Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters


Personality: Got Some? Tiger Woods versus Graeme McDowell

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

Tiger Woods has the lead going into the final Sunday round of a golf tournement for the first time in what seems to be forever. I am always struck with how awkward Tiger’s post-round interviews are. This was the case before his sex scandal, but it seems particularly acute now. Here is his interview from Saturday after the 3rd round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill:

Contrast Tiger’s interview to the post-round comments of Graeme McDowell, the charismatic 2009 U.S. Open Champion from Northern Ireland.

Tiger is one of the most influential figures in sport. He has transformed golf. Yet, it’s never been about his personality, or lack thereof. I could issue a dissertation on personality theory, but, instead, just watch the difference in these two interviews. One man has “personality” the other does not. Of course, Tiger has a personality; it is just not agreeable. He is not comfortable in the social situation, does not know how to be at ease in the context of public scrutiny.

Watching McDowell, there is the sense that he is just being himself. He speaks without calculation. It’s not the words that differentiate these two men, it is the sense behind the words–the coherence, ease, and spontaneity.

What does this speculative personality comparison have to do with mindfulness? You can think of mindfulness as an invitation to be your self without artifice, calculation, or tension.

Tiger is self-conscious in the public eye. I think he could benefit from taking a mindful breath, pausing, and smiling more. He could benefit from resting into the moment without what I imagine are self-induced pressures to get through the interview–to endure this process that has been imposed upon him. That captures the sense of Tiger’s interview–they are an imposition. He has to do them, but he is often surly. Actually, the sequence above is probably one of the lighter interviews he’s done in a long time (maybe because he hasn’t been in the Sunday lead in a long time).He actually smiles!

It seems that Graeme is just naturally himself and that he enjoys the interview because that is what is happening in this moment and he is giving himself fully to whatever moment is at hand. His smiles are genuine and infectious.

You can also think of mindfulness permission to be in the present moment rather than watching it from outside, self-consciously–just show up and be however you are. This permission can help you to relax into the present moment. When you relax into the present moment, you are more prone to lightness, pleasure, and interest.

I watch these interviews with fascination. I’d like to be more like Graeme than Tiger in social situations. I don’t think that Graeme is utilizing mindfulness practice to be make him more genuine, I think he is just constructed this way–it’s his personality. I will have to work at it to be more Graeme-like because that is not the way I am built. Yet, I know that mindfulness can help me to be more spontaneous, relaxed, and present in social situations.

Good luck today, gentleman. Should be another exciting day on the PGA Tour.



  • http://louellabryant.com Ellie

    It’s an Irish thang.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Lee

    This is a tough one. Tiger and any other player is speaking before millions of people who are parsing every word, and there is a risk that comes with such exposure. What is more intriguing to me is the fact that Tiger, through too heavy exertion to control himself, ended up horribly configured in the public eye. The lesson seems to be that Right Effort is moderate effort. One can only speculate about how focusing almost exclusively on one activity from early childhood leads to imbalances. My martial arts teacher has had similar issues after spending every years of his life since about age 5 in pursuit of excellence at one single art.

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