There are great players in every sport, but it takes something special to be a Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, Serena Williams, or Mike Tyson.
It’s honestly not that easy to name more members of that elite group, because there aren’t a lot. They’re true superstars in every sense of the word.
They’re the type of athlete that—love them or hate them— you have to respect. They are so dominant, so driven, so determined that they’re known throughout the world to the point where you could talk to someone who knows nothing about sports and they’ll still know who you’re talking about.
Tiger Woods is one of those athletes.
While other kids were still sleeping in cribs with a binky, the child prodigy made his national television debut at the age of two on The Mike Douglas Show while showing the world just how good he was at the game of golf (an appearance that also indirectly showed just how intense his father was.)
Since then, Tiger has only excelled. Although there have been a few blips on the radar, he has proven time and time again that he is the best and most dominant golfer in the world.
There’s a reason why a professor at Berkley University did a study determining how Tiger’s presence alone made other professional golfers play worse.
Think about that: You are a professional golfer—one of the best in the world, maybe even the second-best player—and the moment you see Tiger Woods on the player sheet, you’re done (according to the study, you would shoot 0.8 strokes higher per round compared to if he wasn’t there; that four strokes a tournament!).
There are plenty of stories that show why Tiger had such a psychological edge, but it’s hard to top one involving a couple of PGA Tour golfers who got put in their place on the driving range.
The time a barefoot Tiger Woods put two pros in their place after a six-mile run
This tale comes courtesy of retired PGA Tour golfer John Cook, who recounted one of his encounters with Tiger while speaking with Golf Digest.
It was 2002 and Tiger had just won the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black. Cook and Mark O’Meara were at the range attempting to hit their 3-irons onto the green about 220 yards out and working on getting their ball higher off of the club to get it to travel farther.
After a few hours of trying (and without much success), a shirtless Tiger comes running up drenched in sweat shortly after wrapping up a six-mile run. He sees Cook and O’Meara at the range and stops to ask them what they’re doing and they give him the lowdown on their practice strategy.
Without hesitating, Tiger says, “Let me see your 3-iron.” He grabs the club (which he isn’t even fitted for) and addressed the ball while wearing a pair of running shoes before taking a swing without even bothering to warm up with a practice hack.
It would be one thing if Woods had simply been able to reach the green the pros were attempting to hit, but that wouldn’t be Tiger enough. Instead, he sent it 245 yards into the middle of the green behind it before handing the club back to Cook and simply stating “Just do that” before jogging away.
That right there is the essence of Tiger Woods.