There will be a million storylines emanating from Tiger Woods’ triumph at the Masters on Sunday at Augusta National Golf Club, but one that caught the eye of most keen-eyed observers was something different going on with Woods during his quest for his fifth green jacket.
While all the tell-tale signs of a 43-year-old Woods going head-to-head with the best players of the new generation were there, something Woods had rarely done in the past resurfaced during the first major championship of the year: he was wearing out a piece of gum for 72 holes.
Just a few weeks after Phil Mickelson made similar headlines for his gum-chomping at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Woods was seemingly on board with whatever benefits the gum provided.
“The chewing aspect stimulates the frontal cortex,” Mickelson told The New York Times last month.
A 2011 study by psychologists at St. Lawrence University showed that chewing gum is associated with improved alertness and the ability to process new information, two aspects of playing golf that can pay obvious dividends.
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So, what scientific benefits was Woods looking to glean from tossing in a fresh piece of gum a few times per round? None, apparently.
“Well, I’m chomping on this gum because I usually get hungry, I keep eating so much, and it curbs my appetite a little bit, which is nice,” Woods said in his champion’s press conference. “Most of the time, most of the issues I have at tournaments, I lose so much weight, as you all know.”
Woods has been known to keep his cards close to the vest when he finds an advantage, and this seems to be no different.
As Geoff Shackelford pointed out for Golfweek.com, “a quibbler might point out that chewing gum should help him lose weight,” which flies in the face of Woods’ reasoning.
According to SwingU Master Faculty member, Dr. Joe Parent, chewing gum can relieve stress.
“Think about what you do under pressure,” Parent said. “You get stressed and tense, you clench your jaw. When you’re chewing gum, you can’t keep your jaw clenched. You’re opening and closing. So releasing that tension could calm you down.”
And while there are scientific studies that show a correlation between chewing gum under pressure and enhanced performance, talking about Jordan Spieth’s gum-chewing exhibition en route to his 2015 Open Championship victory, Parent said the benefits are more the result of the placebo effect.
“It has worked for him because he believes it works,” he said.
Whatever Woods’ reasoning for popping in a stick of gum prior to each round at The Masters, you’ll be sure to see him — and recreational golfers around the world — using it more as the season goes on.