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Monday, 21 August 2017

The Match

Match play is a wonderful format for playing golf. Sometimes it is also a terrific format for viewing the game. The benefits of match play in terms of playing the game are, or should be, obvious. Without the need to hole everything out, or to finish every hole, match play is played faster. And faster is good in this era of five hour rounds.

Match play also permits you to interact with another player in a much different way than you would were you playing stroke play. In match play you are playing your opponent, not the golf course. Score is relevant only insomuch as it is low enough to halve or win the hole. And matches end up being a shared experience between you and your opponent. If played in the right spirit, matches leave you with a real appreciation for your opponent. You realize that your opponent actually can assist you in playing your best. You push each other to achieve. 

At the Solheim Cup we witnessed a wonderful match between Lexi Thompson and Anna Nordqvist. It was a thrill ride that included initially some lousy golf from Thompson, some absolutely inspired golf, also from Thompson, and a near-perfect eight iron to the last hole from Nordqvist to halve the match after it had seemingly slipped away from her. The match was also played in the true congenial atmosphere that was considered to be mandatory by the great Bobby Jones. It was probably quite fitting that there was no winner in this match. Actually, there were three winners: Anna, Lexi, and everyone who witnessed the match. Both players will remember that match for the rest of their lives. And it will have been something they shared. You can be quite certain that if they weren't already, they are now good friends.

Most of my golf now is match play. I love it; especially when it comes down to the last hole or two to decide the winner. And match play isn't just about winning. The most memorable match Bobby Jones ever played was one that he lost--I believe it was to Chick Evans. No tears or sour grapes from Bobby. It's all about the shared experience with your opponent. If you haven't tried it, why not lose your pencil the next time you play and have a match. I'm willing to bet you'll become a believer.