Hate to be Rude: Moving the Match Play?

Luke Donald tees off on the first hole at the Ritz-Carlton Club at Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz.

Luke Donald tees off on the first hole at the Ritz-Carlton Club at Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz.

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My sense is the WGC-Accenture Match Play will return to the Tucson area in 2012. While an announcement is expected in a couple of months, PGA Tour executive vice president David Pillsbury said last weekend that the Tour anticipates going back to the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club in Marana, Ariz., next year.

What’s more, Gerald Goodman, tournament director of the Tour stop in Tampa for 16 years, joined championship management in January. Goodman has moved to Tucson, plans to stay there for a while and word is he soon will be named Match Play tournament director.

The past five WGC-Match Play events have been at Dove Mountain after seven years at La Costa Resort in Carlsbad, Calif., and one in Australia. A four-year contract with Dove Mountain expired after 2010, and a one-year extension was signed for ’11.

“People are very curious here, and the first question I’m always asked is, ‘Is it coming back?’ ” said Wade Dunagan, Match Play tournament director for the past three years. “There’s a great deal of concern at the tip of everyone’s tongue here in Tucson. But no news doesn’t mean anything except no news. Everybody wants to read everything into no news, but I just look at it as no news.”

I get the sense the Tour and players wouldn’t mind moving somewhere else, but there doesn’t appear to be a stronger alternative for 2012 at this point.

One sensible plan starting in 2013 would be to move the Match Play event around to different cities, ones that already have Tour events or ones that don’t. After all, the Tour is on record as saying it would like to go into other markets, some of which are starved for a big-time golf tournament.   

• • •

I’m not sure I’ve met a funnier man than Jim Thorpe, besides paid comedians. Played in a pro-am with him a couple of years ago, and my stomach hurt for two hours afterward because of laughter.

Thorpe is out of prison after 10 months on a tax-evasion conviction, seemingly in good spirits, and is ready to get on with his golf career. I’m not sure how he will perform, but I do know this: The lucky ones who play with him in pro-ams will have the time of their lives. 

He already had enough stories to fill a library. Now he has prison stories with which to freshen up his good-humor act.

• • •

I keep hearing some people say they don’t think Tiger Woods will win a tournament in 2011. Yes, Woods is a shell of his former self as a golfer, but I’ll take all offers from those who think he’ll end the year winless.

True, Woods hit a couple of wild shots and poor chips in losing in the WGC-Accenture Match Play first round, but he also hit several approaches close. Once he stops thinking so much and starts playing golf, he’ll find a victory somewhere, and that will bring more confidence.

He has dropped to No. 10 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings, one spot behind Francesco Molinari, whom he beat 4 and 3 in Ryder Cup singles. But he’s still Tiger Woods and will figure out the new swing to a degree that will allow him to win somewhere.

The bigger question remains: Why did he change his swing in the first place after so much success?

• • •

OK, the speculation turned out to be not true: Elin Nordegren will not appear on “Dancing with the Stars.”

But the rumor did get me to thinking. Here’s one man’s list of  people with golf ties whom he’d most like to see on “Dancing”:

Elin Nordegren, John Daly, Colin Montgomerie, Christina Kim, Camilo Villegas, Anna Rawson, Deane Beman, Paula Creamer, Arnold Palmer, Jackie Burke, Rachel Uchitel, Gary Player, Mickey Wright, Tim Herron, Natalie Gulbis, any Stadler and Tiger Woods or his stunt double.

• • •

It’s not always how you drive or arrive. It’s how quickly you find the cup.

In 10 rounds this year, Ernie Els remarkably has hit a Tour-best 83.33 percent of greens in regulation. Yet he has not finished better than 17th in three starts.

You guessed it. Putting is the culprit. He ranks 179th in putting average and 185th in putts per round.

The good news for Els is it’s early.

• • •

Luke Donald never trailed in any of his six matches en route to WGC Match Play victory, and he became the only player besides Tiger Woods in 2003 to win without any of his matches reaching No. 18.

First thing I thought after watching Donald roll with such precision: How come he hasn’t won more than three Tour titles?

• • • 

This much is certain: Whoever wins the Honda Classic this week will have some game.

The Honda site, PGA National, ranked toughest among non-major courses last year and second toughest over all on the Tour schedule.

• • •

Worth repeating: This is a historic and long-overdue week for spectators. The Honda will be the first tournament to implement the Tour’s new cell-phone policy. 

Spectators will be allowed to carry mobile devices on the course with the volume set on silent. Starting this week, phone calls can be made in designated areas such as concession stands; text messages can be sent and received away from play, and no photography is allowed during tournament rounds.

In other words, don’t stand against the ropes and call, text or photograph Tiger Woods as he’s about to hit a shot.

• • •

Jeff Rude’s “I Hate To Be Rude” column appears on Golfweek.com on Wednesday, the same day as his video show of the same name.

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