Tiger Woods at 2008 Accenture Match Play

It was impossible not to marvel at the miraculous comeback and closing ability that Tiger brought to bear in winning the 2008 Accenture Match Play tournament.

I often wonder at his ability to get the job done and find a way to win. When the chips are down, he has an uncanny ability to deliver. I reflected on this in an email to Ken Zeiger, the Program Director at Zen Golf. My question was oriented around this ability to find what’s sometimes referred to as “Tiger’s extra gear.” The problem being that I’ve always found that when I “try harder” my results are worser. 😉

Ken’s sage response was that Tiger doesn’t “try harder,” but rather, he “tries better.” But, what does that mean?

Ken explained, “By this I mean he gets even more involved in executing the process, i.e., assessing the conditions, going through his routine, not hitting the ball until he’s visualized the shot and is completely comfortable over the shot. At that point he is able to access his unconditional confidence as all this is simply ‘routine’ for him—and the more routine it feels, the less he will get in his own way.”

Of course, the irony is that when I “try harder” that’s exactly how I get in my own way. But then there is also the benefit of experience to consider.

Ken continued, “The true irony is that the more of those situations he is able to be comfortable in, the more comfortable he will be in it later situations! And, of course, he’s been there and done that in more of those situations than any golfer in history save maybe one—Jack…”

“It was interesting, Doc (Dr. Joe Parent) was commenting that (Nick) Faldo was talking about Tiger getting mad at himself on the course, and turning it around and using it as motivation. It’s clearly his skill at redirecting his energy from the anger to ‘presentness’ and an ever more narrowing of his focus is what allows the ‘harder/better’ self to emerge.” Yes, I agree. It’s all about finding a way to play “from” our “better self.”

However, since Tiger’s “better self” and my “better self” don’t seem live on the same planet, what I can take away from this conversation is a real commitment to continue to learn, practice and get better at focusing on my own process (connecting to my grounded, smooth, swing of ease, for example) regardless of what kind of competitive situation (or whatever kind of trouble) I happen to be in. Ironically, you get better results, as Tiger demonstrated, not by focusing on technique (“don’t forget that weight shift,” “straight left arm” etc.), but by focusing on inner process… and by making that routine.

Looking at this from another angle, I’ve recently been reading “The Inner Game of Work” by Tim Gallwey, author of “The Inner Game of Golf” (and Tennis) and he’s clarifying this “better self” connection by referring what goes on inside us all as “Self 1” and “Self 2.” Self 1 being the interfering mind (or what Eckhart Tolle is now calling the “disfunctional mind”) and Self 2 being the pure joy, inner self, higher mind that we might call the “better self.” I might prefer to call it, “the self of ease.” Whatever you call it, we can all learn from Tiger’s focus and by tapping into the kind of inner process that’s he is using to play such amazing golf.

May the journey continue and be its own reward. Onward.