Head to head. Mano a mano. You against me. However you put it, July and August are traditionally the months for match-play tournaments. Many club championships are contested at match play, as are most member-guests. In the September issue of Golf Digest, on newsstands next week (Alvaro Quiros on the cover), there's a timely Basics section full of match-play advice, either for team competition or individual.
Here are five of my favorites:
By Ian Poulter:
Get out fast: "In match play you have to attack every pin, and when you get a lead, keep your foot on the accelerator," says Poulter, who is undefeated in Ryder Cup singles play. At the 2010 Ryder Cup, he defeated Stewart Cink in 14 holes. "After every shot, the clock is ticking, and it's a lot easier to win holes early than late. Don't give anything away from the start. That's how you become a player who's tough to beat."
By Jack Nicklaus;
Forget your partner:"Tom Weiskopf used to tell stories when we were partners that I would say, 'Go rack your cue, Tom.' Meaning pick up your ball because I'm going to make my putt,' " Nicklaus says. "Of course, I didn't say that, but the mind-set is a healthy one for match play. If I had an eight-footer and my partner had a 12-footer on a different line, I might want to just hit mine in. Point is, don't rely on your partner, rely on yourself. You're playing your own ball, so think about what you can do."
By Michael Breed:
Have a safety drive: On a crucial hole, driving the ball in the fairway can be the difference between free drinks and picking up the check. "What I tell my students is, make a practice swing and feel what's happening to your body. Feel what it's like to stay in balance," Breed says. "If you can maintain your balance, the club will tend to meet the ball in the center of the face." Staying in balance also will improve your rhythm, he says, which always helps prevent wild tee shots.
By Padraig Harrington:
One hole at a time: "If you're down, your goal is to win that hole. Get one hole, then the next."
By Tim Mahoney:
Up big? Don't coast: "It's natural to be more cautious with the lead and force your opponent to take risks," Mahoney says. "But being conservative should apply only to the target and club selection. Once it's time to hit, make an aggressive swing. When players get a lead, they tend to guide shots or focus on just avoiding disasters. They start thinking about the next thing, like the next match. You have to keep playing."
Good luck with your game this weekend. I hope you win your matches, unless you're playing against me!
Photo by Phillip Toledano/Golf Digest