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PHOTO: NATIONAL ARCHIVES AND RECORDS ADMINISTRATION AT THE JOHN F. KENNEDY LIBRARY IN BOSTON, MA


compelling sprint to the fin- ish. Golfers are usually more bunched up than baseball teams heading down the stretch, and that leads to terrific theater such as last year’s Masters—Tiger charging, Rory wobbling, contenders flying for home from all directions and our heads spinning with deli- cious anticipation. It’s a good thing Schwar-


tzel kept breathing. Match Play


I


’m certain my opponent in the match play vs. stroke


play debate has stated his case for the reward of overall skill, and that’s fine. In siding with match play as the superior golf contest, I resist all logic and carefully crafted argument. Instead, I ask you the same question Bill Murray asked millions of “Saturday Night Live” viewers in the 1970s, a question as visceral and base as existence itself: Quien es mas macho? That’s what match play


decides. It may not tell you which player has a better swing over 72 holes, or which player has a sounder game plan over 72 holes. It does tell you, however, eyeball to eyeball, heartbeat to heart- beat, which player has the Titleists to reach deep when it matters most, to shrug off life’s failures and setbacks in proving one’s resilience, to know that the next hole is all that matters—until the final hole of a match comes, and a player must decide how macho he or she is.


In short, Hemingway, the


ultimate arbiter of having guts, would have preferred match play. There may be no greater endorsement for the argument. Imagine Hemingway talking to his caddie in a tight match: “I lost that last hole, and it was bad. It was bad like a bull that takes out the matador is bad. But what is good is that the next hole awaits. A new hole is like a sunrise on a lake: it is beautiful, and it is promising. Now, hand me my driver. It is time to let the big dog eat.” Irish amateur Joe Carr


once said stroke play is a better test of skill, and that match play is a better test of character. I’d like to thank Joe Carr for saying that, because it helps buttress my argument. Shout out to Joe Carr. What he means is,


match play forces one to play each hole as a fresh canvas, to go all Kipling and treat triumph and disaster the same. In stroke play, one bad hole—say, a quadruple- bogey—can effectively ruin a tournament. The high- wire nature of stroke play means that one slip-up, or two, and it’s over. In match play, redemp-


tion awaits on the next tee box. So you launched two tee shots out of bounds? In match play, you lost the hole. You’re 1 down. In stroke play, you launch two tee shots out of bounds? Start your ignition, trunk- slammer, because you’re on your way to missing the cut.


This is why the Ryder


Ernest Hemingway would have preferred match play says Brian Murphy.


In life, if you are handed


lemons, does that mean you make the squinty “lemon face?” No, amigos. You make the best damn batch of whiskey-infused lemon- ade you can. And let’s be honest. We all have rough patches. It was the mediocre pop singer Daniel Powter who once told us over our car radios, over and over in 2006 in the No. 1 Billboard hit of the year: “So you had a bad day/You’re taking one down. . .” If you hated that song, guess what? Another song would come next that might be better. Just as in match play, an awful hole can be wiped away with the af- firmation of the next. Conversely, success in


match play means you must prove yourself all over again on the next hole. There are no scholarships in life, un- less you’re born into a really sweet trust fund. If you win a golf hole in match play, you’d better go do it again. Because life is a daily grind. The beauty of match


play is its eternal message, once spoken by the great Jimmy V: “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.” (Actu- ally, if you’re 7 down with six to play, you’re sort of forced to give up, but you get my drift.)


For a look at stroke play and match play from the the perspective of handicapping, turn to Jim Cowan’s column on page 70.


Cup and Solheim Cup stir so many emotions. Match play provides the kind of one-on-one drama that stroke play can’t match. As awesome as Jack Nicklaus’ 1986 Masters was, he was in the clubhouse having a sandwich when he found out he won. Stroke play can lead to scattered drama. Your leader is on the 15th hole, but the guy charging to catch him is on the 17th hole. They can’t even see each other. In match play, a man or woman finds out if he or she wins or loses while standing on the green, over a putt to clinch, or stifling acid reflux while watching their opponent standing over a putt to clinch. All I need to say to


you are the words “Mark Calcavecchia,” “4 up, four to play,” “Colin Montgomerie” and “1991 Ryder Cup” and you are already cringing in pain at the very bare nature of match play. Calc has had many triumphs in his day, but blowing that four-hole lead to Monty was savage in its purity of pain. Two men, four holes, a blown lead, tears and pathos ensued. That’s because match


play reduced competition to its essence. You vs. your foe. You vs. your inner demons as you watch your foe make his move. You vs. the next hole. Somebody cue the


bullfighter music and bring me a Hemingway novel on my iPad.


Brian Murphy hosts the KNBR morning show “Murph and Mack” and was the San Francisco Chronicle’s golf writer from 2001 to 2004.


FALL 2012 / NCGA.ORG / 17


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