This is a memo to all PGA golfers who are wondering how to beat a man who has won 12 Major Championships before the age of 32 and is the only golfer to ever hold all four Major Championships at the same time.
While my brother and I watched the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and the Nissan Open this past month, I realized two things about professional golf. The first is that any tournament is considerably less interesting when Tiger Woods isn’t involved. The second is that every golfer seems to carry himself differently in a tournament when Tiger isn’t there. Watch for it the next time you’re viewing a tournament sans Tiger: Each player seems to always be smiling more, cracking jokes and the mood just seems to be a whole lot lighter. I’ve always chalked this up to every player feeling like they actually have a shot at winning and not having to worry about every analyst saying that it’s Tiger’s tournament to lose.
Take Phil Mickelson, for example. Tiger has always been a thorn in Phil’s side, from a competitive standpoint. As good as Phil has been, Tiger’s always been better. But, with Tiger not competing these past few tournaments, Phil’s confidence level seems to be at an all-time high. Whenever Phil displays this self-confidence, it leads to what my brother likes to call the “Phil Waddle.” You’ve seen it before: Phil waddling up the 18th fairway, shoulders bouncing back and forth, big ol’ smile on his face, just taking in the moment. I, for one, truly enjoy the “Phil Waddle,” but I only get to see it if Tiger’s name isn’t on the tournament leader board.
If you want to put yourself in a position to beat Tiger, the first thing you have to do is actually convince yourself that you can beat the guy. There’s a memorable scene in “Cool Runnings” where the Jamaican bobsled team is leaning from side to side in a pushcart, pretending that they are taking the sharp turns down the track at the Olympic bobsled competition. They couldn’t be farther from ice, yet they’re still imagining that they can succeed on the grand stage of the Olympics. Well, that’s what any opponent of Tiger Woods has to do. If you’re on the driving range on a lazy Wednesday afternoon, you have to imagine that you are stepping up to tee off at the 18th hole of the Masters, in a dead heat with Tiger. The proper use of visualization techniques may seem old school, but they work.
This piece of advice is simple, but often overlooked: Hit the weight room from time to time. If you can add a few extra yards to your drives, it may mean one less time where you have to take a risky opportunity, like trying to get your ball on the green in two shots.
My final piece of advice is the most important. Do not, under any circumstances, provoke Tiger or give him any reason to kick his game into “I will crush you” mode. If you’re leading after three rounds and feeling confident, don’t tell a reporter, “You know, I think I’m playing the best golf out of anyone here, and it’s my tournament to lose.” The only thing your comment will lead to is fans getting to see Tiger Woods put on a legendary performance as he pounds you into the sand trap in the final round. From all accounts, Tiger is extremely competitive, so there is no reason to add fuel to his competitive fire. Go out, play your game, and don’t take more risks than you have to.
Nick O’Hern, the man who most recently defeated Tiger Woods, said it best when talking about how he felt while waiting for Tiger to putt for a chance to win the match: “I wasn’t watching, to be honest with you. I was just waiting for the sound of ball going into hole.” That’s the “Tiger Effect” in a nutshell.
If all of the above fails, the best advice I can give you is to just enjoy watching him destroy you for 18 holes and, after the beating is over, challenge him on the 18th green to an intense game of rock, paper, scissors. That may be your best chance to actually beat Tiger Woods at anything on the golf course.