From The Inbox

John Hawkins must have been kidding … right?

U.K. reader stands up for match play and offers format change for WGC that even Morning Read's writer might like: the Hawkins Cup

I really enjoyed the spoof article by John Hawkins decrying match play – so good it almost seemed as though he meant every word (“Match play? It’s not real golf,” March 25).

Hawkins can't really think that stroke play is more stressful, or that you're not “keeping score” playing a match, or that every strike of the ball doesn't have a direct effect on your performance, can he? Leave all the heavy lifting to your four-balls partner? Not stressful failing to support your teammate? Come on.

But, the past week's WGC Match Play is singles, so that can't be relevant. Of course, you can win with 73 and lose with 65, as Tiger Woods said, but all that means is that you have the bottle to close out a game when you are playing poorly, and couldn't live with the better player on the day despite playing well.

Hawkins also points out that the top-five seeds don't make many finals. Should they? Do they occupy the top spots in every stroke-play tournament? Almost all of the final eight in the WGC Match Play were in the 21-39 zone in the Official World Golf Ranking. In handicap terms, that probably puts them a maximum of one stroke higher than the 1-20 list. It certainly isn't random who makes the weekend; it's playing better than the three other guys in the group.

It can be a letdown if the final is one-sided, that's true, but that's no different than Serena Williams winning 6-1, 6-1 at Flushing Meadows after two great three-set semifinals. The fundamental reason why the PGA Tour and so many clubs play stroke play is that it's the only way to get through a field of more than 100 players in the time available. The problem with stroke play is that the first three days are just guys hitting balls, but the past week was fascinating from the beginning on Wednesday.

If John Hawkins wants it to be more like the Ryder Cup (see, he loves match play, really) he should take note of the fact that the past week's players were exactly split between 32 flying the USA flag and 32 a wide variety of the others, and it was 4-4 in the quarterfinals, too. There must be scope for a great team and individual event there. Match them up according to their ranking, USA vs. World, four divisions of 16 matches, with promotion and relegation for winners and losers each day over five days, then a playoff for those with the best individual results, if tied.

I’ll bet he wouldn't spoof that, would he? We could call it the Hawkins Cup.

Terry Wall
Winchester, England

Hawkins may have met his match
I continue to be amazed at people who believe their opinion of the definition of “real golf” actually matters to the rest of us (“Match play? It’s not real golf,” March 25).

In his article, John Hawkins notes that match play is a game played by a good part of the world and then goes on to disparage the format due to everything from fudged handicaps to letting your four-balls partner do the work. Look, if you didn't do the work sometimes, you wouldn't have a partner for long. As for handicaps, don't bet with anyone whom you don't know his or her real handicap.

Match play is as good of a system for finding out who the best golfer is on the day of the match as stroke play is. Hawkins criticizes the WGC Match Play because there has been no Ali-Frazier super bout in the final. We can go back over the years and see that not many super bouts happened in the majors, either. That's why the Nicklaus-Watson “Duel in the Sun” at the 1977 British Open is so well remembered, because it was so rare.

There can be drama in a golf match even if Tiger Woods is not involved, or the current world No. 1, or any of the chosen few whom the golf writers have selected as being interesting enough to watch.

I invite Hawkins to go back and watch “Shell's Wonderful World of Golf.” Great golf and fun to watch. This program used a stroke-play format. From what I have seen over the years, most of the matches didn't have a lot of drama at the end, either, even though the players were top golfers. The match often was decided before the 18th hole because one player or the other was that far ahead.

The golf community does not need a respected golf writer besmirching the way most of us contest matches. This kind of article does nothing to grow the game or respect golfers in general. Please rethink how snobbish this sounds. Golf is, in the end, only a game, and if the rule book can indicate the rules by which match play is contested in Rule 3.2, then it must be “real golf.”

Donald Beck
Goodyear, Ariz.

NBC loses, 8 and 7
I tried to watch the WGC Match Play on Saturday, but it was horrible. There was almost double the amount of time for commercials than for golf.

I know how the bills get paid, but this is ridiculous. NBC cuts to ads at the precise moment of importance in matches. It’s utterly unforgivable. Surely more people would tune in to watch if the ads were handled the same way as the Masters.

Paul Sunderland
Los Angeles 

It’s a new look: muni-industrial golf
Is it just me, or is the WGC Match Play the most visually uninteresting venue on TV?

It looks like a muni course set in the middle of an industrial zone.

Ron Ariana

Promote Players Championship without demoting PGA
Reader Peter Kaufman's clarion call for the Players Championship to be elevated to major status chimes well with me, but it should not be at the expense of the existing quartet  (“From the Morning Read inbox,” March 24).

The beauty of the four current men's majors is that none of them is run by the PGA Tour, and each is ingrained in the sport's history. Kaufman would like to dump the PGA Championship as a major, even though it dates from 1916, is 18 years older than the Masters and has a stronger field than the other three. He then names names as unworthy of major-champion status to validate his argument, among them David Toms; Steve Elkington, who won the Players twice; and Y.E. Yang, the only Asian major winner. Is Kaufman serious? Then, he acknowledges that the Players has thrown up a few quirky champions, including Si Woo Kim, whose career has really only just begun, and Tim Clark, whose career sadly was cut short by injury at a young age.

Dodgy, unfashionable champions aren't confined to the PGA or Players. Anyone for Ben Curtis and Todd Hamilton in the Open? Jack Fleck, Lou Graham, Michael Campbell and Lucas Glover in the U.S. Open? Or Tommy Aaron, Larry Mize and Danny Willett at the Masters? These men all earned their crowns by being the best of breed on the week in question. Long may that possibility continue.

If five majors a year is good enough for the women, then it should be good enough for the men. March, April, May, June and July, the core months of the golf season, with one major a month: what's wrong with that? But don't try to promote one to the detriment of another. The only loser in that argument would be golf.

Paul Trow
London, England 

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