One of the greatest sportspersons of all-time and the greatest golfer of the modern era, Tiger Woods was born on December 30, 1975, in Cypress, California. The legendary American golfer has won 14 major titles in Golf, only behind the legendary Jack Nicklaus who has won 18. But his journey to superstardom began at the prestigious Augusta Masters in 1997.
The Augusta Masters or the US Masters or simply “The Masters” as it is more commonly known is the first out of the 4 majors on the golfing calendar every year. The Masters is popular for a variety of reasons. For one its field is usually smaller than other majors as it is an invitation-only tournament, it is also the only majors which is played at the same course every year. In hindsight, it is also notorious for its attitude towards the blacks. Till 1975 no black was allowed to participate in the tournament, till 1983 all caddies had to be black by default signifying the social norms of the whites being more privileged than the non-whites.
In 1997, 21-year-old Tiger was about to change the world of Augusta upside down. Tiger entered his first major under intense media scrutiny, the jokes that he’d said in an interview with GQ a few weeks back had brought criticism, and a portion of the media was still not over the amount of money he was drawing on his deal with Nike.
Tiger started Day 1 on a poor note. He was 4 over par on 40 after the first 9 rounds. He soon turned things around. 4 birdies in the next 9 meant a total of 30 where even the best at that time struggled to score lower than 36. He ended the day on 70, 3 shots being the leader John Huston. On the second and third day, Tiger was in a zone of his own hitting day best 65 and 66 to hold a 9 shot lead before the final day. By this time the celebrations had already started, radio shows and articles were prematurely celebrating the dawn of a new era in golf.
Tiger did not disappoint them on the final day. He scored a 69 to post final figures of 70-66-65-69-270 which meant a total score of 18 under par (his score is a tournament record till date). He was a full 12 shots ahead of second place Tom Kite. In the process, the fist-pumping 21-year-old became youngest ever to win Augusta.
For all 4 days, Tiger was standing out from the rest of the field for more than his skin colour. He was 17 years younger than the average age of the field that year. His range of drives on an average over 4 days was 25 yards longer than the rest of the field at 323, Jesper Parnevik who finished 19 shots behind joked the tournament organizers might want to increase the length of the holes that Tiger plays by 50-yard each if they didn’t want him to win for the next 20 years.
For Tiger and his dad, these were the fruits of all the hard work and the sacrifice over the years. As his father said, the green of the champion jacket suited Tiger.
Tiger himself was aware of the importance of being the first black to win the tournament. He mentioned that he hoped that his victory would inspire youngsters to pick up the sport and he wasn’t wrong. The sport of the elitist transcended boundaries due to Tiger’s win and found thousands of new fans.
As Sports Illustrated rightly quoted a few days later this was “the week everything changed in golf”.