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Podcast No. 73: Dylan Frittelli, PGA Tour Winner & Former NCAA Champion

May 12, 2020

As restrictions on golf courses ease across the country and the PGA Tour prepares for its return a month from now, we’re excited to welcome pro golfer Dylan Frittelli to the WHOOP Podcast.

By Will Ahmed

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Dylan was one of the first WHOOP members to win a PGA event and is coming off a strong rookie season on tour. He shares stories of his upbringing in South Africa and why he chose golf after playing six sports at a high level, as well as teaming up with Jordan Spieth in college and winning a national championship. Dylan also discusses what he’s learned about travel after golfing in every corner of the globe, and how he uses WHOOP to improve his training, sleep and recovery.

Stay healthy and stay in the green when you’re on the green!

Dylan Frittelli Podcast Show Notes:

2:44 – Early Adopter. “I’ve been a big fan of yours for the last couple of years,” Will says. “You were one of the first WHOOP members in PGA golf who won a tournament (the 2019 John Deere Classic).”

3:17 – Lifelong Dream to Play Sports. “Early on it wasn’t really golf that caught my fancy, it was cricket and field hockey and a few other sports that I was interested in, tennis was another one, but I knew professional sport was my thing, for sure. My dad was a good athlete, my mom was a good athlete, and I was surrounded by tons of people that did things well on the sporting spectrum. It was always my goal, I always looked up to athletes on TV, and I always wanted to make a living out of it, no matter what sport it would be in.”

5:12 – Baseball Swings vs Golf Swings. Dylan also played baseball in South Africa, leading Will to ask him if he’d consider taking batting practice at a big league ballpark in the week leading up to a PGA event. “Oh hell yeah. I would do it on a tournament day if I really could. I’m not really phased by [the thought of a baseball swing] messing with my technique.”

8:19 – 2-Time Academic All-American. “I finished with a 3.35 in geography, so it wasn’t anything that intense. I wanted to do engineering or business, something more academically intensive, but I just figured I had to try and balance it a little better. I saw some athletes get bogged down by engineering and business and didn’t have enough time for their sport, so I shied away from something like that.”

9:00 – College Teammate Jordan Spieth. “My senior year was the freshman year for Jordan and we ended up winning a national championship that year. … It was a great year having him on the team and learning from him and training with him. We were pushing each other basically that whole year.”

11:12 – Predicting Spieth’s Success. “You can’t predict the timing of it, but I always knew he would win multiple PGA tour events. Just looking at the standard of his play and knowing his mental makeup, [I knew] he would win PGA tour events and likely win majors, but you never would predict 3 majors before the age of 25. … It’s been amazing to watch his career progress.”

12:04 – A Very Slim Margin at the Top. “In golf, there are obviously really, really small margins. So it’s tough to say one guy is better than the next. Tiger through his career has done amazing things in making that difference really big, but the difference from the 10th-best golfer in the world to the 100th-best golfer in the world is, I’m guessing, 0.25 in a stroke average, so less than a quarter of a shot over a year. It’s so hard to quantify which player is better and how much better.” Will notes that Rory McIlroy made similar comments when he came on the WHOOP Podcast.

14:00 – How Tiger Woods Changed Fitness. “It was inspiring to see what he did and how he set the standard. I remember as a 15, 16-year-old with my mom being a physical education teacher said ‘Okay, let’s get you stronger and let’s get you in the gym.’ I always thought Tiger set the standard for something like that and that’s probably something I wouldn’t have ventured on if it weren’t for Tiger. He’s definitely changed that aspect of the golfing world.”

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14:24 – Competing Against Tiger. “Now all of a sudden I’m in the same arena as him and I have to compete against him. It’s kind of a weird, weird feeling. I remember the first time I met him at the Honda Classic in Florida it was it just like, ‘This is totally surreal.’ I walked up on the 18th hole, he was playing in front of me, and he just introduced himself to me and teed off on the final hole of the tournament. I was like, ‘Wow, that was me meeting Tiger. Cool.’ I ended up beating him by one shot that week. That was a crazy scenario and something I’ve definitely got in the memory banks now.

