Sign in to comment!

Menu
Home

Golf

To a Tee: Sybase Match Play could be exciting, if shown well

It's an exciting week in the golf world, with the PGA in Texas for the Byron Nelson, and both the European Tour and LPGA running match play events.

Don't get me wrong, last week provided good golf with The Players Championship, but it will be nice to have all those tournaments going on this weekend.

Thing is, I just wish people had more of an opportunity to see the women play in the Sybase Match Play Championship.

Here you have a tournament featuring 64 of the LPGA's best players, including most of the Top 10 in the world. Top-ranked Yani Tseng will be there, as will Suzann Pettersen, who won last year despite battling an illness all week.

Here you have a tournament that will provide four days' worth of one-on-one, tournament-style play, and a multitude of chances for upsets and pressure- packed moments.

Here you have a tournament that comes three weeks before the second major on the LPGA calendar -- the LPGA Championship -- and could serve as an indicator of whose game is headed in the right direction.

It's just that, based on the television coverage, you don't get much of a chance to see all of it.

The event will, in fact, be broadcast -- tape-delays on Thursday and Friday, and live coverage Saturday and Sunday. All in all, the broadcasts will total 10 hours.

Now compare that to the PGA, which will receive 12 hours of live coverage. The Volvo World Match Play Championship, on the European Tour, will get a whopping 19 hours of live coverage. The BMW Charity Pro-Am, on the Nationwide Tour, also will have live coverage, for eight hours.

The point of that comparison isn't to simply compare numbers and say, 'Hey, every golf tournament ever should have equal amounts of TV coverage.' Not every golf tournament is the same.

But it's slightly illustrative of broadcasters' priorities and assumptions, isn't it?

If the Sybase Match Play featured Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood, there is no chance the first two rounds would be shown on tape delay. It just wouldn't happen.

Now, the LPGA event is just getting off the ground. It's only in its third year of existence, so it's not the World Match Play Championship or Byron Nelson, which have been around for decades.

And, yes, the Sybase Match Play isn't the biggest event on the LPGA calendar, nor does it have the biggest purse It's not a Kraft Nabisco or U.S. Women's Open. It's not the Evian Masters.

But I really struggle to find a good reason why it gets the broadcast short shrift. Just because it's on television at all doesn't mean that it's being treated equally, and just because it's a young event doesn't mean that it's not worth showing. These are the best players in the women's game.

Maybe broadcasters are comfortable with the arrangement. Maybe they don't think there's a large enough fan base that will make a stink over how the tournament is shown on TV.

And I'm not trying to single out one tournament or network, because broad exposure is what creates fans and a fanbase. When you see those moments live, you can feel the excitement and tension build. That's when sports fans get hooked.

Match play events are a distillation of that dynamic; they're intrinsically set up to provide excitement. That's partly why the WGC and Volvo match play events, along with the Ryder Cup, are such big hits. Another big reason is because golf fans want to see the world's best facing each other head-to-head.

So I have to wonder why, when presented with the opportunity to show the best in the women's game go head-to-head, networks aren't taking advantage.

What happens if Tseng is on the cusp of losing her first- or second-round match?

Well, unless you want to wait for the evening news, I guess you better be paying attention on-line.