Murdoch tames Canucks

GEORGE KARRYS, FOR QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 10:40 AM ET

RAMA, Ont. -- They say it's all mental, at some point.

High-performance curling, like many high-performance sports, is no different.

The question many curling fans are asking in the lead-in to Vancouver 2010 is this: Is David Murdoch inside K-Mart's head?

Murdoch, the defending world champion from Scotland, was the fourth invitee into the Casino Rama Curling Skins Game -- the made-for-TV competition played in an uber-aggressive, made-for-TV format -- which wrapped up on Sunday. And he won it all.

Murdoch's men faced defending champion Randy Ferbey of Edmonton in the final -- with Toronto's Wayne Middaugh pinch-throwing (and sweeping) for the injured David Nedohin -- and beat him silly, scoring $57,000 in skins to Ferbey's nil. That's right, zero. Zilch.

Local cottage-country hero Glenn Howard was there, but he lost his semifinal Saturday to Ferbey, $14,000 to $7,000.

Canadian Olympic team skip Kevin Martin was also there, fresh off a disappointing performance at the Capital One Grand Slam event in Guelph, in which his squad went 1-4.

Martin faced off against Murdoch in the other semi, a rematch of last April's world final in Moncton, which Murdoch stole. This time, however, the format was skins curling, of which Martin is an acknowledged master, and Murdoch a relative neophyte.

Theirs was a see-saw battle which came down to a sudden-death draw to the button. Martin went first, threw perfect weight but the stone was 4.8 centimetres wide of the pinhole. Murdoch then threw his final stone, and it was dead perfect for the $13,500 to $7,500 win.

This was Murdoch's fourth straight win over Martin -- the Scots won three consecutive games in Moncton -- and it marked the final meeting between the two teams prior to the Olympics, where Murdoch and Co. will be representing Great Britain.

Should Canadians worry?

"Not really," said Murdoch, coyly. "Both teams know (skins is) a different format, there's so many big-weight shots you make that you would never normally play.

"We just came in here really to relax and just wanted to enjoy ourselves, and we made a lot of shots."

Scott Arnold is a national team consulting coach for the Canadian Curling Association.

"Sport psychology is left largely up to the teams," Arnold said.

"We have knowledge but we don't have the specific expertise (of sports psychologists). It's a very personal thing for each team.

"We use sports psychologists as consultants, and we also assist in providing coaches and their teams with available psychologists."

Murdoch's Skins Game victory, which was worth a total of $70,500 from the $100,000 prize purse, was the first for a non-Canadian team.

"It's nice to beat another Olympian," acknowledged Murdoch. "In that respect I suppose it's a psychological boost for us."

GEORGE KARRYS, AN OLYMPIAN, IS: CURLINGURU.COM


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