Sunday, November 09, 2008

Quarter Finals

So it's up at the crack of dawn today to get to the club early enough to practice before my 8.30 tee time.

Today it is 18 holes of match play between myself and one of the other 7 who made it through from yesterday - no handicap is taken into account - this is mano a mano. Match play (where your total score is not recorded, but only used to determine the winner of each hole) is a new format for me, and I love it.

Although my instructor told me to ignore what the other player is doing and just play my own game, this ignores the strategy component of match play. For example, if your opponent is in the hole in 4 and you are on the green in 3 then you know there is no point in lagging the putt - you gotta go for it. If, however, your opponent takes 5 to get on the green and you are on in 3, then you know you can lag the putt and take 2 and still win the hole. It is tremendously liberating to know that you have no choice but to go for a risky shot or a long putt, and it is amazing how often these shots come off!

My opponent has a similar handicap to myself and, to be honest, I am not expecting to progress any further than today - I was happy to just get through the qualifiers. As if to underline this, I play like a complete muppet for the first 9 holes, recording a dreadful 56. However, miraculously, I score when it counts and go into the back 9 with a 6 hole to 2 lead, sharing only one hole between us,

This seems to rattle my opponent, but not as much as the fact that he plays perfect approach shots for the next hole while I end up in the rough. He puts his third shot on the green, and I put my third 2 feet from the pin. Another hole to me.

The next hole is a long par 5, and he is on the green in 3. I spend the first three shots languishing in the rough and hacking my way back onto the fairway and he is feeling pretty confident. This is where the strategy thing comes in - I have nothing to lose at this point. I am 120 yards from the green with a downhill lie, and I stick the ball three feet from the pin. We end up halving the hole and my opponent has a fit! "How am I supposed to win?" he asks, in all seriousness. "I play perfect approach shots and you stick it next to the pin from back there! How am I supposed to win a hole if you keep doing that?"

At first I laugh, but then realise he is not joking. He was not too unhappy about losing holes where he played badly, but clearly believes that when he plays a good hole I m not allowed to upset the apple cart. I don't really know how to respond to this one - as far as I am aware, golf is about sticking the ball in the hole in the fewest shots possible. Isn't it?

Two holes later and it is all over - he cannot win, and the rest of the game we are playing for fun. At least I am. He is still complaining that he is fed up with golf and is going to give it up. If it gets him this heated, perhaps he should.

Anyhow, having played out all the holes I win 11.5 to 6.5 and I am through to the semi-finals on Tuesday! Yay me! Just as important is the fact I manage to record a 47 on the back 9 to go some way towards balancing out the abysmal 56 I scored on the way out, only barely shooting to my new handicap.

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