Whether you love or hate Tiger Woods, you have no choice but to respect him as an athlete.
Less than three years ago, Woods lost his golf game, his marriage, tens of millions of dollars in endorsement deals and an unparalleled level of public admiration that he had enjoyed for most of his life.
Woods has also fought off injuries, people second-guessing his swing changes and so-called “experts” saying that he would never win again.
All the while, Woods simply kept his head down, worked his tail off and has once again managed to dig a world-class golf game out of the dirt.
Woods' two-stroke victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational has officially moved him to the top of the World Golf Rankings for the 11th time in his career.
If you have any interest in sports, or human perseverance in general for that matter, you cannot help but respect this type of accomplishment.
Woods is an incredibly talented golfer, there’s no question about that. He’s also not the only incredibly talented golfer out there and some would even argue that guys like Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy have more natural talent than Woods.
But what separates Woods from the likes of Mickelson and McIlroy is his work ethic and drive to be the best.
McIlroy has been struggling with his game for several months, yet he has been hanging out around South Beach for two weeks instead of trying to regain his form. Even more importantly, he opted not to pay tribute to Arnold Palmer and everything Palmer has done for the game of golf by even showing up to his tournament.
Hence, Woods is now the new No. 1 player in the world and McIlroy will likely have a difficult time getting his game ready for Augusta.
Could you ever see Mickelson standing out in the 96-degree Florida heat, beating hundreds of golf balls on the range before going out to playing 36 holes?
Didn’t think so.
That is why Mickelson has four major titles and 41 PGA Tour wins while Woods has 14 major titles and 77 PGA Tour wins.
Mickelson could have been Woods. He has an abundance of natural talent, possibly even more than Woods, but what Mickelson lacked was that same drive to be the best in the world that Woods has had since a very young age.
McIlroy also has the talent to be the next Woods, but he too seems to lack the same drive and intensity that Woods has always had for the game, which is why McIlroy will likely have a career that more closely resembles that of Mickelson than that of Woods.
A golfer’s prime can typically last 10 to 15 years if he or she is lucky. By the age of 45, most golfers are already past their prime and heading into their twilight years.
The golfers who have made boatloads of money during their careers might begin cutting back their schedules by their mid-40s.
They might start thinking of potential Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup captaincies or other ways to kill time before heading off to the green pastures of the Champions Tour where they can enjoy three-round tournaments with their old buddies.
In the grand scheme of things, a golfer’s career is over in a flash. Golfers can take this opportunity and give it their all for 10 to 15 years, or they can relax, enjoy their millions of dollars, their large homes, their private jets and their yachts while losing their drive to be the best.
Woods has earned more money than any other golfer in history yet he has always been chasing a larger more-lasting goal. Woods' goal is, and always has been, to go down in history as the greatest golfer of all time. He realizes that an accomplishment of that nature requires an incredible amount of hard work and determination.
Woods has once again made his way to the top of the golf world, and it would be very difficult for anyone to say that he is not deserving of his current place in the game.
You can rightfully criticize many of Woods' decisions off of the golf course, but through it all, he has never lost that drive to be the best.
That has to be respected.
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