Well, if we wanted a World Golf Championship out of the Cadillac Match Play, we certainly got that. We go into the Final 16 with a wide range of nationalities from around the globe including: Northern Ireland (1), Japan (1), England (4), South Africa (3), Australia (2) and the United States (5). Here they are in all their glory with their OWGR:
1. Rory McIlroy – Northern Ireland
5. Jim Furyk – United States
12. J.B. Holmes – United States
13. Rickie Fowler – United States
16. Hideki Matsuyama – Japan
27. Lee Westwood – England
30. Louis Oosthuizen – South Africa
32. Hunter Mahan – United States
37. Paul Casey – England
38. Charl Schwartzel – South Africa
39. Branden Grace – South Africa
49. Danny Willet – England
52. Gary Woodland – United States
57. Tommy Fleetwood – England
60. Marc Leishman – Australia
65. John Senden – Australia
So the new format has successfully ushered the No.1 player in the world, Rory McIlroy into the Final 16 or more precisely, he ushered himself in going 20 holes with Billy Horschel for the win.
Lee Westwood may only be No. 27, but he took No.2 Jordan Spieth down the stretch with a somber implacability that produced irrepressible golf. It looked like he had his Ryder Cup face on.
You look at the gaps in the OWGR of the players on the list and it’s as interesting who’s not here. There were a group of players that you would have expected to do well this week, but they ended up going 0-3: Brandt Snedeker (36), Alexander Levy (54), Victor Dubuisson (22), Adam Scott (9), Matt Every (41), Ryan Moore (29), Jason Day (7), Brendon Todd (43), Ryan Palmer (23), Jimmy Walker (11), Stephen Gallacher (42) Keegan Bradley (34) Graeme McDowell (33). The Unlucky 13 as it turns out; the vicissitudes of match play at the professional level knows no bounds.
Jordan Spieth played great and he’s gone. Same for Billy Horschel. Bubba Watson was his usual shotmaking genius, but he let little Louis Oosthuizen catch him on the home stretch and lost in 19. Martin Kaymer loses in 20 to Jim Furyk and ends up 1-2. Ian Poulter, Mr. Match Pay, takes out Jimmy Walker 4&2 and finishes the week 1-2. Matt Kucher was never down more than 2 until Hunter Mahan shook the tree to win 5&4 and leave Kuch 1-2.
So trying to conjure up a format that will keep the marquee players around for the weekend at the elite professional level is a fool’s errand. While there may be a statistical difference top to bottom across an entire season, that difference disappears when it’s mano-a-mano in the here and now. These guys at this level are just all so good.
And so in the end, maybe that’s what match play is really all about; not so much the brilliance of the best, but the possibility of the rest…and us.
What a great game.