April 16, 2019
This was something special, even for Tiger Woods
I don't think we can realistically comprehend the achievement that Tiger Woods was able to accomplish by winning his fifth Green Jacket and 15th major championship at Augusta National. His list of surgeries are seemingly endless that were topped off by four back surgeries that ended with spinal fusion! His scandal and rumor filled divorce was a blow to his public persona. This definitely affected his confidence and ego. His back pain was so severe that he became addicted to pain medicine to the point that he ended up asleep at the wheel in Jupiter, Florida not knowing where he was or why he was there. Then there were the swing changes, different coaches, and a severe case of the chipping yips that for most people would be a death sentence for competitive golf. Next he is now facing a different group of young players that are a better quality of golfer then what he faced ten to twenty years ago. They are stronger, fitter, and more talented. They also are not intimidated by his presence on the leaderboard. Finally, the entire spotlight was squarely on him. Could he win another major; could he win after a drought of eleven years; would he be equal to the task of beating a more challenging field? Seemingly the whole world was pulling for Tiger. What pressure! The story would be unreal and almost "Cinderellaish" for him to win. And yet, with all he had to overcome, he did it. Truly special!
To be a master of something requires special skills and talent. The Masters tournament is aptly named. It rewards the player that stays the course and perseveres through adversity. A master is not a perfectionist, but a skilled individual that knows how to accomplish a task. Tiger's Masters performance was not perfect, but one of resolve and grit. He stayed the course and played smart tactical golf. He did what Jack Nicklaus did to his competitors many years before; he let them make the mistakes. The master knows when to strike the crucial blow as Tiger did with his best shot on the 16th with an 8 iron to within three feet to take a two shot lead. A tiger in the wild stalks his prey. His competitors knew he was lurking and they flinched and fell victim. This was a masterful performance from a master of golf and much more.
What is it about Tiger that makes him special? Many golfers want the prize badly and will sacrifice to make it happen. Tiger has always appeared to want it more than all others and is willing to go further than everyone else. Tiger was asked about his plans for preparing for his 9:20 tee time on Sunday. He knew exactly what he needed to do. First he said he would get up at 4:00 am, but then changed it to 3:45 am. There was definitely a set schedule that he was following. Most believe it was stretching and limbering up that would be the reason for the very early start of his day. That positively was part of the process, but more importantly he was tuning his mind with his body to the challenges that he would face the final few hours on the golf course. Mental preparation and his strong will are keys to what makes Tiger special. It is what separates the good from the great. He was willing to get up over two hours earlier than his fellow leaders to be ready for challenge.
Imagine just two years ago, you are hurting so badly that just walking was an accomplishment. The pain was so unbearable that you became addicted to the pain medicine and a few months later you suffered the indignity of having your arrest picture all over the world news in a drugged state not knowing where or what you were doing. How would you recover from this? Not hurting and leading a normal life would be quite an accomplishment. Getting to do less strenuous physical activity like playing with your kids or a casual round of golf would be a triumph. How about playing professional golf with a fused back, with a new swing, and against a more talented group of younger players, Impossible! History will be written in the future about this year's Masters. This could be the greatest ever and the greatest comeback story of all time. We witnessed history, but right now we are too close to it to understand the magnitude. We are still gathering our sense of what just happened. We need to step back with some perspective that maybe a couple of years will provide and reexamine what we witnessed. In two years it will still be greatness, but then we may even more fully appreciate how special this was!