Rest in peace, World Golf Championship.
Golf Week I knew this would be the last year of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin. Its spot on the 2024 schedule, which is usually late March at the back end of the Florida Swing, is expected to be filled by the Cadence Bank Houston Open, unless it prefers a late April/early May date instead as part of the event shuffle.
Efforts to reach Dell Match Play tournament director Jordan Uppleger were unsuccessful. A PGA Tour spokesperson sent a statement: “While we navigate the many moving parts related to structural changes to the 2024 PGA Tour schedule, discussions are ongoing regarding the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play beyond this year. We remain focused on staging the 2023 WGC-Dell Technologies event.” Match Play has been incredibly successful for our fans and we expect to announce details about the future of the event when they are available.”
The Austin Country Club has been the host venue for Match Play since 2016 when Dell became the title sponsor. At the time, the World Golf Championship was considered the highest-ranked tournament in golf after the four Grand Slams and the Players Championship, the main event on the tour.
WGCs portfolios, starting in 1999, were raised, fields were mostly limited to high-ranked players, and there were no specific events. (Tiger Woods has won 18 mountaineering championships, while Dustin Johnson is second with five.)
In 2021, the number of WGC events was reduced by two with the WGC-Mexico Open being reduced to its regular PGA Tour event and the conversion of the WGC-FedEx St. Louis Cardinals. Jude advanced to the first round of the FedEx Cup Playoffs.
The demise of WGC Match Play technically leaves the WGC-HSBC Champions as the newest WGC tournament but the tournament, which is being contested in China, has not been played since 2019 due to COVID-19. There is no indication that the tournament could be held this year either, and the LPGA has just canceled a tournament on Hainan Island in China that was scheduled to take place in March due to “ongoing matters related to COVID-19”.
The Match Play, which Scotty Scheffler beat to reach world number one last spring, is one of the new events set for the Tour this season. It will be contested in March for a record-breaking $20 million championship purse, but that’s also the same amount as 10 high-profile championships, which has depressed WGC’s brand value. (Having the majority of events staged in the United States also made the name a misnomer.)
The PGA Tour Player’s Advisory Board met last Tuesday at the Farmers Insurance Open and the 2024 Tour schedule was a topic of conversation. PAC member Kevin Strellman confirmed that a future matchup was on the agenda.
“They talked about it a little bit,” Strelman said. “I hope they can save him. It’s a care issue.”
“It’s very common knowledge,” he added, but noted, “Absolutely no decision has been made yet.”
However, multiple sources said Golf Week that a decision had been made and that a high-ranking executive overseeing the tournament management department for the tour had told the staff in Austin to “start smoothing things out”.
The tour Austin Country Club sent out a proposal more than four months ago, and the ACC pressed hard, facing exorbitant increases in site fees and ticket requests for its members. The tour declined, and there was no contact between the two parties for several months. It didn’t help that membership was divided with a large camp that believed the event had run its course there. According to one source, the ICC came to its senses and attempted to re-engage, but the tour was “silent by radio” for four months. Two weeks ago, the ACC sent the Tour an unsolicited proposal to agree to the Tour’s original terms and extend the deal for an additional two years.
“I heard it didn’t go well,” said the PGA Tour tournament director for another event, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of his relationship with both parties. “They’re out there.”
Often, the tour will withdraw its stakes and leave town unless the sponsor flees and doing so is a last resort. But a source says that in August, the round turned down Intel, which Dell wanted as a partner, to be the presentation sponsor. The chipmaker was poised to sign the dotted line to a five-year contract for between $5 million to $8 million annually. But the Tour, perhaps knowing that its schedule must evolve to counter the onslaught of LIV Golf, the upstart league, will only commit to one year. No agreement was reached.
like previously mentioned before Golf WeekJim Crane, billionaire owner of the Houston Astros, has been playing hardball hoping to get Houston back in the majors schedule, preferably with a spring date. The CJ Cup, which originated in South Korea in 2017 but has been played in the US since the pandemic and was most recently held in South Carolina in October, is also looking to upgrade its dates from its fall schedule. The Tour hasn’t released its schedule for next season yet, but losing the Match Play could mean at least a less dedicated event in 2024, or its replacement could be moved up in the schedule.
“A round won’t go far from playing a match,” said the tournament director. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see it pop up somewhere else.”
But right now, Match Play seems to be broken and running out of holes.