Yesterday, while the Super Bowl was the center of attention in the U.S. (even among those who could care less about Amercan Football), another ominous event occurred in the world of sport. Tiger Woods, who was four strokes behind the leader with seven holes left to play, won the Dubai Desert Classic in the United Arab Emirates. Since August of last year, Tiger has won 7 of 8 tournaments he’s played in (against some of the best golfers in the world), finishing second in the other. Although two of the tournaments weren’t “official” PGA Tour events, it’s still an incredible feat.
Ron Sirak, a writer for ESPN, talks about Tiger’s greatness as a golfer and how he seems to intimidate his fellow competitors (see the hyperlink above). They clearly aren’t intimidated on a relational level because Tiger has many “friends” on tour. It’s not his ability (which is considerable) because there are many highly talented professional golfers out there – any of whom can win on a given weekend. No, I think what intimidates his competitors is his incredible drive – a “never say die” attitude that only intensifies in the face of golfing adversity.
It’s hard for those who’ve never played golf to understand what a “mental” game it truly is. I consider myself to be a pretty self-confident individual and a decent golfer; but there are times when the game turns me into a cowering, wimpering baby :-). Once my confidence is shaken on the course, it’s like sliding down a slipperly slope. I guess it’s a testimony to how my game has improved over the past few years that these “crises of confidence” routinely last only a few holes instead of the entire round like they used to.
All this gets me to thinking about greatness, or shall we say, excellence - to reach and maintain the highest levels of achievement at something. What forces drive and/or motivate a person to excellence? If we stick with Tiger Woods as an example, it isn’t money because he already has more than you or I could probably dream of. It isn’t fame because he’s already so famous he can’t go out in public like the rest of us. Is it then for glory, for life’s “trophies”? Maybe that’s part of it or maybe he merely views his accomplishments as a measuring stick. When I look at somone like Tiger Woods, I think that the drive for excellence comes from within – from values and behaviors learned and practiced over a lifetime. In that regard, he owes much to his father – Earl Woods - for all he has achieved and become. As a Christian, I believe God has placed this passion for excellence within me and nurtured it through my parents, family, and a continuing series of divine contacts with others. Notwithstanding all these resources, I’m still responsible for their use – every day of my life.