Captivating WGC Match Play deserves better treatment
This week provides the most exciting single day of golf outside the majors, yet it often feels as though the game doesn't make the most from what should be a refreshing change of format.
First round day at the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship is always the most captivating opener to any tournament as the world's top players go head to head, knowing that defeat means their week is done.
Indeed, given the Wednesday start, it can be finished before a normal tournament week would have even begun.
On the other hand, if you are able to string a run of wins together there is every chance of laying foundations for the rest of the season.
World number one Luke Donald will kick off his defence of the WGC Match Play title against Ernie Els on Wednesday in Arizona. Photo: Getty
With huge world ranking points on offer, making it to the weekend can often be enough to cement a player's position in the world's top 50 and ensure he will play the game's biggest tournaments throughout the year.
For American and European golfers, there is the added incentive of making big strides in the Ryder Cup qualification process.
There is so much at stake in these matches but often the tournament seems to diminish in excitement the longer it goes on, because television struggles to cope with the ever decreasing number of players taking part.
This malaise has been even greater for the American market in recent years because Europe has dominated the event.
It doesn't help that the tournament is played at such a remote location as Dove Mountain in the Arizona desert.
It is a beautiful setting but in the middle of nowhere, and attracting big crowds to give a suitable atmosphere to the matches has proved nigh on impossible.
The weather can also deter fans. Last year's final was freakishly delayed because of snow lying on the fairways.
Tournaments of this stature deserve better. The old World Matchplay title which was contested amid falling leaves at Wentworth attracted huge crowds, and there was no sense of anti-climax as those autumnal weeks progressed.
Where is the imagination to make sure that this potentially magical matchplay tournament fulfills its potential?
Take it to golfing heartlands around the world where golf fans in their hordes will turn up and appreciate the opportunity to watch the game's biggest names go up against each other.
Or perhaps be even more radical and combine the week with the women's tour because simultaneously they are playing the limited field HSBC Champions event in Singapore.
With a total of only 127 players competing in the two events, they could potentially share the same venue, media coverage and television exposure.
Suddenly all those gaps in the final and semi-finals would be filled with action from the women's tournament.
Logistically this is the one week where the world's top male and female players could play separate events alongside each other in the way that occurs in sports like tennis.
It would certainly help women's golf grab a share of the limelight and would do the men's game no harm, but it is hard to envisage the game's competing governing bodies ever entertaining the idea.
Instead we are left with two excellent tournaments on either side of the world that probably will not gain the recognition either deserves.
It is the standout contest and arguably the best opening round match-up since Tiger Woods played Nick Faldo in the inaugural WGC Match Play in 1999.
Woods is the 19th seed this year and he starts his bid for a fourth Match Play title against Spain's Gonzalo Fernandez Castano.
Justin Rose's clash with Scotland's Paul Lawrie guarantees a British presence in the second round while Matteo Manassero's contest with Webb Simpson is another cracking match-up.
The in-form Phil Mickelson and the injured Casey are the only members of the world's top 64 not competing.
Mickelson has a family holiday planned for this week but if this tournament were able to attain the kudos it deserves, one suspects Lefty's domestic timetable might have been altered to accommodate it.