Tiger Woods 'The 1997 Masters: My Story' book excerpts

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Tiger Woods 'The 1997 Masters: My Story' book excerpts

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Tiger Woods 'The 1997 Masters: My Story' book excerpts

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(Editor’s note:In “The 1997 Masters: My Story.” Tiger Woods recounts the 20th anniversary of his first triumph at Augusta through the lens of author Lorne Rubenstein. Below are excerpts from the book detailing his week, first published in the March 2017 issue of Golfweek. For more unique content, subscribe to Golfweek. Visit “The 1997 Masters: My Story” to purchase the book.)

Tiger Woods 1997 Masters 2017 Masters

Tiger Woods signs copies of his new book “The 1997 Masters: My Story” at Barnes & Noble Union Square on March 20, 2017 in New York City. (John Lamparski/WireImage)

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Monday, April 7, 1997

This was what I’d been waiting for since I turned professional nearly eight months before: my first Masters as a professional. I’d been practicing for this moment since the start of the year, even during other tournaments where I had worked on shots that I knew I would need at the Masters: hitting the ball high, with a slight draw; getting my lag putting down so that I would have as many tap-ins as possible for my second putt. Butchie (Butch Harmon) and I were pointing to the Masters; we were pointing hard. …

It was obvious to me when I’d played Augusta National as an amateur that I’d need to hit the ball as high as possible to carry some of the bunkers, mounds, and hills off the tees. So my objective during practice sessions and casual rounds for the Masters was not only to flight the ball right to left, but also to get comfortable hitting the ball high. …

I’d also heard rumbles about black golfers not being welcome at the Masters. Everybody was writing about me being an African-American who was playing in his first Masters as a professional. I tried to make it clear that I was African-American on my dad’s side and Asian on my mom’s side, and that to think of me only as an African-American was to deny my mom’s heritage. At the 1995 U.S. Open, I had referred to myself as a Cablinasian, a made-up word that includes my Caucasian, black, and Asian heritage. I never thought it was right or fair to think of me only as an African-American, and I never will. But I had learned that to have one drop of black blood in you in America meant that you were considered an African-American.
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1997 Masters Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods had learned plenty about Augusta before he took one swing in the 1997 Masters. (Sam Greenwood/PGA Tour)

Tuesday, April 8, 1997

Augusta makes it easy to focus on your preparation. The Masters does the best job of any tournament in the world of helping shield players from the spotlight. The practice grounds were clear of people except for instructors and caddies, and in general they did a tremendous job of protecting players. Television crews weren’t allowed on the range, and the same went for other media. You could get your practice done without distraction, which was not the case at other tournaments. …

I had learned during my practice rounds that I could play different angles at Augusta. It wasn’t only a matter of standing up and bombing it down the middle of the fairway, because there was so much room before the club added rough – the “second cut” – and before it lengthened the course for the 2002 Masters. Trees were also added, and as the course changed, so did the way I viewed it. It was becoming less of an inland links and more of a parkland course. But it was still an inland links back in ’97, which meant I could pick and choose from a wide variety of shots.
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Wednesday, April 9, 1997

When I woke up Wednesday morning, I felt the excitement I’d become used to when an important tournament was approaching. Golf’s a weird game. You need to feel both a sense of power you want to rip a drive down there, and almost subdued when you’re facing a delicate shot over a bunker to a pin just on the other side, with the green running away from you. I had learned to control my heart rate through breathing, not that this was ever easy.

Although the crowds were massive during every practice round, they seemed even bigger to me on Wednesday. Maybe it was the magnitude of the occasion, but I felt all eyes were on me. …

Marko (Mark O’Meara) saw what was going on. On the ninth tee, he said to me, “Can you imagine if you had five bucks for every picture people are taking of you?” We kept playing, and I was very careful to watch him on the greens. He was a very good putter, so I observed how he played the right amount of break and speed. He was a control player, and so I also watched to see where and when he decided to be aggressive based on where the holes were cut. …

Finally, the day of the first round arrived. … Let’s go.
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Tiger Woods 1997 Masters 2017 Masters

Tiger Woods began the 1997 Masters with a ‘quiet but determined state of mind.’ (Sam Greenwood/PGA Tour)

Thursday, April 10, 1997

I was surrounded by a half-dozen or so Pinkerton security guards as I walked off the ninth green an 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. He taught me to be completely aware of my surroundings, while maintaining complete focus on the task at hand. …

All of this enabled me to step onto the tenth tee in a quiet but determined state of mind. I had all but forgotten that I’d shot 40. It was a new game, and then I hit the two-iron down the tenth fairway.

