Over the 43 years of its existence and through as many as half a dozen disparate title sponsors from Piccadilly to Colgate to Suntory to Toyota to Cisco to HSBC -- with another on the way -- the World Match Play Championship at Wentworth has been accused of many things, most of them relating to the tournament founder, the late Mark McCormack, packing the field with his own IMG clients.
In truth, Mr. Ten Percent was an easy target, as was his Cleveland-based company's acronym. "IM Greedy" was a popular alternative, as was "International Money Grabbers," with neither barb, of course, by extension doing anything for the World Match Play's standing in the game. "Nice event, good fun, but no integrity," was the widely held view.
But that was then. With a quantifiable and public qualifying system in place nowadays, this long-standing autumnal event has grown in both stature and credibility. Take this year. Of the four semifinalists, only one, Hunter Mahan, pays a percentage of his earnings to IMG, a point worth making in an event offering golf's biggest first prize, a cool £1 million. And even better, eliminating any hint of blatant bias seems to have brought with it a greater diversity, too. Not only were the final four all from different countries, each hailed from a different continent: Ernie Els from Africa, Angel Cabrera from South America, Mahan from North America and Henrik Stenson from Europe.
Such a cosmopolitan lineup has to be commended in a so-called "world" event, even if, with only 16 starters, there remains an air of exhibitionism about the proceedings. And let's not get into the fact that with the arrival of the WGC-Accenture World Match Play Championship that features the planet's best 64 players, the global claim of this event's title is, if one is honest, more than a little dubious.
[Jack] Whitaker covered, and delivered essays about, all manner of sport. He wrote as he dressed, with tweedy charm. He said of his favorite game, “Golf is the most movable feast of all.” That is, it could be played everywhere, from Merion, where he was a member, to the public courses of Philadelphia where he learned the game in the 1940s. MICHAEL BAMBERGER