I stand firm, feet squarely beneath my shoulder, toes pointing outwards, knees slightly bent. I glance to my left. My eyes fix onto a hole no larger than an orange, or an apple. My palms are sweating. As intense as I gaze at the hole, I feel the eyes on me from behind are just as vicious, silently hoping I’d fail. I take another look at the ball sitting in front of me. Tighten my grip on my club. Focusing on the path that my ball will travel towards the hole, I try to block out all other thoughts, other than the imaginary curve that leads from my ball towards the hole.
Focus on the curve. Focus on the curve. Curve. Curve. Jessi. Jessica. Jessica Alba. Curve. Curve. Suddenly, for no reason at all, Jessica Alba slips into my thought. And she’s eating ice cream. So delicious. Next to her is a tiger. Beauty and the beast. Tale as old as time. A tiger. Putt like a tiger. Putt like Tiger. Tiger Woods ...
I was going to write that I knew Tiger Woods would win the US Open 2008 today yesterday, so that I can write “I TOLD YOU SO” loudly on today’s entry.
A lot has been written about the greatest athlete in our era. To me he’s the greatest athlete because of a lot of reasons. But the one that tops my list of admiration is: FOCUS.
If my six years old boy can take a putter in his hand and hit a golf ball around, then putting is probably the easiest part of the golf game to execute, if you don’t intend to put the ball in a hole, with the objective to win a tournament, under the watchful eyes of millions in the gallery and besides TVs, eager to claim a place in the history book of sport and to pocket million of dollars. Under these circumstances, the green is a ring buzzed with tensions and pressures, where a true champion stands tall amongst the pretenders.
When a mere millimeter, a slightest tremor of hands, a tiniest hint of distraction could stand between the fist-punching satisfaction of winning and the head-hanging disappointment of losing, the degree of intensity of focus of the mind will be the differentiating factor. And nobody can paint the picture of intensive focus better than Tiger Woods on his face, standing next to his ball, with a putter in his hand, staring at the hole on the green, about to make the championship putt, the first major title putt, the second major title putt, … or the force-a-playoff putt. You could almost see the line on the green leading from his ball to the hole in his eyes. Great visualization.
How did I know Tiger Woods was going to win the US Open after he forced an 18-holes playoff with Rocco Mediate? Actually, I didn’t. But I knew Rocco’s not going to beat Tiger. On the final round, immediately after Tiger sunk his putt into the last hole of the round to extend the championship for another day, one of Rocco’s comments was, “I knew he’s going to make it.” A deflation I sensed.
To me, self-confidence is the second most admirable characteristic of Tiger Woods. To a lot of his competitors, this has transcended into an aura of invincibility, to his fans, a dependable source of fist-punching, uplifting moments to make their days. To me, Rocco’s remark had totally betrayed his submission to the invincibility of Tiger, the athlete with the greatest mental strength.
With comment likes: “on his day, any players on the PGA tour can still take Tiger down,” as plausible as it is deceptive, what enabled Tiger to yet claim another golf major championship were probably self-confidence and focus.
Enough digression. Back to my “intense” focusing …
Focus on the curve. Focus on the curve. I swing my club along the imaginary curve towards the ball. As the ball leaves my putter, rolling firmly towards the hole on the carpet, my fists are in the air. Going, going, going … drop. YES! Fists punching. The ball drops perfectly into the hole, 3 feet from where I’m standing on the putting practice mat. My little boy groans from behind me in disappointment. As I wipe the sweat on my palms onto my trousers amid the hottest day in the week, I take out my trophy and start licking away. Being a sporting winner, of course I will share the only ice cream left in the fridge with my little boy.