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Peace & Par: You Paid the Green Fees, Why not Enjoy the Round?

By: Billy Bondaruk


"The biggest strength of Tiger Woods you can't see. It's his mind." - Butch Harmon

Tiger Woods and Bob May went toe-to-toe in a classic battle in the 2000 PGA Championship at Valhalla Country Club. The event was one of the most-watched golf tournaments in television history. It's also sure to go down as one of the most thrilling final rounds of a major championship ever, one that featured two clutch birdie putts on the 18th hole of regulation and a stunning three-hole playoff.

On the 72nd hole, both May and Woods nearly reached the green on the par-5 in two. May putted first, from about 80 feet up a ridge. He judged the speed badly, and the ball rolled just off the green into the first cut of fringe about 15 feet above the hole.

Woods had the advantage, but also faced a difficult putt that he would have to hit up a big hill, then have it break left and stop quickly. Tiger managed to get his attempt to 6 feet of the hole. May stepped up and rolled his 15-foot snake into the hole. Tiger needed to make his testy putt to stay alive and force a playoff. He stepped up and drilled it.

The image of Woods pumping his fist and screaming in excitement said volumes about how much he wanted that putt. Tiger won the three-hole playoff. The interview immediately following Tiger's victory on CBS Sports gave a clue into how Tiger watches his thoughts:

Bill Macatee: "What was going through your mind when you saw him make the putt here at 18, on the 72nd hole?"

Woods: "Well, you have to expect that. I mean he's made everything the whole day, and we've had one heck of a battle on the back nine, it doesn't get any better than that. And you know after he hit a bad first putt you just knew he was going to bury that second one. I just stayed in the present. I just tried to bury mine, and I just knew it was going to be for a half."

What did Tiger mean by "stayed in the present?" Tiger implies there is something wrong about the other two possibilities, the past and the future. Where was his mind when the PGA Championship was on the line?

One thing for sure is that he wasn't having thoughts such as: "There's no way this guy May will make his putt. The worst that could happen is I will miss mine and tie." (future)

"Why didn't I play better the other 17 holes?"(past)

"Why didn't I put my approach putt closer?" (past)

"I have to make this putt or I am going to lose a major." (future)

"This is going to crush me if I miss this putt." (future)

We have all been standing over a 6-footer to win a $2 Nassau. The emotion we feel is tied to the thoughts we have, such as:

"I hope I don't come up short." Or, "Why does this putter feel like a violin?"

The mind loves the past and the future. How do you get and stay in the "now"?

My book is all about exploring the "now" in golf. Woods is the most dominant player in the game. We all use with the same clubs, putters, shoes and balls as the "big boys." We aspire to have their swings, and read articles written by professional instructors in magazines and observe with rapt attention every thing said about them on the Golf Channel

There's nothing new about the relationship between the mind and golf. Arnold Palmer's dad said that "90 percent of golf is played above the shoulders." Bobby Jones opined that "Golf is a game of psychology. It is played in the 4-inch course between the ears."

Although there are tons of books written by people who analyze the mind of the golfer, Einstein may have crammed all the mental-golf tomes on the same shelf with the thought: "The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them."

There is a source for the thoughts and that source resides in all of us. Perhaps it is Tiger's ability to disengage from his mind, to get to a place within himself that watches his mind generate thoughts.

Eckhart Tolle says in his "The Power of Now" book, "The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive. To put it more accurately, it is not so much that you use your mind wrongly - you usually don't use it at all. It uses you. This is the disease. You believe that you are your mind. This is the delusion. The instrument has taken you over."

Tolle reminds us that the beginning of freedom is the understanding you are not the thinker. The moment you start watching the thinker you begin to understand there is a gigantic dimension of savvy and smarts beyond thought. You also realize that all the stuff that really matters -the beauty of the course, your love of golf, the creativity of a knock-down 7-iron, the joy of watching your friend smile and the inner peace of being in bliss no matter what the heck happens during a round - arises from beyond the mind in a space between the breaths called the Now.

The truth is we are doing the best we can. I know that sounds weird because after some outburst of F-bombs the mind fills with guilt and we think, "I shouldn't have done that," or "I can do better."

Yep, there is the past and the future. Right now, in this moment, you are doing the best you can. If you want to learn from a perceived mistake, that's a bonus. You might as well be kind to yourself because right now your energy is. The key is to watch your emotions. By taking a good look at our emotions or, rather feel it in your body, you will really get to know your mind. There are all kinds of surface thoughts and unconscious stuff rattling around in there. You may not be able to bring the unconscious mind into awareness as thoughts, but the body will always reflect the emotion.

Watching an emotion is the same as observing a thought. You feel the emotion in some part of the body and are forced to allow it to be there. But don't get hung up on it being there. Just watch it and you'll become the watcher, not the emotion.

Your character can be more than just "happy" or "sad." Only you know your emotion at any particular time during a round of golf. Get in the habit of watching the emotions from the place of Being.

