Whether or not you agree with the dictum that golf is just “a good walk spoiled”, every now and then the otherwise rather sedate sport creates waves that excite even the non-golf-watching pundit. Just such waves were generated exactly twenty years ago.
Capturing the Masters at Augusta, Georgia, on April 13, 1997, was a 21-year-old Californian by the name of Eldrick Woods – generally known by his nickname “Tiger”. Not only did he thus become the tournament’s youngest-ever champion, but he also did it in some impressive style: with a record margin of 12 strokes, and with a record-breaking four-day score of 270 (18-under-par). He also became the first non-white golfer to win a major tournament. For his efforts he took home a pay cheque of almost half a million dollars.
Woods’s victory also proved to be something of a media sensation: according to the Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star, the event captured an American television audience of around 44 million at its peak.
The Masters win would later be followed by three more in his career (so far), as well as ten other major championship victories to date. He would also amass more than $800million in prize money, top the world rankings for nearly 700 weeks, and win over 130 professional titles, in tournaments all over the world…but then, he proved himself to be keen on playing away in more ways than one….
To many both inside and outside the golfing universe, it has seemed in recent years as though this particular Tiger has had his teeth pulled: his last major tournament win was the 2008 US Open, and he was last ranked World No 1 in the spring of 2014. On top of the usual demands on an internationally-recognised public figure, Woods has also had to contend with various injuries, as well as the fallout from a very acrimonious and public divorce. He has already stated that he can’t make this year’s Masters in time for the anniversary of his first win. Will the Tiger roar again (on the course, naturally)?