excerpt from: Tiger Woods Unprecedented – The Masters and Me with Lorne Rubenstein

Many people didn’t consider golf a sport. When I played on my high school golf team, I wasn’t even thought of as an athlete. But I had to work out in high school. I didn’t have a choice. I had to participate in the team workouts, and get in the weight room and do lifts. Then I realized this was helping me, and I began to enjoy it.


I felt golf should be and could be a sport, and that the fitter I became, the more likely I would do well. But my dad also had taught me since I was a kid to make my mind strong. I’d learned as an amateur- when I’d come from behind time after time to win national championships – and during my first seven months as a pro that my mind could be my most powerful ally. The thing was to never give up, from the first shot on the first hole to the last shot on the last hole. The first hole was as important as the last hole, and every shot was exactly the same. I had the same focus, the same intensity. I didn’t try harder the deeper I got into a tournament. Nothing changed. I was busting myself as hard as I could from the first shot. I learned to have that mentality, and to maintain it. This was how I was going to approach the first shot at the Masters. Each round would take maybe five hours at the most, so I had nineteen hours to recover. Why wouldn’t I focus as hard as I could for the five hours? Let’s go. After that, hey, I’m done.


I needed to develop my will not only because mental strength could be such an asset in golf, but also because I’d already had some surgeries with their accompanying pain during rehab and recovery. My first surgery occurred in 1994, when I was at Stanford, with the removal of two cysts sitting on the saphenous vein on my left knee and hitting my saphenous nerve. I was left with a long scar behind my knee. The surgery was a few weeks before my nineteenth birthday on December thirtieth. I packed up my car and drove home to Cypress. I wanted to play on my birthday, so I went to rehab every day. The physios and trainers rehabbed the hell out of my knee, and finally I got the sutures out. The swelling from the bruising came down as well. I was disappointed when I was told, though, that I still wasn’t ready to play. But I really wanted to tee it up. Although I had this big, old green brace on, I still asked if it would be okay if I played with it on. They wouldn’t advise me to play, but they also said I wouldn’t hurt myself further if I did play.


I said the heck with it, and went out o play with my dad at the Navy course. He didn’t think it was a good idea. But I conned him into it. I started by asking if I could just ride in the cart with him while he played with his friends. He said, absolutely, come on. I then asked if I could bring my clubs. Maybe I could chip into a green, or putt a little bit.


The next thing my dad knew, I was teeing it up behind the guys on the first tee. I hit it right down the middle of the fairway. Meanwhile, when they asked me how my knee felt, I’d say it was just fine. But in reality, the pain was excruciating and I was dying on the inside. Par for the front nine was 37. I shot 31. Then I said, “You know what, Dad? I’m done. I’ll just rest it from here.” I could see my skin coming out through the brace. The swelling was getting so bad that I kept strapping the brace down tighter. To me, it was like when you tweaked an ankle. You kept the shoe on. You didn’t take it off, because the ankle would blow up on you. I kept it on there because I had to watch my dad and his friends play the back nine. I didn’t have anyplace to go to elevate the knee and ice it. I had to ride the back nine. So I did, without letting on that I was miserable. The mind is powerful.

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