A few weeks ago I mentioned to my wife that my club’s singles match play tournament was starting soon, to which she responded, “Oh, the one where you always lose?”

Yeah, that one.

I know what she meant to say was “eventually lose,” not “always lose,” because I do win a match here or there before I am eliminated.  It’s single elimination match play at full handicaps.  There is a two man bracket as well, and my partners and I haven’t fared much better in that competition either.  In classic sour grapes fashion I have tended to regard the whole competition as essentially a sting operation in which members whose “numbers” are–oh shall we say–somewhat suspect have a tendency to be the ones left standing as the competition grinds into the quarters, semis and finals.  Not everyone mind you, just the usual suspects.  But it is still a great way to get out there with members I wouldn’t ordinarily play with, and if only for that, the tournament serves a great function.

But the topic of match play brings back to mind the recently concluded tournament at Harding Park.  Match play, or some variation of it–most often the Nassau with the format of front-back-and-total– is the game all of us play in our regular outings.  The score on the card is merely a way to index our performance on some objective scale.  But to hear the commentators last weekend you would have thought that match play was another weird sport like curling or cricket in which the competitors spend a lot of time standing around and scoring is particularly arcane, and that this “strangeness” warranted constant reminders about the “unusual” format.  Maybe that’s the case for people who watch golf on TV but have never played the sport, and someday I’d like to meet all five of those people.

But for those of us with a regular weekend game where a couple bucks are on the line, this was all too familiar territory.  I don’t have a clue what it’s like to be six-under or twelve-under, but I do know the feeling of being up three, or down four and everything in between.  But more to the point we also saw instances where a guy shot two under and lost and another dude shot three over and won.  It’s all about the other guy.

And it’s that notion, the concept of the other guy, to which we’ll return in the next post.