1997 Handover: Nick Faldo presents a 21-year-old Tiger Woods with the first of his four green jackets.
HK GolferăƒťAPR 2011
HK Golfer's European correspondent, a veteran of over twenty Masters tournaments, picks her favourite moments from the year's first major PHOTOGRAPHY BY AFP
Tiger: The Awakening
The score-line of 40-30 smacked of Wimbledon rather than the Masters but that was how the then 21-year-old Tiger Woods compiled his first-round 70 in 1997. To this correspondent at least, that year’s event would become the most riveting Masters of modern times. When it came to the Saturday evening and the American had a nine-stroke lead, his fellow competitors were in shock, with Colin Montgomerie among the more hard-hit victims. Though the Scot had amassed a 74 as against Tiger’s 65 to let Costantino Rocco take over his second place, he did not begin to do his usual thing of walking off in a huff. Instead, he strode determinedly to the media centre. As it turned out, he came more as prophet than player and could not wait to make his predictions. “Tiger,” he said, “will not only win but he’ll win by more than nine shots.” “How can you be so sure?” chorused the writers. “Because,” he answered, “Tiger is not Greg Norman and Rocca is not Faldo.” That, of course, was a reference to how Norman had been six shots ahead of Faldo going into the last round the year before but ended up taking the HKGOLFER.COM
kind of hiding which will haunt him for the rest of his days. Tiger won by a mind-boggling 12 shots in ‘97 and, as Montgomerie so rightly said, on this occasion the entire field was humiliated to the core. It was a glorious beginning to Woods’ major-winning career but the success which followed did not come on its own. Rather was it accompanied by a build-up of pressure which, looking back, maybe rendered it more than somewhat surprising that he did not hit the buffers – or that fire hydrant – sooner than he did.
Woods touched on the mental demands for the first time at his press conference ahead of the 2002 Masters. In reliving his victory of the previous year, the one which completed his so-called “Tiger-Slam” of all four majors, he mentioned that his temperature had shot up to 104 Fahrenheit (40 Celsius) on the Sunday night. By way of explaining to the unenlightened what went into winning a major, he cited Bobby Jones. The latter would apparently lose ten to 12 pounds during a championship – a state of affairs which had contributed to his decision to retire at 28. Tiger’s father, Earl, could have tried to keep his son under the radar. Instead, he exacerbated the situation by making one far-fetched prediction after another. Tiger, he said, would be like Gandhi: he would make the world a better place. It was after Tiger had won again in 2002 that Earl stayed behind in the media centre to make further claims on his son’s behalf. “Tiger,” he said, “is like a forest fire and you don’t have anyone to stop it. He is continually improving and he will get better and better. Whether or not these guys get better is inconsequential.” Earl would have been the last person to think that Tiger would be the player to ruin things for Tiger… HK Golfer・APR 2011
Tiger could not have picked his words more carefully in venturing that he, personally, would like to see such a move. Yet when his message was relayed to Johnson, it invoked the sharpest of responses: “I don’t tell Tiger how to play golf if he doesn’t tell us how to run our club.” In other words, as one British broadsheet put it, “Hootie tells Tiger to mind his own business.”
"Quiet With the Crisps"
Men of the Masters (clockwise from top): Ian Poulter promised former Augusta chairman Hootie Johnson that his Masters debut wouldn't be highlighted by his highlights; Arnold Palmer bids an emotional farewell during his last round as a competitor in 2004; Jose Maria Olazabal's 1999 victory, his second, was one of the great comeback wins of all time; Luke Donald's chances of success in 2009 were scuppered by a bag of crisps, despite his brothercaddie's intervention. 48
HK Golfer・APR 2011
The then world number one received a formal dressing down from Billy Payne, the Augusta chairman, when he returned to the game after events of 2009-2010. Yet the truth is that it is not necessary to have “done a Tiger” to fall foul of Augusta officialdom. When, for instance, Bernhard Langer hit into a members’ four on the weekend prior to the tournament in the mid 1990s, this avid Christian could not have been in more trouble had he been caught digging up the greens. Back in 2004, Ian Poulter, while preparing for his first trip to Augusta, received a prior warning about the hair-do he might sport that week. The message came from Hootie Johnson, Payne’s predecessor as chairman, but was delivered by another. “I won’t,” promised Poulter when he was asked about it, “put a ‘colour’ colour in it. Out of respect, I’ll steer clear of the old blue and red stripes and stick to natural shades.” Woods knew what it was like to be rebuked by Hootie. Back in 2003, when Martha Burk, the feminist activist, was at her most trenchant and making much of Augusta’s insistence on remaining a male-only club, Woods was asked for his take on the subject. Since the club now had a couple of African-American members, did he not think that it should open its doors to women?
The rules for spectators at the Masters are pretty much similar to those at most tournaments. Mobile phones and cameras are not permitted, while no-one is allowed to break into a run. But unlike most events, these are very strictly adhered to. Yet there is a downside to having so welldisciplined and orderly a crowd. When, for instance, Luke Donald eagled the eighth in his final round in 2009 to be no worse placed than one shot off the lead, he was thrown off course by a lady eating a bag of crisps as he was shaping to his second at the ninth. Amid the otherwise almost eerie silence, this spectator’s
bolshie brand of crunching could not have done more to unhinge a man’s concentration. “Quiet with the crisps, please,” implored Luke’s brother, Christian, who was on the bag. Alas, the damage was done. Luke’s ball landed five feet short of the target and was soon slipping from the front of the green. Before too long, the player’s name was mirroring the missile in falling from the leaderboard.
Moving on to those who make it to the top of the leaderboard and stay there, Jose Maria Olazabal’s victory of 1999, his second, was arguably the most emotional Masters this correspondent has witnessed to date. The Spaniard’s win of wins occurred only two years after he had been diagnosed with a form of rheumatoid arthritis so dire that he could barely drag himself from his bed. Well though he strung his shots together on the Sunday, Olazabal struggled to do the same with his words. That victory meant everything to a man who, at one point, had thought he might never walk again.
Send-Off: Jack and Arnie
Jack Nicklaus’s victory of 1986 was another of the never-to-be-forgotten variety. He was 46 at the time and, though he had never enjoyed quite the same level of overt popularity as Arnold Palmer, everyone revelled in the sight of this older player, with his son, Jackie, on the bag, keeping the moderns at bay. Today, Nicklaus has joined the still-more senior Palmer as an honorary starter at Augusta, a role which links the game’s past and present as nowhere else. The early morning ceremony is never anything other than a distinctly moving affair, though it has to be said that, in terms of poignancy, there has never been anything to match Palmer’s last round as a competitor in 2004. Arnie’s entire army was behind the ropes and, as the great man walked between greens and tees, so he appeared to be greeting each and every person by name. It was a little cameo which captured the best of the man – and the Masters.
HK Golfer・APR 2011