WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship's New Format Will Benefit Rising Stars

Stephen Nixon@@Steve_A_NixonContributor IIApril 29, 2015

Tiger Woods, left, shakes hands with Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, on the 18th hole during the fourth round of the Masters golf tournament Sunday, April 12, 2015, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
David J. Phillip/Associated Press

The absence of Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods at a World Golf Championship (WGC) event would normally be an issue, but not this season.

The WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship format is revolutionized and should benefit not only the fans, but also the television ratings.

As per Steve DiMeglio of USA Today, even the players are on board with the new format change: "The old format of straight knockout was a bit harsh," said Graeme McDowell. "This is an interesting format. Even if you lose one you have something to play for. And even if you win the first two you have something to play for.”

Previously consisting of single elimination with the No. 1 ranked player playing No. 64 in a similar style to March Madness, the old format ran stale.

However, the PGA Tour has now decided to switch to a FIFA World Cup grouping format. The top 16 players in the field were assigned to 16 groups, and the remaining 48 players were placed into three different pools (seeds 17-32, seeds 33-48, seeds 49-64).

The Golf Channel then decided to do a selection show, drawing each group live on television, which proved to be a success.

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In addition, the winners of each pool move on to a single-elimination bracket on the weekend, which makes the chances of an early upset less likely and/or more impressive.

However, the most intriguing part of this format is the outcome if three players are tied with the same record in their group. If this happens, the three players will play in a sudden-death stroke-play playoff Friday afternoon.

Who doesn’t want to see this happen?

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The PGA Tour is trying to make golf cool for the average viewer, and this is a great way to do it. Sports fans love selection shows and also enjoy filling out brackets.

Millions of people who are unknowledgeable about NCAA basketball fill out a bracket every year because it’s fun to do and anyone can win.

With this new format, the PGA Tour is allowing the average fan to get excited, and sponsors will be happy to guarantee themselves three days of Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth.

Another great addition to this year's tournament is prime-time coverage on Saturday night. Immediately following the Kentucky Derby, the quarterfinals will air, and the matchups could be incredibly noteworthy. 

If everything went to plan, the dream television matchups would probably be: Rory McIlroy vs. Adam Scott, Rickie Fowler vs. Jim Furyk, Henrik Stenson vs. Ian Poulter and Jordan Spieth vs. Jason Day.


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With a viewership already tuned in to the Kentucky Derby, the potential all-star matchups should draw incredibly well. Not only that, but it could lead the PGA Tour one step closer to its dream of a Spieth vs. McIlroy finale on Sunday afternoon.

If the PGA Tour wants to continue to expand its sport and formulate a rivalry between Spieth and McIlroy, it should look at more options of broadcasting in prime time.

Similar to the Showdown at Sherwood that featured Tiger Woods (No. 1) vs. David Duval (No. 2) in 1999, the PGA Tour capitalized on a “rivalry.” Although Duval fell off the map soon after, the one-day spectacular produced a 6.9 television rating, which is incredible.

This week’s match play championship should maintain a solid golf viewership, and hopefully it leads to more night golf, parallel to the Showdown at Sherwood.

It’s clear that golf is turning into a young man’s game, and the ratings have reflected this. The Masters' final-round average went up 26 percent, while coverage of the Valspar Championship was its best ever, rising 30 percent from the year prior.

Jordan Spieth may not be Tiger Woods quite yet, but he was the winner of both tournaments.

Coincidence? I think not.

No matter what happens this tournament, the new format will allow three days of Spieth, but, more importantly, it should guarantee him into weekend coverage. An underdog makes a great story, but golf needs a powerhouse in Spieth or McIlroy to be present on Saturday night.

Although two legends will be absent this week, this gives other young stars the opportunity to bolster their resume while continuing to push golf in the right direction. 

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