Butler Cabin, Augusta National (c) Burgh Golfer

Friday, July 29, 2011

Match Play Strategy

Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to be a finalist in my Club’s 2011 Championship Match.  With a lot of practice and a little luck along the way, I defended my 2010 title and won the event.
At our club, the qualifying rounds are played under stroke play format.  From there, the low eight scores move into the championship flight.  Three rounds of match play determine the winner.  I love match play, probably because it reminds me of my junior and high school golf days.  I’ve developed a strategy over the years for match play that I thought I would share in this post.  For anyone who has ever played match play golf under pressure, you might realize that that pressure you put on yourself to win each hole can disrupt your focus and strategy.  I have found this to be true in my own game, especially when I am down in the match or am struggling with my game.  
  • Par, Par, Par – meaning, make as many pars as possible; force the other player to beat you.  Do not beat yourself.  If you make a bunch of pars during the round, you will most likely win.
  • Play your own game – do not get distracted by your opponent’s play; stick to your own strategy.  You can watch what they do and react accordingly, however, do not be obsessed by it.
  • Rhythm 1, 2, 3 – this is a good drill to stay loose and not get too rushed.  Stick to a good rhythm and swing smoothly, especially as the round goes on.  Remember -- loose golf equals good golf.
  • Always leave a putt to win or tie the hole- one of the things that I love about match play is that you can turn a hole or an entire match around with a single stroke.  Many players panic and think they need to do something outstanding to get back into a hole or to win it.  Do not fall into that trap; get the ball on the green and try and sink a putt.  Also leave the putt back up the hill whenever possible, because it is easier to be aggressive when putting uphill.
  • Be patient early; the best golf is on the back- even if you are down early in the match or if you are not playing well, remind yourself that the best golf is still yet to come.  You will almost always play better on the back nine as you get loose and become comfortable in the round. Even if you are down on the front nine, you can stage a comeback on the back nine and win.  Don’t mentally defeat yourself too early. Remember Tiger Woods in the US Amateur?  I think he was down early in every final match and came back to win.
  • Remain confident to win- never lose confidence that you can win.  No matter how far down you are, stay calm and remain confident that you can win.  As long as there are holes left to play, you have a chance to come back.  You may suddenly start paying better or your opponent may start to struggle.
  • More practice swings- I always like to take more practice swings during a competitive match, especially on the short shots.  Since every shot has more at stake, make sure that you are completely ready to play the stroke before pulling the trigger.
  • Deep Breadths – sounds like a cliché, but it works.
I have a similar list for stroke play events that I’ll share in a future post.
What strategies do you use to win match play events?  Post a comment with your tips!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The warm up routine of Miguel Angel Jimenez

Last week in the 2011 British Open Championship at Royal St George’s Miguel Angel Jimenez from Spain offered up one of the funniest moments in golf this year.   Miguel Angel Jimenez aka "The Mechanic" (see my post of Golfers nicknames) from Spain is know for several things.  Besides being a great player he enjoys red wine and cigars.  He is very open about that and the noted cigar was present in this scene.  In the past I have written a post called “Where Have All of the Characters Gone?”  Well Miguel stepped to the plate and delivered on my request.  This Youtube Video Clip needs no commentary by me.  Watch and enjoy for yourself and a good laugh.

