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G.O.A.T.s premieres March 7 at 8 p.m. EST on ESPN

By Jen Juneau and Lindsay Kimble
March 02, 2021 09:05 AM
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Tiger Woods is reflecting on how his golf success during his childhood — and the resilience he developed as a result of previous losses — helped pave the way for him to become the celebrated athlete he is today.

In the upcoming ESPN documentary G.O.A.T.s, airing March 7, the 11-time PGA Player of the Year recalls becoming "the youngest ever to win" the Junior World Championships in the 10-and-under age division at just 8 years old.

Woods, 45, says in an exclusive PEOPLE clip that the victory (which he experienced after losses the previous two years, before going on to win several more times) "showed me that I could play against the world's best, even though I was only 8 years old."

"It got me started on the right path — I had the self-belief that I could do it," he says. "Coming back [after losing my first two years] to become the youngest ever to win the event, that meant a lot to me."

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tiger woods
Tiger Woods
| Credit: Walter Iooss

Aside from the actual golf competition, Woods says the sport, for him, is "also about competing within myself."

"I have to overcome all my inner demons to perform, 'cause no one's gonna bail me out," the athlete explains. "It's not like ... [you can have] a bad game and just sit out."

As opposed to sports like basketball where you have players you can swap out, "We don't have that," Woods says. "We're stuck out there by ourselves. And you have to figure it out. And that's the difficulty about our sport, is no one's gonna bail us out."

That ideology has taught the record-breaking PGA Tour champ, who is currently recovering from a scary car accident he was involved in last week, "how to hang in there, how to grind, how to fight, and [that] self-belief is earned."

Directed by Kevin Kaufman and celebrating the work of sports photographer Walter Iooss, G.O.A.T.s — airing in three parts — will also feature interviews with athletes like Derek Jeter, Michael Jordan and the late Kobe Bryant.

G.O.A.T.s
Poster for ESPN's G.O.A.T.s
| Credit: ESPN

"We wanted all these iconic athletes to talk about common themes — their first breaks, brush with destiny, toughest challenges and love of their game," Kaufman tells PEOPLE in a statement. "But we also wanted them to reveal themselves like never before."

"We had an extraordinary vehicle for that — Walter's photos of them, over decades," he continues. "Hearing them spontaneously comment on photos of themselves — where they were in their careers, their mindsets, hopes and dreams — was amazing."

Of Woods, whom Iooss calls "one of the most exceptional athletes of all time," the photographer says, "What he did on the course was truly remarkable — the putts he would make, his fist pumps to ignite the gallery, his charisma. When we worked together, he was an ultra-professional. We'd have the setups planned with military precision and I always finished early, which he knew was a sign of respect to his time; we weren't wasting a single second."

He adds, "Working with Tiger was fun because he has a good sense of humor. For me, his 2019 Masters win is the most emotional sporting event I've ever witnessed, even more so poignant because it was the last time we saw him play golf with his son."

G.O.A.T.s: The Greatest of All Time premieres March 7 at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN. It will be available to watch on demand thereafter, and will air again on March 14 at 2 p.m. ET.