Ringler: Is match play on horizon for NCAA women?
PHOTOS: NCAA Women's Championship (Rd. 2)
Browse images from Round 2 of the Women's NCAA Championship in Athens, GA.
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ATHENS, Ga. –- We are at the halfway point of this year’s NCAA Women’s Championship and, frankly, it has the potential to turn into a yawner. Does it matter to those making the decisions about the future of this championship whether the final two rounds result in a USC romp or a nail-biting finish similar to last year's?
Here is what I know and don’t know through 36 holes:
• I know that the women’s game has made no changes to its championship in recent years, while the men have completely redesigned their finals, going to a match-play format that has de-emphasized the individual portion of the championship and opened the victory door for more than just a small handful of teams.
• I don’t know for certain that the women’s game will change its format, although many sources suggest that might be on the horizon, largely because of the fact that the event will be televised in two years. And having the women and men at the same venue – The Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Fla. – using the same match-play format in 2015 would seem only logical and look better to the casual observer.
• I know that if USC continues on this pace and wins the championship going away, a boring, even-out-your-tan final two days would certainly not be good timing for those who want to fight off a change to match play.
• I know that if match play, with the top eight teams advancing to bracket play, was part of this year’s event, there would be much excitement heading into the third round with so much on the line.
• I know that when I arrived in Athens, the two clear favorites were Alabama and USC. That has not changed. USC has a commanding 12-shot lead over second-place Alabama.
• I don’t know if 16 under will be good enough to win this championship. But you would think the Trojans would gladly wait in the clubhouse with that number and take their chances.
• I know that last year, Alabama had a 15-shot lead with four holes to play in Round 3 only to watch that lead disintegrate to two shots after 54 holes. USC then managed to grab a four-shot lead with just a few holes left last year, only to see Alabama win on the final hole.
• I don’t know what will happen with these two squads in the next 36 holes. Obviously history shows us anything can happen. Isn’t that something we also say about a match-play format? Yes it is, so who needs match play at this event? Apparently television does.
• I know that the Player of the Year race is between Alabama’s Stephanie Meadow and USC’s Annie Park, and that if one of them wins the title she will earn the Player of the Year honor in the process. Meadow leads Park by a shot with 36 holes to play. If neither wins, the player who finishes better this week likely will be Player of the Year. Essentially, Meadow and Park are playing match play for Player of the Year.
• I don’t know which of the two will be named Player of the Year if they tie each other for second, third, fourth, etc.