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Chasing 18

Gary Player was once asked whether he thought Tiger Woods would get back to the top of world golf after his infidelity and indiscretions were exposed to the entire world.

Woods had taken a break from the game after his marriage fell apart and his form certainly had dipped when Player confidently predicted it was not the end of his campaign to be one of the greatest.

Indeed Woods still has the ability to join the big three, Player, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, as one of golf's immortals.

He may have had his critics or even fans who had given up the dream, but he believed he'd be back and South Africa's 9 times Major winner knew the feeling.

Without a flinch Player's response to a question about whether Woods would be back at the top was: "Yes."

When asked why, Player said it simply came down to the number 18.

He believed then and probably still does now that Woods can never quit and will always be driven to success because he is chasing Nicklaus' record 18 Major titles.

Woods had 14 Major titles ahead of the 2013 Masters at Augusta and only months before some people were bold enough to write him off and declare he would not win a Major again.

He may not, but I think he will, because he is motivated by '18'.

I think it's a human condition to be driven by goals and athletes are often motivated by clearly defined milestones.

Think about the story of the four minute mile and how Roger Bannister had been completely focused on achieving that goal.

Another example could be the Springbok team which won the 2007 Rugby World Cup after 4 years under Jake White.

Any major individual or team success must be attributed to this goal-orientated and totally focused approach.

Without it I don't think major successes are possible, certainly not in a competitive environment like the sporting arena.

Goals in sport and life are good things and that's stating the obvious.

Moving your goals is perhaps the next level and ultimately necessary to go beyond what you think your capabilities are.

Lionel Messi is currently breaking records every year as a footballer for Barcelona and Argentina.

At 25, he's already been hailed as one the greatest after winning a record fourth consecutive Ballon d'Or (the world player of the year award).

He's spoken about in the same breath as the immortalised Pele and Maradona.

Most recently he became the first player to score against every team in the Spanish League in consecutive matches. His 91 goals in a calendar year in 2012 is a world record.

There are many more achievements, but even more milestones to aim for.

Let's look at two records many could argue Messi will not achieve in his career - Pele's three World Cup titles and the Brazilian legend's 1283 career goals.

For Messi to reach Pele's great World Cup statistic, he would need to play until at least 34, which is probable, and in that time he will need Argentina to win the next three World Cup tournaments.

Messi currently has about 268 professional goals to his name and if he retires at 34, for argument's sake, he will need to score 1015 goals in nine seasons to reach Pele - that's over 112 goals per season for Barcelona and Argentina.

So quite clearly athletes are driven by goals and sport by its nature makes sense only in the context of milestones, records and competition.

In life I guess we all need an '18'.

We all need something to aspire to and that means we all need to discover what it is we most desire.

It will be something that seems just out of reach, yet unquestionably worth sacrificing for.

Tiger Woods is driven by '18'… what drives you?

Wesley Petersen is EWN's Cape Town Sports Editor and afternoon sports anchor.