December 28, 2007

Jaime Diaz of Gof Digest has this fascinating article about Tiger Woods. The whole thing is defintely worth a read, but this part really caught my attention, retelling how Tiger dealt with the anniversary of his father’s death last year and how it changed his approach to his game preparation, setting the stage for his incredible end of 2007 run:

Though Tiger takes pride in hiding “tells” from everyone — competitors and family — even he couldn’t completely hide his emotions. After playing the Wachovia Championship pro-am in May with close friend Michael Jordan, who has said his father’s death in 1993 led to his first retirement from basketball, Woods told The Charlotte Observer’s Ron Green Jr. that he spent the wee hours of the following morning staring at the hotel-room clock as he marked to the minute the one-year anniversary of Earl’s death. “It was a tough time,” he said, later adding: “I just wish I could talk to him, hear his voice and ask him for advice on certain things. Basically he was my best friend.”

Though Woods won the tournament, his struggle down the stretch is what prompted Rory Sabbatini to call Woods “more beatable than ever” and add, “I like the new Tiger.” After indifferent golf at the Players and the Memorial, Woods produced often-brilliant ballstriking at the U.S. Open, but he came up lacking again. Another closing 72 — on Father’s Day, and the day before his wife, Elin, gave birth after a difficult pregnancy — was only good enough for second.

After the British Open, where Woods tied for 12th at Carnoustie in a week in which his mood was particularly dark, it appeared the year that had begun with so much promise would be a washout in the category that matters most: the majors.

…Woods seemed to reach resolution in the two weeks after Carnoustie. In that period he spoke with several friends, with an emphasis on listening. “Tiger absorbs and applies better than anyone I’ve ever met,” says his agent, Mark Steinberg. By the time Woods arrived at Firestone for the WGC Bridgestone Invitational, something was different. After an eight-stroke victory, he offered a cryptic explanation: “Yeah, I got more organized.”

Completing the healing was the circle of life. When he won the PGA Championship at Southern Hills, it was his 13th major victory in 44 professional starts. But most important to Woods was the fact that his wife and 2-month-old daughter — dressed in victory red — were waiting for him on the 72nd green.

“It’s a feeling I’ve never had before,” he says. “It used to be my mom and dad. The British Open last year was different, but this one was certainly so special and so right to have Elin and Sam there.” It gave further resonance to the generational echo in his daughter’s name: Sam was Earl’s code name for Tiger when he wanted to get his son’s attention without alerting a crowd.

“I’ll tell you 100 percent what happened,” says Williams. “Tiger came back from Carnoustie, and instead of spending hours on the practice field, he just tried to picture how he wanted to swing the club. He used what Hank was telling him to do — which he had been having quite a bit of difficulty putting into practice — and went about getting swing thoughts organized and the right mental picture. He came to Firestone having done little actual practice, but from that point on, he had a mental image of himself that he was able to relate to the movement of his body.

“And each week he played, he got a little bit better right up to the Tour Championship. His rhythm and balance with every club were exceptional, and never changed. In the 10 years I’ve been with him, it was the best stretch I’ve ever seen Tiger play.”

Read the whole thing. It just makes you appreciate even more the dedication and mental toughness that Tiger brings not only to his game and to his sport, but to his life. That he has the most raw talent out there is undeniable, but what makes him a champion above any other are those other qualities he exhibits above and beyond any other contemporary in the game. How can you not appreciate it when that once-in-an era kind of combination comes along?

A tip of The Great White Shank’s hat to you, Tiger. You can play in my foursome any time.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 01:46 | Comments (5)
  1. Tiger Woods is Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, Wayne Gretzky, and Secretariat all rolled into one. He has single-handedly elevated his sport. The only golfers you can measure against him are future golfers. He’s a legend in his own time. Not that I’m a fan or anything. 🙂

    Comment by Rob — December 28, 2007 @ 7:39 am

  2. Couldn’t say it better, Rob. A happy 2008 to you and your family!

    Comment by The Great White Shank — December 31, 2007 @ 5:19 pm

  3. i can not believe that your father died by
    cancer i was crying when i saw about it and he
    is a really a good man

    Comment by SHRONE — January 1, 2008 @ 11:59 am

  4. i am really sorry that your father died

    Comment by SHRONE — January 1, 2008 @ 12:00 pm

  5. Uh, SHRONE, that’s TIGER’S dad being written of in this post, not mine. Glad to say my dad is alive and well and enjoying his new year back in Massachusetts.

    Comment by The Great White Shank — January 2, 2008 @ 3:27 pm

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