Solheim Cup legend Laura Davies’ 5 keys to match-play success

Laura Davies at the Solheim Cup.

No player has totaled more Solheim Cup points than Laura Davies.

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With apologies to Bobby Jones, there are two kinds of golf, stroke play and match play, and they are not at all the same. Few pros have a better grasp on the distinction than the English stalwart Laura Davies. A four-time major winner and World Golf Hall of Famer, Davies, 57, is also a seasoned star of the Solheim Cup, having appeared more often (12 times) and amassed more total points than anyone in the history of the event.

With another iteration of the biennial event beginning this weekend at Inverness Golf Club, in Ohio, we asked Davies, who’ll be working the Solheim Cup as a TV commentator for the BBC, to share her keys to match-play success. Here are five.

1. Play aggressively

“In match play, every hole is an individual tournament,” Davies says. “In my view, that’s all the more reason to go for it.” Break out the big stick. Fire at pins. Get your putts to the cup. “The whole goal is to hit more good shots than the opposition,” Davies says. “If you short-side yourself, so be it. You get a fresh start on the next hole.”

2. Embrace the pressure

There’s no avoiding it. You’re going to be nervous. “If you aren’t, there’s something weird about you,” Davies says. “And if you’re a decent player, the nerves are going to make you better, anyway.”

3. Ignore the mind games

Gamesmanship only works if you let it get in your head. Same with smack-talk. On rare occasions in the Solheim Cup, Davies says that opponents took a passing chance at getting in her ear. She ignored them. Others tried to slow-roll her. “Most people know that I’m a fast player,” she says. “And I’ve had opponents walk a little slower to maybe throw me off.” It never did. “You’ve just got to remember to play your own game and the results will take care of themselves,” Davies says. “My thinking was, if I get the honors, I get to dictate when we tee off on the next hole anyway.”

4. Employ basic strategy

Mind games are one thing. Basic strategy is another. Early in the match, when the mood is friendly, consider conceding a short putt or two, then hold off on the gimmes later and see if they can make ‘em when the pressure’s up.

5. Enjoy the journey

In the inaugural Solheim Cup, at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club, in 1990, the Europeans were heavy underdogs. “We were all terrified and we got a good thrashing,” Davies says. “But also enjoyed the experience and knew we were fortunate just to be a part of it, which is part of the reason we did much better the next time around.” Two years later, in Scotland, the competition was a romp again, with the Europeans on the winning side.

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