A sneak peek at a Tiger Woods practice session

April 03, 2020

When you watch Tiger Woods, you might think he plays the hero shot, the TV shot, every time he steps up. After all, who has come through with more spectacular moments in the clutch than Tiger? Well, that doesn’t mean he takes on every daring shot he sees—in fact, probably far fewer than you’d think.

During the filming of a recent range session with Golf Digest and GOLFTV, Tiger talked about some of the tee shots he hit during his record-tying 82nd PGA Tour win, at the Zozo Championship in Japan. Consider his driving strategy on one particular par 4 with a lake down the left side: “I was starting it over the water and slicing it,” Tiger says.

Now, you may think that sounds risky, but the key piece of information here is that Tiger was “slicing it.” For the real shotmakers, playing a shot to curve away from trouble is the safest bet. In this case, it’d be much harder to miss left with a slice swing than with a draw swing, which can easily produce a hook. The point is, Tiger was aiming at the water, but the curve could only go right. No way was he missing left.

Tiger also touches on another factor in shot selection: commitment. In the clip, he tells Rob McNamara, his longtime friend and practice partner, that he had “3- or 4-iron” into the green after those slice drives. (Tiger doesn’t hit a lot of 3-irons into par 4s.) “I was so far behind the guys,” Tiger says. Why does this matter? Because to knowingly give up that much distance, Tiger must have been super committed to that shot. Not once—four days in a row.

One more interesting detail from Tiger. At the end of the clip, he explains his mind-set looking down that fairway: “Just keep it out of the water, make par, and move on.” Imagine that, Tiger Woods wanted to stay out of the lake and get away with a par. Good to remember the next time you’re thinking about that high draw, uphill, into the wind, from 220. Ask yourself: If he were you, what would Tiger do?

To watch the full 17-minute session with Tiger, from wedge to driver, check out “Undercover Lessons: Tiger Woods.” Or join Golf Digest Schools, a video-on-demand program that includes another 12-part series from Tiger, plus lessons by Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tony Finau, Jon Rahm and the best teachers in golf. We're also offering a 14-day free trial to Golf Digest Schools in which you can enjoy 70-plus video programs of nearly 400 individual lessons.