Since his scandal, that is.
After another poor performance in a major championship, everyone is asking, “Why is Tiger back to dominating the regular tour but falling apart in the majors?”
The answer? Well, it’s got nothing to do with the scandal, his swing or his short game. In my view, it’s got everything to do with a shift in consciousness that occurred within him when he was about 10 years old.
That’s about the time when Tiger put Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 Major Championships on his wall as his life’s purpose. He decided right then and there, that his goal in life was to surpass Jack. Though most people slobber over themselves in awe and admiration of such an audacious goal from such a young kid, I believe it is the underlying reason for Tiger’s recent poor performance in the major championships.
When young Tiger put that on his wall, his reason for playing golf shifted from the joy of the game to the pursuit of an outcome. In other words, it was no longer about his essence, it became about his ego. What Tiger put on that wall was not Jack’s record. What he put on that wall was his identity, his sense of self.
Until that moment, like any kid, he loved to hit the ball, watch it fly, chase it and hit it again. He loved and lived for the simple pleasure of hitting a golf ball. But when Jack’s record was taped to that wall, it reflected a shift in consciousness within Tiger (probably put there by his father). Golf was no longer his joy and passion, it became who he was.
This shift from essence to ego, however, does not negatively impact performance, at least not initially. In fact, it almost always produces profound success—and for quite a while. Ego is an extremely motivating force. It makes you work hard, focus and maintain determination, especially in the face of obstacles. And that’s exactly the story of Tiger’s life. He has been, arguably, the most successful, focused and determined athlete that the world has ever seen.
In other words, ego is initially the secret of success. It drives you. But as you get closer and closer to your goal, what drives you, now destroys you. Your very identity is at stake. Golf is no longer a game; it’s now life and death. And no one performs to their potential when something is THAT important.
That’s why Tiger is playing so well in regular tour events and not in the majors. There’s nothing at stake in the regular tournaments. He’s emotionally free, and therefore, he can physically execute with precision. But until Tiger lets go of his lifetime obsession with the major championship record, he’ll continue to struggle.
If I were coaching Tiger, we’d create a campfire ceremony where he’d write the number “18” on a piece of paper and burn it—in front of his closest friends and family. (I’d probably ask him to make a list of all the goals and dreams his Dad set for him and throw those in the fire as well.)
Then I’d ask him to reconnect with his original love of the game, his pure child-like desire to hit it, chase it and hit it again. I’d call him to go back to those early days, when it was just him, the club, the ball and the course. I’d want him to remember what it was like to play golf without a thought of what it meant in the grand scheme of things, being aware that there’s just—this.
After his sex scandal, Tiger spoke of “getting back to my Buddhism,” and I wonder if he knew just how right he was. My guess is he meant that solely in regards to his sexual desires, because Buddhism teaches that desire is the root cause of suffering. But it’s his desire to pass Jack Nicklaus’ record that is the root of his suffering today.
Finally, will Tiger surpass Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors even if he doesn’t reconnect with his essence and his pure love of the game? Probably. He’s so much better than everyone else, that even with the ego in charge, he’ll win 5 more majors. Probably 10. But if he got back to his Buddhism, he’d probably pass Jack sooner (though it wouldn’t matter) and he’d have a lot more fun doing it.
Author & Relationship Coach
Relationship Expert—Fox35 TV/Orlando, Fl.
PGA Tour Player, 1988-1989