Tour tips: How to win at matchplay by Thomas Aiken

Courses & Travel

How to gain an edge over your opponent this summer from the man who has gone head to head with Ian Poulter – and beaten him

Relish the challenge

When the draw came out at the World Match Play in Bulgaria most people smiled and said good luck but I took it as a challenge.
Poulter is a fighter, I was two up with four holes to play and when he needed to produce he did and got back to level. I was applying the pressure by hitting the fairways and greens but he produced and got back to level. The last two holes were really tough and I won at the last.

Strategy

I like competing and I find matchplay more competitive as you are playing against an opponent rather than the course.
The last time I played it was as an amateur in 2001. You need to think a lot more, you need to change your strategy in an instant.
The first thing you do is look the guy straight in the eye. If a guy likes to play fast, you walk slow and vice versa. I like to walk slow but play quickly.
In matchplay what you like is not important, it’s what the opponent dislikes.

Gamesmanship

There isn’t as much gamesmanship as there was in the amateur days. If you know your opponent quite well you can say what you like and almost chirp him a little bit.
The best/worst bit of gamesmanship was when playing in an amateur event in the States. I hit my ball in some trees and my opponent was down the middle. I was waiting for the green to clear and he walked all the way over to me, looked at my lie and said ‘what are you waiting for’ and walked back to his ball. On tour the guys are quite respectful of each other and that’s good as it’s a gentleman’s game.
Against Poulter I had a two-footer early on and he didn’t give it to me and I just thought OK, we’re putting two-footers today. I made him putt one at 13 and 17 which was maybe less than that.

Gimmes

Gimmes depend on who you are playing. Against Poulter I had a two-footer early on and he didn’t give it to me and I just thought OK, we’re putting two-footers today. I made him putt one at 13 and 17 which was maybe less than that. I wasn’t going to give him putts because he was Ian Poulter.

Nerves

If you’re not nervous on the 1st tee then you shouldn’t be playing but it should only be on the 1st tee. If it continues after that then you have got a problem. Accept the nerves and breathe; you’re not going to die, it’s only a game and it’s a great game. It’s more of an anxiousness than a nervousness. We are excited to play.
Breathing is very important; if you are feeling anxious, deep, long, slow breaths will calm you down. Other times when you are a bit flat and need to pump yourself up, you need to hyperventilate. If I am on a par 5 and I can’t quite reach then I will hyperventilate to get my heart rate going.

Acceptance

Bad shots are gone straightaway, the biggest thing in golf is acceptance. Prepare for the shot, execute it and accept the result. That is easier said than done but the biggest thing is to forget about what has happened, you are always trying to bring yourself to right now.
The only thing you have control of is the present.

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