Tiger Woods Shares How He Finally Overcame His Childhood Stutter: ‘I Would Talk to My Dog’

For more than a decade, Tiger Woods was considered the best golfer in the world. But he didn’t achieve the status overnight. It took him a lifetime of hard work and determination to even make the PGA Tour, let alone become so great.

Woods faced numerous obstacles along the way. Most of them were golf-related, but he also had to overcome personal difficulties dating back to his childhood. One of those hurdles was a stuttering problem that he had when he was young. Here’s how Woods overcame it.

Tiger Woods’ childhood stuttering

Woods has been open about his childhood stuttering, talking about it in interviews. While talking to 60 Minutes, Woods described it as words getting “lost … somewhere between the brain and the mouth.” He said he worked his tail off to overcome the stuttering. It basically came down to practicing. He recalls taking a class for two years to help him with his stuttering, but in a more obscure way of working on the problem, Woods says he “would talk to [his] dog and he would sit there and listen until he fell asleep.” That challenge became a motivating factor for Woods that pushed him to work harder to achieve his goals — including on the golf course.

Woods writes a letter to a young fan

As a role model who’s been in the spotlight so long, Woods considers it his duty to help others overcome similar problems. That is evident by a story, reported by Golf Digest in 2015, about Woods helping a bullied boy.

Sophie Gustafson is a professional golfer who stutters. She texted Woods the story of teenager Dillon, who was driven to attempting suicide because classmates taunted and bullied him because of his stuttering.

When Woods learned of Dillon, he quickly sent the teen a letter explaining that he used to stutter. Dillon said he planned to frame the letter. Gustafson called it “real class” that Woods got the letter out to Dillon as quickly as he did; she also said Dillon was “ecstatic” to receive the letter from Woods, who wanted to show Dillon he could overcome stuttering.

Other athletes who stuttered

Woods’ story of stuttering may be the most famous among athletes, but he’s not the only pro to have dealt with it. Some other athletes who have dealt with stuttering include:

Bill Walton

Bill Walton had a successful basketball career in both the college ranks and the NBA. And he used the fundamentals of the game and translated those to speaking to help with his stuttering. It worked so well that he has enjoyed a lengthy broadcasting career since his playing days ended.

Ken Venturi

Another professional golfer who dealt with stuttering, Venturi says he has “had to work through the years to overcome stuttering and to speak more easily and fluently.” He compares smoothly moving through speech to having a smooth golf swing.

George Springer

Astros star George Springer still struggles with stuttering. But this doesn’t stop the 2017 World Series MVP from conducting interviews with the media. He even wore a mic during Fox’s live broadcast of the 2019 MLB All-Star Game and spoke with broadcasters Joe Buck and John Smoltz while he played.

Springer’s intention was to help others who stutter. He says he had a “fairly severe stutter” when growing up and underwent years of speech therapy to help manage it.