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Sunday, February 23, 2014
Tim Finchem discusses Match Play

By Bob Harig
ESPN.com

MARANA, Ariz. -- All signs point to a new sponsor, a new venue, possibly a new format and maybe even a new date. Then again, nothing could change at all.

That was basically the message from PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem on Sunday at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, where the title sponsor's contract is up as well as the venue, Dove Mountain.

Finchem would not rule out coming back but also acknowledged just about anything is possible.

"I wouldn't rule out anything at this point,'' Finchem said.

That could very well be a negotiating tactic, as Accenture has sponsored this WGC event since its inception in 1999. The fact that a renewal was not announced prior to the playing of the 2014 tournament seemed a strong indication that the company was moving on.

And if a new sponsor is involved starting in 2015, it stands to reason that it would want a say in venue and format. About the only thing Finchem ruled out was going to a place where the PGA Tour already has a tournament, which would suggest the Match Play's old home in the San Diego area is out.

One thing Finchem did not dismiss was taking the tournament out of the United States.

"It would require some date work probably, but it's certainly a possibility,'' he said. Presently, three of the four WGC events are played in the United States, the only overseas tournament the WGC-HSBC Champions played in China in November.

As for the match play format, which sees the 64-player field pared down each day, Finchem said the tour has always looked at other aspects that would keep more players around for a longer period. In the current format, half the field is gone after Wednesday of tournament week.

"We're going to look at it again,'' Finchem said. "The usual things that come up when you get into that are either shifting the early part of the tournament to stroke play and then cutting and going to match play ... or to go to a soccer World Cup format.''

The tournament could have 36 or 54 holes of stroke play qualifying to narrow the field down to 32, 16 or 8 players for match play. The World Cup format he referred to was having players compete in a set number of matches within a group, with the leader emerging for a knock out stage.

"In that format, you are staying with match play all the time,'' Finchem said. "And one of the reasons we're doing this event is to maintain the history and the trend of match play. So between those two, we'd probably make pressure that the World Cup format didn't work before we went to stroke play. But that's just speculating. We've been with this format for a long time.''

Finchem said it will likely be several weeks to a couple of months before the situation is resolved.