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Yes, match play is ‘real golf,’ counters reader from ‘Home of Golf’

St. Andrews reader takes issue with John Hawkins’ dismissal of match play, pointing to foursomes play as game’s defining format

Judging by the piece in which John Hawkins classes match play as a second-rate sort of golf, he never could have experienced the exquisite pressure of foursomes (alternate shot) golf (“Match play? It’s not real golf,” March 23).

There is no such thing as "a 15-minute vacation," to which he alludes in four-ball golf when you hit a drive out of bounds and leave the hole to your partner. Hitting out of bounds in a foursome means that your partner has to trudge back from the point down the fairway where he had been waiting for your ball to arrive. On the green, if you breeze a 10-foot putt 3 feet past the hole, it is your partner who has to clean up.

In a non-COVID year, about 800 amateur golfers converge on Deal and Sandwich in the southeast corner of England in April to take part in the Halford Hewitt over Royal Cinque Ports and Royal St. George’s golf courses. The former pupils from 64 major secondary schools in England and Scotland each field a 10-man team for knockout 18-hole matches from Thursday to Sunday, at the end of which there is a winner. Along the way, there are plenty of heroics, and an equal number of bad shots.

The pressure of playing in the Halford Hewitt was famously described as “it’s not a matter of life and death; it’s far more important than that.”

It’s hard to believe, until you had found you are in the deciding match going to extra holes after your team has won two and lost two. Your teammates are watching, and failure means that not just you but all of them are out and on their way home.

Alternate-shot foursomes is “real golf.”

Robin Lawson
St. Andrews, Scotland

Players should be 4th major, but which one faces demotion? It's simple 
It’s time to recognize the Players Championship for what it is: a major championship.

Not the unofficial “fifth major” but simply a “major.”

Largest purse in golf. Best field in golf. An incredibly challenging and beautiful course (TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium Course probably is the late Pete Dye’s best, and a wonderful test of championship golf). It’s been played for close to 50 years. The pros themselves have come around to the significance and prestige of winning the Players. The list of champions features many great and prominent “name” winners.

And, of course, induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame often requires winning two majors – or a major and a Players. 

If you care about golf history – and I do, a lot – how can we add the Players to the rota of majors and give current players five majors a year, or 25 percent more opportunity to win majors in a single year than any previous players?

The answer: you can’t.

Rather, something has to go. We are locked into four annual majors, if we care about history. So, by process of elimination, which major shall cease to be a major? Masters? I think not. British Open? Not hardly. U.S. Open? Don’t be silly. The PGA Championship needs to become a regular PGA Tour event, one of importance but no longer a major.

What about players who heretofore have won Players and PGA titles? Well, the former would not count as a major until 2022, and the latter would cease to count as a major in 2022.

All of golf’s majors have had occasional “fluke” winners – in the words of the late Tommy Bolt, “players who killed every cat in the alley in a given week” – players whose career resumes were not exactly World Golf Hall of Fame caliber. But the PGA clearly has had the most such winners.

So, the following PGA winners can continue to have “major champion” on their resumes: Rich Beem, Keegan Bradley, Mark Brooks, Jason Dufner, Steve Elkington, Wayne Grady, Shaun Micheel, Jeff Sluman, David Toms, Bob Tway, Jimmy Walker and Y.E. Yang.

The foregoing list comprises 33 percent of the PGA winners just since 1986.

Yes, the Players has had some fluke winners – Craig Perks, Tim Clark, Si-Woo Kim, Fred Funk, Jodie Mudd and Mark McCumber among them – over the same period, but on balance the list of winners shows that the venue and event usually identify the game’s best players.

This is a move that needs to be made, for the good of the game and for golf history. It’s time.

Peter Kaufman
Scarsdale, N.Y.
(Kaufman is an occasional contributor to Morning Read whose previous work can be found here.)

Miceli ignores what should be biggest priority with LPGA
Alex Miceli wrote that a woman ran the LPGA Tour into the ground, and a man bailed it out successfully. But he insists that a woman should be given the job now (“It’s time for a woman to run LPGA,” March 23).

Miceli is, as always, being politically correct.

Perhaps just finding the right person, regardless of anatomy, might be the wisest choice.

Larry Ashe

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