Years ago, Tiger Woods was asked for an example of the way he likes to be in control.
“I make the bed in my hotel room,” he said.
The quote, printed in Sports Illustrated over a decade ago, stuck with me. Plenty of people stay in hotel rooms every single day. How many make their beds themselves? Nothing better exemplifies the difference between Tiger Woods and “plenty of people” than the fact that he made sure the comforter was tidy before heading out for the day.
But it turns out Woods isn’t the only golf star with a penchant for getting his sheets in order. In a pre-Tour Championship press conference, Xander Schauffele described on Wednesday how he’s been looking for little goals that will make it easy to keep his day-to-day focus.
“I put little goals in place every day, and I think if you can kind of keep to the small things it’s easier to capture the big picture at the end,” he said. What kind of little goals?
“I’ve been trying to make my bed every day. Every time I wake up, I try and — someone told me there’s been books about it, about how important it is to start the day with a win,” he said.
Schauffele admitted that his girlfriend Maya Lowe tends to be the bedmaker when he’s at home in San Diego (“I’m pretty bad at that”) but on Tour he’s been keeping things tight.
“Here on the road or hotel or Airbnb or whatever it is, I try and make my bed,” he said.
What’s the theory behind the bed-making? One version was laid out convincingly in a commencement speech from the University of Texas a few years ago by Naval Admiral William McRaven, an expert on routine if there ever was one. In his speech, McRaven emphasized that if you make your bed, you’ll have accomplished the first task of the day, setting off a chain of events where you’ll be encouraged to complete another task, and then another, and that the initial act of making the bed will have turbo-charged your productivity for the day. (You can see that speech here.)
Schauffele’s California chill means he delivered the life tip a little differently than the admiral. And, admittedly, he’s not positive the concept will help his golf game — but it seems to help his daily mindset.
“I don’t think I’ve played a whole lot better, in all honesty, but I do feel like I start the day with a win, which is nice,” he said. “I know my girlfriend would be happy that I’m making the bed out here on the road.”
The bed-making wasn’t the only routine Schauffele mentioned. He talked about keeping his practice routines focused, too, writing down some notes on his phone as he goes and staying dialed in, “versus kind of sitting there and letting your mind wander and hitting a few bad shots and kind of letting it affect your attitude.”
It’s always fascinating to hear Tour pros talk about how they deal with the week-in, week-out grind of PGA Tour life. It’s a beautiful, enviable, lucrative monotony, but a monotony nonetheless. For Schauffele, Tour success came fast; look no further than the Tour Championship he won his rookie season. That sort of success breeds high expectations. High expectations take some managing.
Schauffele has been on a run of incredible consistency; he has finished in the top 25 in 12 of his last 13 starts and remains World No. 11. But he’s hardly impressed with his recent form.
“I’ve had a few top-25 finishes, which, it sounds bad to say I don’t really care about that, but I obviously want to contend and get the juices flowing on the weekend, which I’ve been missing out on quite often,” he said.
Contrast that to Schauffele’s rookie year, when he ran off an incredible rally at the BMW Championship — carding four birdies and an eagle in his final six holes — just to make it to East Lake, where he went on to win.
“I was out here at East Lake, on a property I had never seen, and I was just like a kid at Disneyland walking around. There was only 30 guys. Thinking about how this is the big goal everyone is looking forward to at the end of the year and I’m fortunate enough to make it.”
What’s the old equation? Happiness is reality minus expectations? Schauffele sounds like he’s trying to make some adjustments on each side.
“Now? I know the course. I’m trying to prepare properly. Do all the right things. Golf is kind of funny like that. I think getting your head is the right mental space is important, and maybe I do need to go back to my rookie vibes to where I’m very happy-go-lucky, nothing really matters.”
Easier said than done, of course. Once you’ve experienced the success Schauffele has, it must be near-impossible to reset expectations. Still, he can try to manage them, and he’ll keep adding up those daily wins — one tucked-in bedspread at a time.