Tiger Woods' new 'My Game' series offers exclusive look at his preparation, strategy and swing technique
‘‘Hello, world!” is how Tiger Woods opened his first press conference as a professional golfer, at the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open. Eight months later, at age 21, he won the Masters by a record 12 shots, launching a competitive run that many saw coming but few could actually believe. Now Woods is onto his second career, as he calls it, and he’s winning again. What’s different is, the once guarded, solitary figure is now letting the world into his world.
Consider Episode 1 of Woods’ upcoming 12-part video series, “My Game: Tiger Woods,” in which he describes how his practice routines have changed: “A lot of my prep time revolves around my kids. I get my work done while they’re at school. . . . I go pick them up, and after that, it’s usually either soccer practice or dad stuff. So the days of me practicing hours upon hours, day after day, have changed. Life changes. Life evolves. There are two more important things in my life than golf.”
The video series is the first major project between Woods and GOLFTV, a global live and on-demand video-streaming service jointly developed by Discovery, Inc. and the PGA Tour. (Discovery, Inc. acquired Golf Digest in May.) Woods entered into a multiyear deal with GOLFTV last November to produce exclusive content about his life in golf. “I want to talk to golf fans and golfers everywhere, directly, and straight from me. That’s important to me,” Woods said when the partnership was announced. What he shares in his new videos is a powerful demonstration of that promise.
Woods’ resurgence as a player has been thoroughly discussed. What’s new is his candor, his participation, his disclosure of the skills and strategies—even the struggles—that have made him the most prominent athlete in the world. The following excerpts of “My Game: Tiger Woods” are in ways more surprising and revealing than anything Woods has done on the golf course. His second “Hello, world!”
ON WORKING OUT
‘‘With the strength and endurance I got from all the training I did, I didn’t feel the tiredness come Sunday. And then, when you’re in contention week in and week out, or having multiple wins in a row, that in itself is a mental exhaustion. Well, I was doing it week in and week out, but because I was stronger, because I had the endurance, I felt like I could handle it. And I rebounded faster. I derived a lot of my confidence in being able to handle different situations from my training. If it was a hot, sunny day wherever we were going to be, playing in, call it, Malaysia or somewhere in Texas or Florida, so be it. If you call for 36 holes, I got it. If you need me to shoot 65-65, I got that, too. And that’s because I just felt strong enough to do it.”
ON FEELING NERVOUS
‘‘Golf is a microcosm of life. There are going to be ups and downs, there are going to be challenges, there are going to be ebbs and flows. Ultimately, when it comes right down to it, we determine our own fate, as tough as that might be to accept sometimes. It’s not being afraid of it. It’s OK to feel uncomfortable. I’ve been asked this question numerous times: Am I ever nervous? Are you kidding me? I’m nervous on the very first shot. I’m nervous throughout the entire day. But it’s how I channel it, how I harness it. How do I put that energy into deeper focus or deeper intensity? That’s something we can all do. It’s not being afraid of it or ashamed of it. Go after it.”
ON THE DISTANCE ADVANTAGE
‘‘Hitting the ball as far as I did in the early part of my career was a huge advantage. All the par 5s were reachable with irons. I generally had wedges into a lot of the par 4s. Theoretically, I felt like I had a couple shots per round up on the field if I was able to drive it well. Compound that over a tournament, season, decade, there’s an advantage to being long. You look at all the guys now on top of the World Ranking; they all move it. The game has evolved. It’s not about the precision short player having dominant runs. It’s about the power players. I’m hitting the ball farther now than I ever have in my life, but it’s all relative. When I first came out on tour, John Daly was the first one to break the 300-yard barrier on average for the year. In ’97, I think I averaged like 296. That’s what I feel comfortable hitting my 3-wood right now. But now there are guys hitting the ball 340 and 350, so the game has just gotten exponentially longer.”
ON CRAZY RECOVERIES
‘‘Some of the stupid shots I’ve hit, I ultimately decided it was worth the risk. Sometimes I’ve pulled off something that was pretty magical. But I’m always trying to give myself the best chance. What are the odds? I’m much better now at pitching out and trusting my wedge play than I ever used to be, and it’s just because I don’t have the speed like I used to to be able to hit some of the shots. I still see some of those gaps, if I’m in a bad spot, but I just can’t [laughs]. I used to be able to do something like that, but now I’ll just pitch out, wedge it and make my putt.”
ON TOUCH SHOTS
‘‘Some guys like to think of the body, turning the chest open [through the shot] and all these different things. I’m terrible at it. I’ve never been good at that feeling. I’m good at either throwing my hands at the ball, throwing behind, releasing it early, releasing it late, dragging them, flipping them. Everything I talk about, you see me explain shots, I explain with my hands. I see shots and envision things that way because my hands are what I contact the club with. I struggle if you say, ‘OK, open your body up and hit it with your body.’ I lose the feel of the shot. To me, I see the shot with my hands.”
ON WATCHING LEADER BOARDS
‘‘I’ve heard sports psychologists say you should only focus on what you’re doing, block out everything else. I get that, and it’s trying to be in the moment and focus on what you have to do. But if you don’t know down and distance, and you don’t know what’s on the shot clock or how much time you have, or how many points you’re down by, then you’re not really taking into account all the things that could happen and that you should be playing for. Trying to figure all that out is not easy to do, but I think I’ve had a unique sense of it. And not being afraid of it, not being afraid to see what’s on that board and understand what the ramifications are of me pulling this off, me not pulling it off. And it’s OK. If I fail, I fail. If I succeed, I succeed. So it’s not being afraid to understand where I am.”
ON PREPPING FOR MAJORS
‘‘Building my game up on the off-weeks for a major championship, I don’t know if it’s right to say it or not, sometimes it’s sacrificing a tournament here or there. Working on a few things knowing that in the bigger picture, things will pan out. Trying shots that I probably shouldn’t try in some events might pay dividends down the road. Sometimes it works out, and I end up winning that event. But the bigger picture is trying to get the mind, body and soul coming together for four times a year. Along the way, if I’m able to tick off wins, it gives me added confidence, knowing that my game is ready.”
ON PAYING IT FORWARD
‘‘Charlie—he’s only 10 now—but I’ll never forget when he first beat me. I’d make sure we had putts only from about eight or 10 feet, because he was so small, he couldn’t see very far. Well, I had missed the first putt, and I showed him the line. He made it. I didn’t say anything, and I wondered where he was going to go with the next one. He puts it a foot from the hole, and knocks it in. Doesn’t say anything. Then I put mine a foot from the hole, and knock it in. Don’t say anything. And there was one hole to go. He puts it a foot from the hole on the other side, knocks it in, and before I could put my ball down, he says, ‘I win.’ And I thought, God, that’s my son.”
“My Game: Tiger Woods” is available at Golf Digest Schools in the U.S., China and Korea, worldwide on TIGER.GOLF.TV. New episodes added weekly.