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Archive for February, 2010

Most of us have been there. I have. I mean where John was that moment he told the Golf Channel he was done with golf. The game gets under your skin sometimes and then the rash starts. And the more you scratch, the worse it gets. You go to the range and you have a pretty good session. Then you go again and you think you’ve got something figured out. Then you chip and you go, “Wait a minute here. I think I really found something.” Then on to the putting green and you drop everything you see. Then to the course…I said, then to the course…How the *#&/@k can I shoot 92 after practice sessions like those? “God Bless my mother,” in the immortal words of Charles Barkley. “I can’t compete,”JD continued to lament in that same GC interview.

Actually, I was there yesterday, after following a respectable drive with a six-iron to the 15th green that would’ve lost a wrestling match with a flea. (more…)

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Four years ago, alpine skier, Bode Miller, was a goat in the public eye. He came up winless in the Olympics after high expectations. This year, at Vancouver, Miller is a hero, already winning a gold, silver, and a bronze . The catch is, Bode doesn’t give a damn either way. He skis 100 percent, regardless of results, not competing for medals or accolades, but for the fun of the sport. He skis in and for the moment, with abandon, and caring not for what people think of him. He is a true Zen athlete, a pure athlete, who despite many injuries and falls, gets up and tries again, sometimes winning, sometimes losing. I commend Bode Miller for having the courage for being his own man in the face of stinging public opinion. He is not a role model for kids, nor does he try to live up to others expectations, nor does he hold back in competition. He’s been called crazy, reckless, selfish, irresponsible, and immature. And, yes, in all probability, he has been all of those. Yet, Bode Miller is his own man, living his own life. Maybe fatherhood has changed him, or marriage, or renewed dedication to his teammates and country. He defies American values of the “winning a medal or you’re nothing” approach, enhancing his public image, acting like a man, and such nonsense. He has courage, both as an athlete, and as a human being. After his winning run in the Combined Super G, he said, “I came out of the gate ready or risk it all. It feels great to have that freedom. I’m free to ski right now. The way I ski is without regard for consequence. If you can do that in these big Games, you get rewarded.”

In golf, we’ve seen similar examples of professionals who get up and try again. The penultimate golfer was Bobby Jones, who overcame anger issues early (more…)

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Tiger Woods gave quite a plug for Buddhism during his announcement/apology on Friday. He was brought up with his mother’s religion, but strayed from it for the past several years. It’s a religion that has to do, in part, with desire, and one’s relationship to it. It’s a religion that offers forgiveness, mea culpa or no. It offers forgiveness in the very next moment. All it requires is awareness, personal responsibility, and a willingness to do better in the next moment. Tiger’s commitment to return to the religion of his roots, a commitment solidified by the fact that his mother was sitting 10 feet in front of him on Friday, is a reliable one.

In Buddhism, the present moment is one’s only refuge, an inescapable refuge since you cannot escape from your very own eyes. There is no God in Buddhism who looks down and judges and views your every move. There is no heaven or hell somewhere other than your very own soul. Heaven and hell exist right here, right now, in this life, on this earth. Buddhism is relentless in examining your own behavior and thoughts, offering the opportunity to change your life in the next moment. When Tiger hugged his mother so sincerely and heartfelt at the end of his talk, I saw him returning to his Buddhist roots. As a result, if he follows through on that, I think he’ll be OK, not as a golfer but as a human being struggling with the issues we human beings struggle with.

I have been a Buddhist for many years, straying from the path myself from time to time. Many think that the religion has to do with some epiphany called enlightenment but that perception is not quite accurate. It has to do with enlightened action, which can be in response to the most mundane circumstance. For if you avoid stepping on an ant, you have taken that ant’s life into consideration and decided to acknowledge and protect it. That heightened awareness makes you more likely to consider all of life more sensitively, to truly care about human beings, plants, indeed the entire planet and all its inhabitants.

Tiger Woods is back on track, back on the path, and I bow to him, wishing him well on this journey of life. I encourage him and his wife to stick with it and work this out. This will show his kids, his friends, his fans, that as human beings we will fall down from time to time, but that as human beings we can choose to get up and walk a more enlightened path.

Tiger, you have my support and encouragement in finding the courage, faith, and intelligence to do so.

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In golf, as in life, the idea is to stay in position, to keep the ball in play, even at the expense of distance or too much success too soon. Otherwise, you’re always struggling, always making up ground, always losing strokes just to get back in play, always taking two steps back for each forward. For a touring pro, he may look up one day, perhaps in his 40s, and realize he has not really succeeded in his chosen profession. He has been out of position a bit too often, to the point where that has become the norm. It’s what he knows best and is almost too comfortable with being there. John Daly and Paul Goydos come to mind. Steve Stricker, on the other hand, on the brink of quitting the game after years of being too out of position, fought back to become Number 2 in the world. For the amateur, being out of position, too, may have become too familiar. His expectations begin to slide. He loses hope that his game will improve. He talks himself into believing he’s just out there to have fun and that’s enough for him. Even in business or marriage or health, he has slipped into always being a bit out of position, and settled into that state of being slightly out of balance, more or less. A frustration hovers like a fog, which develops into a mild depression, a malaise, a stagnancy.

And yet, there is a danger in not risking, in staying too safe, in laying up instead of “going for it.” So to play golf and always endeavor to stay in position by playing it safe is not the Ballesteros approach–a way of passion, joie de vie, and adventure. Risk must not be wild, though. (more…)

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True Gravity II

Watching Freddy Couples play the other day against Tom Watson, I noticed something interesting: his shoes. They looked like the old Keds I used to wear when I was about six years old. Canvass sided. No spikes, metal or soft. Not even any tread. Yet Fred never slipped or slid when taking his Boom Boom swing. Why? Because Fred is completely in balance throughout his powerful yet graceful swing. His pace and subsequent balance approaches True Gravity, that state where the body is in total connection to the ground, and the mind is at ease, little concerned about results. Golf has so much to do with our connection to the ground. I tried playing the other day in muddy conditions and it took quite a while before I could adjust to the movement under foot. Gravity was uncertain and with uncertainty, a smooth, natural golf swing was near impossible. Uncertainty destroys confidence and confidence is what golf is all about. That’s why the set up is so important: It sets up certainty. In fact the term pre-shot routine misrepresents this aspect of the swing. It is anything but routine. Much awareness and mindfulness must be applied to the set up, for it is the antecedent to an effective swing. And the first sensation in that process is the feel of your feet making contact with the ground. It is the most basic of human attributes for, essentially, we became a distinct human species when we descended from trees and stood upright on our feet. Sorry to say, with the advent of cars and such, it’s been downhill ever since. We’ve lost our ground let alone any sense of True Gravity.

Freddy, Jack, Watson, Hogan, Jones, Player, Trevino, Nelson, and Woods came/come closest, with Woods, of late, losing his emotional and spiritual (more…)

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