According to Tolle, "The mind can't find the solution because it is part of the problem. The mind is then toppled from its place of power and Being reveals itself as your true nature." Tolle also writes that emotions usually represent an energized thought pattern and, because it is charged with so much energy it is not easy at first to stay present enough to be able to watch it. The emotion just flat out takes you hostage. The emotion is you.

Doubt is a great emotion in golf. In a flash we can go from confident to doubtful. One bad swing and we do a 180-degree turn, with doubt and fear immediately entering your entire body. We think in pictures and the mind is holding onto the dreaded-shot picture. This thought pattern creates a magnified reflection of itself in the form of an emotion, like fear or doubt, and the vibration of the emotion keeps feeding the original thought. By dwelling mentally on the shot, which is the perceived cause of the fear, the thought feeds energy to the fear, which in turn materializes in the shot you don't want to hit.

Tolle says just like the dreamer doesn't know he is dreaming, we are so identified with these thoughts we can't stand back and see it. Here are a few golf thoughts that feed the background feeling of discontent or resentment.

"I am a bogie golfer"

"I just spent $450 on a driver with a sweet spot the size of my hand and I still crank it into the trees."

"This course sucks, I never score here."

"I am never going to play golf again."

Try these instead:

I love saying, "You are perfect who you are" to people because their initial reaction is, "I am anything but perfect." That, of course, is the ego-mind giving you a kick to the groin so you will stay in the pain.

Byron Katie Rolle once said, "We are all doing the best we can." Say, that to someone and they'll immediately respond, "Oh, I could do better." Yeah, well "do better" is in the future.

The key to understanding this concept is grasping the present. Right now, you are doing the best you can. Right now, in this moment, you are perfect at what you are. How do you know that? You are. So, when you take out your 8-iron, hit it on the screws and drop it into a pond in front of the green and realize you should have hit the 7-iron, the mind is going to say, "What the hell is wrong with me?"

There is never a time when you are not in this moment. Take a look around and you'll see that clearly.

Good times in golf are also connected to time. You are having the best round of your life. You are 1-over par walking up to the ninth tee. The mind isn't happy with this. It begins a cacophony of where you are going to be in the future. "If I par this hole, I will have a 36. I could score a 72 the way I am playing." How many times has that happened and the dreaded bogeys start coming?

So how do you stop the mind from creating time? Realize deeply that the present moment is all you'll ever have. Become like the trees, the grass and the squirrels around you.

The reality in golf is that sometimes the present moment sucks. Phil Mickelson's inexplicable and untimely collapse on the 72nd hole of the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot comes to mind.

You may think I am telling you something here or trying to talk you into something. The truth is I am merely talking to myself. Thank you for being a golfer, for being who you are, and for giving me the opportunity to talk to me through you.

Bill Bondaruk is a PGA Class A member and the director of instruction at Catta Verdera Country Club in Lincoln, Calif. He was named the 2006 Northern California Teacher of the Year. Billy learned the principals of golf by such legendary luminaries as Eddie Merrins, Jerry Barber, Paul Runyan, Mike Austin, Ben Doyle, Mac O'Grady, Jim McLean, Mike Labauve, Scott Sackett and his father.

Bondaruk started playing golf and caddying at age 7 at Franklin Park Golf Course in Boston. He played for the University of Massachusetts golf team while pursuing studies in Biomechanics. He took his game to the upper levels at age 24. He's played in over 100 tournaments on various mini tours, including the Hogan Tour in 1990. He was a Benson & Hedges Tour member in Mexico 1992-93, and was a second stage qualifier for the PGA Tour in 1995.

His playing highlights: two-time winner on the NGA Tour, 1985 Arizona; two-time winner on the Sun Belt Tour 1989, Phoenix; winner of the North Atlantic Tour 1991, Massachusetts; winner of the Northern California Section Apprentice Championship 1995; runner-up in the Western States Apprentice Championship 1993, Palm Desert Calif., and Mass State Open in 1996.

After traveling on the mini tours, Bill began teaching at a few world-renowned golf schools such as John Jacobs, Jim McLean, and Scott Sackett's Resort Golf.

He came to Catta Verdera by way of Tucson, where he was the Director of Instruction at Arizona National, Canoa Hills, San Ignacio Golf Club and worked as an instructor for the University of Arizona men's and women's golf teams. Among the Tour pros, sports celebrities and collegiate stars he's worked with are Glen Day, Lorena Ochoa, Natalie Gulbis, Ricky Barnes and Scott McCarran.

Billy's book, "The 7 Myths of Golf," is a video-enhanced web-based learning system, complete with e-lesson capability. The "The 7 Myths of Golf" (visit http://www.7mythsofgolf.com) has grown in popularity as it features videos of Tour pros. He is currently a feature writer for PGA.com's "Improve your Game" section and writes for the Press Tribune of Lincoln, Roseville and Grant Bay.

With his background in Biomechanics, Bill is leading the way on how best to teach and learn golf. Above all, he promises to bring joy and enthusiasm to your game.