I was watching the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship this week and started thinking about the maladaptive way I approach “each hole is a new tournament” type play. I’m always fighting having too much interest in my total score.
I play regularly in a skins game, which is like match play in the sense that it doesn’t matter how bad your score may be on a single hole. If it’s not the winner, it doesn’t matter. But I’m always fighting aiming at the middle of the green rather than the pin, trying to minimize the risk of a bogey when I should be trying to maximize the chance of a birdie.
I’m a die-it-in-the-hole style putter by nature and I three putt more often after running one long than after leaving one short, but a routine two putt isn’t helpful in skins or in many match play situations. If I don’t get it to the hole, it doesn’t matter.
I have the same conflict when my group is playing a game like wolf at the same time we’re playing in a larger stroke play event. My partner in wolf has nailed down the tie with a par, so I need to be sure I get that birdie putt to the hole. But if it runs very far past, I’ll have a tough comeback putt for my par. My par is unimportant in the wolf game, but it matters in the overall stroke play event. What to do, what to do.
I love the fun of skins, wolf, and similar match play style games. I also love seeing my total score and handicap stay down where I like them. I suppose the obvious answer to the problem is getting good enough that I can be more aggressive with my putts and approach shots without so much risk to my total score.
Nothing to it, right? Do better.