I miss Tiger Woods. Can he learn to love himself again? Photo: Sam Greenwood, Getty Images.

I miss Tiger Woods. Can he learn to love himself again?
Photo: Sam Greenwood, Getty Images.

I miss Tiger Woods. Two weeks ago, Tiger removed himself from competition on the PGA Tour because in his own words: his golf is not acceptable for tournament play.  That’s a blinding glimpse of the obvious. He hasn’t been a up to his own standards for several years. What I’m wondering: does he understand why he’s floundering?

What I see is a world-class athlete whose behind the scenes life choices caused an epic collapse. The first public signs began here in Minneapolis/St. Paul when he uncharacteristically folded under the pressure of the PGA Championship in 2009. An unknown golfer, Y.E. Yang, stared him down on the back nine at Hazeltine National and Tiger blinked. It was the first time he looked nervous, anxious and out-of-sorts on a major championship Sunday afternoon.

Little did we know: this moment was the beginning of the downward spiral for Tiger Woods. YE Yang beat him at Hazeltine in 2009.

Little did we know, this moment was the beginning of the downward spiral for Tiger Woods. Y.E. Yang beat him at Hazeltine in 2009.

Soon after, we learned why. His marriage was failing and his dark secrets were soon to be revealed. Tiger’s wife Elin swung a 9-iron at him when she learned about his absurd infidelity. The international media covered his divorce 24/7 and spread the word about his sex addiction. Tiger looked and played like he was humiliated.

Love or Fear?

In my work as an executive leadership coach, we run everything through a binary lens: do your behaviors come from a place of love or fear?

Fear in leaders and athletes is commonly expressed through fits of anger – or by retreating into a dark hole. Over the past six years, we’ve seen a lot of anger from Tiger. ESPN loves showing him slamming his driver into the ground and grunting “G-Damnit Tiger!” to himself. Now he is retreating into the dark hole.

We can all empathize with Tiger – each of us is beautifully gifted, and amazingly flawed. Thank heavens our fears and anger don’t get broadcast on ESPN.

Blending The Seven Fs will help

Fear and anger always get in the way of greatness. I wish I could coach Tiger Woods.

Fear and anger always get in the way of greatness. I wish I could coach Tiger Woods.

It seems clear to me that Tiger needs to learn to forgive himself, as if he were his own best friend. Since the messy divorce he hasn’t won a major championship, his reputation has plummeted, and his quest to surpass Jack Nicholas as the best golfer ever has all but vanished.

In golf, as in life, fear and anger get in the way. We cannot perform to our potential unless we learn to love ourselves first. What we concentrate on grows: if we are afraid of disappointment and humiliation, the downward spiral accelerates.

NBC’s Golf Channel Analyst Brandel Chamblee agrees with me: “The reason for Tiger’s fall is his ill-fated mythical quest for perfection.” In other words, he’s never satisfied – he can’t love himself enough to get his edge back.

The only way back to the top

No one benefits by watching Tiger’s mastery melt away. He’s good for the game and the common good. If I were his coach, I’d tell him to forget the gym and his swing coach!  He needs to learn to love himself again, to love golf again and let go of his fear. He needs to let go of the idea that his game is not acceptable for tournament play. I would ask him: How can you find a way to enjoy everything about the game? Including:

·      Shanking the ball into the trees

·      The annoying paparazzi who invade his privacy

·      Chili-dipping chip shots and missing three foot putts

Because enjoying the misery of golf is also part of the breakfast of champions.

Good leaders embrace their challenges with love instead of fear. And they forgive themselves because fear and anger only gets in the way of greatness.

Please share with me: how have you learned to embrace your challenges with love, instead of fear?