Friday, 19 March 2010

As he put the finishing touches on the preparations for the defence of his World Golf Championships – CA Championship title, Tiger Woods gave a telling insight into the workings of one sport’s greatest minds.

With the World Number One’s dominance of golf going into overdrive, it is often wondered what sets him apart from his peers.

It is widely accepted that, technically, the 32 year old is simply the best player on the planet in every department, but it is his mental fortitude that has allowed him to stretch the boundaries of supremacy.

Not even during his hitherto greatest season of 2000, when he won nine out of 26 tournaments including three of the four Major Championships, would anyone have entertained the possibility of a perfect season.

But, now, with four wins out of four under his belt in 2008, the world of golf is beginning to whisper that this could be the year that Tiger wins everything he enters.

With such a long way to go before the end of the year, that notion may seem premature to some and preposterous to others, but there are some observers who believe his 2008 schedule offers a glimmer of hope toward a flawless year.

He is certainly an overwhelming favourite to defend his title at the Doral Golf Resort and Spa to extend the winning sequence to five out of five for the year, and if his mental approach is anything to go by, he will become even harder to beat as the season progresses.

Asked if he has the time to actually enjoy what he is currently achieving  during his pre-tournament press conference in the WGC – CA Championship Media Centre, Woods replied: “Whatever I have done in the last few weeks is inconsequential. It doesn’t count for this week. I have to play well this week in order to win this event.”

There is a somewhat chilling quality to Woods’s words when he is prompted to discuss his thought process. Many players in the past have thrown out similar lines to the media, but when Woods explains his mindset, he says it with an engrossing intent that is, of course, evidenced by his sublime record.

As Tiger looks for his fifth consecutive win of the year, The European Tour’s Graeme McDowell will be looking for his second victory in seven days come Sunday afternoon.

The Northern Irishman, who secured the inaugural Ballantine’s Championship after a thrilling play-off with Jeev Milkha Singh in Korea last weekend, arrived in Miami on Tuesday night in buoyant mood, hoping the confidence he soaked up from his victory can see him give Woods a run for his money.

“It would be fantastic to have a chance to go down the stretch with him on Sunday afternoon,” smiled McDowell, who moved to fourth on The European Tour Order of Merit after his win last week.

“That's kind of what we all play the game for really.  We play the game to win tournaments, but nowadays to have a chance to beat Tiger on Sunday afternoon is kind of what we're all trying to do.

“I think every superlative has been used to describe him.  The guy is incredible, isn't he?  He's unbelievable.  But you know, the longer it keeps going, the more he's there to be shot at and I feel I'm playing well enough to sort of give this tournament a run this weekend.  If you finish in front of him this weekend, you're probably pretty near the top of the leaderboard.”

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