I felt something then and there. The feel produced what I wanted to do with the golf ball, so I told myself to go with it. … I trusted it the rest of the way around the back nine. …

I was feeling good now in every part of my game. After another long drive on seventeen I had 87 yards to the pin, and I hit my sixty-degree wedge to about twelve feet and made that. Two under for the day. My drive on eighteen left me with about 97 yards to the hole. My birdie putt to shoot 29 on the back slid just past the right edge. But 30 was just fine.
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Tiger Woods 1997 Masters 2017 Masters

Tiger Woods shot a 66 in the second round of the 1997 Masters to take a 3-shot lead. (Sam Greenwood/PGA Tour)

Friday, April 11, 1997

Paul Azinger and I were walking side by side up the seventeenth fairway early Friday evening. Our second round was nearly over, and we were chatting away. Paul was even for the round and 3 under for the tournament, while I was 6 under for the day and 8 under through the thirty-four holes I’d played. I was leading the Masters, and I’d played well the second round. My concentration was sharp, and I was hitting plenty of solid shots that came off the clubface just as I wanted. While I didn’t want to get distracted – I still had a hole and a half to play – there was no reason we couldn’t talk between shots. … 

My heart rate was elevated as Paul and I walked up the seventeenth fairway, because I had gotten so intense as the round progressed. Fluff’s (caddie Mike Cowan) jokes relaxed me, and so did the brief conversations Paul and I had. Now it was time to take my heart rate down because I was about to play. … I was able to get into an almost meditative state on the course when required.

I parred seventeen and eighteen to shoot 66 and take a three-shot lead over the field.

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Tiger Woods 1997 Masters 2017 Masters

Tiger Woods gained 9 shots on Colin Montgomerie in Round 3. (Sam Greenwood/PGA Tour)

Saturday, April 12, 1997

If I needed any extra motivation for my third round, Colin Montgomerie provided it during his media conference the day before. Monty was in second place, three shots behind me, and so we were going to play together in the last twosome on Saturday, just after two o’clock. At the conference, Monty was asked about our prospects for Saturday, and he spoke his mind, saying that everybody would see in the third round what I was made of, and that experience was a “key factor.” … His comments only strengthened my resolve to play my best golf the rest of the way. … 

I had a clean card, eleven pars and seven birdies, for 65. That was the kind of golf I had been working toward. Monty and I shook hands on the eighteenth green. His 74 had put him twelve shots behind me, after starting the round three shots behind. He was beaten up but cordial. … 

The media wanted to talk to Monty, and he accepted their invitation.

“There is no chance humanly possible that Tiger is just going to lose this tournament,” Monty said. Somebody mentioned that (Greg) Norman had lost a six-shot lead the previous year. Monty came up with “This is different. This is very different. (Nick) Faldo is not lying second for a start [Costantino Rocca was second, nine shots behind me], and Greg Norman is not Tiger Woods.” 

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Sunday, April 13, 1997

Tiger Woods picked up his first Masters’ champion green jacket with a little help from Nick Faldo in 1997. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

Writing from the vantage point of twenty years after I won the 1997 Masters, I see that the lessons of Augusta keep repeating themselves. My dad was right when we spoke that Saturday night. I would have to play an efficient last round and not get caught up in anything except trying to execute my plan. It had been only a year since I had taken a nine-shot lead into the last round of the NCAA Championships at the Honors Course near Nashville and shot 80. I still won the individual title by three shots. But 80? I was angry and disappointed in myself. …

Tiger Woods roared after winning the 1997 Masters tournament, shooting a record 18-under-par. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

Still, thoughts of winning the Masters did flit through my mind, and sometimes for a minute or two. Could this really happen? Was I about to become the youngest golfer to win the Masters? Would winning create opportunities in golf for minorities, as many people were suggesting? What would winning mean to the black golfers before me who had suffered in a world where the color of their skin mattered to people, and in which they didn’t have the opportunities I had, not even close? Would winning a golf tournament, even the Masters, really have the social significance that was predicted? The only way we would find out was if I went out and stuck to my game plan and won that green jacket . … 

Later I learned that Augusta staff members, many of them African-Americans, came out to the oak tree on the lawn near the first tee to watch me start. Other staff members were also there. It was time for me to do something at the Masters that had never been done. The thought crossed my mind as I approached the first tee, and then it slipped away. I had fallen into my bubble of concentration. … 

I had won by twelve shots and broken the Masters record for the low score in the tournament. Tom Kite shot 70 in the last round and finished second. 

Fluff and I embraced on the green, and a minute later my dad and I were hugging and I was crying. I rarely ever cried. But at that moment, I did. My dad had flatlined a few months before. We’d almost lost him. And here he was, with my mom behind the eighteenth green. As we hugged, Pop said, “I love you, and I’m so proud of you.” 

Excerpted from THE 1997 MASTERS: My Story by Tiger Woods with Lorne Rubenstein. Copyright @ 2017 by ETW Corp. Reprinted with permission of Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.

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