It’s great to have the Volvo World Matchplay on these shores again, but a big part of me wishes we were going back to Wentworth.
The London Club will do a fine job, but I’m not sure this famous event can regain its former lustre.
Autumn in the UK meant one thing for golf the Matchplay at Wentworth. Now, it’s just another rich tournament in a crowded calendar.
This year celebrates the 50th anniversary since the Matchplay was first staged. It was the brainchild of Mark McCormack and it’s his legacy that lives on today.
Arnold Palmer beat Neil Coles in the Final in 1964 and I watched at home on TV, wanting to emulate Palmer’s swashbuckling play.
Look at the list of winners down the years and it’s a who’s who of golf. Only Tiger Woods is missing from our game’s greatest players.
When it was conceived, there were no world rankings, but everyone knew this crowned THE best matchplayer in golf.
Played over 36 holes was the best format. You can have shocks in a quick 18-hole sprint, but the cream comes to the top over two rounds.
There is now the WGC Matchplay in America, but that has never produced the famous incidents or classic matches.
I remember when Gary Player came back from seven down to beat Tony Lema on the 36th hole, or when Mark O’Meara beat Tiger in the Final in 1998.
Because I worked at Wentworth, it was always a great ambition of mine to play in the event. There was a tremendous buzz around the club in the lead-up and the members got actively involved by volunteering.
People came from all over the south of England to watch, while the players were put in houses on the estate and treated like royalty for a week.
So when I won the Tournament Players event at Moortown in 1980 to receive an invite, it was one of the proudest moments of my career.
I beat the defending champion Bill Rogers on the last hole in the second round before losing to eventual winner Greg Norman in the semis.
They remain some of my favourite golfing memories.
This year, it’s good to see US Ryder Cup star Patrick Reed coming over, but the field is good rather than great. Unfortunately, there’s no Rory McIlroy or Adam Scott to give it the gravitas it really needs.
What disappoints me more though is the format. Round-robin play on the first three days loses the X-factor of matchplay golf. Every player has a second chance and that takes the edge away.
However, six of Europe’s Ryder Cup team are in action and their efforts at Gleneagles should have whetted everyone’s appetite.
Let’s just hope for some exciting golf, close matches and drama that have made this event so popular.
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