Entering match play, it’s anyone’s championship
OOLTEWAH, Tenn. – Thinking back to the pre-match play days, I was told over and over of how awesome it was going to be to have that head-to-head component as part of the NCAA Championship. It was going to attract the non-diehards to the sport and garner some attention among the masses.
Well, I think we have a pretty good idea how much more attention the championship is getting.
I am the biggest critic of having match play decide the national champion. And my reasoning is simple: Match play is not the way college golf is played throughout the rest of the season. After leading by 13 shots in the stroke-play qualifying portion of last year’s championship, Oklahoma State would have cruised to its 11th national title and it could be argued that this year the Cowboys might have been on their way to a 12th, if stroke play was used.
Nowadays it’s anyone’s guess who can win. A coin flip.
I looked at results from the past two Callaway Match Play Championships. Your winners: Middle Tennessee and New Mexico. Do I need to go any further?
What I have discovered is the underdog is actually the favorite. This past season the Callaway Match Play Championship seedings were based on a committee’s decision using rankings. The favorites were actually the better-ranked teams, however the favorites won just 11 matches while losing 21.
The year before, when stroke play was used, the lower-seeded teams won more than they lost and at last year’s NCAA Championship, the better-seeded teams went 2-5. If rankings are used rather than seeding, try 1-6 with only Texas A&M defeating Michigan in the semifinals, where the better-ranked team actually won the match.
Why is this? I have no idea, but this is overwhelming evidence that the odds say the best stroke-play teams are unlikely to win in match play.
While I am not a huge fan of the current format, I will say that what will happen over the course of the next three days most likely will be exciting. Especially if you like to cheer for the underdog.