Two Special Athletes Play in Wachovia Pro-Am

North Carolina golf fans were treated to something special this week; Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan playing together for the first time in competition. The two legends were paired in the pro-am portion of the Wachovia Classic Wednesday and created quite the stir. The excitement certainly makes sense, as Tiger and MJ are arguably the two greatest athletes of the last half-century. So when word got out that the two friends and Nike endorsers were going to play together — the tournament committee knew it had the most popular pro-am pairing in history.

I will never forget the first time I saw Tiger Woods in person. It was at the Bay Hill Classic, sometime in the late 90’s, and I had, what could best be described, as a religious experience. I know this will sound somewhat “off the wall” and I’ll gladly accept all of your jokes — but when I first saw Tiger in person — he looked to be glowing. Seriously, he was glowing. At least in my mind anyway. It was as if his aura was so powerful, I could see it. Yes, I know that sounds crazy – and I know you don’t read this blog for your daily Zen moment – but it was real. Still, I assumed the glow was more about my excitement, than an actual light inside Tiger, but was curious just the same.

I didn’t think much more about Tiger’s glow until last spring, when I saw Michael Jordan in person for the first time. MJ was in Tampa for Derek Jeter’s celebrity golf tournament and was eating lunch two tables away from a friend and me. Now, I have long been a fan of Michael Jordan – how could you not be? Besides Tiger Woods, there probably has never been a more “clutch” performer in the history of sports. Like Tiger, he would routinely do the impossible at the most crucial time of the game. He seemed impervious to pressure. Well, would you believe that Michael Jordan was glowing that day as well? In all my life, I had that experience twice — Tiger Woods at Bay Hill and Michael Jordan at Avila Country Club. Crazy I know. But the funny thing was – there were other famous people all around Michael that day at Avila. Just like there were other famous golfers around Tiger that day at Bay Hill. But yet both stuck out in the crowd by some indescribable light.

I asked my friend, Dr. Fayyadh Yusuf, who also happens to be the sports psychologist at my golf school, what his thoughts were on my “glowing” experiences. Surprisingly, Fayyadh did not have me committed, but did share a similar experience of his own. He once met Muhammad Ali and had the same exact experience. He was in a room and was not knowingly aware of Ali’s presence, but for some reason was drawn to look left. Upon turning, he saw Ali and said the same thing — he looked to be glowing. In the middle of a room full of people, Ali was a bright star full of light. Interesting I thought. Maybe there is something to this whole light thing.

I am by no means the kind of person who gets star struck. I have met more celebrities than I can remember – so it wasn’t that. The light was different. So I started reading and studying “new age” philosophies and came to the conclusion that — yes, there was something to the whole light thing. I think people like Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali are so enlightened — it’s possible for them to emit a glow. Think about it — they have all proven the ability to go in and out of the “Zone” at will. Most players wait for things to get clear and easy. Tiger and Michael don’t wait for that moment — they command it!

So how can we, the “un-enlightened”, be more like Tiger and MJ? How can we command the Zone? For one, we can start thinking like them and implement two of their common traits – visualization and imagery. I have all my professional students practice visualization and imagery as much as their golf swings. I explain to them — you must see it first before you can do it. If you cannot imagine yourself winning the British Open – you will never win it. No one gets that lucky. Tiger was famous for having all of Jack Nicklaus’ records hanging on the wall in his room. And every night before bed he would dream and plan about how he was going to beat all those records. And as we all know — he’s on the way. But first he had to see it happening. The great Seve Ballesteros talked often of the plane ride to the Masters in 1980, which he won by a large margin. On the plane, Seve saw himself hitting shots, chips and putts. In fact, one of the chips he had in the actual tournament was exactly like one he visualized making on the plane. Of course, he realized this while over the ball — smiled and then calmly made the chip — just like his dream.

For you, the average golfer, there is much to learn here. As you usually play the same course over and over again – it’s easy to play on auto pilot or even worst, have holes that scare you. Before your next round on a familiar course, play the entire round in your head the night before. Do it a few times. See yourself hitting great shots right at the target. See putts breaking into the hole. And when you play, close your eyes before your shot and again see what you want to do. Don’t hit the ball until you get that clear picture in your head. Then, once you see it — trust yourself to make it happen.

So, what is my final take on Tiger and MJ glowing? I think when people are doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing in life and doing it well – there is a happiness that can’t be faked. A joy of doing what you love. And that love might just make for an interesting glow. Try playing your next round like Tiger and MJ — in the zone — and your friends just might comment about your glow.

Good Luck!

One Response to “Two Special Athletes Play in Wachovia Pro-Am”

  1. sulle says:

    I am a 6 handicap and will shot anywhere from 72 to 78 most days. When I have to play under pressure I choke. I try to stay in my routine and keep consistent but it usually doesn’t show up. Very frustrating.
    Some one please help!!

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