People stopped speculating a few years ago whether Tiger Woods was a one-time wonder. His consistent victories against golf's best players left no room for doubt. Now the youthful star's astounding win in this year's US Open, golf's toughest test, elevates him to sports' mythic regions.
It was astounding because it included so few errors in a game where even the smallest twitch in a swing can balloon a score out of contention. Tiger had his misses, like a hook into the Pacific on the final hole of the second round, but he quickly conquered his emotions and drove on. Like many real champions, that's something Woods has had to learn through hard experience.
And he not only beat the world's best field by an unheard-of 15 strokes. He also beat one of the world's most demanding courses, California's Pebble Beach, with its shifting gales and beckoning ocean.
But enough of the superlatives. More than anything, Woods's feat is another testament to what's possible through extraordinary devotion of thought and effort to a goal. That's the ultimate value of athletic prowess. It involves something more than winning a game. Fear has to be conquered (yes, golf can generate a host of inner fears and doubts), and God-given talents - mental composure as well as athletic abilities - have to be fully realized.
Tiger never had a doubt - maybe not so much that he'd win, but that he could play up to his potential. Whatever happened, he said, he felt "very tranquil, very calm." His exhibition of well-grounded confidence should inspire not only weekend duffers, but anyone who's striving to perfect a skill.
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