That's the question AP's Doug Ferguson asks while sitting in the press tent at The Gallery, home to the WGC Match Play.
What might help is taking this tournament to golf courses that could add some sizzle, and not just from the desert sun. The Gallery Golf Club is a nice piece of property, a blend of lush green and desert brown. But it still begs an important question.At this point I will spare you my now annual rant that this event would be great at PGA West's Stadium Course because, well, the Golfobserver.com column I wrote about it has disappeared into cyberspace.
What are we doing here?
No doubt the tournament will help sell homes on Dove Mountain. But it won't do the fans much good. The course goes out some 3 miles before making a U-turn, with only about four holes in the middle where fans can hop around and watch more than one match. The only way to get from No. 5 to No. 11 is to follow the routing, or dodge rattlesnakes traversing the desert.
GolfDigest.com's Ron Whitten reviews The Gallery and, well, reminds us that the PGA Tour still has a long way to go when it comes to mixing architecture with commerce.
But people persist, because there's this theory that some courses make better match-play courses than stroke-play ones. If a course is fraught with obstacles and perils, or better yet, has lots of high-risk/high-reward gambling situations, so the theory goes, it's a terrific venue for match play but a humiliating place on which to keep score. That's a good, logical theory, but one that gets trampled upon by PGA Tour officials when they choose, and then set up, a course for their match-play event.
A prime example is The Gallery, on cactus-dotted slopes of Dove Mountain, a first-class private club with 36 holes that allows non-member play for those who stay overnight in one of its pricey but plush golf cottages. (See the club's website for details.) The Gallery's North Course, opened in 1998, was co-designed by former PGA Tour player John Fought and his then-design partner Tom Lehman and is known primarily for its deep-dish fairway bunkers and its 725-yard par-5 ninth. You would think the PGA Tour would eagerly award a match-play event to a course designed by two Tour players, particularly one with returning nines, 125 bunkers and ponds guarding two greens. But instead, The Accenture will be played on the South Course, five years younger and designed solely by Fought, without Lehman's influence.
Okay, here's the setup part.
But when I played the course last December, alternate fairways on the uphill par-5 10th and 362-yard 12th were both being grown to rough. They'll be taken out of play, converted to bleacher and/or skybox space. So much for match-play options.
What's more, the Tour will play The South in excess of the 7,351 yards listed as the maximum on the scorecard. Fought recently added four new back tees, so the course can now be stretched to 7,550 yards. Yes, it sits at an elevation of 3,000 feet, so it won't play that full distance, but why cater to ball-bashers in a match-play event? Why not set up the course to play around 6,900 yards and give underdogs like Corey Pavin a chance?