16 Ways Golf is Just like March Madness

By Keith Stewart, PGA
Published on

UCONN Women’s Basketball Coach Geno Auriemma.Photo Courtesy:

March Madness and Match Madness are taking place this week. Nothing quite compares to the excitement of the single elimination basketball tournament, but in many ways what we watch this weekend at the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play is quite similar. Don’t believe me? Look at our version of a Sweet 16. Sixteen connections between March’s two match play extravaganzas.
1. Four-Foot Putts and Free Throws
Division I basketball players should make their free throws and PGA Tour players should make their four footers. In the 1st half or the front 9 they do. But down the stretch the hoop gets smaller just like the hole.
2. There’s always an upset.
We may rank teams and players, but don’t let the rankings fool you. Any team or player can win at this level. That’s why the tournaments are both so unpredictable and fun to watch.
3. What do you believe?
To perform at a high level, you must be mentally strong. In an environment of single elimination, the weight of the moment only gets amplified. Great golfers and big-time basketball players both share a strong ability to focus and take care of business.
4. Well-Rounded Skill Sets
As a player or a team, you cannot win the NCAA Tournament without being multi-
faceted. The same is true in Austin. The winner will display a well-balanced blend of ball
striking, short game and putting. Just watch this week as those that possess the most
balance will win.
5. It takes a village.
Great golfers have the support of a team. The same is true of the remaining basketball
squads. And not just the players, but coaches, trainers, and support personnel as well.
To be great in any sport truly takes a collaborative effort.
6. What a Run
Watch the games and matches this weekend. Teams and golfers will have crazy streaks of success and mess. At their level we can’t explain why but maximizing your runs and minimizing your lulls is the key to winning golf and basketball competitions.
7. Wait, what just happened?
One team is on the free throw line with a lead, they miss, and their opponent grabs the rebound, runs down the court and scores a 3-point play. One golfer hits it to 5 feet and the other to 25. The 25-foot putt goes in, and the 5-footer now looks like 25. Both scenarios are not only roller coasters for those involved, but for the fans as well!
8. Expect the Unexpected
The best prepared teams expect the unexpected. This holds true for both sports. Whether it is a crazy shot or hole out from a bunker. Believe your opponent is always in the game or match and you’ll be better served for success.
9. Do Your Job
Some athletes believe they can control their opponents. Great competitors “control the controllables.” Ever notice how the best basketball teams are just like professional golfers in that regard? Do your job and the result is winning all the time.
10. Mainstream Popularity
Golf’s growth in the last couple years has been historic. There’s never been a time when the game has been more mainstream. It reminds me of the difference between college basketball in the regular season and in March. The popularity of both is madness!
11. I can do that!
We watch a lot of different sports on television. Unlike football or UFC, most fans can enjoy golf and basketball as players as well. That shared experience creates a connection. When it is time for a crucial chip or free throw, we can put ourselves in that position. In doing so, we feel closer to the athletes of these two sports than others.
12. Cinderella Stories
The beauty of the NCAA Tournament is our exposure to a national cross section of teams. Much like St. Peter’s of 2022, we all love a great underdog story. The WGC Match Play is the same way. Not all the favorites will advance. Those moments where we can cheer for those we don’t normally see in TV coverage really resonate.
13. A little luck never hurt.
To win the WGC Match Play or the NCAA Tournament, the Champion will need a little
luck along the way. You can see it in both competitions. A good bounce in golf or hoops
helps when the competition is so closely skilled.
14. Did you see that ending?
Nothing quite compares to watching a buzzer beater live. Both the NCAA Tournament
and PGA Tour provide an incomparable sense of finality. A birdie on the last or a buzzer
beater are unique to these two sports. Most other sports don’t end so very often on the
very last play.
15. Power and Grace
We all love a powerful dunk and 300-yard drive. But the moments that really capture our imagination are the ones that favor grace over power. A brilliant bounce pass or a deft chip-in represent the unique balance that exists on the course and court.
16. Both have a Sweet 16
Golf’s version of Match Madness starts out with an opportunity to qualify for single elimination. Saturday they will reduce the field to 16 players just like the NCAA Tournament this week. Just like the NCAA bracket, when it gets reduced to the Sweet 16, the pressure and hype are real.
Golf and basketball require skill and strategy. The synergy they share is quite unique. Enjoy the action this weekend and here’s to hoping you have more than one TV!