Martin: IGF decision compromises WATC

Flags are seen during inclement weather on Saturday at the World Amateur Team Championship.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – The United States’ Scott Langley and David Chung witnessed two impressive hole-outs Saturday at the World Amateur Team Championship.

The first was a bunker shot that landed softly on the green, nearly stopping where it landed before tumbling into the hole. About five minutes later, the Americans watched another player sink a 50-yard pitch that rolled into the hole like a well-struck putt.

Those shots were struck on Olivos Golf Club’s chipping green, though. That’s as close as the Americans got to the golf course Saturday. A poor decision by the International Golf Federation kept many teams off the course, and more importantly, compromised this year’s WATC.

The event was reduced to 54 holes after Friday’s two weather delays. The top teams will start their final rounds Sunday. France is at 7 under par, one shot ahead of Denmark. The United States, which completed its second round Friday, is in third place at 1 under par.

The only golf played Saturday was by teams completing their second rounds, and by out-of-contention teams that started their final rounds in the afternoon. Of the top six teams on the leaderboard, three completed their rounds Saturday morning.

France shot an even-par 142 at Olivos Golf Club, led by Romain Wattel’s 70, to move into the lead. Canada and Sweden didn’t fare as well in Saturday morning’s high winds. Canada shot 151 at Buenos Aires Golf Club, 14 shots worse than its opening round, and Sweden shot 146 at Olivos Golf Club.

Sweden is fifth at 1 over par. Canada is sixth, another shot back.

There’s nothing the IGF can do about the weather. But its insistence on emphasizing participation over competition in a tournament billed as a “world championship” has frustrated many players and coaches.

The IGF could’ve instituted a 36-hole cut instead of shortening the tournament. A cut would’ve allowed the contending teams to complete 72 holes, the gold standard for determining champions.

The World Amateur Team Championship is the closest thing golf has to an Olympic competition, and should be treated as such. Instead, the IGF’s insistence that every team play the entire tournament hurts this event’s credibility. 

Don’t we play tournaments to crown champions? Fellowship is part of the WATC’s mission, but isn’t it enough that this event allows 59 teams, many with players who can’t break 90, to participate at all? As we near a championship’s conclusion, the emphasis should be put on the contending teams, not the back of the pack.

The delays basically ousted half of the field from the tournament, anyway, so the IGF should’ve just gone ahead with a cut. 

The WATC is played over two courses. Every team played one round apiece at Olivos Golf Club and Buenos Aires Golf Club. The top half of the field will play its third round at Buenos Aires Golf Club. The rest of the teams will play at Olivos Golf Club.

Because each half of the field has played a different rotation of courses, their scores are not comparable. If half of the field already has been rendered insignificant, why not just eliminate them from the competition?

There’s a simple way to crown a proper champion and maintain the tournament’s spirit. Cut the tournament to the top 25 teams, and let them scramble to complete 36 holes on Saturday afternoon and Sunday. Play both rounds at Buenos Aires Golf Club, this event’s “host course,” to save time. Take the remaining 44 teams and let them play one round Sunday at Olivos Golf Club.

That way, everyone gets to play and a champion is still crowned in the correct fashion. 

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