Tiger to Walk in His Fathers Footsteps
The day after the Masters, the world's No. 1 golfer will swap his spikes for Army boots.
Instead of retreating to his lavish home in Isleworth, Woods will stay in the barracks at Army Special Forces headquarters and spend a week in military training.
'If I was never introduced to golf, I would be doing something like that,' Woods said. 'Hopefully, something in the Special Ops arena. It's the physical and mental challenge of it all. We'll see what happens.'
No one is more curious than his father, an ex-Green Beret who trained at Fort Bragg, N.C., during the Vietnam War, and then taught his son to take no prisoners on the golf course.
'He's a very independent individual, and he plays an individual sport,' Earl Woods told The Associated Press. 'Quite frankly, he's not in the business of people telling him what to do. This will be a broadening experience for him.'
This is clearly a case where father knows best.
Earl Woods first trained at Fort Bragg in 1963 following a tour in Vietnam, and he was assigned to a Special Forces unit at Fort Bragg before leaving for another tour in 1970.
He did not remember the years he was there, only the schedule he had to keep.
He was up every morning at 5:30 for inspection, where a single thread out of place on the uniform meant push-ups. That was followed by physical training, including a run in boots he had spent the night spit-shining for inspection. Then it was time to change clothes, work all day until dinner at 7:30 p.m., and start over in the morning.
'He'll learn a lot more respect. He'll learn a little bit about dedication,' Earl Woods said. 'And he'll learn an awful lot about himself, and how he can handle it. He'll come out a lot stronger than he went in.'
Why would the world's best golfer, who earns close to $90 million a year, sign up for this working vacation?
Earl Woods only wonders what took him so long.
'He probably wants, in the recesses of his mind, to walk the steps I walked,' the father said. 'He was always inquisitive about the training I put him through, the mental-toughness training. He wanted to know where that came from. I equated it to experiences I've had in the military, especially in Special Ops.
'Now, he wants to experience it.'
Woods is to arrive at Fort Bragg on April 12, spend four days of training and conclude his week by conducting a junior golf clinic for families at Fort Bragg.
Soldiers will train him in weapons and military tactics before sending him on a mission as part of a Special Forces team, Bragg spokesman Lt. Col. Billy Buckner said. Also in the works is a lesson in skydiving and a tandem jump with the Army's parachute team.
'I don't think they're going to put me through the wringer as what they would do,' Woods said. 'But hopefully, it will be close.'
Besides being the most physically fit among golfers, Woods' mental strength is what separates him from the others.
He has a knack for playing his best under severe pressure, such as winning the Masters in 2001 for an unprecedented fourth consecutive major. His record is 30-2 when he leads going into the final round.
But this mental toughness did not come from any boot camp.
Earl Woods never put his son through sleep deprivation. He did not scream 2 inches from his face. He did not make his son take 5-mile runs before going to kindergarten.
The training came in the form of gamesmanship.
'I tried to break him down mentally,' Earl Woods said. 'I tried to intimidate him verbally.'
Even as Woods was collecting junior golf trophies, his father routinely laughed at his mistakes.
During casual rounds, when Woods was at the top of his swing, his father would toss a half-dozen balls at his feet, jangle coins in his pocket or call out to him, 'Water on the right. OB on the left.'
'He would stop and look at me with the most evil look, but he wasn't permitted to say anything,' Earl Woods said. 'He always had an escape word if it got to be too much, but he never used it.
'One day, I did all my tricks, and Tiger looked at me and smiled. At the end of the round, I made him a promise. I said, 'Tiger, you'll never run into another person as mentally tough as you.'
'He hasn't, and he won't.'
Despite his mental fortitude, and his overwhelming success in golf, Tiger Woods knows where to draw the line.
He's a golfer, not a soldier.
'There's no physical challenge in golf,' he said. 'We walk around for 4 1/2 hours. That's not tough. Their mental toughness is what I would equate to how I used to train in cross country, because it's more physical. These guys run miles upon miles carrying a 40-pound sack and two quarts of water and flannel and rifles. That's tough.'
Earl Woods doesn't travel with his son as much as he used to, although he will be at the Masters and accompany his son to Fort Bragg.
'But I will not be with him during his training exercises,' the father said. 'I've been through them. I don't need to learn anything else. But I'll have plenty to talk to him about when he finishes.'
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might
Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.
“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”
Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”
“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”
Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)
Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”
Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.
“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"
As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.
"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.
Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”
McIlroy: Ryder Cup won't be as easy as USA thinks
The Americans have won their past two international team competitions by a combined score of 38-22, but Rory McIlroy isn’t expecting another pushover at the Ryder Cup in September.
McIlroy admitted that the U.S. team will be strong, and that its core of young players (including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler) will be a force for the next decade. But he told reporters Tuesday at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship that course setup will play a significant role.
“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said, referring to the Americans’ 17-11 victory in 2016. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”
At every Ryder Cup, the home team has the final say on course setup. Justin Rose was the most outspoken about the setup at Hazeltine, saying afterward that it was “incredibly weak” and had a “pro-am feel.”
And so this year’s French Open figures to be a popular stop for European Tour players – it’s being held once again at Le Golf National, site of the matches in September. Tommy Fleetwood won last year’s event at 12 under.
“I’m confident,” McIlroy said. “Everything being all well and good, I’ll be on that team and I feel like we’ll have a really good chance.
“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that. The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
Floodlights may be used at Dubai Desert Classic
No round at next week’s Dubai Desert Classic will be suspended because of darkness.
Tournament officials have installed state-of-the-art floodlighting around the ninth and 18th greens to ensure that all 132 players can finish their round.
With the event being moved up a week in the schedule, the European Tour was initially concerned about the amount of daylight and trimmed the field to 126 players. Playing under the lights fixed that dilemma.
“This is a wonderful idea and fits perfectly with our desire to bring innovation to our sport,” European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said. “No professional golfer ever wants to come back the following morning to complete a round due to lack of daylight, and this intervention, should it be required, will rule out that necessity.”
Next week’s headliners include Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson.
Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas
Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.
Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.
Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.
McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.