Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What makes them the best?

What is it that truly seperates the good, the great and the very best? Why is it that the same names are consistently at the top of the leaderboard? Is it a coindidence? What makes them so much different than the rest? A huge amount of talent is needed to rise to the top of any sport. A drive to be the best and the willingness to put in whatever it takes to get there is something else common among all great athletes.

There are hundreds and hundreds of amazing golfers. Many of the guys slumming it on the mini tours have just as much talent as many of the guys on the PGA Tour. For whatever reason, they just can't keep it together for four rounds, don't have the mental toughness or can't handle the pressure like others. The same can be said for many of the guys on the PGA tour. They're great players, some of the most talented in the World but even they struggle to keep their cards every year. Playing a great round of golf can be done. Hell, I've done it. You've probably done it also. Try doing it for four rounds in a row, with thousands watching you, on tougher courses than you'll probably ever see with your livelihood depending on just how well you play. Then, it becomes different. Of all the great players on all the tours across the World, there are but a few who have what it takes to be the very best. To be able to grind it out, week after week, tournament after tournament, when things aren't going well there are but a handful who have the thing that the best in every other sport share, grit.

Think of the very best players of all time. Those guys had true grit. It didn't matter how many shots back they were, how many they were ahead by or how good or bad the round was going. They always dug deep, deeper than you thought was even possible, and somehow pulled together a memorable performance. Just think of Tiger's 2008 performance at Torrey Pines. If that wasn't on of the grittiest performances you've ever seen. Then you're clearly lost. Or how about Ben Hogan's victory at the 1950 U.S. Open just over a year after a car accident that almost killed him. That, was pure grit. It's what seperates the great from the best. Look at any other sports and it's greats. Ty Cobb, Mickey Mantle, Pete Rose, Willie Mays, Gordie Howe, Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, Jim Brown, Barry Sanders, Tom Brady, Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player...the list goes on, but I'm sure you get it.

If you don't have grit, all the talent in the world is useless.


eyebleaf said...

That last line, it hangs in a frame on the wall of David Eckstein's house. The grittiest mother fucker of them all!

To be honest, though, I don't think of grit when I think of Tiger. I think of zen-like masterful talent. A gift from God. A man who was born to only - ONLY - play golf.

The Reverend said...

In all honesty Tiger Woods isn't human. I'm not sure what he is, but he's not of this earth.

Rex Hudler was one gritty bastard as well.

Jeff Goodman (Goods) said...

It's all mental. The talent level between the top 800 golfers in the world is small. However, mentally... guys like Tiger, Vijay and Padraig have a leg up on the rest.

What's between the ears counts for more than people really think.

The Reverend said...

Mental toughness is huge, especially in golf. Combine that with those who have the ability to play through the pain or get over the bad hole or bad stretch and grind it out, then you've got the best.