Tiger swaps spikes for army boots

ORLANDO (Florida): Tiger Woods sometimes adds green to his wardrobe in April, but that usually means a jacket from Augusta National – not fatigues from Fort Bragg. 

The day after the US Masters, the world's No. 1 golfer will swap his spikes for Army boots. 

HEADS ABOVE: Tiger Woods is renowned for his mental toughness but he wants to experience more physical challenges when he spends a week in military training in Fort Bragg next month.

Instead of retreating to his lavish home in Isleworth, Woods will stay in the barracks at Army Special Forces headquarters and spend a week in military training. 

“If I was never introduced to golf, I would be doing something like that,” Tiger said. “Hopefully, something in the Special Ops arena. It's the physical and mental challenge of it all. We'll see what happens.” 

No one is more curious than his father, an ex-Green Beret who trained at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, during the Vietnam War, and then taught his son to take no prisoners on the golf course. 

“He's a very independent individual, and he plays an individual sport,” Earl Woods told The Associated Press. “Quite frankly, he's not in the business of people telling him what to do. This will be a broadening experience for him.” 

This is clearly a case where father knows best. 

Earl first trained at Fort Bragg in 1963 following a tour in Vietnam, and he was assigned to a Special Forces unit at Fort Bragg before leaving for another tour in 1970. 

He did not remember the years he was there, only the schedule he had to keep. 

He was up at 5.30am for inspection, where a single thread out of place on the uniform meant push-ups. That was followed by physical training, including a run in boots he had spent the night spit-shining for inspection. Then it was time to change clothes, work all day until dinner at 7.30pm, and start over in the morning. 

“He'll learn a lot more respect. He'll learn a little bit about dedication,” Earl said. “And he'll learn an awful lot about himself, and how he can handle it. He'll come out a lot stronger than he went in.” 

Why would the world's best golfer, who earns close to US$90mil a year, sign up for this working vacation? 

Earl only wonders what took him so long. 

“He probably wants, in the recesses of his mind, to walk the steps I walked,” the father said. “He was always inquisitive about the training I put him through, the mental-toughness training. He wanted to know where that came from. I equated it to experiences I've had in the military, especially in Special Ops. 

“Now, he wants to experience it.” 

Tiger is to arrive at Fort Bragg on April 12, spend four days of training and conclude his week by conducting a junior golf clinic for families at Fort Bragg. 

Soldiers will train him in weapons and military tactics before sending him on a mission as part of a Special Forces team, Bragg spokesman Lt Col Billy Buckner said. Also in the works is a lesson in skydiving and a tandem jump with the Army's parachute team. 

“I don't think they're going to put me through the ringer as what they would do,” Tiger said. “But hopefully, it will be close.” 

Besides being the most physically fit among golfers, Tiger’s mental strength is what separates him from the others. 

He has a knack for playing his best under severe pressure, such as winning the Masters in 2001 for an unprecedented fourth consecutive Major. His record is 30-2 when he leads going into the final round. 

But this mental toughness did not come from any boot camp. 

Earl never put his son through sleep deprivation. He did not scream 5cm from his face. He did not make his son take long runs before going to kindergarten. 

The training came in the form of gamesmanship. 

“I tried to break him down mentally,” Earl said. “I tried to intimidate him verbally.” 

Even as Tiger was collecting junior golf trophies, his father routinely laughed at his mistakes. 

During casual rounds, when Tiger was at the top of his swing, his father would toss a half-dozen balls at his feet, jangle coins in his pocket or call out to him, “Water on the right. OB on the left.” 

“He would stop and look at me with the most evil look, but he wasn't permitted to say anything,” Earl said. “He always had an escape word if it got to be too much, but he never used it. 

“One day, I did all my tricks, and Tiger looked at me and smiled. At the end of the round, I made him a promise. I said, “Tiger, you'll never run into another person as mentally tough as you.' 

“He hasn't, and he won't.” 

Despite his mental fortitude, and his overwhelming success in golf, Tiger knows where to draw the line. 

He's a golfer, not a soldier. 

“There's no physical challenge in golf,” he said.  

“We walk around for 4½ hours. That's not tough. Their mental toughness is what I would equate to how I used to train in cross-country, because it's more physical.  

“These guys run miles upon miles carrying a 40-pound sack and two quarts of water and flannel and rifles. That's tough.” 

Earl doesn't travel with his son as much as he used to, although he will be at the Masters and accompany his son to Fort Bragg. 

“But I will not be with him during his training exercises,” the father said. “I've been through them. I don't need to learn anything else. But I'll have plenty to talk to him about when he finishes.” – AP 

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