The WGC Accenture Match Play is under way this week and it feels like a European Tour event. Of course, 2012 is a Ryder Cup year so you have to take note of the European dominance this week at the WGC. Since both the WGC and Cup are Match Play Style events one has to begin drawing comparisons. If the Europeans continue to play well and perhaps go on to win this week questions will arise about their dominance in this format.
I did not get a chance to watch many of the matches on days one or two. However, I flipped on the tube yesterday afternoon and saw what appeared to me as a European Ryder Cup roster. Familiar European Tour players names filled the brackets such as; Westwood, McIlroy, Jimenez, Hansen, Lawrie, Laird and Kaymer. In fact, seven players in total out of the sixteen remaining in the field were European. Let’s not forget that Luke Donald won the event last year. He is regular on the European Tour Ryder Cup roster. Likewise, in 2010 Ian Poulter, another regular European Ryder Cup player won the event.
So, why are the Europeans so dominant in this event? By all appearances they are superior in most match play format tournaments? What is it in their background, preparation or style of play that better suites their games? Do they want the win more? Do they play more aggressive? Are they more consistent? Are they better putters? Do they play more match play events on their tour than the PGA does?
I have my own theory as to why the Europeans are better at Match Play and it comes down to short game. If you have ever played in Match Play style events you quickly realize that players who can scramble have a distinct advantage. Match play is not really about distance or power. It is about the ability to get the ball in the hole at the right moment. Unlike stroke play the total number of strokes is not as critical. You are playing against a single opponent not the entire field. I believe in this area the Europeans overall are just better equipped to play that format.
I am not saying that the Americans do not have great short games or short game players. They clearly do, however, we play a different style of game in the US than in Europe. The guys on the PGA Tour play under perfect conditions each week and an ariel game. European players play under less than perfect conditions both on course and due to the weather. Also, they are forced to learn to play along the ground and learn to play a variety of short game shots. One could argue why that matters if the WGC and Cup are being played in the US? Because you either have the shots or you don’t. Plus you must be comfortable and confident you can pull them off under pressure.
Why do you think the Europeans are so dominant in Match Play Events?