Can Buddha Help Your Short Game?

When Tiger Woods finally emerged from his trip through the wilderness of marital infidelity, he vowed to make some life changes. One of them was to reconnect to Buddhism, the religion of his youth.

It's fair to say Buddhism could make him a better person. But here's a scary notion for the rest of the PGA Tour: There's a reasonable chance it could make him a better golfer, too, The Wall Street Journal reported in its Tuesday edition.

A growing number of golfers and golf coaches all over the world are warming up to the idea that the ancient religion, which teaches followers to let go of their egos, attachments and desires in order to attain enlightenment, could be the faith most suited to making somebody a holy terror on the links.

Thanks to the growing ranks of players from Asia, new Asian tour events and a handful of coaches who have been introducing elements of Eastern philosophy to Western players, golfers from a range of religious backgrounds are tinkering with everything from daily meditation and Buddhist breathing techniques to pilgrimages to Buddhist monasteries in Thailand.

The basic idea: to alleviate suffering on the golf course by cultivating inner peace, self-awareness and a sense of responsibility for one's actions. "It puts you in a peaceful plane," Vijay Singh told reporters while visiting a Buddhist abbot in a Thai temple several years ago. "It's pretty rough out there on the PGA Tour."

Adherents include Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee, who ranks 44th in the world and finished tied for ninth place in the weekend's Ballantine's Championship in South Korea, and Y.E. Yang, who became the first Asian to win a major last year when he beat Tiger Woods in the PGA Championship and who was near the top of the leaderboard for much of this month's Masters. Singh, who has earned more money than any golfer on the current Tour except Woods, has befriended Buddhist leaders and appreciates the philosophy, although he says he considers his personal religious beliefs private.

There are nine Asian players on the PGA Tour this year, and 59 on the LPGA circuit, up from a total of five Asians on the two tours 15 years ago. Among Westerners, 12-time LPGA tour winner Cristie Kerr and Tim Petrovic both recently hired Joseph Parent, the author of the book "Zen Golf," to help them incorporate Buddhist techniques into their games, while English golfer Justin Rose rose to sixth in the world in 2007 after spending two years meditating nightly with Buddhist swing coach Nick Bradley.

So what exactly does Buddhism do for golfers? Adherents say it helps them see their mind as an ally instead of an enemy, and helps them see how they may be getting in their own way on the course. (Buddhist golf coaches say a player's ego can be particularly detrimental to a long game.) Kerr says she finds it helpful to be reminded by her Zen instructor that she's controlling the ball rather than the other way around. Discipline is also an important tenet. As Woods told Reuters in a 2008 interview: "It is all about what you do and you get out of it what you put into it."