If you come to the eighteenth tee all square, you're no longer in match play, you're in a sudden death playoff. The important thing then is to hit the fairway, even if that means dialing back to a three-wood or long-iron off the tee. Above all, give yourself an opportunity to win. Remember that the other guy is feeling the pressure, too. Even if you're all atwitter inside, make your opponent think you're loving every minute. Keep your head high and walk with a confident gait.
Be aware also that whoever stays the most relaxed coming down the stretch has the better chance. Jack Nicklaus was one of the greatest match players of all time precisely because he changed less than anyone else in crucial moments; his opponents knew this and tried to do more than they were capable of doing, frequently leading to disaster. Nicklaus did what he knew he could do, and more often than not came away the victor.
Tips for Gaming
One of the old-school ploys you often hear about is conceding short putts to your opponent early in a match, and then later, when it counts, suddenly requiring him to make one. He won't be comfortable standing over the short putt and might miss. At the Ryder Cup level, that isn't very effective; those guys are too good. But depending on the personality of your opponent, I suppose it's worth trying. Otherwise my general rule is that if you think your opponent might really miss a putt, let him try it. If not, concede.
Another old ploy is to try to disrupt your opponent's rhythm by altering your speed of play. If he's a speedy golfer and starts winning a few holes, deliberately slow down for a few holes. Then maybe speed up suddenly and wait for him on the next tee, and then slow down again. Frankly, this is right at the edge of what we might call gentlemanly conduct, but I know it sometimes happens.
Yet another trick, especially when you are playing on a course you know better than your opponent does, is to stand on the tee with the wrong club in your hand—say, a driver on a short par four, where you know you will actually be using a long-iron. Don't say anything or draw attention to the club, just stand there. If he notices, it may or may not alter what club he uses, but at least he's thinking about what you're doing instead of what he's doing, and that might help you.
The Faldo Golf Institutes
Chip Koehlke, U.S. Director of Instructional Programs
The curriculum at Faldo Golf Institutes is built around fundamentals. Each site offers schools, private lessons and club-fitting sessions.
Marriott's Grande Vista; Orlando, FL
Marriott's Shadow Ridge; Palm Desert, CA
Seaview Marriott Resort and Spa; Galloway Township, NJ
Marco Island Marriott Resort; Marco Island, FL
Brocket Hall Golf Club; Hertfordshire, England
Nick Faldo on the Air
Nick Faldo's wit, insights about golf and candid assessments of fellow Tour professionals can be heard on the following ABC golf telecast: September 30October 1, WGCAmerican Express Championship (The Grove, Hertfordshire, England)