Tiger Woods on perfection
The 14-major winner describes how he defines the word in golf and in life
Golf ... life -- well, we're inherently flawed. We're all human. So you're never ever going to attain perfection. But I think in golf you can attain a special excellence, for sure.
What I love about golf -- what I think we all love about it -- is the challenge. The game is not a game of perfection, it's a game of misses. I guess you could say it's a perfect game played by imperfect people. But that's the beauty and the art of playing this game.
Someone once asked me to describe golf perfection. I don't think it exists. And if it does, I wouldn't know it. In 1997, I shot 59 at Isleworth. There was a nine-hole stretch where I was 10-under par. That's probably the closest I've ever come to perfection on a scorecard. Where I was looking is where I was hitting it. When I putted, the cup looked like the size of a paint bucket.
But it doesn't last. There are too many variables. I've had plenty of times when the cup looked smaller than a thimble.
But sometimes golf isn't just about the score. Within a round you can experience a kind of perfection. Maybe it's just one pure shot. I think at any level that one pure shot keeps bringing you back. The shot comes off exactly how you want it to feel, exactly how you want it shaped. Every pro playing in this week's Chevron World Challenge probably has had their one pure shot.
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I don't know if I've ever hit a perfect shot, but probably the most solid shot I've hit was during the second round of the PGA Championship at Hazeltine in 2002. I hit a 3-iron out of the left side of the left bunker on 18. My heels were dug in against the lip and I had to get the ball up over the lip, over the trees, hook it and, on top of that, you had a pretty stiff left-to-right wind. Luckily, it ended up on the green.
But what you think is golf perfection might be different from my definition. I can shoot a good number, but know I didn't really play that well -- I just made every putt. Or I can stripe it, but not make a putt and shoot 70. There's been times when golf has broken my confidence. Everyone goes through stretches. But I know I can still play the game during these stretches. I just need to get my mechanics stronger. Then the confidence starts coming back.
Like I said, we're inherently flawed, so how can there be perfection? But I'm always trying to get better. That's always been my goal. There's always things you need to improve.
--As told to Gene Wojciechowski
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ESPN The Magazine: December 13, 2010
Check out ESPN The Magazine's December 13, 2010 issue -- the Perfect Issue -- below.