Golf Psychology - Tiger's Playoff Putt

Joe Culverhouse
  • Author: Joseph Culverhouse
  • Manager - GLT Content and Communications
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Rocco and Tiger


Today’s installment of GLT’s golf psychology series, The Mental Game of Golf, picks up where the previous article ended. While we told you about how Earl Woods inoculated the stress response in Tiger, we didn’t give any examples to back up our work. (Hey, how many majors has the guy won? How many more examples do you need?!)

But, since we’re all about giving the people what they want, today, we’ll focus on how Tiger’s understanding of the Mind Body Connection lead to his performance under fire when faced with a playoff putt to win the 2008 US Open.

Tiger Woods made a splash during the 2018 PGA Championship, leading many to believe he may be on his way to his first major victory since the 2008 US Open. The ’08 US Open isn’t simply memorable as Tiger’s last major, however. What makes the win truly stand out isn’t so much who won, but how.

Entering the final round of play at Torrey Pines, Woods held a single stroke lead over Lee Westwood and a two stroke advantage over Rocco Mediate. By the round’s conclusion, Westwood was no longer a factor, but Mediate’s 71 combined with Tiger’s 73 meant there would be no conclusion that day. Thanks to Tiger holing a birdie on the final hole, a playoff round would have to be played the next day.

Throughout the playoff round, Tiger and Mediate traded the lead most of the day. Tiger found himself in familiar territory as he approached the green on 18. If he wanted to force a sudden death playoff, he would need to sink another birdie putt. Enter the Mind Body Connection and inoculated stress response.

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You’ve already read the first paragraphs, so I’m not spoiling anything. It’s not like I’m writing the next Rocky film. Tiger sank the birdie, forced the sudden death playoff, and pared the first hole to defeat Mediate by one stroke. While that in itself was impressive to watch as it unfolded in 2008, what we at GLT love about it to this day is the insight to Tiger’s mental game of golf he provided during his post-round interview.

When asked how he was able to stay composed and focus during those extremely stressful putts, Tiger’s response caught many off guard. But, to those in the golf psychology arena, or with knowledge of the strength of Tiger’s golf mental game, it came as no surprise when he replied, “it was no different (than any other putt.)”

If you read the previous article in the series regarding how Earl Woods trained Tiger, the quote makes total sense. Earl inoculated Tiger to stress. He trained his son in a manner designed to force the boy to recognize and adjust to heavy stress. In essence, Earl Woods’s training method turned Tiger into golf psychology’s Superman.

GLT's free PDF Quickstart Guide of Golf's Mental Game is available here.

While Tiger’s years of high stress training meant his body knew how to react and cope when the heat was on, most casual golfers aren’t as fortunate. Most golfers will succumb to tension, and the results will be obvious.

That’s why we’re here. The purpose of GLT’s golf psychology series is to help golfers develop the psychological traits of excellence that elite players of golf’s mental game possess. Once you’ve gained an understanding of the Mind Body Connection - remember, the mind moves the body, the body moves the club and the club moves the ball – you’ll be well on your way down this path.

In the next article, we’ll be providing a quick tension management technique golfs of all skills can quickly utilize when the stress is on. And, if you’re just now finding the series, be sure to check out the series introduction, and begin your mastery of golf’s mental game today!


Tiger 2008 Open