The Andersen Consulting World Match Play Championship
The first Andersen Consulting World Match Play Championship will take place this week at the La Costa Resort & Spa, and just like in the past 29 years, this resort will gather an elite group of players. This time they are the top-64 in the World Rankings. The format, as indicated in the name, is match play. And the purse is $5 million, with $1 million for the winner.
This event is the first of three to be held this year, which will be expanded to five in years to come. They compose the World Golf Championships. The other two events are the NEC Invitational (stroke play, August 26-29, Firestone Country Club, Ohio), and the American Express Invitational (stroke play, November 4-7, Valderrama Golf Club, Sotogrande, Spain).
Forty of the 64 players coming to La Costa this week are Americans, and all but 13 play regularly in the United States, which goes to show the strength and depth of the PGA TOUR. But most of the non-American players somehow combined into two teams, Europe and the Rest of the World, to defeat an American team in the last Ryder Cup and President's Cups, respectively, in a modified team match play format.
Nine players are former winners at La Costa, when it was home of the Mercedes Championships: veteran Tom Watson (1979, 1980, and 1984), Steve Pate (1988), Steve Jones (1989), Paul Azinger (1990), Steve Elkington (1992 and 1995), Davis Love III (1993), Mark O'Meara (1996), Tiger Woods (1997), and Phil Mickelson (1994 and 1998). Four of them will face each other in the first round: Love III vs Pate, and Elkington vs Jones.
The match play, single elimination is cruel. One bad round and the next meal is at the nearest airport. But this is the beauty of it. Any of the 64 players may have an inspired day and win a match over a player much higher in the ranking. That's why a first-round match like Tiger Woods vs Nick Faldo is likely to be a thriller. Their #1 and #64 seedings at this level mean nothing. From the first match to the last, it will be a battle for the world.
This is the $5 million purse breakdown is:
Of Matches And Seeds
Many questions are being asked, and many answers are being given. This is a different week for both, players and media, as a new era of competitive professional golf is about to start tomorrow here at La Costa. This is the first time the top-64 players in the world are gathered in a match play competition.
But in trying to handicap the field: Does the World Ranking count? Does having played (and won) at La Costa before counts? Does match play experience count? We could speculate all we want, but we won't know until Sunday afternoon.
As we get closer to the matches, which start tomorrow ar 7:20am, there seems to be a common view from some of the players: Seeding doesn't matter. "When you look at the caliber of the players from #1 to #64 (ranked), you can't say: 'Well, #1 is supposed to beat #64'. It's a little different in golf than in tennis, where you can almost guarantee the top 4 or two of the top-3 will get through the final", said Greg Norman. "The ranking really doesn't make that much difference when you are talking about match play", he added.
Tiger Woods, who will have his former schoolmate Bryon Bell toting his bag again this week, agrees with Norman. "The #1 seed here, or basically any seed here, is kind of thrown out the door because the top-64 players are capable of beating each other on any given day", said Tiger. "And with that in mind, I don't think the #1 seed has distinct advantage over a #64 seed", he added. Well, we'll see. He's seeded #1 and has three U.S. Amateurs under his belt, with 18 consecutive match play victories. He loves match play. "It's a chance where you get to put your skills up against one person head-to-head", said Woods. "(In golf) we don't get that chance very often", he added.
Woods is facing Nick Faldo, who made the field as the last seeded (#64) just because "Jumbo" Ozaki declined his invitation. And of course Nick not only won six majors, but has an impressive Ryder Cup record. So, #64? Yeah, right.
The True Winners This Week: "The First Tee" Initiative, "Pro Kids Academy"
The First Tee golf initiative has been designated the primary charitable beneficiary of the World Golf Championships and will receive $500,000 from this week's Andersen Consulting Match Play Championship.
The First Tee, an initiative of the World Golf Foundation, is dedicated to providing affordable and accesible playing and learning opportunities for beginning golfers, with a special emphasis on kids.
In December, tournament director Tom Stipes announced that the Andersen Consulting Match Play Championship is contributing $125,000 to Pro Kids Academy and Learning Golf Center, an existing San Diego youth program that has aligned itself with The First Tee. A similar contribution will be made to Pro Kids each year that the tournament is held at La Costa Resort and Spa. The tournament is scheduled to return to this resort in 2000 and 2002.
The Pro Kids Golf Academy program is a true community effort started in 1994 by local businesspeople. Its purpose is to provide additional after-school activities for youths in City Heights. Kids get PE classes, golf lessons, and play the course. Among those contributing to this project are: San Diego Police Officers, Uptown Optimist Club, Callaway Golf, Titleist, Cobra Golf, Ping, Wilson, Ashworth, the U.S.G.A., the P.G.A., the S.C.G.A. American Golf Co. and the golf course construction firm Good and Roberts donated their expertise, labor and materials to recondition the course. To learn more about this program, call (619) 582-4704 or visit the Colina Park Golf Course.