What are your best matchplay tactics?
This week Dan Murphy, Steve Carroll and Harvey Jamison join me in Fourball and reveal their matchplay tactics, or lack of them, and who they’d most like to have by their side at the business end of things…
Dan: I once played in the junior knockout against a much older opponent who played the entire round with his earphones in. We were level going up the last and I had at least two putts, and probably three, from long range for the match. I five-putted.
Harvey: Club championships 2015, the first time I made it to the knockouts, I’m excited and nervous. My opponent rocks up wearing a Nick Faldo Pringle jumper and a shoe cleaner clipped to his belt. “This’ll be easy,” I’m thinking. But under each of his iron headcovers is a shiny new set of Mizunos and this guy’s got game. Lost 1-down. Gutted.
Steve: Any loss creates a bad smell but I assume you’re asking me to examine a player’s character? We got to the final of the pairs one year and came up against a 17-handicapper whose mark was so off he dismantled a 500-yard par 5 in a driver, 7-iron. We didn’t get past the 13th.
Mark: I once played a bloke in a scratch knockout and he would get out a club and start swishing it around with plenty of intent. So, on the rare occasion that I had the honour, I would copy him and hit whatever club he was wafting about. Which he then always changed for his shot.
He was by some trees on the 9th and he started zapping the green and swishing about again so I took the green on and put it in some rubbish. He then chipped out backwards.
He took me down 6&5.
We all think we’re good at matchplay like we all think we’re good at pool, give me a SWOT analysis of your matchplay skills?
Steve: I’m world class at distraction techniques: “You’re playing well today”, “That’s a tight drive”, “That rough looks a bit chunky” – or what’s otherwise known as being a bit of a git.
If that’s not going to plan, I’m also a tour pro at sulking, questioning handicaps and tutting at any opponent’s drive that hits the centre of a fairway (delete as appropriate).
Playing golf, you ask? If it was down to ball-striking alone I’d get annihilated.
Dan: I sometimes get myself in trouble due to my dislike of the concept of the gimme. I give very little and expect nothing in return. I don’t like the psychological element of it and I think anything further away than hanging over the hole is missable on occasion. I’m not trying to play mind games with my opponent but doubtless they often think that’s exactly what I’m playing at. I can also say with honesty that I take little pleasure from an opponent missing a short putt. I just think it’s an integral part of the game.
Harvey: Strengths: I’m like Seve from sand and my clutch putting, when needed, is unrivalled. Weaknesses: I’m fond of knifing my 60-degree wedge around the green and I guarantee any opponent will mess with my head from the 1st. Opportunities: I will never give up with the goal of doing better next time. Threats: Anyone with a single-figure handicap or a golfer wearing a Pringle jumper will beat me.
Mark: I find it best to say as little as possible as regards the golf side of it; the score, the shots, the weather, my current swing renovations, the state of the greens etc. I kid myself that I have a bit of mystery to me and that my opponent will view me as some sort of silent assassin. It’s more likely he’ll just think I’m boring, which I also am.
I definitely don’t try and play mind games – “Ooh, you’re playing well” – as I’m terrible at it and I’m a huge believer in karma and it biting me on the arse at the first opportunity.
It’s the first morning of the Ryder Cup and it’s Fourballs – who (from either team) do you want by your side?
Harvey: Phil. Mickelson. Forget Le Golf National, he was just proving a point, he’s played in 11 Ryder Cups and if you’re looking for experience and a lucky belly-pat, Lefty’s the one. We’d have fun comparing calves, missing fairways and holing monstrous putts. Whistling Straits 2020 watch out.
Steve: I don’t care that he’s forgotten how to putt, or that he’s sliding down the world rankings so fast that playing in WGCs might soon be a distant memory, if I’m going into Ryder Cup battle I want Jordan Spieth as my other half. I mean that in every sense.
Dan: Sergio Garcia please. Need I say more?
Mark: “Hi Mark, I’m Jose Maria, let’s do this…”
My nostrils are flaring at even the remotest thought of this becoming a reality. I think we’d be playing DJ and Koepka.
There would be a moment at maybe the 14th where he puts his arm around me and reassures me that everything’s going to be OK. And then chips in for the win.
He then birdies the last four, matching Poulter’s five birdies to close, and we win 1-up.
I collapse into his arms and we hug and cry for so long, our shoulders bouncing up and down in unison, that we miss our tee time for the afternoon foursomes.