The mind games of match play

February 28, 2011
How far should you go to get inside the head of your opponent on the golf course?

There has been a lot said about Jason Day’s tactics during the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship. If you missed it, he admitted to trying to disrupt the rhythm of his first opponent K.T.Kim by walking ahead of him for the entire match, just to remind him he is still around.
In his second round match against Paul Casey, he made him putt out a short putt early in the match which would normally have been conceded.
“He looked really angry at me, too,” Day said. “It was only about a foot and a half. … But it’s not about that hole, it’s about the future holes coming on. So if I can make him a little angry, if I can get him out of his game plan and force him to make silly decisions out there, that’s obviously part of the mind games that you play.

“Obviously, match play is a different format to stroke play. At the end of the day, you’re all mates and stuff. But when you’re playing against the guy across from you, you want to try to beat him as quick as possible.”
Does anyone really have a problem with this? Some might argue it is not in the spirit of the game but it is not against the rules of golf. Match play is not played much any more, but most Australian golfers have played a lot of the format in junior and amateur tournaments. I’d assume most Australians are pretty used to a bit of sledging on the golf course too.
I’m surprised more golfers haven’t used mind games in stroke play tournaments. Jack Nicklaus used to putt out as early as possible to throw all the pressure back on his playing partner, but a little bit of sledging at professional golf tournaments seems to be off limits.
The Australian (as well as English, Scottish and perhaps Canadian) sense of humour does lend itself well to some occasional sledging. A few niggly words during the formidable reign of Tiger Woods may have made all the difference! Maybe not.
Day’s actions were certainly not against the rules or the spirit of the game. He wasn’t exactly coughing the middle of someones back swing or kicking his ball back out onto the fairway. Fair play to him, and it is a pity the tactics didn’t work against J.B. Holmes.
Has anyone used tactics that might be considered pushing the boundaries of golf etiquette before? 
Has anyone ever tried to get inside your head on the golf course?
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