In the long, rich history of the Masters, just about everything has happened. All of golf’s greatest players, from Bobby Jones onward, have made an annual journey to Augusta to compete in the tournament that won its place among golf’s major championships. Their exploits have been documented in meticulous records and celebrated in thousands of stories. The golf course itself a kind of a record book, where the feats of one champion can be readily measured against those who’ve come before. Virtually every script for a golf tournament from the gladiatorial duel to the stunning collapse, from the bolt-of-lightning victory to the gallant comeback of the old hero-has been played out with high drama at Augusta National. Here at the Masters, in short, there seemed to be enough history, lore and legend to cover just about every possibility in championship golf.”
But the Masters had never seen anything like Tiger Woods.Even before the tournament began, the eyes of the golf world- the whole world, for that matter- were focused on Tiger. At the age of 21, he was already a mega celebrity and a multimillionaire. He had won three consecutive U.S. Amateur championships and three professional tournaments and Sports Illustrated had named him Sportsman of the Year. Still, plenty of golf pundits had declared this award premature. Just wait and see how Tiger does at the Masters, they cautioned. Wait and see if he can earn his stardom.
On Thursday, after Tiger shot a shaky 40 for his first nine holes, it seemed the skeptics were right. But, then, with an inward nine of 30, he established himself as a contender. By Friday evening, he’d taken a three-stroke lead and the disbelief was turning into awe. On Saturday, when the rest of the field was scratching and clawing for pars, Tiger attacked and subdued the golf course for the lowest score of the week, a 65. He sped past his competitors like a fire engine roaring by stalled traffic. His 54- hole lead was the largest in Masters history and there weren’t any doubters left. Tiger Woods had established that he could win a major championship, and win big. On Sunday, the only question was how big. Even a tenacious competitor like Tom Kite had to concede that he would be playing for “the Silver Medal.”
For all his charisma, all his athletic talent, Tiger had taken pains all week long to remind people just how hard he had worked to get to this point. For almost two years he had worked with coach Butch Harmon on the problem that bedeviled him in his first Masters, controlling the distance of his short irons. Now he was hitting more greens than anybody but Tom Kite, and he was hitting them in the right places, keeping the ball under the hole for makeable birdie putts.
He had worked hard on his chipping and putting too. In the weeks prior to the Masters, the superintendent at his home course, Isleworth, kept the greens hard and fast so that Tiger could practice under an approximation of the Augusta surfaces. Under those conditions, Tiger had shot the lowest score of his life- a 59 that broke the course record by 5 strokes on the Friday before the Masters.
In short, Tiger had prepared carefully and thoroughly to win this tournament. He had even looked at tapes of previous Masters, taking note of how certain putts broke. He had worked on course management and devised a strategy for playing the course.”
The young man who had been under so much pressure, and so much in control of his emotions, walked off the green and into the arms of his father where, at last, he let it all go. As father and son rocked back and forth in a long hug, Tiger wept freely. Tiger Woods had won the 61st Masters.
Excerpt from Masters Augusta National Annual Yearbook, 1997