In itself, it is not an incredible achievement. After all, Woods is one of the greatest players to ever play the game.
What makes this win special, was that Woods achieved it despite playing with a broken leg!
In the previous major of the year, The Masters, Woods had finished runner-up to Trevor Immelman. In the intervening period between The Masters and the US Open, he had not walked 18 holes.
When Woods heard his leg snap after hitting a routine five iron during a practice session, he feared the worst.
There were no thoughts about winning the US Open, his only thoughts were on whether he could participate or not.
Woods’s reputation may have suffered in the years since, but this remarkable achievement is a testament to his strength of character and will to win.
It is something we can all learn from.
Little was known about how much pain Woods was in until the final few rounds. When he posted rounds of 72 and 68 over the first two days, to lead going into Saturday, it seemed like business as usual.
The best player in the world at the top of the leaderboard. It was a familiar story. Playing with Woods in the third round, Robert Karlsson became aware Woods had an issue with his leg partway into the round:
“Within the first four holes you knew because if he tried to hit a normal shot, he just couldn’t do it.”
Despite the obvious impediment, Woods found a way to remain in the lead at the close of play on Saturday. He finished the day a shot clear of Lee Westwood, after posting a round of 70.
Going into the final round, Woods had won every one of his previous 13 majors when leading on Saturday. Injured he may have been, but the expectation was that he would add another major to his tally.
It didn’t go entirely to plan.
Woods remained in the lead at the close of play on Sunday, but he shared it with Rocco Mediate.
In any of the other three majors of the year, either a 4 hole or sudden-death playoff, would have taken place. The rules in the US Open were a little different.
If players finished tied on a Sunday, an 18 hole playoff on Monday would determine the winner. For Woods, this was a nightmare scenario. He had managed to complete 18 holes playing on one leg and finished in the lead.
He now had to play another 18 holes. What he had already done was unthinkable, but to play another 18 holes?
With a huge physical advantage, it was Mediate’s tournament to lose. But that was not counting on the sheer will to win Woods possessed. Woods struggled through the playoff, and in what only added to the theatre, it ended in a tie!
Despite playing with shredded ligaments in his left knee and a stress fracture in his lower leg, Woods prevailed on the 91st hole to win.
In a feat of physical endurance and mental fortitude, Woods had overcome the odds. He had succeeded, when defeat seemed inevitable.
The Obstacle Is The Way
Looking back at Woods’s victory ten years ago, it’s still hard to fathom how he was able to win.
There are two factors in play.
His ability to withstand the physical pain he must have endured is incredible. To play five days of golf on one leg is an achievement in itself. To go and win the tournament in this scenario is ridiculous.
But, it is his mental fortitude which I feel is the most impressive.
There must have been times during those five days when Woods felt like quitting. The pain, stress, the pressure, all of this must have been weighing on his mind the whole time.
To come through this and win the tournament is an indictment of his ferocious will to win. Woods had a glaring obstacle in his way, his damaged leg. It would have been easy to concede defeat and not compete at all.
However, he chose to compete. He chose the obstacle. His impediment to action advanced action.
As the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius stated:
“Our actions may be impeded, but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
Faced with this obstacle, Woods chose to follow the way. When lesser minds would have accepted their lot and not competed, Woods not only competed but won the tournament.
Indeed, when Woods first heard the diagnosis from the doctor, his first reaction was to tell his coach:
I’m playing in the U.S. Open and I’m going to win it.
There was no hesitation, no second-guessing, just sheer commitment and belief in his ability to triumph in adversity. Woods’ victory is not really about the fact he won on one leg, it’s a victory of mind over matter.
He was able to succeed despite his injury. This is a lesson for all of us. It’s easy to quit at the first sign of struggle, but you are cheating yourself by doing this.
Our greatest triumphs come in the face of adversity.
Think back to the last time you achieved something when it seemed impossible. How did it make you feel? Did you feel a greater sense of achievement because of the obstacles in your way?
We are faced with many obstacles in life, the determining factor of whether you succeed is how you face them.
Will you face them head-on, or will you avoid them?
For Woods, this is surely his greatest achievement. He may have had personal issues, perhaps his ferocious will to win, something that helped him in his professional life, affected him in his personal life.
But there is no denying this achievement speaks for itself. We can accomplish more than we believe if we are willing to suffer for it.
Even Woods is still dumbfounded by how he won the 2008 US Open.
I’ll leave the final words to him.
“ I don’t know how I did it. My ACL was gone. My leg was broken. When I finished the rounds, it was not fun to try and get my leg drained so I could play the next day. But these are all things I tried to do because I knew that was going to be my last event. I was going to have to have reconstruction on my ACL, so I was down for nine months, possibly 12. I put all my energy into winning one event and somehow pulled it off.”