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Year in Review: 1997

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Re-rank the list of top sports stories of 1997

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Tiger Woods takes
golf world by storm

Pedro Martinez signs
record deal with Sox

Latrell Sprewell
assaults coach, gets ax

Rick Pitino becomes
Celtics coach, president

Bill Parcells quits after Patriots' banner year

Martina Hingis
rules women's tennis

Florida Marlins win World Series

Women's pro hoop
meets with success

A Patriots surprise:
Super Bowl XXXI berth

Wil Cordero charged
with assaulting wife


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Check out the top news stories of 1997

Tiger Woods becomes youngest masters champion in history

12-shot win most lopsided in more than 100 years

By Joe Concannon, Globe Staff, 04/14/97

Masters champion Tiger Woods receives his Green Jacket from last year's winner Nick Faldo, rear, at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., Sunday, April 13, 1997. (AP Photo/ Dave Martin) Masters champion Tiger Woods receives his Green Jacket from last year's winner Nick Faldo, rear, at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., Sunday, April 13, 1997. (AP Photo/ Dave Martin)

FIND OUT MORE

Rivals are left at a loss to explain it

Young master sets mark for the ages

What to make of Tiger's win?

With his competitive ways,
Woods really rates

AUGUSTA, Ga. - Tiger Woods walked toward the summit of golf's version of Mount Olympus in the gathering dusk at Augusta National yesterday, alone in his strides over some the game's most hallowed turf in the historic glow of the 61st Masters. In the tenderness of his youth, at this moment he had become a sportsman for the ages.

What he had accomplished over four rounds played against a rising tide of expectations in a variety of weather was to shed the undeserved cloak of programmed technician and don the treasured green jacket he won with a combination of feel and feeling against the resident giants of the game. Nick Faldo and Greg Norman, step aside. This is Tiger's game. This was his hour to shine.

The conventional wisdom has been that the Masters is won or lost on Sunday afternoons like yesterday, amid the tall pines and shattered dreams of the first of golf's four major championships. So much for conventional wisdom, because the stark reality of the Tiger Woods era set in Thursday afternoon when he followed an indecisive 40 with a stunning back-nine 30 and never looked back during his stroll into the archives of the game.

Woods had opened a nine-shot lead over Italy's Costantino Rocca entering yesterday, a round his father Earl told him would be "the toughest you've ever had to play in your life." But the voyage became almost a formality, as Woods completed what his father had termed Thursday "a rite of passage." Woods kept his composure to complete a record run of 18-under-par 70-66-65-69--270 and leave his US Ryder Cup captain Tom Kite (70--282) and the rest of the field unsettled and shaking their collective heads in disbelief.

This was a truly mesmerizing performance, one by which all future efforts in major championship golf will be measured. Woods had one bogey from the ninth hole Thursday through the fifth yesterday. That's 49 holes. Woods won by 12 shots, broke the standard of 271 set by Jack Nicklaus (1965) and matched by Raymond Floyd (1976), and fell just one stroke shy of the widest margin in major championship history established by Old Tom Morris when he beat Willie Park by 13 over 36 holes in the 1862 British Open at Prestwick.

Woods became the first black to win one of the game's major championships, two days before celebrations to recognize his hero Jackie Robinson's entry into major league baseball 50 years ago. As he stood on the clubhouse lawn yesterday afternoon, Lee Elder could only wonder what might have been. He was the first black to qualify for the Masters in 1975, and would play six times. "I've imagined I'm making the putt to win," said Elder, "but it never happened." Yesterday Woods made all the required putts.

What happened the past four days was staggering. Woods, who became the youngest, at 21 years 3 months 14 days, to win the Masters, simply turned the course that some suggested is beginning to show signs of obsolescence into an inviting muni. Just take two holes out of Thursday afternoon's back-nine 30. On the 455-yard 11th, Woods hit a sand wedge into the green. On the 500-yard 15th, he went driver, wedge. After building a lead that left the few lingering mortals in the hunt playing for second, Woods followed a conservative game plan in the denouement, a man in control of his destiny.

Rocca, who stayed within shouting range through the early holes before finishing bogey-bogey and sliding to sixth, and Tom Watson (72--284, fourth), who played in cathedral-like silence by contrast, were the only two to remotely threaten. Watson's bogey/triple bogey tripup on the sixth and seventh holes left the stage entirely to Woods. After his only two bogeys, on the fifth and seventh holes, Woods birdied the 11th, 13th, and 14th and survived a rocky par on the 15th and a wildly hooked drive on the 18th to bring it home to the roars of the crowd.

"I've never played an entire tournament with my `A' game," said Woods, "and this is pretty close. I did for 63 holes, excluding the first nine. This golf course can take anybody who is confident and humble them. I played shaky on Thursday starting out, but from there it evolved into one of my best ball-striking tournaments. It's something I've always dreamt of . . . playing in the Masters and winning it."

The round started out with a drive down the middle and ended when he arched a 9 iron out of the wastelands to the left of the 18th fairway to the back of the green and wound up rolling in a 4-foot putt for a par. The round was set up when he chipped to 4 feet on the second hole, and made it. The first bogey came on the fifth when he flew his second shot over and into a trap and missed a 12-foot putt for a save. The second, on the seventh, came when he found the trees to the left and a bunker short of the green.

The door was slammed shut on the bogey wagon, as birdies on the eighth (8 iron chip, 2 feet), 11th (wedge, 20 feet), 13th (two putts, 15 feet), and 14th (sand wedge, 8 feet) gave him all the breathing room he needed. "I had to get through Amen Corner [11, 12, 13] in even par at the worst," said Woods. "When I got by 16 even though I screwed up and hit it to the right, I knew it was pretty much over. I knew I could bogey in and win the tournament."

There is little reason to doubt that Woods startled Faldo with his Thursday 30, that Faldo's erratic play on Friday was his reaction to the raw power and skills Woods exhibited. "I guess when Jack Nicklaus came on in the 1960s he was way out in front of everybody else," said Kite. "Everybody on Tour caught up to him. This seems to be the next generation, and Tiger's leap-frogged the rest of the field." Kite's postmortem put it in perspective. "I won my tournament. I won the silver medal."


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