Events over this last weekend illustrate different mindsets in different sporting contexts with the FA Cup semi finals in English football and the Masters in golf.
I am constantly fascinated by how people perform in different contexts. I can’t profess to be as passionate about golf as some other sports, while I might not be in the camp that sees it as an activity that spoils a good walk, my clubs see the light of day once in a blue moon.
On Sunday Manchester City defeated Chelsea 2-1 in the FA Cup semi-final. Later the same day in Augusta Adam Scott became the first Australian winner of the Masters, defeating Angel Cabrera in the second play-off hole.
In the former, City were the stronger team for the first two thirds of the game and had a two goal lead to show for it. Almost out of nothing Chelsea pulled a goal back and then spent the rest of the game pressing for an equalizer that would have taken the match into extra time.
The very nature of time bound games like football allowed City to play defensively for an extended period, sure in the knowledge that keeping Chelsea at bay would see them through to the final.
On the other hand, the final round of the Masters yesterday was an occasion of intrigue, as well as a very different mental game. Golf is very different to football, while getting ahead you can, by playing effectively, defend a lead but a putt has to sunk at every hole, a mistake can lead to disaster.
Tied at 8 under, going in to the 18th both Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera birdied the hole. They were not playing together but Scott was one of the penultimate pair, with the 43 year old Cabrera playing as one of the last pair.
With Scott holing a long putt, there was a loud roar but Cabrera stepped up to hit a close to perfect second shot, finishing about three feet from the hole in the 18th green. At the point Scott walked off the 18th he was the winner, only to be pulled back by Cabrera holing his putt for a birdie.
So that was the end of the regulation 72 holes, both players had to get back out on the 18th for the first hole in a sudden death play-off. Cabrera may now have been seen as the favourite, having won a play-off at the Masters four years ago.
There was much debate amongst the commentary team, as to whether a major championship should be decided by a sudden death play-off, rather than a three or four hole play-off. Again, each involves a different mental mindset. An element of this was seen in the second play-off hole – the 10th. Cabrera had come to grief on the 10th in the final round he had sent his drive wide and went for the safety of a one iron – though he managed to find similar distance and a good lie with his shot.
Both players played positively and it was decided when Cabrera left his putt almost on the lip at the 10th and Scott holed out from around 15 feet. Both should be congratulated for their positivity, even at the last Cabrera was only a fraction from sinking his birdie putt but by such fractions are matches and reputations forged.
In other sports the game changes circumstantially as well, the penalty shoot out in football and the tie break in tennis, Each have their own mental challenges, tennis can be particularly harsh, the fat lady really does have to sing, the last point has to be won, ask Federer – who twice has had match points against Djokovic in the semi finals of the US Open, only to lose.