Tiger is an amazing phenomenon. Everyone knows that so we don’t have to go into details. Everyone also knows that no one handles pressure situations better than Tiger. But no one has really explained exactly what that means.
Let’s start with putting. Tiger has sunk more clutch putts than anyone since Jack Nicklaus. If he continues in this tradition, he will eventually eclipse Jack in this all-important category. Why does he make putt after putt at crucial times in a tournament?
The reason he makes so many clutch putts is that he has the ability to not distort time before, during and after he putts, which activates his subtle (fast-twitch muscles), which results in a fluid, effortless, silky smooth putting stroke. That is the hidden explanation. Before I explain all that, let's look at what happens to a PGA touring pro at a crucial time when he has to sink a 5-foot putt in a major tournament. Then let’s compare it to what happens to Tiger.
Let’s say it takes 100 seconds to putt. Those 100 seconds include lining up the putt, judging the break, checking the grain and actually putting. Let’s say we take those 100 seconds and divide them into 100 boxes. And let’s say we put a 'P' or an 'F' in each box. 'P' stands for present and 'F' stands for future. Let’s also say that our PGA player is Phil Mickelson before he won the Masters in 2002. Phil had a tough time at crucial putts in majors before he made his breakthrough at the Masters. Now let's look very closely at Phil’s 100 boxes on Sunday during the final round of a major championship before he won at Augusta.
Phil lines up his putt, decides on the break and the speed. This takes us to box 75. So far all 'Ps' in the boxes.
He approaches his ball, sets-up and takes his practice stroke. Again, all 'Ps.'
He stands over his ball and takes the putter back. That’s boxes 92-96. All 'P’s' in those boxes.
On box 97 when he takes the putter back and he is ready to gently swing it forward, lo and behold to the surprise of all the golfing gods that wanted to see Phil win a major championship (after all he is a very likable fellow), an 'F' appears in the box. And with that 'F', boxes 98–100 get 'Fs' and at impact, Phil shuts down his subtle muscle, yanks his putt dead right and once again, fails to win a major.
Now let’s look at what happens to Tiger Woods when he putts. We can look at any point in Tiger’s career, because Tiger started to win majors right away.
Tiger is putting at a crucial time in a major. Let’s fast-forward to box 97, because we all know that he is going to get 'Ps' in all the boxes before.
On box 97, when he is about to move the putter forward, when it is absolutely crucial to have all the subtle muscles wide awake, when all the golfing gods are looking directly into the muscles in his wrist to see how much delicacy and subtlety is awake there, a beautiful 'P' appears. And like a colorful rainbow, 'Ps' appear in boxes 98 and 99. When that putter gently touches the ball on box 100, when that last 'P' appears, Tiger makes the putt dead center, pumps his fist, accepts the green jacket and once again appears on the cover of Sport’s Illustrated.
Of course, on the putting green before the final round, neither Phil (nor Tiger) ever missed a five-foot put.
Now let's look very closely at the relationship between the experience of time and the muscles. When a golfer, or for that matter any athlete, is playing his best, time always appears to be moving slowly. What is the relationship between time and the muscles? It is the experience of time that controls the muscles in the body. This is the great hidden secret in sports. When time speeds up the subtle muscles shut down. When time is experienced the same in athletic competition as it is being experienced as you read this article, the subtle muscles are wide-awake.
Tiger has the ability to experience time normally, regardless of the situation on the course. This is what separates him from the field. This is why he handles pressure situations so well.
Now you can’t just tell a PGA player to slow down time, so that his subtle muscles will be wide awake, so that he can put a gentle, effortless stroke on his putt. Sports psychologists try to do this by working with players and trying to teach them to be in the moment when they play so that their motion is fluid and effortless. But this is like trying to tell a player who has never won on the PGA Tour to be completely relaxed when he has to make just one more 5-foot putt to win the tournament that will forever change his life. He may intellectually understand what needs to be done, but when reality meets the road, it may be tough to do.
But if he can set up a series of effortless processes that will result in time being experienced as moving normally, then you will have something quite substantial for a tournament player.
Accomplishing this is subtle, not surface, obvious knowledge. It is knowledge that you have not read about in Golf Digest. It is knowledge from a paradigm that understands where motion originates and then sets up the conditions for the correct motion to emerge. In this paradigm, one is not concerned with motion, but rather where motion originates. The idea is to not correct the motion, but correct the arena where the motion originates. Better to take care of the root of the plant than to worry about the branches. Tiger understands this perfectly.
So do we and that is what we teach.