Year in Review: 1997


Re-rank the list of top sports stories of 1997


Find out more about:

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

Rivals are left at a loss to explain it

By Joe Concannon, Globe Staff, 04/13/97

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Perhaps Colin Montgomerie spoke for all those in desperate pursuit of Tiger Woods in today's final round of the 61st Masters at Augusta National.

And perhaps he said it best by simply saying nothing.

He sat in the back of the press interview room, listened as Italy's Costantino Rocca talked of his own plight, and noticed his score was wrong on the board. There was a red 4 on the 18th, which meant he had birdied the hole. He hadn't. He walked up, took down the 4 and put up a 3.

Do numbers mean a thing at this juncture of the Masters? Sure, Greg Norman saw a six-shot lead slide away a year ago when Nick Faldo went past him to win by five. Woods shot a 65 yesterday. Nobody stayed with him among the leaders. He leads Rocca by nine. Is there a tomorrow?

"All I have to say is one brief comment," said Montgomerie, a few moments after playing next to Woods. "There is no chance. We're all human beings here. There's no chance humanly possible that Tiger is going to lose this tournament. No way."

Q: What makes you say that?

A: "Have you just come in, or have you been away? Have you been on holiday or something? Or have you just arrived? Sorry. What do you mean what makes me say that?"

The questions started to flow when Tom Kite's 66 matched his low previous round in his 24th Masters. Woods was still on the front nine. Woods finished 65--201 and Rocca had to finish 31-70--210 to keep it in single figures.

"We gave this tournament away on Saturday night last year," said Kite. "I don't know of any of the players on the board that are willing to go ahead and give him the green jacket at this time. All of those players are going to have to play some incredible golf and get a lot of help from him.

"But strange things have happened at this place before. I don't blame you for getting excited about what this kid is doing. You just have to temper it a little bit. They're not going to put the green jacket on this kid tonight. We know from past experience it doesn't always pan out. That's why they call it sport."

Paul Stankowski, who seemed on line to be paired with Woods today before Rocca birdied the 18th, simply accepted his position after a shaky start in a round of 69 that was turned around when he hit a 6-iron second shot to 6 feet and rolled it in for eagle on 13.

"It's golf," said Stankowski. "You can't control what everybody else does. Tomorrow I'll definitely be relaxed. There's no chance unless I shoot 57 or something to win. But anything is possible out here.

"I'm just going to play my game like I've been doing every day. If I start thinking about catching him, I'll probably go the other way."

Tom Watson, who has shot 68-69 in the past two rounds and is tied for fourth, 11 shots back, said Woods simply has been on another planet. "He's a boy amongst men," said Watson, "and he's showing the men how to play. They asked me what I intended to do tomorrow. I said, `Just try to go out and play my best golf. It looks like I'm playing for second place.' "

How good is Woods? "He may win 10 Masters like Jack Nicklaus said he might," Watson said. "But he may be the type of player that only comes around once in a millennium."

Can Watson win? "I don't think so. Stranger things have happened. I guess there's an outside chance. It's not impossible, but it's highly improbable." The only parallel is last year, when Norman shot 78, Faldo 67. "This is very different," said Montgomerie. "Faldo's not lying second, for a start. And Greg Norman's not Tiger Woods."

It's probably appropriate for Montgomerie to give the final Saturday assessment.

"I appreciate that he hit the ball long and straight," he said. "I appreciate his iron shots were very accurate. I did not appreciate how he putted. When you add it all together, he's nine shots clear. And I'm sure that will be higher tomorrow."

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