Junior Golf: Austin Nuggets

In today’s Monday Mulligan we will look at some thoughts, some takeaways, some nuggets of insight and wisdom from the WGC Dell Matchplay Championship that ended yesterday. (photo by jennleforge.com)img_0135

Matchplay is different. The players for the most part really enjoy it because it is 1-on-1 competition. Let’s begin with the Austin Country Club course. At just about 7,100 yards, it is relatively short compared to other PGA tournament courses. Pete Dye however always gives the players challenging holes. So in the words of announcers Sir Nick Faldo and Johnny Miller, both winners of multiple major golf tournaments and members of the world Golf Hall of Fame, “the course is really suited to match play.” What does this mean?

Matchplay has a different mentality than stroke play and each player is trying to win or at least tie each hole. So there is a “go for everything” mentality, sometimes called risk/reward. If you watched some of the event, you would have immediately noticed the stunning beauty of many of the holes. And much of this beauty was because of plentiful water, hazards with sheer drop-offs and unplayable lies and greens with multiple slopes. As fans we want to see great golf shots, thrilling golf shots and the inherent risk/reward of matchplay golf combined with a risk/reward golf course makes for a fun combination.

Part of the reason why Arnold Palmer and Phil Mickelson are so popular is their “go for broke” mentality. They love to play aggressive golf! When asked why he attempted so many difficult shots, Arnold replied, ”How would I know if could hit that shot if I didn’t attempt it in competition?” Frankly these 2 guys hit a lot of great shots from lies most of us would never consider attempting. Austin Country Club offers plenty of risk/reward opportunities.

Sir Nick on match play mentality, “you’re trying to win every hole, hit every shot exactly where you want it and make all your putts. But you cannot give any holes to your opponent. Make him earn the holes he wins.” This refers to unforced errors. At least twice in this tournament I saw the 1st hitter put his ball into the water. Now many of us, if we were the 2nd hitter might think that all we needed to do was keep our ball away from the water at all costs and advance the ball to a safe zone that left us in a good position for our next shot. Well folks, twice I saw the 2nd hitter also put his ball into the water. How can this be? Oh, these guys are human! In effect, the 2nd player just surrendered his tactical advantage and both players now, once again have a chance to win the hole. You just don’t expect to see this from the pros, but, wow!

imagePGA Professional, World Golf Hall of Fame member and Austin Country Club member Tom Kite was interviewed by Nick Faldo during the Finals Match yesterday and Tom offered, “these greens are tough. Pete Dye gives you lots of undulations and a player might have a putt that goes left, then comes back right and ends up going left at the hole. These are tough greens, but the guys will be more familiar with them next year.” When asked about the length of the course, Tom referred to a drivable par 4 on the back nine and said, “this little hole is giving these guys fits. You can’t keep your drive on the green and the chips you end up with are tough and the green has a lot of slopes.” So this little par 4 had the guys scrambling to make a par. (photo geoffshackelford.com)

I hope you watched some of the tournament. There were a bunch of great golf shots and some not so great. Jason Day defeated Louis Oosthuisen in the finals and guess what? At the end of all the risk/reward shots, the great shots and poor shots, the guy that won, Jason Day, just flat putted better than everyone he played. If you’re going to win, you have to make putts! And yes, he also hit some excellent shots.

See you on #1 tee ready for match play… Sam

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