With the announcement of the PGA Champions Tour coming to Arizona, the long rumored demise of the World Golf Championships-Match Play event in Marana is finally reality.
Earlier this year Accenture announced that they would no longer sponsor the Match Play event and most felt that was the end of the event in Southern Arizona. Although there were some rumors that the tournament might spend one more year in Tucson, it was officially left off the schedule for 2015. It is believed the event will be re-tooled and brought back in a new location in 2016.
Although quite popular locally, Match Play had a number of issues, most notably the format. The single elimination format was unpredictable, but if too many of the big names lost on the first two days television rating suffered over the weekend.
It did not help that in recent years several popular players like Phil Mickelson chose to skip the event. This year neither Mickelson, nor Tiger Woods competed.
Many players did not like committing to an event that they may only compete in for a single day.
Two other things led to the event’s demise. Accenture, the title sponsor, was a big proponent of having the tournament in Southern Arizona. They used the tournament as an executive getaway and loved having the tournament at the Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain.
Once Accenture chose to spend their advertising dollars elsewhere, a big reason Tucson/Marana was chosen in the first place was lost.
Another issue facing the event was the course itself. Although the Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain is a world class hotel and course, it is also a very difficult golf course. Jack Nicklaus designed the course, but many players complained about it over the years, which again hurt the event.
There were some other minor quibbles. Some did not like the remoteness of Dove Mountain. There was the freak snowstorm two years ago and the first year of the event saw some parking issues, but in reality those were taken care of by the town immediately.
What gets lost in all of this is that the town of Marana, the Tucson Conquistadors and the PGA put on a world class event. Everything about Match Play was first class and it was great for the town and the region.
All is not lost. The area will still get a new tournament, and the Champions Tour may prove more popular with on-site attendees, but it still isn’t the same as a PGA event.