Mental Focus in Match Play

Golf is commonly played adding the total shots for 18 holes, called stroke play. However, there is a format called match play where golfer earn a point for each won hole. Rather than focusing on completing the round, match play tends to re-shift the attention to each hole. In match play, it is extremely tempting to focus on how the opponent is playing the hole as it can become a source of strategic shot making to increase the chances of winning that hole.

In the recent Solheim Cup, the American golfer, Lexi Thompson was paired against Anna Nordqvist. After playing 9 holes, Anna was 4up. With only 9 holes left, it becomes an extremely difficult task to turn this match around. However, Lexi won 5 of the next 7 holes. Anna won the 18th hole to finish this match a tie.

Needless to say, the mental focus of these two players was phenomenal.

It is very tempting to put oneself down after losing so many holes from the start. Even after Lexi was 1up, she could have lost her concentration and lose the match. Credit is due to Anna’s wonderful shot on the 18th hole to tie the match. Again, another display of playing focused. Anna could have easily lost her concentration after losing a 4up lead and now seeing herself 1down with only two holes left.

When a player is down or up by a few holes, it can become very tempting to lose focus.  The losing player could easily assume there is no chance of winning and, therefore start playing erratically or attempting to make miracle shots to come back. This strategy usually leads to losing holes more quickly. On the other hand, the winning player may assume that the match has already been won despite still having holes to play. This strategy may lead to feeling panicky after losing a hole and, suddenly a negative mind-frame takes over and successive holes are lost.

In either situation, focus and playing to one’s best potential is the wiser strategy to use. Rather than being overly concerned with how the opponent is playing, staying focused on each shot at the time will help to stay away from distractions. Stay with your strategy and play to your strengths. Your game will eventually dictate whether it was good enough to win or lose.

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