MASTERING THE TEAM GAME

Golf SA curious thing happens when a group of poker players join together to form a team to compete in an international contest: things don’t always go as they should.

The team dynamic often adds an additional layer of complication. Players who are used to living and dying by the decisions they make, suddenly have to factor in their team mates. A bad call or some sloppy play is one thing if it affects only you, but what about your teammates? Do you really want to be the one to scupper their chances? It can make even the very best players think twice.

It was this exact scenario that players faced during the IFP Nations Cup in November of last year. Each player knew they had to perform to their best, but tough decisions became even tougher, with the outcome of a single hand potentially ruining the hopes of the entire team.

Another team event begins today, one that brings together players who are usually more comfortable playing by themselves for themselves – the Ryder Cup.

One commentator said this week that the Ryder Cup is the golf tournament even those who don’t like golf should watch. It’s not hard to understand why.

It throws together two teams – the United States and Europe – into three days of competition near Chicago, USA, with every match adding to the team’s points tally. The first team to reach 14 points is declared the winner.

It’s one of the sport’s most anticipated events, with emotions and sometimes tempers running high, providing no shortage of drama, even to those who can’t tell the difference between a birdie and an albatross. But the players must play not for themselves but for the team. As the world number one Rory McIlroy said this week: “I’m one man in a 12-man team and that’s it.”

It’s not an easy conversion. Former European captain Colin Montgomery was the type of player to excel in the team format, while others, including Tiger Woods, have struggled. Either way it will prove a spectacular contest.

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