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Leadership Lesson: Tiger at Doral

Tiger Woods, the number one ranked golfer in the world and on track perhaps to become the world’s greatest if he wins 19 major tournaments, professional golf’s gold standard. Tiger demonstrated how greatness in sports is not simply athleticism but also sheer willpower and no small amount of brains. Tiger began the day with the 4 stroke lead, a margin going into the final round by which he has lost only once.

Don’t like golf? You think, like Mark Twain, golf may be a good walk spoiled. Well, indulge me for a moment as I tell you about how one man is walking into history – one tournament at a time. What Tiger Woods did at the Tiger Woods, the number one ranked golfer in the world and on track perhaps to become the world’s greatest if he wins 19 major tournaments, professional golf’s gold standard. Tiger demonstrated how greatness in sports is not simply athleticism but also sheer willpower and no small amount of brains. Tiger began the day with the 4 stroke lead, a margin going into the final round by which he has lost only once.

Tiger played confidently. At one point, he made three birdies in a row and held a six stroke lead over his opponents; but that soon would evaporate. Golf is a fickle mistress and even the greatest golfers can suddenly loss their touch and feel for the game. Shots they can hit in their sleep become Herculean – wide right, wide left, into the water, buried in the sand, or the into deep rough. Notably, iger kept his drives and iron shots straight, but it was his putter that betrayed him. How he responded, however, is the lesson from which all managers can learn.

Check your ego. At the eighteenth hole, Tiger held a three stroke lead. So what does the game’s best player of the day do? With five hundred yards of water to his left, and not trusting his driver to play the ball straight, he plays it smart. Tiger pulls out a three-iron and lays up. Not once, but twice. That’s brilliance. No macho driver for him. Many a golfer have succumbed to ego in such positions and wound up losing.

Trust yourself. Tiger knows his game better than anyone. When he was rolling well, he trusted himself to pull out the stops and hit the shots he needed to hit. And frankly for most of the 72-hole tourney, Tiger was in command of his game. He led from day one, hitting great tee shots and even more incredible second shots to get him on the green in regulation. But when his putter did not hold up, he turned conservative and did not push shots to the edge. Better a par than a bogey. Or when things get really tough, a bogey is better than a double bogey.

Don’t blink. It is traditional for golfers in the lead walking up the fairway of the 72nd hole to smile, doff their hats and acknowledge the cheers. But with a lead that had dwindled from six strokes to two, Tiger was taking no chances; he maintained focus. His second shot, again from a lay-up position was masterful; it put him on the green, but 52 feet from the hole. His lag putt was a gem, end up just 3 feet from the hole. Brett Wetterich, with short putt for a birdie, missed and Tiger only needed to hole his shot to make bogey and win. When his ball rolled in, then and only then did Tiger flash his million-dollar smile, doffing his cap and acknowledging the crowd. And then as he always does, he congratulated his opponent on a round well-played.

The World Championship at Doral was Tiger’s 56th win on the PGA Tour in eleven years of competition. When asked by an NBC-TV reporter if he felt ready for The Master’s (which begins April 5) the first major of the year, he smiled and said of course he was. That’s confidence and that’s why Tiger Woods is such a feared competitor, but a competitor that is as human as the next person, but one who understands himself so well, he can persevere when the odds are running out.

John Baldoni • Leadership Author/Speaker • Baldoni Consulting, LLC • john@johnbaldoni.com www.johnbaldoni.com