Tiger reflects on ’ 97 Masters win
During the first week of April in 1997, TigerWoods beat Arnold Palmer in a tense 18- hole match, shot 59 the next day playing with Mark O’Meara, made a hole- in- one and watched the launch of the space shuttle Columbia.
“I thought my prep was perfect,” Woods said Monday in an exclusive interview with USA TODAY Sports during a book tour to promote the release of
The 1997 Masters: My Story ( Grand Central Publishing, available at Tigerwoodsmasters. com). “I had won a few tournaments leading into the event. Now all of a sudden here I am prepping for the Masters and I’m already hot. You couldn’t have asked for a better start. It was a dream scenario.”
The following week wasn’t too shabby, either — Woods won the Masters by 12 shots in his first major as a professional, shooting 70- 66- 65- 69 and setting 20 tournament records in the first of his four triumphs at Augusta National.
“There are a few tournaments throughoutmy career where I felt, ‘ Just don’t screw it up,’ ” Woods said. “That was one of them.”
On the 20th anniversary of that watershed moment in golf, Woods pulls the head cover off his otherwise sheltered life and captures his historic march to the green jacket in a fast- paced 244 pages. With Canadian Golf Hall of Fame writer Lorne Rubenstein, Woods, 41, reflects on his journey inside and outside the ropes that culminated with a hug from his dad behind the 18th green and receiving the green jacket from Nick Faldo in Butler Cabin.
Woods, who says he hopes to play in next month’s Masters, explains how he used a persimmon driver to hone his swing the week before the Masters and made use of Golf Channel’s video library to study Augusta National’s treacherous greens. He tees up his thoughts about the changes made to the course to combat technological advances in the game.
He also explains why he wears red on Sundays, what the Par 3 Contest meant to him and why after he won the Masters and then the GTE Byron Nelson a month later in his next start he decided to change his swing. And how during that epic week he needed to have his meats and went to Arby’s every night.
“I wanted to take the readers back into what I saw and what I felt from shot to shot. The experiences I felt that were important, that helped me to that victory, not just throughout the week but also throughout my entire life,” Woods said.
“I was only 21 at the time, but I had been through a lot, but I also didn’t know a lot. In hindsight, writing it 20 years later, it was quite interesting to remember a lot of the stuff that went on that particular week, and the buildup to it. I still get giddy talking about it, because it was so important tomy life.”
My strategy in 1997 was based on three factors: my length, that the course had no rough, and that it had virtually no trees that would come into play even if Imissed fairways. Augusta National was effectively wide open forme.
He quickly shut the door on everyone in the field with eye- opening firepower.
In the first round, Woods was paired with defending champion Faldo. After opening with a 40 on the front nine, Woods shot 30 on the back nine, including an eagle. He finished three shots off the lead with a 70; Faldo shot 75.
Woods carded the lowest scores the next two days. Paired with Costantino Rocca on Sunday and holding a nineshot lead, Woods sailed through Amen Corner and birdied 11, 13 and 14 to finish with a 69 and a stunning 18- under par.
At 21, Woods became the youngest to win the Masters and broke several tournament records along the way.
While the book offers remarkable insight into each of his rounds, equally fascinating are numerous accounts of important moments in his life that shaped him as a youngster and then a man, most coming from the influential guidance of his mother, Kultida, and father, Earl, and now fueled by his two children, Sam and Charlie.
While he would go on to devour the course at Augusta National, it bit him at the start.
The book opens with Woods starting the Masters “with a 40 on the front nine, a two- hour clunker that tempered the massive hype leading to the first tee.”
“I was pretty ticked that I shot 40, but I was trying to get ( angrier) as I was walking to 10,” Woods said. “What happened to my swing? I putted well to shoot 40. Then I hit the tee shot off of 10, and I said, ‘ That’s it. That’s my swing from last week.’ ”
I knew one thing above all as I walked to the tenth tee: My start wasn’t going to finish me. Most people would say that nobody recovers from a first- nine 40 at the Masters. I’d learn later that the media were already writing me off, even as I was making my way to the back nine. ...
I was surrounded by a half- dozen or so Pinkerton security guards as I walked off the ninth green and over to the tenth tee. I could now feel everybody’s eyes on me. I was dimly aware that some were saying the tournament was already over for me. My dad’s military experience helped me here.
The last of Woods’ 270 strokes that week came from 4 feet with the scoring record jointly held by Jack Nicklaus and Raymond Floyd on the line. Nine years earlier Woods was inspired as he watched Nicklaus win the 1986 Masters at 46. Now he had a chance to break the Golden Bear’s record.
“I had this double- breaking putt, left to right, hit it too hard throughmy line,” Woods said. “On that next putt, I was thinking, ‘ I haven’t had a three- putt all week, now I have the record in hand and I’mabout to lose it on a three- putt. Here we go. Come on. Focus on what you need to do.’
“So I focused, and I hit the putt, center cut.”
Just like his entire week, a perfect putt. It was a fitting ending. More than 43 million watched his victory on TV, including President Clinton, who called to congratulateWoods.
I lived in ’ 97 for that moment when I had to perform. Maybe I don’t live as much for that now, but I still crave competing. But I also realize that, physically, I can’t necessarily do what I want to do. And I know I’ll miss it when I’m done playing tournament golf. Still, I love being on my own on the range and going out in the evening to play a few holes — just me, the golf ball, and the course. Compete, though, remains my favorite word, and probably always will. My parents told me it was okay for me to fail, as long as I gave it everything I had. I have given everything I have.
TigerWoods shot 69 in the final round of the 1997 Masters to win by 12 shots and set 20 tournament records.