Golf Digest editors picks

10 Rules For Maximizing Your Competitiveness

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6. Use tough losses for motivation. Turning negatives into positives has always worked for me. I think back to when I was cut from my high school basketball team as a sophomore. That was the biggest disappointment of my sports career, but it only made me work harder.

When I was 12 years old, playing baseball, we had to play a three-game series against a team from Texas. If we win, we go to the Little League World Series. We lost the first game, 4-3, and the next game I pitched a two-hitter, but we lost, 1-0. Honestly, I wasn't that disappointed about the Little League thing, because getting that close to the World Series was quite an accomplishment. But all of the disappointments you have as a competitor can ultimately provide motivation to help you move up the ladder.

7. Competitors always want to have something riding on the outcome. It isn't the amount of money, it's something to keep the focus at its highest. Whenever I meet people, they always have this idea that I like to play for big money. My line is always: I play for whatever makes you nervous. That's enough to give me a competitive edge. It could be five dollars. It could be 10. It could be a shirt in the pro shop. It doesn't have to be for $500,000 or a million. Sometimes it might be enough if we're just playing for pride.

The first time I ever played with Tiger -- at Medinah, I think -- I was a little nervous. We had a little something riding on it, and obviously you're thinking he's probably analyzing your swing, and you aren't focused on what you're supposed to be doing. You aren't relaxed. So that's what I'm doing, and I shot 88. The next time, I say, "Look man, you killed me the last time we played. I shot 88. How many are you gonna give me today?" So he says, "I'll give you five a side." We're playing at my home course, which at the time was the Merit Club [outside Chicago]. This time I'm feeling pretty confident. No jitters. I know he isn't paying attention to me, so all I have to do is play my game. And I fleeced him. Beat the [crap] out of him. ... Actually he played pretty good. He shot 65 to tie the course record at the Merit Club.

But I shot 73.

8. I love trash-talking, and there's an art to turning it into a competitive edge. Trash-talking is a means of (1) giving you confidence, and (2) taking your opponent's mind off what he's trying to do and putting a little more pressure on him. I don't talk trash to demean people.

I don't talk about their parents or any of that. But I do love talking trash no matter who I'm playing. President Clinton is the only U.S. president I've played golf with, and I talked trash with him, too. Why wouldn't I? Talking trash, especially with someone like that, is giving him a better understanding of who I am. He wants to experience what it feels like to hang out with Michael Jordan, and that's me.

I enjoy moments like that. I love competitiveness. So why would I do anything less?

9. Nervousness is not a bad thing. I was nervous a lot of times before games. The key is, does that nervousness go away once the ball is thrown up because of your preparation and your routine. Once the game got started, I was back in my routine.

Golf can work the same way if you put in the work to prepare. Yeah, you're going to be nervous on the first tee, but all it takes is one good shot, and that nervousness goes away.

If you have doubts, nervousness will expose that. At some point you say, I know I can play this game. I'm gonna keep it simple. Fairways and greens. Make bogeys when I feel like I can't make a par.

10. Learn from Tiger's competitiveness. We'll never really know which of the two of us is more competitive.

He plays golf, and I played basketball. But he'll do anything to beat you.

One day we were playing with a friend of mine, Jacob Brumfield. He played pro baseball [with four major-league teams] in the '90s. Jacob was so trash-talking Tiger that when we got to the 18th hole, Tiger told him he'd play every shot on that hole from his knees and Jacob could play normal. Now that is confidence. That's the kind of stuff I'd do in basketball.

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