By John Strege
The WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship commences on Wednesday, possibly the beginning of the end of an era for PGA Tour golf in the Tucson area.
Speculation there is that the eighth year of hosting the tournament in the neighboring community of Marana will be the last.
Spirits were high in Tucson golf circles in 2006, the last year of the Chrysler Classic of Tucson, with the news that the area would be trading a second-tier PGA Tour event for a World Golf Championship event in which Tiger Woods would play.
Careful what you wish for, we noted then. The likelihood that the Match Play Championship would remain permanently ensconced in the Tucson area was remote and that if it left, the area would be without a PGA Tour presence for the first time since the Tucson Open began in 1945. A relatively stable second-tier tour event is better than no event.
It was probably inevitable that the PGA Tour would leave Tucson anyway. Nothing is forever in golf, as the demise of the Eisenhower Tree at Augusta National demonstrated.
Tour golf in Tucson had similarly deep roots and its own gilded history. The honor roll of winners in the event that began as the Tucson Open includes Arnold Palmer, Johnny Miller (four times), Phil Mickelson (three times, including once as an amateur), Lee Trevino (twice), Tom Watson (twice) and Jimmy Demaret (twice). Tiger won the Match Play in the area in 2008.
Now, Tiger is not participating. Neither is Mickelson or Adam Scott, three of the top four in the World Ranking. Players have grumbled about the course at Dove Mountain, Accenture reportedly is ending its sponsorship and "professional golf in Tucson is staring into the graveyard," as Anthony Gimino wrote for Inside Tucson Business.