The inner secrets of matchplay: Don't be afraid to laser your opponent

The Scoop

Mark Townsend uncovers the secrets of matchplay - including how best to cover up the fact that you can't reliably get the ball in the hole from two feet.

There are few things in life that get the juices and blood flowing like a bit of matchplay action. My Phillip Price to your Phil Mickelson, there can be no greater feeling than metaphorically putting your foot on your opponent’s windpipe and keeping it there until cries of ‘no mas’ – you’re done, we’re all done, there’s nothing more to see.

You’re through to the next round of the Arthur Grimshaw knockout.

To coincide neatly with the WGC-Match Play kicking off I have compiled my 20 Dos and Don’ts of the greatest format in sport. Let’s call them my secrets of matchplay.

And, speaking as the current holder of the Sports Publications Match Play crown AND a past champion of the Stanway Cup – for anyone and everyone, but mainly the juniors at Wimbledon Park – in 1989 I speak with some authority.

Do be aware of the shots. This might sound like teaching your grandmother to suck eggs – whatever that means – but take five minutes beforehand to memorise the shots given or received. It’s full difference so that means simply taking the low number from the high number – and then mumbling and moaning to yourself whatever the outcome.

Don’t overdo it but try and look disappointed early doors when necking your driver slightly. This will guarantee awe and wonder at your high standards, as well as quickly putting an end to the small talk by singling yourself out as a knob.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat

Do try and win at all costs. There is plenty of time in life to regain your dignity. If you lose a match you won’t get a second chance. If that means there’s no other way of telling for sure whose putt it is then don’t be afraid to get your laser out and zap your opponent.

Don’t allow it to dribble out that you’ve already let on to your prospective opponent in the next round. ‘Week Tuesday should be good for me, Dave’.

Don’t let him see your mobile where you’ve got screenshots of his HowDidIDo going back to 2013.

Do play your own game. If the logical shot is a putt from 70 yards then get the old bread and butter out.

Do pay compliments. It will freak the oppo out a bit and, if he’s anything like you, he’ll think he’s peaked and drop his game a level.

Don’t announce the score after you’ve won a hole. It’s not becoming. That said, do try and establish at some point in the round what you think the score is.

Do stop playing when you are more holes up than there are holes left. Anthony ‘Lord Lucan’ Kim famously had to be called back for the handshakes after humping Sergio in the Ryder Cup and heading to the next tee.

Do mentally tot up, though, if you choose to play in after a convincing victory, how many more holes you might have won and tell anyone who gets trapped at the bar next to you.

Don’t concede a three-footer on the first green – it’s the clearest sign you can’t putt. He’ll be on to you by the third. By somehow toppling one in at the opening hole you might not be asked to produce a repeat performance until the 12th.

Don’t practise your short putting in view of your opponent before going out to play. He’ll soon get the idea that you’ve got the heebie-jeebies from two feet.

Don’t think about your Stableford score on the way round. It doesn’t matter, nobody will care.

Don’t imagine what will happen to your short putt after you’ve visualised – correctly, as it happens – your opponent chipping in.

matchplay

Don’t imagine the prospect of a three-footer coming back when you’re standing over a one-foot downhiller.

Don’t invoke too much of the Seve spirit. When he said, “I look into their eyes, shake their hand, pat their back, and wish them luck, but I am thinking, ‘I am going to bury you’,” he was just playing up to the cameras a bit. You flipping out and building a shallow grave beside the 12th green is going to get you into trouble, or even thrown out of the club. And never pat anyone on the back, it’s just weird.

Don’t focus on what it is you really don’t like about your opponent.

Don’t ask ‘Is that OK?’ It’s needy, shows your hand and the answer is no.

Don’t pretend to start hearing things when you’ve nudged it three feet past.

‘Did you say something?’

‘No.’

You’ll be squirming and running that brief exchange through your head until the moment you inevitably shove the next one wide.

That should be all you need. Use the secrets of matchplay wisely.

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