The defending U.S. Open champion sounds off on his love of fitness, his desire for discipline and his idea of a dream day. Warning: It doesn’t end until the sun comes back up.
If you weren’t a professional golfer, what would you be doing?
I would probably work with people, maybe something to do with the body, maybe physiotherapist.
Well, I enjoy fitness. I enjoy how much you can change your body in so many ways. Obviously if you’re disciplined enough you can try it out yourself, how much you can change certain body parts. I find it amazing what humans can do with their bodies. And sometimes I find it very interesting how things work together. The body is so sensitive and if you put the right things in it, it gives you positive things back. It’s like a computer -- if you put in some bad stuff at the beginning, then there’s bad stuff coming out.
What’s the best advice you ever received?
That golf is a lot about acceptance. I read it a few times, including in a book from Ben Hogan. And then my father told my brother and me at a very early age in some different words, but with the same meaning.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Sometimes I’m too controlled. I barely give myself a break. I’m fairly hard on myself. In golf and in sports in general, I think it works out well if you’re that controlled and really know what you’re doing. But sometimes in real life I would love to relax a little bit more.
Let’s flip it. What do you consider to be your best quality?
Probably the discipline.
Perfect for a golfer, right?
Yeah, when you want to become something or someone, or you want to reach something, you need to be determined. You need to be focused on one goal, and only on your own path. It takes a lot of discipline not to be distracted from other people’s opinions.
What moment in your life did you realize you could make a career as a pro golfer?
I never thought that I would be good enough to make the PGA Tour, to be honest. Actually, the better way to say it would be, I never really thought about if I’m good enough or not. I just did the things I needed to do in order to reach the next step. I didn’t really look long-term. I just wanted to see, O.K., what do I have to do next in order to reach this goal? Then I went very step-by-step, and all of a sudden I won a few tournaments on the minitours in Germany, and I was on the European tour. Then a few months later I was standing on the 1st tee at the Masters. And then I thought it’s not that bad. I’ll just continue what I’m doing. Then I raised the trophy at the PGA Championship [at Whistling Straits in 2010] and I thought, Well, that’s not too bad.
You weren’t dreaming of major titles early on?
The long-term goal is one thing, but for me the part that worked really well was to do things step-by-step and focus on those steps 100%.
What’s your idea of the perfect day?
Probably go for a run in South Beach when the sun comes up, and have a nice breakfast at the W Hotel in Miami. Then play 18 holes in the cart, because I don’t want to walk. Can I beam myself to St. Andrews, play a round of golf there in the cart with some of my friends, maybe as a seven- or eightsome?
Why not? It’s your day.
Then I’ll have a small steak with some salad and some potatoes for lunch. Go for a coffee after that. By 4 p.m. I’ll go to the gym with all my friends. Maybe we do a couple of classes where we can laugh at each other about how bad we are with coordination. Then in the evening we’ll go for some sushi in my hometown, Düsseldorf. And then go out until 6 in the morning.
This turned out to be a big day.
It’s 24 hours. It starts when the sun comes up and I go to bed when it’s six in the morning. We go out late in Germany. In America I think the clubs all close at 2 a.m., but we start at 1 a.m.
This article appeared in the most recent issue of SI Golf+ Digital, our weekly e-magazine. Click here to read this week's issue and sign up for a free subscription.