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Sunday, February 24, 2013
A little match-play gamesmanship?


MARANA, Ariz. -- In their semifinal match on Sunday morning at Dove Mountain, Jason Day and Matt Kuchar were both on the 13th green. Day was laying 6 and Kuchar had a 24-foot birdie putt.

I know anything can happen in match play, but did Day really expect Kuchar to four-putt from 24 feet? Day should have conceded the hole after his fifth shot. But he made Kuchar putt. And only after Kuchar's ball was comfortably inside gimme range did Day concede.

Call it desperation or gamesmanship, Day's tactics didn't work. The 25-year-old Australian lost 4 and 3.

Lose the one and done?

As much as it's tempting to consider the Volvo Match Play Championship's convoluted format that lets a player continue even after a loss, the WGC-Accenture Match Play's one and done rule is the most straightforward way of carrying out an event of this nature.

The Volvo round-robin formula was devised primarily to avoid exactly what happened this week at Dove Mountain, with Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy losing in the first round.

In 2011, Ian Poulter was able to win the Volvo tournament with two halves in matches.

The real allure of the WGC-Match Play is the one and done that so many of us hate. It wasn't fun to see Woods and McIlroy lose their first-round matches. But I appreciate the consistency and mental toughness it took for Kuchar and Hunter Mahan to make it through to the finals.

So while this tournament certainly needed its stars around longer this week for greater fan support, it should never consider watering down its format.

Eight is enough for Rory McIlroy

Matt Kuchar's victory at the WGC-Accenture Match Play marked the second consecutive year an American has won the first eight PGA Tour events of the year.

McIlroy broke that streak last year with a win at the Honda Classic, where he also took over No. 1 in the world.

Can the 23-year-old Northern Irishman do it again this year?

The Honda Classic, which starts on Thursday at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., was McIlroy's real coming out party. Sure, he had won the U.S. Open in the previous year, but Honda marked his full ascent to the top of the game.

That week he held off Woods and Tom Gillis by 2 shots.

But nothing from his performance this week at the Match Play indicates McIlroy will be a repeat winner at PGA National. None of the questions about his drastic equipment changes were answered in his 1 down loss to Shane Lowry on Thursday.

Even if McIlroy can't win Honda, it's important for his confidence to have four good rounds with his new equipment. The longer he plays with mediocre results, the more difficult it's going to be for him to summon his game for one week at the Masters.