The two-time major champ, 57, sounds off on his proficiency with a hammer, his aversion for literature and the understated Brit who most reminds him of himself.
What is your secret talent?
My wife and I live in a house that’s 80-odd years old, so there are always things that need to be repaired. Living out in the boondocks where I do, to get a repair person takes a lot of time and also effort—and money. So we often do the repairs ourselves. I’m constantly walking around with WD-40 and duct tape and stuff like that. And I wear an apron with a front pocket, so I’m often known as the Doodler back at home. I like to fiddle and repair and make things work again.
What’s something that you’re terrible at?
Probably reading a book. Shocking, I know.
At what point in your life did you realize you could play golf for a living?
At about 15 or 16. I’d had quite a lot of good results playing in various tournaments as an amateur. So my dad said, “What do you want to do? Do you want to keep doing what you’re doing and turn pro?” And it was a big decision at the time, but, as I said, I wasn’t good at reading books and I wasn’t very good at other things, so golf was the future for me. My old man said, “You go out on that range and keep working at what you’re doing and you’ll see the world.” And he was right.
Do you have any regrets?
I regret fiddling with my swing after winning the Masters in ’88. I lost a lot of the momentum I’d gathered during the mid-’80s. I should have just stuck to what I was doing at the time.
Why did you change it?
I think it was more tiredness than anything else. Too much golf, and I got a little flat on the old confidence. I should have just stayed where I was and maybe taken a few months off. But it was a horrendous time to take off because you had commitments with companies that are sponsoring you and stuff like that. It was hectic.
If you weren’t a professional golfer, what would you be doing?
One of two things: a greens keeper or a pilot. The Royal Air Force had quite a big base close to where I lived, so I would have probably tried that. But I probably would have failed on the business side of it, as far as the bookwork and the maps and things. But skill-wise I would have been all right flying.
Is there anyone on tour today who reminds you of yourself?
Luke Donald. My wife says, “That’s you when you were 20-something years old.” Donald just gets on with it and gets his results. He goes about his business in a very professional way.
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