5 match-play lessons you can learn from watching the Presidents Cup

justin thomas points while jordan spieth points

The pros playing in the Presidents Cup might be better than the average fan, but that doesn't mean you can't learn from watching the pros.

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — If you think watching the Presidents Cup is just a leisurely activity, think again. If you watch with a critical eye, you can also use your viewing time to improve your own game.

While the competition features some of the best players on the planet, the way they play is still full of learnings you can apply to your own game. Save for the 300-yard drives and towering iron shots, they don’t play the game that much differently than you or I do.

Here are 5 lessons you can learn while watching the Presidents Cup.

1. Be a hero

The Presidents Cup uses a match-play format, which often changes the calculus for course management. Conventional wisdom days you should get back into play and avoid the big number, but in match play, that’s not necessarily the case. Because you’re only at risk of losing a hole — as opposed to several strokes — you can fire at flags you might otherwise play away from. It’s something you’ll see players do frequently at the Presidents Cup (especially in four-ball) and it makes for some epic shots.

2. Don’t get generous

Giving putts is a benefit of match play, but should you really be overly generous when your opponent has a shorty? After watching the Presidents Cup, you should probably think twice. Next time someone is conceded a putt at Quail Hollow, check out how far from the hole they are. More often than not, it’s a putt that even the yippiest of putters could convert. Presidents Cuppers are routinely forced to putt out two-footers, so shouldn’t your opponent be forced to, too? Don’t be too kind with your concessions out there!

3. Shanks do happen

On the 10th hole of the Saturday foursomes session, Scottie Scheffler did something all of us can relate to — he cold shanked an iron. It’s a jarring sight to see a pro hit a shank, but it’s even more surprising when it comes from the No. 1 player in the world. But the moment provided a valuable lesson: Even the best in the world can look look like hacks. So next time you hit a questionable shot, be easy on yourself. It happens to the best of us.

4. Don’t go after putts

I covered this more in depth in an article yesterday, but the gist is this: Match play changes how players approach putting, and for the worse. When you face a must-make putt in match play, you don’t need to worry about the comebacker. Because of this freedom, golfers — even pros playing in the Presidents Cup — will hit the putt much harder than they typically would. But all this does is reduce the size of the hole and decrease the margin for error. Instead of falling into the trap, though, you should hit the putt like you would any other.

5. You’re never out of it (until you are)

Through seven holes of their match against Scottie Scheffler and Sam Burns, Si Woo Kim and Cam Davis were 3 down. It was going just as everyone expected. Two of the best players in the world were squashing the overmatched International duo. A few hours later, Kim and Davis were celebrating a win for the Internationals. What’s the lesson here? Well, you’re never out of it — even against an opponent who seemingly outmatches you. Don’t get pessimistic if you get behind by a couple. An 18-hole match is a marathon, and you should treat it as such.


Zephyr Melton

Golf.com Editor

Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for GOLF.com where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at GOLF, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with the Texas Golf Association, Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and covers amateur and women’s golf. He can be reached at zephyr_melton@golf.com.