16:18 – Doubling Down on Golf. “I figured out my junior year [of college] that I was spending too much time on the academics side, so that was sort of a watershed moment for me. I was spending a lot of time in the classroom and studying and not really practicing enough. That senior year was a huge switch for me.”

18:38 – Mental Skills. Dylan details his work with Tiger Woods’ mental skills coach and how he uses guided meditation to help him succeed. “I always find a correlation between doing [guided meditation] and my performance.”

22:08 – The Bright Lights. Dylan discusses the difference between a regular round of golf on tour and the experience at a major tournament and how it alters his preparation. “My trainer mentioned it to me last year … ‘Just think about it, everything’s on, you’re stressed, everything’s heightened, and it’s constantly that way. Every bit of work you’re doing is amplified over that time.’ At the Open last year after I won the John Deere [I told him] ‘You’re right, this week has been way more stringent, way more stressful than any other week.”

24:17 – A Humbling Game. “I came out of college thinking, ‘Okay, here we go, I’m a great golfer, I’m top-10 in the world amateur rankings, I’m going to crush this. I know what I’m doing, I’ve got all this time to play golf now, this is going to be easy.’ A year-and-a-half later, I was in a huge slump. … I figured out there’s a whole lot more than just practicing and playing golf.”

26:37 – Travel Tips & Meal Timing. “The best thing for me is actually not eating on the flight and not eating during travel. In Europe, I got into it, and then I signed up with the doctor [in the U.S.] and he mentioned there’s actually a biological thing to that. The timing of meals is a crucial indicator in your body knowing when to sleep. If you go on that breakfast, lunch, dinner cycle, your body thinks sleep is coming next. … You get to your destination so you start the clock again, so your next mealtime, whether it’s lunch or dinner, you go back into that mealtime structure and you get rid of the jet lag quicker.”

29:20 – Pre-Tournament Arrival. “Some guys, like for the Masters, they get there the Wednesday before the week and they have a whole 7 days before the tournament. Something like that for me is almost crazy. I couldn’t handle staying in that city for that long and preparing with that intensity. … I’m used to a 3-day prep time.”

31:14 – Tournament Week Workouts. “The weekly structure would be Monday-Wednesday-Friday for a workout, ideally. Monday is typically more on the metabolic side … the Wednesday lift will likely tailor more towards power. I don’t want to have too much strength because then there will be a whole bunch of [delayed onset muscle soreness] the day after, Thursday, which is our competition day. Sometimes the Friday workout has to get pushed to a Saturday if we have a Thursday morning tee time and a Friday afternoon tee time, I can’t do the workout Friday morning before our round. It typically is tailored towards the tee times and trying to get away from them so I have the most time to recover. I’ve done upwards of 5 sets of 8 reps strength phase during a tournament at 75-80%. I’m never going to be pushed to 100%, but my trainer has all those numbers on file so he can go back and see what I can handle.”

32:14 – First PGA Tour Victory. “I was 3 or 4 shots back [entering the final round of the 2019 John Deere Classic], so there were actually very little nerves to deal with, which helped I guess. I didn’t have to deal with [the pressure] until the back 9.”

33:44 – Not Watching Leaderboard. “I typically don’t watch scores, just in general, whether I’m playing well or playing poorly, I don’t look up and I don’t check the leaderboards. Often I’ll see guys in the locker room and be like, ‘Hey, how’s it going dude? How are you playing?’ and he’ll say, ‘Dude, I’m leading the tournament. What do you mean?’ I’ll say, ‘Oh, sorry, I don’t really check that stuff. But congrats, keep it up…’ I’m not sitting there scanning down the leaderboard. … I’ll know generally what a good score is on that day and try to aim for that. I’m not going to get bogged down with that. You can get so outside yourself.”

34:50 – “We.” Will notes that Dylan uses the term “we” when talking about his career, something many golfers do despite it being an individual sport. “I have a physio, a trainer, a mental coach, a swing coach, and a doctor. It’s crucial to have all those aspects with professionals in their own right in those spectrums. I like to think that I can read a lot and listen to a lot of podcasts and gain the info, but unless I have a PhD or something I probably don’t know half or a quarter as much as someone who does that full-time.”

