Here is a man who was the reigning undisputed world number 1, the top ranked player of his sport for a record 683 weeks, one of the highest paid athletes in the world.
Known to be a sure winner with a killer instinct, winning a total of 139 tournaments in a period of about 2 decades. Considered to be one of the greatest of all time and credited with changing the way Golf was seen across the world, single-handedly raising the popularity, viewership, sponsorship & prize-money of the sport.
He’s the man who has been named the most dominant athlete of the last 20 years by ESPN. This is despite not playing much the last 4 years and being well below his best the 6 years before that. So he has been voted based on the dominance of just 10 years. Goes to show just how dominant he was.
Yes, I’m talking about Tiger Woods! This man’s meteoric rise to the pinnacle of his sport is stuff of legend.
However, the phrase, “The higher they rise, the harder they fall” seemed to have been made for him. He fell and he fell hard!
He was knocked off his pedestal when faced with scandals that exposed his marital infidelity, it shattered his image in front of his fans but more importantly it affected his confidence and Self-esteem.
It changed the self-assured, confident and often arrogant way he strutted and walked down the fairways. Where people once only spoke of his success and supreme skill on the golf course, today the world was sitting and passing judgement on how he conducted his life and identifying many of his other character flaws.
A large part of what made him successful and the most feared golfer was not only his game, but also, the persona that was ‘Tiger’ Woods!
In his own words, he says that what motivated him, was to Win and defeat people. Looking them in the eye and seeing who would break.
Now suddenly people saw him as fallible, human like everyone else, a man with weaknesses, a man who had broken and man who they could now hope to break.
With a destruction of this persona also came the downward spiral of his game, you could see he was no longer the same predator who had once won the Masters with a 12 stroke margin and won the US Open with an injured knee. He was no longer the “Tiger” who stalked the fairways, he no longer invoked fear in the hearts of all those who dared encroach his territory (the fairways). While he did come back and win a few tournaments he wasn’t at his best. He was unable to win a major and no longer invoked fear in all those who played around him.
If that wasn’t enough, he then went through multiple injuries and back surgeries between various attempts to get back into the game. 4 years of struggling with mediocre performances, failures to make the cut, back pain and withdrawing from tournaments due to his injury.
In his attempts to come back, people saw him as a broken man, both physically and mentally, whose career was now over. Many a pundit had questioned his ability to ever come back into the game, especially to be able to compete and be “Tiger” Wood
s again. While people still hoped that he would be back for the good of the game, not many believed that he would or more importantly ‘could’.
There were people talking about how Tiger could no longer get out of bed on his own and needed help walking, with all that pain and suffering it was impossible for anyone to come back.
After all, he was over 40 and had achieved mostly everything. What could motivate him strongly enough to face the many obstacles needed to return to his “True self” at the top echelons of the golfing world. Many felt it was IMPOSSIBLE!
Now this is where most people never understood what made “Tiger” the ultimate predator on the course. It wasn’t just his skill or his persona, it was the underlying person that he is:
A person who doesn’t know how to give up
A man who would hate to be known for giving up without a fight and not giving it everything he’s got
A man who wants to be in complete control of his life
A man who would want to exit on his own terms
A man who could never accept fading out of the memory of people, distraught & broken.
He needs to go out as a fighter, a WINNER!
A man, in whose dictionary the word impossible had been erased years ago as a child growing up.
Thus, after 4 back surgeries and the last one in April 2017 where he had the vertebrae fused he made another attempt to return to the top echelons of golf. On hearing of another attempt to return, people were once again hopeful. Everyone wanted to see the ultimate predator back in action, but as I said, not many believed.
While people talk about how he was nurtured by his parents to not think of others and lack much emotional understanding & sensitivity….it is an undoubted fact that he was either born with or nurtured with character traits that made him the most dominant golfer in history and the most dominant sportsman of the last 2 decades.
In my opinion the traits that have driven to success over the years and still do are:
Passion- is generally defined as an intense desire or enthusiasm for something.
His passion for the game is visible from the fact that despite achieving all there is in this game he still loves it and wants to play it better and for longer.
His desire to always get better and better at a game which he has dominated for about 20 years is seen through his numerous swing changes. While most golfers never change their swing drastically and many who did have lost their ability to compete, Tiger has gone through around 5 drastic swing changes.
