I was asked recently about how I thought I was doing in the "tournament of life," a poignant question for a man about to celebrate his fiftieth birthday. I wasn't taken by surprise, because it's a question I have pondered for a long time.
Ultimately what I want to be able to do as I approach the latter stages of my life is to look at all that has happened to me as one eighteen-hole round. The front nine has been devoted to golf. The back nine is reserved for even more focus on my career beyond golf, specifically my family and my business interests.
I'm happy to say it's been pretty good so far. I think I'm making the turn with a respectable three- or four-under-par score. Now I want to see if I can shoot another three- or fourunder on the back and post a nice little sixty-five.
Sure, more major championships would have been great, but I can say unequivocally that they would not have improved my quality of life one bit. As a competitor, hell, yeah, I wanted to win more, but I certainly don't wake up in the morning feeling sorry for myself. It's quite the opposite: I wake up every morning feeling completely fulfilled by what golf has given me and by what I have extracted from the game.
I've always been a big believer in taking adversity and turning it into a strength. The challenge lies in being able to take something from every situation—every lucky bounce and every heartbreaking defeat—learn from it and move forward.
I haven't yet made a definitive decision regarding my golf schedule this year, but I plan to play a mix of PGA Tour, Champions Tour and international events. My calendar will probably be very similar to what it has been the last couple of years—something in the neighborhood of a dozen events, including those in Australia, Europe and Asia.
One thing people have to realize is that even though you may not see me all that much on television—at least not here in the States—I'm still playing. I'll always keep an active international schedule, because I think it's imperative for players to support golf around the world. The game knows no boundaries, and I will always take pride in serving as a global ambassador for the sport that we all love.
I already have some of my favorite events penciled in. I'm going to go to Dubai the first week of March for the Desert Classic, and when I come back I'll probably play some regular Tour events, including the MCI Heritage at Harbour Town and the BellSouth Classic. As for the Champions Tour, I'll probably play the U.S. Senior Open and the Senior British Open, but beyond that I'm not really sure. It depends on a number of variables, particularly on how my back holds up.
Nothing would please me more than to be able to practice hard when I want to, get my game ready, then go out there and play a stretch of four tournaments in six weeks pain-free, get on a roll and develop some psychological momentum.
I'm still a competitor, and I always will be. I love to be out there with the guys, and I miss it when I'm not able, especially when it's for physical reasons. It is extremely frustrating when my body doesn't allow my mind to do what it wants to do.
One of the most important words in my vocabulary is "balance," and finding the right balance between my personal life, golf and my business interests is something I work very hard at. The last few years have really been intriguing in terms of scheduling my time, but I am very fortunate to be in this position.
I arranged my career so that I would have avenues to pursue when I stopped playing golf full-time. I've seen too many athletes wind down their sporting careers and then have nowhere to go. They gravitate to television or something else that is a stopgap. I never wanted that. I wanted to get in a position where I had enough going on around me so I could make the transition from the golf course to the boardroom and still be happy.