36:10 – Getting on WHOOP. “My trainer gave me this little thing in a box and I said, ‘What the heck is that?’ He said, ‘Just open it up, I’ll explain it as you open it up.’ After the first week, I was pretty much hooked on it.”

36:30 – Using WHOOP. “In the beginning, I was using it a lot to do with recovery and looking at it consistently … I shifted more to looking at the sleep. I’ve focused on the sleep the last 8-10 months. I actually had a sleep study. They put all the electrodes on me everywhere, and we compared [the WHOOP] readings to what that sleep study gave, and they were almost identical in the different stages and how they mapped out. It was a good benefit to me to know that it was accurate.

37:10 – WHOOP for Practice. “The other thing I use [WHOOP] for is tracking my hours. I log all of my chipping, putting, pitching, full swing, all those different aspects in a spreadsheet. … I use [WHOOP] to give me the exact time duration that I was playing golf. Previously I’d just guess it. … Same for training, same for recovery, all that stuff gets tracked.”

37:58 – Looking at WHOOP Before Performing. Will and Dylan talk about how athletes use WHOOP differently on the days they play. Dylan says he never looks at his sleep and recovery data before playing a round, whereas Rory McIlroy does the opposite and always looks at his WHOOP data before his round. “That whole phenomenon of ‘Do I want to know my recovery before a big athlete event?’ varies a lot with different athletes,” Will notes.

41:45 – Optimizing Your Performance. “If my job needs me to be at a certain level, why don’t I change my lifestyle? That’s the way I look at it in terms of sleep and [recovery] score. … There are little things that you can improve and use the tools that WHOOP offers to do that.”

42:10 – WHOOP Journal. Dylan shares what he’s tracking in the WHOOP Journal: Magnesium, travel, and sleeping in different beds.

44:15 – Small Steps. “I’m mainly focused on short-term and medium-term goals. I don’t want to say, ‘I want to win a major or I want to make the Presidents Cup team.’ Something like that doesn’t really give me much fire. I figure as long as I do my homework and do everything diligently, the final product is going to end up being a top-50 ranking or a Presidents Cup team member or winning a major. … You can have that goal and pin it on the mirror in your bathroom, but I just don’t see the value in that. Some people gain from it, but I certainly don’t.”

49:15 – Golf’s Return from COVID-19. “I’m excited to get out there. I think golf is uniquely positioned. We can possibly get out there sooner than other sports, contact sports and sports with huge crowds are obviously tricky to govern, but we can definitely put out a product with limited interaction.”

50:10 – Taking Advantage of the Time Off. “I literally didn’t touch a club for 5 weeks [after the PGA Tour suspended play]. I got away, cleared my head. This is probably the only opportunity I’ll have as a pro to take that much time off, so I clutched it with two hands and said ‘Okay, here we go.’ No golf, just training, working out, clearing my mind. It feels great to be back.”

Check out Dylan on Instagram @Frittellivision and Twitter @Dylan_Frittelli

52:17 – Q&A. Will answers your questions in this week’s mailbag.

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Will Ahmed

Will Ahmed is the Founder and CEO of WHOOP, which has developed next generation wearable technology for optimizing human performance and health. WHOOP members include professional athletes, Fortune 500 CEOs, fitness enthusiasts, military personnel, frontline workers and a broad range of people looking to improve their performance. WHOOP has raised more than $400 million from top investors and is valued at $3.6 billion, making it the most valuable standalone wearables company in the world. Ahmed has recruited an active advisory board that consists of some of the world’s most notable cardiologists, technologists, marketers, and designers. Ahmed was recently named to the 2021 Sports Business Journal 40 under 40 list as well as 2020 Fortune 40 Under 40 Healthcare list and previously named to Forbes 30 Under 30 and Boston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40. Ahmed founded WHOOP as a student at Harvard, where he captained the Men’s Varsity Squash Team and graduated with an A.B. in government.