The best example is his 1st Swing change in 1997 straight after winning the ‘The Masters’ by a record breaking 12 stroke margin. Most people would have been ecstatic and not thought further, however, Tiger sat looking at his videos of the tournament and realised if he needs to win consistently he will have to change his swing to NOT rely only on his timing, but technique and thus making his game more consistent. His change process took about 2 years and in the process he won many more titles and the US Open by a 15 stroke margin. He said that a typical workout day started at 6:30am and extended for over 12 hours with 3 Workouts, 2 Range sessions, 2 putting practice sessions, 1 short game session, 1 Nine hole practice round- ending round 7pm. Doing this day after day, week after week and month after month shows an immense Passion to Excel and get better.
The 2nd swing change came when he was World No 1 in 2004. People questioned his need to overhaul his swing when he was winning consistently with the current one. While Tiger never really explained his reasons, he did hint that if he needed to sustain playing for a longer time and manage injuries that came through his high power game he will need to rebuild his swing.
The 3rd swing change came again as World No 1 in 2010. He had improved his winning percentage after the last change.
The 4th change happened around 2015 when he hadn’t won a Major in quite a while and his overall win percentage had dropped. He was trying to change his swing to handle all the various injuries
The 5th change is now coming into effect to handle the spine fusion surgery.
All the changes were to achieve more and more perfection and to sustain his ability to play for more years.
Achievement drive- As per Tiger “Satisfaction is the enemy of success”.
It is well documented that Tiger Wood’s golfing mind needs constant stimulation and he is engaged only when there is something to work on, always in search of the next mountain to climb.
His immense drive to achieve more and more in this game has enabled him to break innumerable records. He holds the records for winning by the largest Margins in the Masters and the US Open.
The exhaustive list that includes 17 Guinness records and an endless list of achievements can be seen here Tiger Woods Career Achievements
From the list you’ll realise that a man so used to winning and achieving successes, just can’t sit down at home, away from the cheering crowds and adrenaline rush.
Most importantly, his injuries and surgeries gave him “Another Mountain to Climb”
Grit- Is defined by Angela Duckworth as “a Perseverance and Passion for long-term goals”.
While I’ve already spoken of Tiger’s Passion for the game and his goals. I believe he has tremendous amount of perseverance and ability to push on through whatever obstacles or hurdles he faces.
The phrase “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” could very well have been coined for him.
The best example of his Grit to “Bash on Regardless” was seen at the 2008 US Open. During the tournament not many people knew about it, but he had stress fractures in his left knee and came into the tournament in agonizing pain and with little to no match practice in 2 months.
In fact, his doctors had recommended that he skip the tournament, instead he replied that, “I am going to play and win the US Open.”
His coach talks about his initial doubts on hearing the doctors views and wondering how Tiger would be able to even complete the tournament let alone win it. However, he knew if Tiger had said it, then he was going to do it!
Tiger won the tournament after playing 4 regular rounds through the pain and even enduring through an additional playoff round of 18 holes on Monday. People who saw him limping and wincing on every shot and step, kept expecting him to throw in the towel and give up. Not believing their eyes when they saw him come back day after day.
The only person who believed he would win it was the coach, as he knew better than to doubt Tiger’s Grit and ability to think and achieve the unthinkable and unachievable!
Immense Self Belief
His Self belief can be seen in the following statistics:
From 1998 to 2009 in 45 games where he went into the final round holding the outright lead he won 43 times. 95.56% times he looked at the people around him and he held strong while others fell by the wayside.
He’s played a total of 17 playoffs (played when there is a tie for the lead after the regular 4 rounds) for the title in his professional career. Out which he has prevailed in an amazing 15 losing only 2.
These statistics prove his immense self belief and conviction in his ability to win in the toughest of circumstances. He stands tall and strong under the highest pressure, he looks you in the eye and believes he will get it right.
“He makes big shots & big putts when they matter most” is a reputation he has built over years.
Any man with this level of Passion, Drive to Achieve, Grit and Self Belief had to come back and compete. He had to climb the mountain!
As long as his body stays together:
I believe he will win again!
Will it be at the 2018 Masters? I don’t know!
Will he give everyone a tough fight? Yes, I’m sure.
Will he keep getting better? Off course, he’s TIGER WOODS!
Will he get back to World No 1? I believe he will, because he won’t rest until he does.
He will not rest until he reaches the mountains summit!