Tiger Freaking Out or Just Recouping?
I’ve been following the Hero Challenge, and in particular, Tiger Wood’s progress, with a different sort of interest this week, and winning or losing has absolutely nothing to do with it. Everyone should know by now that it’s a recovery process, and he’s using this tournament as a starting point. It never ceases to amaze me that writers pick up on the scores as if they tell some profound story, or generate some tragic drama as fodder for those who live on every soap opera moment.
Tiger put in a respectable first round, a not so good second one, and a difficult but well-scored third, after a day of constant vomiting and flu-like symptoms. His mother is ailing as well, so maybe the family has a bad thing going around.
So, all of this feeds into the next wave of Tiger frenzy, and everyone has a theory about it. Today, however, an author floated a theory that I know a little about – stage fright. Pretty much all of us have experienced it, and those who are in public performance jobs face the possibility of it on a regular basis.
On the face of it, the thought of stage fright in connection with the man who was once the scariest name in the field is ludicrous, but when I thought about it a second time, I didn’t toss it away as just nonsense. The reason is that stage fright does not have a regular trajectory, can appear out of chronology, and can be triggered by almost any change in self-perception or a traumatic experience – and boy, has Tiger Woods had some traumatic experiences lately.
How many of us have teed off on the first with a group gathered around? It’s pretty uncomfortable for many of us, isn’t it? That’s daily fare for the tour. They hit every shot with a crowd almost sitting in their pockets. When a pro in any public profession gets stage fright, thought it goes way beyond that.
Stage fright isn’t necesarily something that starts in childhood and evolves. In fact, many children and young adults are straight out of Marvel Comics, invincible and immune to everything – see Lydia Ko. Others have their lives pass before them before every shot. A sudden loss of invincibility can be devastating, a fear of growing old, an injury and the thought of an injury. How interesting that the “injury” seems to be the only thing not bothering Woods. The back is holding up, and the “chip yips” are not the most dangerous shots to the joints, unless he’s swinging away at tree roots and sprinkler heads.
Stage fright can be long-term, or brief. If that’s truly what’s going on, I suspect that it will fade as the game returns. Did anyone expect Tiger to just come out of the chute with three or four consecutive 65s? The last several years would make a thing like that unlikely. Everything’s gone wrong, so we should at least let a few weeks go by before we get preoccupied with Tiger’s projected performance at the next Masters.
Whether you’re serving double faults, playing Chopin or just trying to stay in the fairway with a distance you’re accustomed to, stage fright can strike unexpectedly, and leave the same way. Yes, Tiger Woods has lost his invincibility, and he’s going to have to either reassemble it in some form, or change his goals. He’s right though. He can still compete. I’ll go farther than that – he can still win, and he can still win a lot. He needs to re-calibrate, get accustomed to living without the cape, and compete with flesh and blood competitors, not just his perceived destiny, which has become a myth, and he knows it.