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If the PGA Tour brings back a non-elevated match-play event, Jon Rahm is in (but he’s not sure about others)

AUSTIN, Texas — Yes, huge purses have helped to draw stacked fields to the World Golf Championships Match Play event, ever since its inception in 1999 in La Costa, California. But with the news that the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play has been stripped from the 2024 schedule, Jon Rahm is one player who’s been adamant that the PGA Tour needs to find a way to bring the format back into the fold sooner than later.

In fact, when asked about it in advance of Wednesday’s first round, the world No. 2 said he’d be on board for any such event in the future, even if it was re-introduced as a non-elevated event.

“I love match play. Why not?” Rahm said. “It’s a really fun format, so I probably would, yes.”

Rahm has never won the WGC Match Play, but he reached the finals in 2017 — the second year it took place in Austin — before losing to then-No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

And the Spaniard insisted on Tuesday that he looks forward to this slot in the schedule, one that offers a little variety for players who see the same 72-hole tournament structure week in and week out.

“As a player, it’s just an opportunity to play kind of a different golf, right?” Rahm said. “It’s really the only time throughout the year besides maybe the Ryder Cup where you’re playing truly against the person in front of you, which is much more relatable to every sport we play in the world, which is basically about just playing better than the team in front.

“Usually, it’s very much about you minding your own business and hopefully beating the other 150 players in the field. It’s fun. It’s a lot more aggressive. You see more birdies. You see a lot of things happen.”

Jon Rahm of Spain hits his approach on the 13th hole during the first round of the WGC – Dell Technologies Match Play golf tournament at Austin Country Club in 2018. (Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports)

Rahm does, however, understand why the format is difficult to sell. With the field dwindling in the final days of the event, sponsors in massive hospitality tents only get a handful of matches.

“When you have clients come out here, Dell clients, Sunday afternoon you have the consolation match and the final, so they get all of 15 minutes of golf if you get lucky. I’m being very generous right there, that go through each one of the tents, right?” Rahm said. “Unless you’re positioned in a spot where you can see more than one hole, like it could be on 13 and 15 on those tents, you’re going to have to be moving around.

“When it comes to TV as well, yeah, it’s a lot more dead time than any other sport in between shots. I’m sure there’s a solution to it. I’m sure there’s a way around it, because I think we should have a match-play event every single season. I just don’t know what that solution is to make it entertaining enough throughout the entire Sunday or the weekend in general.”

Although he has an interest in maintaining a match-play event on the PGA Tour schedule, Rahm said he’s unsure whether other players share his enthusiasm. Due to the nature of the format, it can be frustrating for players who play well early on, but run into a few hot opponents and find themselves eliminated. He opens play on Wednesday in a high-profile pool that includes Rickie Fowler, Keith Mitchell and 2021 champ Billy Horschel.

“A lot of times you can lose your first two matches playing good golf, you have no way of qualifying and you still have to show up Friday and play because otherwise, it might affect the group, when you’re maybe thinking, I’m going home because you’re done,” Rahm said. “You can come out and play great matches and lose all of them. I understand why people don’t like that, and it’s very unlikely for someone to not have their best and end up making it through the group, right?

“There’s so many reasons why somebody might not like it. I just enjoy match play. Win or lose, it’s a different way of doing things, and I think it’s really fun. Every time I’ve come, if I make it through the group stage or not, win or not, it’s something that I enjoy.”

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