source; Youtube

Monday, July 18, 2011

Darren Clarke wins the British Open

source; BBC

Darren Clarke won the 2011 British Open Championship on Sunday at Royal St George’s in England.  Here in the USA we still call it the British Open whereas, the rest of the world calls it the Open Championship.  Clarke outlasted long hitting Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson.  I know many of the pundits were surprised to see Clarke finally win a major championship.  I am not considering his track record and career success.  Admittedly, he said the links style golf at the British Open obviously favored his game.  After all, Clarke grew up playing links golf in Ireland where he once again resides.  Another factor to consider in the win is that Clarke is very good in match play situations.  If you recall he beat Tiger Woods in the Match Play Championship in 2000 at La Costa in San Diego.  As we are all reminded that was Tigers great year when he won just about everything including the US Open by twelve shots.  Sundays final round was similar to a match play event.  Given the weather and difficulty of the golf course Clarke did not need to shoot a crazy low number to win.  He simply needed to keep pace with the field and let them make mistakes.  Since they were chasing him they needed to play more aggressively and take risks.  That was a difficult golf course to have to play aggressively.
Another amazing fact to me is how many wins the Irish have had in the past few years.  Padraig Harrington got it all started a few years ago with his Open Championship win.  It was most recently followed up by other major wins from McDowell, McIlroy and now Clarke.  It is incredible how such a little country has produced so many major winners in such a short span of time.  As I discussed in my last post “who is the best young, American golfer” it is not surprising to see another major won by a non American.  However, it was great to see Fowler, Kim and Johnson make a charge especially given the weather conditions.  They could have very easily have mailed it in and moved on to the next event but they didn’t.  They hung in there and fought hard to win as did Phil the Thrill.
Darren Clarke comes across as a regular guy.  Over the weekend in one of his interviews he made the comment that he was a regular guy who liked to share a pint.   I have no doubt he will be a popular champion and I am hoping the win will propel him to play more events in the US.  You have to pull for a guy who always seems happy and has a smile on his face.  It was Clarkes time to win the Open Championship and it is well deserved.  He now holds the record for the most appearances before a win (twenty).  The record was previously held by Nick Price who played the event fifteen times before winning. 
Do you think Clarke will win another major or is this it for him?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Who is the best young American Golfer? That seems to be the topic of discussion every week now on the PGA Tour. Every talking head on TV seems to have an opinion as to why there are no dominant young American Golfers in the game today. The loss of Tiger as a major force in golf has left the media searching for an American player that can replace him. They simply cannot understand how or why the PGA Tour does not have a young dominant American Player.

Since the Tiger “Slam” crash in 2009 many players have been heralded with the title the next great American player. It first began with the veterans like Mickelson, Furyk and Toms but quickly shifted to the younger stars like Glover, Mahan and Johnson. Many others had the same label such as; Anthony Kim, JB Holmes, Bubba Watson, Ricky Fowler and most recently, Nick Watney.

So, why does America not have more young great players? With a population of 300 million people we should be overflowing with great talent. South Africa which has a population of 49 million has produced two major champions in the past year; Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen. Northern Ireland which has a population of 4.5 million has also produced two major champions in the past year; Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy. So, why the lack of major wins for the young Americans? I have a theory about that down below. I do not think we lack talent or great players. I think we lack talented great players that can win at the highest level of the game, i.e. majors on a regular basis.

The media constantly reminds us that the United States is a great training ground for young golfers. Most great young amateur players have everything a player could want in order to have a successful career. They have great golf courses to play, world class instruction, state of the art equipment, fitness facilities, perfect weather and intense competition. In America, we have great junior, high school and college golf programs as well. I believe the one thing many great, young players lack is the intense drive to win. Allow me to explain. I believe that adversity and difficulty in life build character. This adversity and difficulty can drive a person to succeed. Without it you sometimes do not know have the burning desire to do whatever it takes to dominate. I am not saying that the young American players mentioned above do not have the killer instinct. Nor am I saying that the young foreign born players that have won major championships do. I do not know them personally so cannot say. I do believe that golfers that come from a wealthy background may lack the desire and drive to win. Who do you think has more motivation to dominate, Angel Cabrera who grew up in a house with a dirt floor? Or, a kid from a wealthy family who plays golf everyday year round and belongs to three different country clubs? So, if you are a great, young player that has everything you have ever wanted handed to you, then you may lack the killer instinct required to dominate. I have a second theory and will discuss it in another post and it has to do with the money in the game today.

I have been watching the new Feherty program on the Golf Channel and in his first episode he had Lee Trevino as his guest. David Feherty asked Lee Trevino who he looked up to as a young player. Trevino’s answer was “nobody” because they were so focused on existing from day to day they did not have that luxury. Do you think Trevino was motivated to succeed once given the opportunity?

Why do you think there are not more dominant, young, American golfers?