Home' Australian Golf Digest : March 2018 Contents february 2018 | australiangolfdigest.com.au 147
march 2018 | australiangolfdigest.com.au 147
balls were spinning back into the burn. So
it’s a 9-iron, but I’m worried, so I’ll hit 8. And
then I get a little more nervous and take out
of the bloody green, and I’ve got a 30-yard
putt. And I said to myself, Just relax. You’re
going to win.
You can say it now 30 years later, and
people don’t think you’re an ass. But how
cool a line is that to say to yourself ? That is
your ultimate. The millions of golf balls and
the thousands of hours just to be able to say
you know what to do and how to do it under
the ultimate pressure, and you love it.
the father influence
When Tiger came up, I saw a lot of my golf
upbringing in him. I don’t know exactly
how Earl worked, but I could tell he had
that affirmation thing going big-time with
Tiger. I mean, he said, This guy’s going to be
the greatest, and he probably said it a million
times to Tiger. He also paid the price with
Tiger with his time, doing a lot of things my
father did. Everything was centred around
his dad, right?
With Tiger, what I saw was the drive, even
a stronger drive than I had. And he had the
rarest of all abilities: if he needed to make
the putt, somehow he could make it go in.
Not many guys can actually make it, you
know. I think of Casper, Nicklaus – for a
while, Trevino. It’s very rare to have a guy
who actually improved his putting when it
mattered the most. Tiger was definitely that
way. I could do it with my ball-striking. But
you still had to finish it off with the putts.
I think Earl had that sense that this
guy is special, and I think it was a special
relationship. Tiger wanted to please his
dad and follow what his dad wanted to
accomplish with him. Sometimes you hear
some of the negative, but I think most of
it was pretty amazing. I believe Tiger, if it
wasn’t for Earl, would be just another guy. I
really believe that.
When my dad started me out hitting balls
into a canvas tarp in our basement when I
was 5, you couldn’t use too much loft because
it would hit the rafters. So I hit a lot of 5 and
6-irons. And I would wear out this dark-green
canvas, making a little light green line where
it would start to shred. I’d aim for that little
stripe about 15 feet away, and I knew where a
perfect 6-iron would hit.
The thing that the basement did for me, is
that it really got me to know what the sound
and feel of a pure shot was. You could hear
the strike, and you could feel no vibration.
Trying to get that would really focus you.
I was very little. When I graduated from
ninth grade, I was 5-2, 105 pounds [157cm,
48kg]. I was a phenomenal putter. I’ll bet
you when I was 12, I was in the top-10 in
the world putting. I once had 16 putts for 18
holes [at San Francisco’s Lincoln Park]. On
terrible greens, by the way.
But I loved the game, everything about it.
My dad, he made me like a little pro, had me
practise how I put my hat on, how I tipped
squinted my eyes and gritted my teeth. Sort
of a little Hogan. He always talked about
psyche. And he had a blackboard with
certain things he wanted me to do because I
was small and I needed to be strong – push-
ups, squeeze grips, pull-ups.
He would work the midnight-to-8am shift
so that he could sleep while I was in school.
After school, he’d take me to San Francisco
Golf Club, where I was taking lessons [from
John Geertsen], and the club sort of adopted
me. They averaged only 20 players a day, so
in the afternoon no one was even out there,
so I could hit as many balls as I wanted. Even
on approaches into the greens, I could hit
eight balls, fixing my divots.
If I hit a bad shot, my dad didn’t really focus
on the bad at all. It was just, “OK, one more
shot.” It was always one more, no matter how
many balls I had hit. It was, “OK, let’s see you
hit another one,” never, “OK, let’s go home.”
I don’t think he ever said, “Let’s go home.”
He was a smart guy, and he was teaching
the best he could. He’d give me 10 things
to try, and eight of them were just way out
there. But I would analyse why each one was
not a good idea. And then one of the ideas
was really good, and one was fantastic. Like
handed 5-iron. So I became quite good left-
handed, about a 6-handicap. Now coaches
recommend swinging left-handed as a
training aid. It wasn’t boring, because he was
I was a good little fighter. My dad was a
boxing fan, and he taught me how to box. I
didn’t get in that many fights, but I never
lost a fight. The fight would last only 30 or
40 seconds, but that’s the way you settled
disagreements back then. When he taught
me how to box, that gave me confidence, too.
When I was a young player, I didn’t even
know what a bad stretch was. Never played
bad. Never. It’s not like I would shoot a bad
round and then a real good round. It was just
always good. I was a plus-2 when I was 16 years
old on the Lake course at Olympic Club.
I do think you need a start like I did to get
a headstart. All my friends would work as
hard as I did, but they were always a little
behind me. They didn’t have their father
involved. That can work negatively if the
guy is overbearing. But my dad was always
about affirmations – “ You’re doing great ...
You’re on the right track ... Keep doing those
exercises ... You’re going to be a champion.”
Over and over. He’d call me Champ – that
affirmation of potential. Actually, not just
potential, because I knew when I was 9
years old that I was going to be a champion
golfer. Something inside me said, Just keep
doing what you’re doing. You’re going to
be a champion, like your dad said. So that
affirmation of greatness or being successful
from your father is the strongest affirmation
there is for a boy.
making it happen
When you say, “Making it happen,” I think
the key to that, and what Tiger and I both
understood, is knowing what was happening.
I go back to some of the mistakes that I
made. I look at the 39 I shot on the last nine
holes of the US Open at Cherry Hills in 1960.
At Pebble Beach in 1963, I came to the last
hole tied with Billy Casper but three-putted
from 22 feet by being too aggressive with the
first putt and then missed the comebacker. As
good as Casper was, my chances of beating
him in a playoff were higher than making that
22-footer. Later that summer, down the stretch
at Royal Lytham, I lost by one after bogeying
the last two holes by not being smart.
Those are things you learn from, how to
assess a situation and learn who you are and
what you can do. And you gain confidence
when those lessons teach you how to choose
the correct course. Ultimately you become
If I had a putt on the 18th to make, that
142-151_AGD0218_TigerWoods Great.indd 147
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