There are a few topics I avoid on this site:
- Writing about current events
- Hopping on the Tiger bandwagon
- Telling you what tour players are doing, and how you can copy them to get better at golf
Many other golf outlets do this well, and I'm happy to let them have at it. I'm going to partially break all of these rules because I believe this topic is so essential to your development as a golfer. It involves Tiger Woods and a seemingly insignificant finish to the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
Tiger Has Nothing Left To Prove
At this point in his career, Tiger seems focused mostly on two things - playing golf pain-free, and continuing to chip away at Jack's record. He's experimenting with a reduced schedule that can accommodate both. Through the U.S. Open, he has only competed in 9 PGA Tour events this year, and it's likely he won't crack 15 for 2019.
With 82 PGA Tour victories, adding a few more to the list isn't going to move the needle much from a historical perspective. It's pretty much majors or bust.
People had high hopes for Tiger at Pebble Beach (myself included), but somewhere during the second round, all signs pointed to him not winning the tournament. It's becoming clear that Tiger's body can't get loose enough for him to control the ball like it is accustomed to when the weather is cooler.
When he teed off on Sunday, many viewers noticed him wearing KT Tape on his neck, which Tiger confirmed was a nagging injury since March that seems to get worse in the cold. I watched some of the shots earlier in his round, and after six holes, he was +4 and looked miserable. He couldn't control his distances, and you could tell he wasn't feeling well physically.
Tiger could have easily packed it in, shot somewhere in the mid-70s, and left the tournament with another missed opportunity. But then he did what he always has done. He dug deep somewhere within himself and managed to go six under on his remaining 12 holes to shoot a 69 and finish for a respectable T21.
142 Reasons To Never Give Up
From February of 1998 to May of 2005, Tiger Woods never missed a cut. For 142 straight tournaments he managed to make it into the weekend, and I believe it's one of the most impressive records in all of sports. For anyone who obsessively watched Tiger as I did, you remember the cut-line magic. There were plenty of Friday afternoons where he was playing terribly, and he could have easily given up as many tour players do in that position. But he always found a way to close out with a few birdies and get it done. He took pride in it.
In my opinion, Tiger's ability to stay engaged in rounds that were going poorly, and grind out a score, is one of the main reasons he was able to win so many majors. He knew that he was building towards something much more significant on those Friday afternoons, and would use that experience at a later time.
If there is anything I've learned from watching Tiger's career, it's his grit. I'll never hit a golf ball like him. Pretty much the only thing I can mimic from his game is his ability never to give up and keep trying.
Until I'm Blue in the Face
I've discussed this topic in many different ways over the past several years. I will keep doing so until I am blue in the face because it's so important. For too long, I was a golfer who would give up on my round at the first sign of trouble. I've also been around plenty of players who succumb to the same problem.
Recreational golfers aren't chasing greatness and history like Tiger is, but many of them want to know how they can get better and lower their scores over the long run. Every round you play is an opportunity to learn and build towards something better down the road. When you give up and pack it in mentally for the day, it's a missed opportunity to improve.
The hardest thing in golf is to stay engaged and keep trying when things don't go well. I go through this battle myself all of the time. We all have rough patches during a round and hit embarrassing shots. But I can guarantee all of you who are reading this that if you make it a habit to never give up on your rounds (or at least the majority of them), you will become a better golfer. You have to find some way to tell yourself:
- It's not a big deal; it's just golf
- You're out there for fun, keep your chin up
- However many holes you have remaining, you have to create some mental reset and find a way to challenge yourself
This is way easier said than done, but it's the truth. As I've said before, you can't have it both ways if you want to get better. If you're a golfer who wants to have fun and not even keep score, there's nothing wrong with chalking it up to a bad day, forgetting about the golf, and enjoying your walk. However, if you're serious about getting better, you need to find a way to keep your head "in the game." For me, I am committed to going through my routine before every shot. I know if I can do that, there's a far greater chance I can save the round. If I can't save the round, then at least I can take pride in the fact that I didn't give up. That habit has served me well, and I know it can help you too.
So if it's not beneath the greatest (or second greatest) golfer of all time, you can get down in the dirt and grind it out too.