Tiger tips: to hit the ball a long way, supple muscles are better than big muscles – Flexibility – Tiger Woods
FUNNY, BUT IT WASN’T THAT long ago people were calling me a young gun on tour. Now I guess I’m one of the seasoned veterans–with all of the aches and pains to prove it.
My mom always says you can’t fool Mother Nature. However, with the right fitness regimen and modern technology, you can sure fake her out longer than you used to. Just look at all the 40-plus winners on tour last year.
My total body workout–it’s really more maintenance and toning now than muscle building–combines aerobic exercises and weight training for an hour or two, three to five times a week. Although I have a lot of natural flexibility, I still work hard to maintain it. As we get older, our muscles tend to lose some of their elasticity, so we’ve got to work even harder to keep up with the younger guys.
If you look at some of the players on tour who can really bomb it–guys like Hank Kuehne and Charles Howell–they’re not the most physically intimidating athletes. But they all are very flexible players who can generate tremendous clubhead speed while swinging in balance. That’s also one of the keys to my power. I’m convinced that if you increase your flexibility, you’ll add power to your swing.
Improve your range of motion
Every golfer should be concerned with maintaining suppleness in the shoulders, neck, back, chest, thighs and hips–all valuable power sources. Tightness in any of those areas will restrict your range of motion and create a power shortage. I like to place a club along my shoulders and slowly make as big a turn as I can away from the target. I also make a similar turn through the ball. I hold each position 30 seconds or more.
Stay loose for better balance
The modern golf swing–one dominated by the big muscles–depends on both the upper and lower body working efficiently. Because I create so much torque in my swing, it’s crucial for me to maintain flexibility in my lower back, hips and thighs. I put a club across my shoulders and bend laterally to stretch the muscles in my lower back and the obliques on both sides, as well as the muscles in my hips. (I also work my quads, hamstrings and calves with leg stretches to solidify my base.) Do these stretches slowly and fully, and always stop if you start feeling any pain.
Stretch each rotator cuff
Some players do a few quick stretches, then flail away at a pile of balls. To avoid injury, make sure you stretch completely before practicing. I recommend the use of a weighted golf club–swinging it slowly, of course–before practice sessions. Through weight training I’ve really strengthened my upper body. The key, though, has been to maintain that natural muscle elasticity I was born with. The stretch I’m doing here stretches my left rotator cuff, an important muscle in the golf swing. Take time to fully stretch both shoulders.
Presidents Cup pressure
The Presidents Cup last November in South Africa was the best environment I have ever experienced as a pro in team competition. Almost everyone on the U.S. team agreed this was the most fun we’ve had during the dinners. There were a lot of stories and lots of razzing. I arrived a few days early and had a great time in Cape Town with Charles Howell (below) and his wife, Heather. I tried to shark dive one day. There weren’t any sharks around, so I hung out with the seals.
I got a chance to speak privately with Nelson Mandela after the opening ceremonies. He said he had kept up with me and asked about my dad. His mind is still so sharp, and I really enjoyed talking to him. Among people I respect, he’s right behind my parents.
I don’t think we should have had a playoff. It’s a team event and it’s not right for an individual to represent the team. Having said that, the playoff with Ernie Els was nerve-racking. On the first hole, I hit a good lag putt from about 40 feet to within a foot of the hole. I tried to focus on the speed and knew my adrenaline would get the ball to the hole. I also tried to “putt to the picture,” something my dad taught me as a little kid. I take a mental picture of where I want the ball to go (see page 115).
On the last playoff hole, I had a 90-foot putt that broke a good six to eight feet and wound up 15 feet from the cup. On my second putt, I had to roll it over a knob and let it feed to the hole with about a foot of left-to-right break. There wasn’t much room for error. It was one of the toughest putts I’ve ever had to make. The hard part was I had to focus on the line, but I couldn’t see because it was so dark. It took awhile for the ball to start breaking, but the grain finally grabbed it about four feet from the hole, and it disappeared into the cup.
COPYRIGHT 2004 New York Times Company Magazine Group, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group