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Tiger Woods Losing Sleep and Mental Focus

Tiger Woods at WGC championship, Doral, Miami, 2007Golf pro, Tiger Woods, has revealed that he’s been having trouble sleeping lately and most of us can relate. When stress and emotional turmoil take residence in our bodies, one of the first things that we sacrifice is sleep. That’s not to say it’s a choice or intentional (although, some of our behaviors during those times can certainly be seen as counterproductive) but nights of tossing and turning are not uncommon. They can, however, be terribly disruptive to our lives.

Sad Anniversary
Woods was very close to his father, Earl Woods, who died on May 3, 2006. The talented man served two tours of duty in Vietnam as a US Army infantry officer and retired as a lieutenant colonel. He also played college-level baseball and went on to introduce Tiger to golf at a very young age. When it was clear that his son possessed exceptional skill, he coached him exclusively at the beginning of his career.

After being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1998, Woods fought valiantly for years until, sadly, he succumbed to a heart attack in his California home in 2006. He was 74-years-old. Losing this constant presence in his life seemed very difficult for Tiger and it is no surprise that, nine years later, he still loses sleep around this time of year.

Brutal Breakup
The circumstances leading up to the sudden breakup of Tiger Woods and professional skiier, Lindsey Vonn, this past weekend haven’t been made known other than a statement claiming that a busy schedule brought their three-year relationship to an end. If that’s the case, the timing seems a little odd and cruel. Why would Vonn feel compelled to make an announcement about their split on a day when Tiger was mourning the anniversary of his father’s death?

Indeed, the breakup seemed to take Woods a little off-guard. On Tuesday, he told the press: “It obviously does affect me. It is tough. I’m not going to lie about that. And on top of that, this time of year is really, really hard on me. This three day window is really hard. I haven’t slept. These three days, May 3-5, it’s just brutal on me. And then what happened on Sunday just adds to it.”

Life in the Spotlight

A reporter asked him if, over the years, it has “gotten easier or harder” for Woods to handle off-the-course distractions. He replied: “That’s kind of always how it’s been. I’ve always had to deal with circumstances on both, deal with stuff outside the ropes, and once you’re inside the ropes, it’s time to tee it up and time to play. You go out there, and for me I focus, I get into my little world, my little zone and do the best I possibly can … grind it out and win golf tournaments. Because at the end, to me that’s what I want to do at that particular week is win a tournament.’’

Mental Edge Gone?

In the past, much was made of Tiger’s mental toughness. He could easily recover from a bad shot or deliver in high pressure situations in a way that left people stunned. He once explained that he used relaxing breathing techniques and power colors (his red shirts on the last round, for example) to improve his confidence and focus. Nowadays, he doesn’t seem to be able to get his head in the game no matter how hard he tries.

In 2009, while married to Elin Nordegren, his infidelity became known to the public. After the initial story broke, many women came forward and confessed to being involved in a sexual relationship with Woods. In the years that have followed, he and Nordegren divorced, he became plagued by injuries and his performance on the golf course has never been the same. It’s entirely possible that these changes are simply the result of growing older but it’s also possible that his public humbling shook some of his self-confidence.

One writer, who has covered Woods’ career, believes that the scandal is definitely responsible for the decline in the golfer’s skill level and mental toughness. Jaime Diaz wrote: “The line of demarcation is clear, because as a golfer, Woods has not been himself since. I believe it’s fair to posit that the trauma of being publicly shamed changed him. Before, he possessed the right makeup for a dominating champion. Ever since, he hasn’t… The way to overcome it is to get away and really look at your life in a holistic way.”

Even Woods’ former college roommate and Golf Channel analyst, Notah Begay III, said that his friend lives under “an avalanche of doubt and self-guessing.” He attributes this, however, to Woods’ injuries and not with his personal issues. Echoing Diaz’s statement he added: “If he were to take three to six, nine months off and come back at the age of 40 he could still have three to five really good years left in him.”

It can be discouraging to feel lost or out of control but the best thing someone can do is take a step back, assess the problem and create a plan for improving the situation. Hopefully, Woods will find some way to get his life and professional career back on track sooner than later.

Tiger Woods Losing Sleep and Mental Focus

Jeanne Croteau

Jeanne has been a celebrity blogger for eight years and also teaches psychology at the college level. In addition to her passion for mental health, she is an avid reader, hockey fan and mother of four.

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APA Reference
Croteau, J. (2019). Tiger Woods Losing Sleep and Mental Focus. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 9, 2020, from


Last updated: 23 Mar 2019
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