December 22, 2015

Tiger’s Blog: Reflecting on up-and-down 2015 and looking ahead to 2016

I have been asked a lot lately how it feels to have played on the PGA Tour for 20 years. I live in dog years since I turned pro in 1996, so that’s 140 years. It feels like 140 but also feels like five. It’s amazing how fast it has gone but also how slow. I know it’s a contradiction, but that’s how it feels.

Several things stand out. Number one, you have to go back to my first major win, which was the Masters in 1997. How I did it, winning by 12 strokes, was so special. And then winning four-in-a-row and owning the Grand Slam, something no professional golfer has ever done. Third would probably be my 142-consecutive cuts-made streak. Consistency for a long period of time … there’s a lot that goes into that. You have bad days, you have bad weeks, but to battle and endure and suck it up and get it done, I’m very proud of that one.

I think the biggest change on the PGA Tour from when I started playing is the level of focus on day-in and day-out fitness. Now, we have trainers and sports psychologists that travel with the guys.

Also the technology. When I beat Davis Love III in a playoff at the Las Vegas Invitational in 1996, he had a 43-inch persimmon head driver. The transition to metal to where we are now with 460 cc drivers and 45-inch shafts being the norm, and the ball going from wound to solid construction … the technology has changed dramatically.

I had a conversation the other day with some of my friends who play golf. They’re a little bit younger than me, but are amazed how much technology has changed. I said go back to when Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player and that generation of guys played. When they were in their prime and the end of their careers, technology never really changed except for the golf ball. It was always persimmon and steel. That was the reality. Now, some companies are asking guys to change equipment twice a year.

As far as 2015, it was a tough year physically and took a toll on my body. I had to battle through a swing pattern change and get that organized, because it was awful at the beginning of the year. I didn’t play for the longest time because I was stuck. To come back on the hardest venue of any course on the short game at Augusta National and tie for 17th, was pretty special to get myself back into it.

The frustrating part was not being able to build on it throughout the year. To finally have it switch and turn in the last event I played at the Wyndham Championship, and then lo and behold, I can’t physically do it anymore. I’ve had two back surgeries since then, so it’s been a roller-coaster ride the entire year, from being down to some pretty darn good highs.

The thing I’m looking forward to the most about 2016 is getting back out there again. I’ve missed it, and I would like to do it pain-free. I haven’t done that in what seems like a long time. I’ve had it in spurts the last few years and have done some pretty good things, but I’d like to have sustained health.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to play my way onto the Ryder Cup Team. Either way, I’m excited about being named a vice-captain. It will be new, fun and special. To have Davis appoint and trust me is pretty special. If you look back to when we played together in 1999 at Brookline, I don’t think either one of us would have foreseen this. But here we are in leadership roles. Hopefully I can play and lead at the same time and not just be on the sideline. All of us who have been a part of any of the teams over the years, once you’ve experienced it, you want to be a part of it. It’s really hard to describe unless you’ve been in one of those team rooms and know what goes on.

My friends keep asking me how it feels to be turning 40 at the end of the month and my response is, “It depends when you ask me.” Mentally, people who know me know I’m like a five-year-old. Physically, sometimes I feel old and sometimes I feel like a teenager. I don’t like the polar opposites of the two. I’d like to be somewhere in the middle where I feel 40.

What I love and appreciate the most about playing golf is the internal struggle. The fact that the ball is not moving; it’s just looking at you and laughing at you. You have to make it move 400 yards in let’s say four shots, and that to me is without a doubt one of the toughest mental struggles there is in sports. There are more physically demanding sports, obviously, but the mental task of golf is so hard. It is basically a physical chess match.

I am really looking forward to watching Stanford play Iowa in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 on TV. I’ve followed the team every game. If I can’t watch it live, every game is DVR’d and I’ve seen every play. To see what Coach (David) Shaw, Christian (McCaffrey) and Kevin (Hogan) have done … wow! They have been incredible. I am so happy to hear that McCaffrey was just voted the Associated Press College Football Player of the Year. Well-deserved! Unfortunately, we’re not part of the playoffs, but we’re playing in the Granddaddy of them all, and hopefully we’ll beat the Hawkeyes.

I’m really excited about the great reviews my new restaurant – The Woods Jupiter — has received. I’m probably there six times a week and people really seem to enjoy it. My personal favorite is the ribeye steak.

I want to go see the new ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens.’ I was a total geek growing up and had ‘Star Wars’ wallpaper in my room. My kids love it, too.

Thanks to my staff, sponsors, contributors and volunteers for helping us raise money for the Tiger Woods Foundation and all of our programs. Their hard work and dedication has enabled us to make a difference for thousands of underserved kids and help them pursue their dreams. Next year is my Foundation’s 20th anniversary and to date we’ve served more than 135,000 kids in the learning center in more than 50 STEM-based subjects and have 131 Earl Woods scholars who are predominantly first-generation college students. And we’re just getting started.

I’m also grateful to my friends at Bluejack National outside of Houston. We opened seven holes of my first US course and the reviews have been great. I can’t wait until the remainder of the course opens next year.

I would also like to express my gratitude to the best fans in the world. Without your support, this journey would be impossible.

Where do I see myself in the next five to 10 years? I am still playing golf at the highest level and winning tournaments and major championships. My foundation has been implemented around the globe, and we’ve helped out not just millions, but when I’m all said on done with my life on this earth, it will hopefully be billions.

Happy holidays and best wishes in 2016.