CREATING THE WILL TO WIN
I'm often asked about my ability to focus and stay in the moment when the pressure is on.
ITS SIMPLE > I realize that the only thing I can control is my game. That is my only security blanket in a game where you could easily feel naked to the world. I can't count on controlling what the other player is going to do because most top-level players are concentrating on their own games. Sometimes you win tournaments,other times they're given to you.
The key is to consistently put yourself in position to win. That's the only way to get used to the pressure, so when you're faced with a must-make putt, you know the feelings that go along with it.. More importantly, you know how to deal with them.
Control yourself . . . and you control your destiny. When I apply pressure on opponents it is a matter of controlling my game better than they do, a shot at a time, moment by moment.
There is no sweeter feeling than knowing what I have to do to win, then calling on all my emotional control to pull it off . . . as I did at BAY HILL IN 2001.
Let me follow through by reviewing the key points I've made . . .
The width of my stance should be wide enough to provide stability, but narrow enough to promote a full body turn.
I hold my head high at address so my left shoulder can turn under my chin.
On the backswing, I make sure my hips turn but don't slide.
I make my backswing as wide as possible by extending my hands away from my right hip and turning my shoulders as far as they'll go.
I turn my shoulders fully, but don't allow the club to dip past parallel.
For good timing, I keep my hands and arms in front of my chest throughout the swing.
For power with no loss of accuracy, I extend my right hand straight down the target line after impact.
BUILDING AN ACTION TO LAST
AFTER I WON THE 1997 MASTERS by 12 strokes with a record score of 270, (18 under par), I wasted no time before celebrating. I do know how to have fun, and I didn't leave anything in the bag. I partied with my buddies, traveled a little and generally had a great time. I knew I would have to come back to earth eventually, but I wasn't in any special hurry to get there. One night, a week or so later, after the elation had started to die down, I decided to sit down and watch a tape of the entire tournament. I was by myself, so I was really able to concentrate on critiquing my full swing to see if there was some flaw I might be able to work on.
I didn't see one flaw. I saw about 10.
I had struck the ball great that week, but by my standard, I felt I had gotten away with murder. My clubshaft was across the line at the top of the backswing and my clubface was closed. My swing plane was too upright. I liked my ball flight, but I was hitting the ball farther with my irons than I should have been, because I was delofting the clubface through impact. I didn't like the look of those things, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized I didn't like how my swing felt, either. From a ball-striking standpoint, I was laying better than I knew how.
Even before the tape ended, I committed myself to making some big changes in my swing. My coach had pointed out some of these swing flaws before, and we had been working on them slowly, but I decided right then and there to pick up the pace. I got on the phone and called my coach and let him know what I was thinking. He was all for the swing overhaul I had in mind.
That overhaul took more than a year before the changes really started to kick in. First, my full swing started to look better; then, the ball started to behave better. Finally, my swing started to feel right, and that's when I knew I had it. I had a very good year in 1999, and in 2000 I played by far the best golf of my life.
The point to this story is, the golf swing will always be a work in progress regardless of how good you are. The goal is to have a swing that is mechanically sound, repeatable, works with every club in your set and holds up under pressure. I don't know if anyone will ever achieve a state of perfection - I know I haven't.
You can bet I'll keep trying.
WHEN I MUST TURN THE BALL LEFT
Only after years of practice am I able to shape my tee shots at will without changing the basic character of my swing. The benefits of all this work led to my winning my sixth (6th) professional Major, and the fourth (4th) in a row, the 2001 Masters. The 13th hole at Augusta National is a par 5 that bends sharply to the left about 230 yards out from the tee. The player who can hit a long, controlled draw on demand has a big advantage there, for once the ball turns the corner, it can scamper to within 200 yards of the green. Because of the elusive nature of the firm, undulating green, it's a treat to have a middle iron in your hand to use on your approach shot.
Long before I arrived at Augusta for the 2001 Masters, I practiced that draw with my driver and 3-wood. For two (2) months solid, I would devote a little extra time on the practice tee with that specific shot in my mind's eye. I don't consciously change my mechanics. I do it by feel. My last thought before I take the club back is "Draw". I got good at hitting the shot in practice, but would it hold up under pressure?
I found out in the final round. Nursing a narrow lead over Phil Mickelson and David Duval, I stood on the 13th tee determined to bring off that hard, piercing draw. Filled with the confidence that comes from knowing you've prepared yourself well, I grabbed my 3-wood and just ripped the tee shot. The ball not only turned the corner, it didn't stop rolling until it came to rest in a perfect lie, 183 yards from the green. I hit the green easily, and the tap-in-birdie that followed kept my lead intact - a lead, as it turned out . . . I wouldn't lose.
Sorry for the belated reply . . .
The Tiger PHOTOS you sent to me (via Gammasus) appear to be "read only".
I could open and view them; however, it won't download properly.
Unable to upload to TigerClub.
Too bad; another missed opportunity.
STAY TUNED . . .