Accenture Match Play final to be shortened in ’11

Ian Poulter during the 2009 Accenture Match Play Championship.

Ian Poulter during the 2009 Accenture Match Play Championship.

When the 2011 PGA Tour schedule is officially announced Thursday, it will confirm a rumor that’s been circulating for a while. That is, the Accenture Match Play Championship will be changed to an 18-hole final, played in the afternoon, with the semifinals played in the morning.

In previous years, Sunday’s 36-hole championship proved rather quiet and often times anti-climactic. NBC, which will be back to do the Accenture after having skipped it in 2010 (CBS covered it) because of Olympics coverage, had suggested the change and PGA Tour officials gave it their blessing.

This year at Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz., the two semifinals will be held Sunday morning, and the championship match will be played in the afternoon.

Since its debut in 1999, the match play championship has featured a 36-hole final. That was stunning news to Darren Clarke in 2000 when, after winning his semifinal match on Saturday, asked Chubby Chandler, his manager, what time the final was.

Chandler told him 9 a.m.

“Nine a.m.? Why so early?” Clarke asked, somewhat in shock.

“Darren,” Chandler replied, “it’s 36 holes.”

Clarke scowled, yet somehow shook off the shock to defeat Tiger Woods, 4 and 3.

The fact that there have been a series of 36-hole walk-overs since then (David Toms, 6 and 5, over Chris DiMarco; Woods, 8 and 7, over Stewart Cink; Geoff Ogilvy, 4 and 3, over Paul Casey) only improved the chances that sometime it would be changed to an 18-hole final.

That time is now – or at least Feb. 23-27, 2011.

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