far, but this week brings an interesting, seldom used format. This format is a test of will, a battle to beat just the one man who stands before you. This is match play.
Match play serves as an interesting twist to a sport dominated by strokes and scores. Match play is in fact so little used that the Accenture Match Play serves as the only PGA Tour event all season to use this format.
There is always a massive buzz around this week, because not only is this a World Golf Championship—a highly prestigious event—but people also get the rare opportunity to witness the beauty of match play golf.
So, with all of this excitement over match play, why is it so sparingly used?
It mainly comes down to television concerns. In stroke play, stars like Woods and Mickelson will likely air throughout the television coverage, but in a one-and-done format, they could leave early, severely depleting the television audience for the later rounds.
Also, in the last two rounds of the match play format, there are just four golfers to follow (there’s a consolation match along with the finals), forcing the viewer to wait much longer between shots than during a full-field stroke play event.
However, match play has still left its mark on the game. The PGA Championship produced great champions in this format until it switched to stroke play in 1958, and the U.S. Amateur has a history spanning over 110 years of match play excellence.
So, here is a list of the 10 greatest match play opponents of all-time. The format may be exceedingly rare, but it is still an important part of golf history.