In honor of the playing of the WGC Match Play championship, this week’s head-to-head, toe-to-toe, mano-a-mano pits The Mouth’s support of stroke, or medal, play golf versus Mo’ Golf’s affinity for match play. While The Mouth demonstrates his usual, cool aplomb, Mo’ moves a little closer to the breaking point with his defense of the traditional form of competition.
After my 30-minute swim in the icy waters of Lake Erie, I did ab work until my muscles ached. Why the intense workout and risk of bodily harm? Simple: I’m a man’s man and I only compete at match play. If I can’t look my opponent directly in the eyes and see his strength or weakness, then I don’t want that action.
Match play was the choice of every great professional and amateur until big money took over the game of golf. Sure, they’d play an Open championship from time to time for a purse, but it was the head to head competition that defined the worth of a competitor.
In match play, no one hides from you, ten groups ahead, possible playing in a completely different wind or other atmospheric setting. Your opponent faces the same wind, rain or cold that you do, traverses the grounds in lock step with you, never out of sight or mind.
Match play is psychological warfare at its finest. Your opponent can blow up on two consecutive holes, posting double-digit strokes or the dreaded “X”; three birdies later, she’s back in the lead, while your five consecutive pars have earned you a one-down status.
Have you ever taken your driver cover off in match play, lulling the opposition into thinking you plan to whack the big dog, only to replace it in the bag and play hybrid or three-metal? I’ve made a living at it.
Ironically, you and your opponent gain a mutual, if grudging, respect for each other after a well-fought head to head bout. You’ve seen each others’ strengths and weaknesses first-hand and can offer a handshake with sincerity.
And remember this: match play takes less time. When you’re out of the hole, you concede, pick up and move on. None of this plumb-bobbing a two-footer hooey that you see in that other format.
Don’t get me started on the elimination of the stymie!
Any man’s man should always seek the greatest challenge, which is why Mo Golf’s fascination with match play is mind-boggling. If you want the greatest challenge and the most exposing test in the game of golf – look no further than stroke play.
Stroke play tells the fully story of a golf round. There are no places to hide your weaknesses. Nobody tells you to pick up those three-footers you’d probably miss in stroke play. You can’t rip one into the trees and just decide to make it up on the next hole. Stroke play requires you to find your ball where it lies every time and see the entire round through.
Match play always leaves me unsatisfied. I don’t want to spend four hours only to learn that I finished two-down. I want a number. Stroke play allows you to compete against others and yourself at the same time. It is the ultimate challenge in golf.
At the end of the day, I’ll always prefer the format that best ensures the better player wins. In match play you can have eight 12’s and 10 pars and beat a guy who makes eight pars and 10 bogeys – that’s not right.
Stroke play is the true test. It tells every detail of the round and it gives you nothing for free. A man’s man knows you have to earn everything you receive in this life – a man’s man plays a round of golf and counts all the strokes.