This week I have been involved in two really tight matches. On Monday I played in the Reikäpelimestaruus (scratch matchplay from the back tees) quarter-final against Sampo Laisi. This was a classic matchplay game... neither of us played very well for most of the evening and it was quite a scrappy match until it got close to the conclusion. Sampo held a two hole lead after I made a mess of the 14th and I realised that I had better find some good shots from somewhere if I wanted to stay in the competition.
We both hit great shots into the 15th, Sampo missed his birdie putt from about 6m before my seemingly perfect putt from 3m somehow failed to go in. Still 2 down. On 16 Sampo hit a poor shot to the bunker short and right while my tee shot nearly went in to the hole before coming to rest 2m from the hole. Sampo played from the bunker to about 6-7m from the flag... this looked very promising for me to win the hole... but then Sampo rolled the putt into the middle of the hole for an unlikely par! Suddenly I had some work to do if I wanted to win the hole... I hit a good putt and in it went. This was a great matchplay moment... the pressure swung this way and that during the course of a couple of minutes and both of us hit some great shots when needed. I was back to one down.
On the 17th we both hit the fairway and had wedge shots to the difficult pin position right at the back of the green. Sampo played first and hit a great shot to 1.5m... pressure back onto me... I hit one 50cm closer than Sampo's ball! Sampo holed a great putt for his birdie... and I followed him in for my own birdie. This was another great moment.
We (rather boringly) halved the 18th in par... and Sampo won the match by one hole. I was really disappointed to go out of the competition and with the way I played for much of the round... but I have to say I enjoyed those last few holes. Congratulations to Sampo for holding on for victory under considerable pressure. Matchplay brings a different kind of pressure than strokeplay and, at its best, it gives some perfect moments where both players manage to raise their level at just the right time.
The second match I played this week was the semi-final of the Nelipallo Cup... Timo Rikkonen and I played against Teemu Sallinen and Lauri Uusitalo. In contrast to the match against Sampo, this one was played at a high level from start to finish with all four players playing a strong part in the result. Between the four of us we managed to make 8 birdies and a further 7 net birdies. Five of the net birdies were by Lauri... who, with 19 strokes, was a very tough customer on the numerous holes where his long tee shots found the short grass. The teams were finally separated when I holed a 5m birdie putt at the 19th hole... this was a very tough match to win.
The best-ball format used in the Nelipallo cup is one which often produces a lot of birdies and usually leads to exciting matches. I have played many best-ball matches in the past, especially while I was a junior golfer, and when all the players are on form it is one of the most exciting formats. My memories from those matches were one main motivation for me when I suggested to add the Nelipallo Cup to the Kytäjä competition calendar... and with today's match I got exactly what I was hoping for, a great day of matchplay golf.
Well... I dont usually use this blog to tell you about my golf... and I dont intend to focus on that in the future either... but I just wanted to record the enjoyment that I have had from the reikäpeli matches and to share some stories from our competitions. There have of course been many other matches played in recent weeks as well, I am sure that they also had some great moments... if you have played such a match recently and would be willing to share some details of the key moments then please contact me or leave a comment to this blog (in Finnish is just fine)... I would like to write the "story" of each of our 2012 matchplay events (see 2011 Reikäpelimestaruus for an example) and publish those at this website as part of the ongoing project to leave better records of our competitions and build up our shared history at Kytäjä.
Now to watch the final round of the USPGA... will Rory manage to hold on?