Tiger Woods reveals his keys to success in high-pressure situations

tiger woods holds a club in his right hand and smiles while wearing a black nike sweater

Tiger Woods has enjoyed plenty of success in high-pressure situations.

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Welcome to Play Smart, a regular GOLF.com game-improvement column that will help you play smarter, better golf.

There’s no golfer who’s come up in the clutch more than Tiger Woods. When the lights shined brightest, and the pressure reached its peak, Woods always brought his best.

That “clutch gene” is one of the reasons the 47-year-old has won 82 PGA Tour titles and 15 majors. When he smelled blood in the water, it was all but over for the competition. While others wilted, Woods thrived.

It’s easy to say that some are born with that clutch ability, but that would be reductionist behavior. Part of the reason Woods became the best in those situations is from practicing them over and over.

“I make my practices that intense,” Woods said. “As any kid, I grew up trying to make putts against Jack Nicklaus, Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, you name it.”

It’d be impossible to make every moment of your practice session as intense as a tournament setting, but Woods said he dedicates small windows of time where he operates like he’s in competition. He envisions a scenario packed with pressure, and then he tries to execute.

“Every practice session I always end on a high,” he said. “[I hit putts] to win a major championship. It was always to beat my heroes, the people I idolized growing up. Or on the range, it was to hit this one drive to put me in the fairway at the narrowest U.S. Open you’ve seen … And I loved it. I love making challenges like that in my head and trying to stir up emotions so that when I get to a situation where I’m faced with those emotions, [I can say] ‘I’ve already done this.'”

There’s no substitute for experience, but if you can simulate some of those emotions you’ll feel on the course, you can at least become somewhat comfortable in those environments. If it worked for Woods, it might just work for you.

Zephyr Melton

Golf.com Editor

Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for GOLF.com where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at GOLF, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with the Texas Golf Association, Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and covers amateur and women’s golf. He can be reached at zephyr_melton@golf.com.