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Inside the Tiger's mind

GOLF: How hypnosis tapes and psychological techniques helped Woods to become the best player in the world

IF you want the mind of the Tiger, then slip into hypnosis for that is one of the key planks in the emergence of Woods as the best player in the world.

Since Tiger emerged with a roar on the scene just three years ago, he has been truly awesome and his success secrets have gradually been made public.

Of course his dad Earl "made" Tiger a golfer, as virtually from the time he could walk he had a golf club put in his hand and the boy's fate was sealed.

Apart from golf, golf, and more golf, former US Army officer Earl subjected Tiger to various types of hardcore psychological techniques such as shouting at the top of his backswing and dropping a bag of clubs as he was about to putt.

It was all designed to harden Tiger's concentration but now we learn there were two softer techniques employed - hypnosis tapes and overt suggestion.

For example, according to Golf World when Tiger was only six, he listened regularly to a subliminal tape which implanted these affirmations into his subconscious:

"I will my own destiny. I believe in me. I smile at obstacles. I fulfill my resolutions powerfully. My strength is great. My will moves mountains. I focus and give it my all. My decisions are strong. I do it with all my heart."

His father also constantly told Tiger he was the best and also had a clinical psychologist work with the youngster.

It sounds a bit creepy, but hasn't it worked? The boy had a basic talent and his dad spared no effort to make sure he fulfilled his potential.

Of course we've heard before of Seve Ballesteros in his prime using hypnosis tapes and more recently, Irish Seniors Tour pro Dennis O'Sullivan from Cork spoke in these columns of using such tapes as part of his success in winning twice on the Tour recently.

Has hypnosis something to offer the so-called average golfer? Well, if you look up the Internet and type in the words "Mental Golf" you'll find a huge number of sites offering various techniques, books and courses - and most of them involve hypnotic suggestion.

Irish Consultant Hypnotherapist Tony Sadar, based in Dublin, is one of the foremost practitioners in this area. He has proven the strength of his programming many times, including being buried in a coffin for two and a half hours without any breathing apparatus.

Last year, his son Tony, a keen mountaineer, had a similar but unscheduled experience when he was buried alive in an avalanche on an expedition and kept himself alive by using the mind power techniques his dad had taught him until he could be rescued.

Tony Senior has worked with professional and amateur golfers, and in his view, the most effective sports psychologists use hypnosis as a major part of their work.

For all that, there is a sense of stigma about it. How many pro golfers will admit they use hypnosis? Practically none. "That's true," said Sadar. "Tiger Woods is only one of many great pros who have used self-hypnosis. I don't like that term myself because if sounds cultish. I prefer the term 'mental control'.

"Tiger has learned to develop what we call "subconscious feel" in which we have fluency in our thoughts and actions.

"That's usually not the experience of the ordinary golfer. He could be going out to the first tee thinking about what he's going to have at the 19th hole after the round.

"I had one client who would be playing golf on a Monday and he would be wired up about it a week beforehand because he wanted to win so bad. Of course when he got to play that round, he would just frustrate himself because he would be so uptight.

"From the general golfer's point of view they should be relaxing when they are going out to play golf. After all it's meant to be fun, but look at so many of them - you'd think they were going to a prison camp!

"If people really understood the power of the mind, they would be amazed. Golfers are so often influenced by their bad shots and negative experiences on the course. They focus on their weaknesses instead of their strengths, and they keep repeating that habit.

"First comes the thought, then comes the feeling, then comes the action. Then the habit of thinking, the habit of feeling and the habit of action.

"If you think golf is difficult, or a particular aspect such as putting is difficult then it is.

"Suppose you think you're a bad putter. Then you feel tense and negative about the putting, and you hit a bad putt. Keep that habitual cycle going and you cannot become a good putter unless you alter your thinking process and your attitude," adds Sadar.

"I've had plenty of golfers come to me but they wouldn't want to admit it because so often people think it's a sign of weakness to use hypnosis. In fact it's a way of learning mental control and motivation control.

"The professionals can focus and cut out the crowd and their surroundings and concentrate on what they need to do. An ordinary golfer can be put off by a few people watching him or her on the first tee, and by thinking of everything bar what they are setting out to do, which is to make a nice golf swing and put the ball into play.

"The mind works through the muscle and nervous system. Put very simply, think a happy thought and you'll smile; think a sad thought and you'll frown. Every thought or idea has a corresponding physical reaction. Consider the body areas which often produce pain and tension - the neck and the stomach. How often have you said "he is a right pain in the neck" or "it makes me want to throw up" - but who's giving whom the pain? Our own thinking.

"The great thing about humans is that we have the creative opportunity to re-mould our thinking and our experience of life. Woods has used his mind power to be the best he can be, and really that's available to us all," said Sadar.

Golf World quotes PGA golf pro Karl Morris, also a sports pyschologist, as saying that in the last five years his teaching has switched from 90 per cent mechanics and ten per cent psychology to the other way around.

"The results were so impressive. I was getting frustrated seeing people perform so well in practice but badly in competition. With golf there is a big difference between potential and performance, and hypnosis helps people realise their potential.

"Suggestions will only find their way to your unconscious if you are in an altered mental state. Tiger had an advantage using hypnosis so young, because with kids, messages often pass straight into their unconscious."

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