In recent weeks we've urged you to go and try some matchplay golf as well as some tips from Hal Sutton on applying a strategy for your attack. This week, we share some tips from Davis Love III on how to handle the pressure.
Apply pressure whenever you can
Among the keys to winning at match play is applying pressure. It can cause opponents to make mistakes or take bad swings.
For example, if your opponent hits a good drive and you can afford to sacrifice a little distance, try to hit your shot just short of him by easing off or taking a 3-wood or hybrid.
You should then be able to apply pressure by hitting it close. It's an excellent strategy to employ on the closing holes. Making them press even a little bit in an effort to match your shots. This can often result in a poor swing.
Matchplay is a balancing act. You’re always weighing the need to put pressure on your opponent against the need to win the hole. The player who plays the best under pressure, regardless of their golf handicap usually wins the match. but handling pressure is not something golf lessons prepare you for. It’s something you need to experience yourself.
US Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III quickly learned how to handle pressure putts when he had a six-footer for par on the 18th hole at The Belfry in 1993.
“It was the biggest I had ever faced in my life - or ever will face. All it meant was the Ryder Cup: If I made it we'd win; if I missed we just might lose.
“When I stood over the putt, I didn't feel right. I thought to myself, 'there's no way I'm gonna make this.' Somehow at that point, I did a very smart thing - I backed away from the putt. I started my routine from the beginning and addressed the putt with a different mindset. I ended up making a great stroke, the ball went in the hole, and the rest was a blur. What a celebration.
“When you're facing a putt that really matters, it's important not to try harder than you do on any other putt. That leads to over-reading the putt or overthinking your stroke. You need to perform your routine, get over the ball and focus only on making a good stroke.”