• Alistair Tait

More match play please


Sounds as if European Tour pros are about to re-enact an old west shoot out when they gather at Aphrodite Hills for the Cyprus Showdown. Wonder who’ll emerge as the Sundance Kid?

Oh wait, it’s not that sort of showdown.

You have to give the European Tour credit for trying new formats. They’re doing it again with this new tournament in Cyprus, held the week before the Masters and following the Cyprus Open. Fair play for adding new tournaments to a schedule decimated by coronavirus, but the Tour and organisers ISM have missed a trick when there’s an age-old format that doesn’t get used enough. It’s called, wait for it, match play.

According to the European Tour press release, the Cyprus Showdown will…

“…feature a 105-man field for the first two rounds of stroke play as normal, with the top 32 players and ties progressing to Saturday’s shootout with their scores reset.
“A thrilling Sunday showdown is in prospect with the top 16 players and ties in Saturday’s shootout progressing through to the final day. Once again, their scores will be reset with the remaining players battling it out in a further 18-hole shootout for the €200,000 first prize.”

Sound a bit convoluted to you? Me too. It’s basically 72-hole stroke play with a twist.

Here’s a suggestion: cut the field to 32 players after 36 holes of stroke play and let them fight it out in match play to see who wins. What radical idea!

Despite it being the oldest form of golf, the European Tour suffers from a dearth of proper head to head golf in the course of a season. Let’s see, we have the Ryder Cup. The WGC – Dell Technologies and, er, that’s about our lot. Both tournaments had to be cancelled this year due to this coronavirus nightmare, leaving match play enthusiasts needing fix.

As I said, considering the world we now live in, we should be thankful we’ve got two new events in Cyprus. Great they’re different, inasmuch as one is conventional 72-hole straight stroke play, but wouldn’t it have been better to highlight both forms of golf in the European Tour’s first appearance in Cyprus?

The oldest form of golf just isn’t played enough at the highest level. Gone is the World Match Play which gave us so many great tournaments, and champions, between 1964 and 2014. The Epsom Grand Prix of Europe back in the 80s and 90s saw Bernhard Langer and Seve Ballesteros crowned champions before it switched to stroke play and then became extinct. The Paul Lawrie Match Play lasted just three years before it was consigned to that section of the European Tour media guide entitled “Past Champions – Former events.”

A look through the winners of current and former events shows a distinct dearth of match play golf in European Tour history. Ditto for the PGA Tour, the LPGA and LET. Surely there’s more room for the oldest form of golf at the top level?


More match play please. The steady diet of 72-hole stroke play golf is more than a wee bit monotonous.

#JustSaying: “Match play, you see, is much more of a joust. It calls for a doughty, resourceful competitor, the sort of fellow who is not ruffled by his opponent’s fireworks and is able to set off a few of his own when it counts.” Herbert Warren Wind

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