Which format, match play or stroke play, produces the best champion? This was the question being debated earlier this week on PGA Tour Radio / Sirius XM.
The majority of callers were choosing Stroke Play as the best format to determine the best player. Their reason for selecting stroke play stemmed from the contest being 72 holes instead of an 18 hole match believing the longer the contest, the more likely the better player surfaces.
Candidly, I think this is a stupid question. Quite simply, the contests are just different and both produce the best player in their respective format on that given week.
A 72 hole stroke play competition challenges the field to be consistently good and occasionally great over the course of the four rounds if they are going to win. But inevitably, if the competition is close in the final round on Sunday, it begins to resemble more of a match play feel at times.
Match play requires players to ride an emotional roller coaster of sorts. Each match has the same feel as the final round on Sunday might. Show me a player who struggles on Sunday, playing in the final round to win a tournament and I’ll show you a player who likely struggles in match play competition.
Match play presents unique challenges. Players have to maintain discipline in their thinking and not get caught up in what their competitor is doing, while at the same time acknowledging when an opportunity presents itself. When your competitor hits his tee shot out of bounds, it’s imperative you get your tee shot in play realizing a bogey likely wins the hole.
Nobody likes to get beat. For whatever reason, when you play in a 72-hole stroke play tournament and you finish runner-up it just doesn’t feel the same as getting beat head to head in match play.