1997: Tiger tracks into history with Masters win

The Augusta National Golf Club welcomed a third minority member into its exclusive group on Sunday afternoon. Tiger Woods shouldn't have any trouble getting a game.

With a record-shattering performance that left other competitors searching for superlatives to describe his game, Woods became the first minority golfer to win the Masters. He joins Ron Townsend and Bill Simms as the club's minority members. All Masters champions gain honorary membership status in the Augusta National.

Woods made the victory look easy, combining a power and finesse game unseen before at the Augusta National.

Woods led the field in averaging driving distance for the week at 323.1 yards and tied for 13th in putting, averaging 29 putts a round on the slick Augusta National greens.

The result was a tournament record and a 12-shot victory, over Tom Kite, a Masters runner-up for the third time.

The victory margin is the largest in the history of major championship golf, which started back in 1860 with the British Open.

``I've never played an entire tournament with my A-game,'' said Woods, who won in just his third Masters appearance, the first two as an amateur. ``This was pretty close.''

Woods, whose father is African-American and whose mother is Thai, is the first minority golfer to win a major championship.

``I think it's very appropriate that it comes here, at a magical place where these fabulous things happen,'' said Ben Crenshaw, the two-time Masters champion. ``I've always thought a lot of things happen here for a reason.''

``Tiger Woods has the opportunity to do something for the human race that no other golfer before him has,'' said three-time Masters champ Gary Player. ``Imagine the black people in Africa - 400 million watching Tiger Woods win the Masters. There has never been a world champion golfer who is a black golfer.''

The victory made the 21-year-old Woods the youngest champion in the 61-year history of the tournament. Seve Ballesteros was 20 months older than Woods when he became the youngest champion in 1980.

Woods, who has been a pro for only 7 1/2 months and already won four times in15 starts, simply buried the field as the week went along.

He shot 70-66-65 and closed with a 69 on Sunday for an 18-under-par 270 total. If not for a 4-over-par 40 on the front nine in the opening round, Woods may have reached 20-under-par for the tournament.

For the final 63 holes of the tournament, Woods was 22-under-par. He played the back nine in 16-under-par, breaking Arnold Palmer's 1962 record by four shots. Woods did not have a bogey on the back nine in the entire tournament.

``He's out of this world, he really is,'' Crenshaw said. ``It was just amazing. Words fail you.''

Woods broke the tournament record, once thought unreachable, by a shot. Jack Nicklaus in 1965 and Raymond Floyd shot 271, but the closest anyone has come to that was Crenshaw's 274 in 1995.

``He may win 10 Masters like Jack Nicklaus said he might,'' Tom Watson said of Woods. ``He may be the type of player that only comes around in a millennium. He's got the heart of a lion.''

Woods trailed John Huston by three shots after the first round, led by three after 36 holes and by nine after 54 holes.

``I dreamed of winning the Masters growing up but I never envisioned having the lead I did,'' Woods said.
In a rock-steady final round, Woods had five birdies, two bogeys and 12 pars.

``As my dad said Saturday night, `son this will probably be one of your toughest rounds of golf you've ever had to play in your life. Just go out there and be yourself and it will be one of the most rewarding rounds you've ever played in your life,''' Woods said. ``He was right because I had to deal with a lot of different thoughts and emotions that were going through my head.''

Some of those emotions had to do with the opportunity to become the first minority golfer to win the Masters. Lee Elder, who broke the Masters color line in 1975, flew in to be at the course on Sunday and wish Woods well.

Elder expressed those sentiments as Woods finished his practice session before teeing off.

``That meant a lot of me because he was the first; he was the one I looked up to,'' Woods said. ``Because of what he did I was able to play on the PGA Tour. When I turned pro when I was 20, I could live my dream. When Lee came down that really inspired me and reinforced what I had to do.

``I wasn't the pioneer,'' Woods said. ``Charlie Sifford, Lee Elder, Ted Rhodes, those are the guys who paved the way. All night I was thinking about them, what they've done for me and the game of golf. Coming up 18, I said a little of prayer of thanks to those guys. Those guys are the ones who did it.''

Woods shot even-par 36 on the front nine Sunday, then birdied Nos. 11, 13 and 14 to move to 18-under-par for the tournament. He parred the final four holes, making a 2«-foot par putt on the 18th green for the tournament record.

Kite, who was playing in the group ahead of Woods, stayed around to watch Woods play the 72nd hole.

``I wanted to see him finish,'' Kite said. ``It's a very historic moment to see somebody shoot the tournament record at a major championship. That was an incredible finish.''

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