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Last Updated: Saturday, 28 August, 2004, 15:02 GMT 16:02 UK
Mental side of matchplay
By Rob Hodgetts

Former European Ryder Cup captain Mark James knows more than most about the inner game of matchplay golf.

"You need to keep tabs on your mental state a little more closely than in strokeplay," James told BBC Sport.

"You don't want to lose your head like you might in strokeplay, because it gives your opponent an edge.

"You have to be very aware of what your opponent is doing but you do need to concentrate on your own game and play the course."

Here, the seven-time Ryder Cup veteran talks BBC Sport through the mindset of a matchplay golfer at various stages in a match.

Three down
Very depressing. You're wishing you'd spent more time on the range. Any more, and you'll wish you hadn't even turned up.

Mark James
Falling behind can take its toll on a golfer's nerves
Often you start to play more quickly, trying to find some rhythm and get the ball out of the middle of the club, hoping something happens.

But you can't try too hard - it's a very fine balance between attacking to get holes back and losing another hole.

Many players visibly relax, as if they're preparing to cope with failure.

But by seemingly not trying so hard and freeing up mind and body, players can sometimes take all the pressure off themselves.

And because you're not bogged down with too much technical stuff or the state of the match, you can get on a good run of striking and start to claw back.

It depends where in the match you are - if there's another 18 to come, two or three down is nothing but if it's an 18-hole match these feelings are much stronger.

Two down
Slightly depressing. It's essential not to lose another hole because three is a lot.

Just try to put a bit more pressure on the opponent, who is in the driving seat. It's up to you to make birdies now, not him.

It's also not a good time to tell him you've no idea where it's going to go - he'll like that.

One down
No need to panic, only one hole in it. Mustn't lose any more holes though because gaps can open up quickly.

Just stay calm and wait for the putts to drop.

You're really hoping not to get any bad luck. And you're desperate for your opponent not to get any good luck too - it could really swing match their way.

All square
Be alert - anything can happen here. Matchplay is all about keeping the pressure on your opponent.

You don't want to give holes away at any stage but all-square is a question of playing your game and seeing what happens.

One up
Mark James
The pressure eases at one up - but there's little room for error
You start hoping your opponent makes a few mistakes and gifts you a few holes so you can open up a lead.

If not, keep the ball in play, keep your game solid and make no mistakes.

Although it is a good feeling to be ahead there is no room for error so the pressure remains.

Two up
Now it's very much a case of keeping the ball on the course - don't go for too much because you're in the driving seat.

Make him play the shots and make him try to get holes back.

Three up
Time to start chuckling now.

Just play safe off the tee. He has to do all the work. Just keep the game solid and you should win. And he should have spent longer on the range.

But don't start practising your victory speech - that way danger lies. (See three down).

How to win at matchplay
26 Sep 02  |  Features


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