These words turned Tiger Woods’ ‘terrible’ warmup into a great round
AUGUSTA, Ga. — We all know those days, and we’ve all had them. Turns out Tiger Woods does, too.
“I had a terrible warmup session,” Woods said Thursday, after he opened the Masters with a one-under 71. “I hit it awful.”
The act of warming up has taken on an added sense of importance in Tiger’s new, post-injury reality. It starts long before he gets to the course, and his opposing cool down continues long after he leaves.
“You warm it up, and then you test it out, and then you’ve got to cool it back down. You’ve got to do that day in and day out,” he said of his leg earlier this week. “It gets agonizing and testing because simple things that I would normally just go do now take a couple of hours.”
Tiger underwent his same, hours-long pre-round warmup ahead of his iconic return to the Masters on Thursday. It was all going well — until he arrived on the range. His body felt loose. The problem was that the shots were, too.
It’s at that moment the rest of us usually go to pieces. Confidence rattled, convinced that the round ahead is probably going to be long and ugly.
What did Tiger do? Something he’s done so often in his career: Returned to some advice from his dad.
‘Did you accomplish your task?’
“I went back to what my dad always said: ‘Did you accomplish your task in the warmup?'” Tiger explained after his round. “‘It’s a warmup. Did you warm up?’ Yes, I did.”
It’s an interesting glimpse into the mind of Woods, and a good reminder for the rest of us. You may have hit it poorly on the range, but the driving range is not the golf course. Tiger was on it this morning to do one thing: Not to hit the ball well, and not to use it as a prediction for how he’ll play after it. He was there to warm up, plain and simple. If he did that, nothing else mattered. He was ready to go.
“I forgot whatever I did on the range and just go ahead and play shot for shot, hit the ball in the correct spot, commit to what I’m doing, leave myself in the right angles, hopefully make a few putts,” he says. “Let’s get after this thing.”
Get after it he did. By day’s end, he had signed for a one-under opening round 71.
A new approach to practicing
Times are different for Tiger now, and never is he reminded of that more than on the practice range. A young Tiger may well have responded to it differently midway through a poor warmup. Perhaps by hitting a few extra golf balls. But Tiger simply doesn’t have that luxury anymore and it’s forced him to change his overall approach to practicing.
“I’d go out and hit a ball for four or five hours. Go hit a thousand golf balls a day. That doesn’t happen anymore,” he says.
Instead, Tiger takes a more simplified approach. Just as his warmup exists solely to help him literally warm up, his ordinary practice sessions have become more focused and goal-oriented too.
“I have to pick one thing to work on, and hopefully that works out,” he says. “Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be able to work on it again, and sometimes that doesn’t happen. Sometimes it may be two or three days before I’ll be able to work on it again. We’ll just try and keep progressing, keep picking it off.”
It’s yet another example of a new normal for Tiger Woods. Yet as he proved yet again on Thursday, shooting a round lower than many of his younger, healthier peers, it doesn’t prevent Tiger from accomplishing extraordinary things anyway.