Home' Australian Golf Digest : March 2018 Contents 150 australiangolfdigest.com.au | march 2018
of times I did that, and who knows why I did
it, but I just said, This is not what I want to
be doing. I need to make an adjustment, and
without destroying myself to do it.
“bound for great things”
Tiger had advantages physically and in his
early exposure to the game that I didn’t have.
It put him on the road to being the greatest
golfer who ever lived. But the thing where we
were equal, or I might have even had more of,
was drive. Man, I was driven. There is never
enough success for me.
One of the first things I noticed about
Tiger is his strong belief in his destiny. He
carried himself with a peaceful but powerful
sense that he was bound for great things. I
understand that feeling. It was vital to my
inner view of myself, especially when I knew
others might not have shared it. But that only
made me more determined.
When I was 15, I broke my neck showing
off for some other boys by jumping
headfirst into what I thought was a pit of
soft leaves and grass, and hit bottom. I
had to stay inactive for nearly a year. I had
been playing golf for only a year, but I was
already consumed by the game. During my
convalescence, I would be alone in the house
and stand in front of a mirror, saying over
and over, You’re the greatest golfer in the
world. It was absurd, but something told me
that mattered. Later, I learned from reading
and befriending Norman Vincent Peale. He
once wrote, “If you want something and you
go for it, you will be astonished at the values
you will find.”
My parents, Harry and Muriel, always
encouraged us. I’m sure it gave me the belief
that what I could conceive, I could achieve.
It’s the greatest gift you can give a child.
My older brother, Ian, was a tremendous
influence on me. I remember at 8 or 9 trying
to run a five-mile course with him, but I
fell down less than halfway, exhausted. I
cried, “Ian, I can’t make it.” He yanked me to
my feet and very sternly told me, “You can
do anything you want to. Remember that.
There’s no room for ‘can’t’ in this life.” Then
he kicked me on the backside to emphasise
Ever since, if I’ve ever been tempted to say
I can’t, I feel that kick again.
A golfer ’s true greatness is revealed not
when he’s playing his best, but when he’s
not and still manages to win. For all his
talent, Tiger has shown even more will, and
so often when he was fighting his swing he
still found a way. There were many times
in tournaments when I was lost, hitting
absolute rubbish, but I would get the ball on
the green and make the key putts. How does
that happen? Desire. Tiger has always had
more of that than the players he’s beaten.
You feel as if he cares more than anyone else.
I was told that when I played, I gave that
Tiger has hit so many amazing shots under
pressure. Often, with some players more than
others, pressure can destroy performance.
But I’ve found it’s amazing how the intense
pressure of the crucial moment, when
something special is required, produced the
best shots of my career. I don’t know if you
can say it’s luck if you continuously did that.
Obviously I’m pulling for Tiger – I am a big
Tiger Woods fan. But I think we could look
back and say that his downfall was striving
for too much perfection. He was on the way
to being the best player the world had ever
known. He wins the US Open by 15 shots,
and shortly after he’s having lessons and
changing his swing. There is always a limit,
and I don’t think he could have gotten better.
I pursued better technique my whole career –
my only regret is a lost chance to learn from
Ben Hogan – and it’s a capricious thing that
often doesn’t lead to improvement. Golf is
such a very, very intricate game, and there is
a reason for everything
Tiger, like me, is obsessed with golf. People
have to understand that he made himself
what he is. He wasn’t born with that.
Superstars make themselves that way.
When you want to be the best, you gotta do
something extra. You can’t just do the same
thing that everybody else is doing. All the
great ones do that. I out-practised them. The
better I did it, the more I’d like to see it, and
the more I practised.
The secret is, everything that you do,
there’s a reason. The good players figure out
the why. Why that ball’s doing that. And why
you can do this. Most people don’t do that.
I played a hook with a pretty swing until
I came back from the Marine Corps and
saw Ben Hogan hitting fades at Shady Oaks.
After that, I figured out a way to play to
avoid the left side. See, I play with two flags.
I aim at this flag, but I hit it at that one. I’ll
stand here, and I’ll go like this [simulates
his open stance]. I’m looking right at the
target. I don’t have to do this [looking more
over his left shoulder from a square stance].
And then I played a block fade. You have to,
if you’re aiming left. It’s in your mind, it’s
in your makeup, it’s in your body. Putted
the same way. Copied Jack Nicklaus, the
greatest putter I’ve ever seen.
You have to respond to the target. During
the swing, I look for the target in my
subconscious mind. You can’t think when
you swing. The more you think, the worse
you’ll play. What’s happened, unfortunately,
and I mean no disrespect by this, is that
people who are teaching are getting way too
crazy with too many little movements and
muscles. You can’t let too many people mess
with you. Mr Palmer had it right when he
said, “Swing your swing.”
Tiger outsmarted himself. He didn’t realise
that if he just maintained, he would still be
winning everything. Instead, he wanted to
do something else. He got bored. He wasn’t
satisfied winning by 15. He wasn’t satisfied
by winning 30 percent of his tournaments.
It was too easy for him. He was actually too
good, and it got in his way.
Here’s what Butch Harmon told me. I
said, “Tiger?” He said, “Lee, I can’t teach him
anymore. He knows more than I do about the
swing. You can’t believe what he knows about
Because Tiger dissected it like me. He
knows why it happens this way when you do
a certain thing. But like Butch said, “There
are some guys that want somebody watching
I didn’t. Jack told me one time, “You’re the
smartest golfer I ever met.” That was the best
compliment I’ve ever had. Ever had.
You never stop dreaming it. I love the art of
it. I love the people. And still being able to go
out and perform. With Tiger, it’s even more
so. It would be very easy for him to say, “I
don’t even want to mess with it.” I mean, his
retirement fund alone has got more money
than AT&T. So no, he loves the sport, he loves
competition, he loves to win, he loves to play
well. That’s his whole thing. If Tiger does
not hurt anymore, I think he’ll play until
he’s 50, and then he’ll play the Majors on the
One of the greatest feelings in the world
is when you’re out of pain. When my L-5
nerve was completely trapped, I was in that
bed upstairs for three months. Wasn’t able
to even put my pants on. I could not move.
Then [after a 2004 procedure to implant a
spinal spacer], no pain. It was like cutting me
loose with 31 flavours. Tiger is going to be the
same thing. He lost his body, but he didn’t
lose his talent. And the longer he goes with
no pain, the more confidence he’s going to
build. And then he’s going to get up one day
and say, “I’m back, baby!”
‘A golfer’s true
playing his best,
but when he’s
not and still
– gary player
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