ANZPT7 Sydney Day 3: In the zone
I was recently talking to a mate about a bet he had riding on a golf tournament. He'd backed a long shot and after the first three rounds, his chosen player was two strokes in front with one more round to play.
"Why don't you lay it off and lock in a guaranteed profit?" I posed.
He considered my suggestion but explained that when betting on golf, it's good to ride it out to try and jag a big score. In reality, I think he just liked the thrill of the gamble.
"He's playing well. He should win it," my friend stated.
"What if he chokes?" I replied.
It wouldn't be the first time a golfer had choked over a putt for a major title in a tournament.
When I think about my friend's bet, I think there's a lot of similarities between being three rounds through a golf tournament and reaching the final three tables of a poker tournament.
Sure, golf is obviously a very technical, physical game, but there are many psychological elements that resonate across both golf and poker. Both require a lot of mental stamina and intense focus to play your A-game for an entire round. Both need the ability to handle the swings and variance of the game. And both require an ability to be able to control emotions, both positive and negative.
Shank a drive on the golf course or get caught bluffing in poker.
Tighten up over a big putt on the green or play too nitty at the table.
Try to drive the green or try an aggressive four-bet.
Professional athletes talk about being "in the zone". A space that removes all external distractions and allows someone to give their entire self to the task at hand.
When you're getting to the business end of a tournament, whether it be golf or poker, being able to get in the zone is arguably one of the most important skills in order to be successful.
But it's not easy.
The Star Poker Room is currently filled with friends and family standing around the rails sweating the action. They're talking about hands. Cheering for the fall of the cards. Drinking and laughing. It's hard to switch that off completely and concentrate purely on the two cards that are flung in your direction.
The line between success and failure is a fine one. Just ask Greg Norman.
As we discussed choking, my friend was quick to point out that Norman was #1 in the golf world for years but has the inglorious record of leading into the final round of majors, and then losing, more than any other player in history.
I don't know if that's right or wrong, but it just goes to show that the best player doesn't always win the tournament.
When our final 27 players stand over that putt on the 18th green as we get closer to the ANZPT Sydney final table, and ultimately the trophy, let's hope they can get in the zone. Whoever handles the pressure best may just be the one to come out on top.
If not, they can rest assured that Greg Norman still ended up ok.