While it's hard to remember the Masters without Tiger Woods, here, from the pages of our sister publication Sports Illustrated, is a decade-old snapshot of something you'll never forget: the nail-biting quiet before Tiger's first Masters as a professional in 1997, and the aftereffect of the most dominating performance ever seen up to that time in a major championship. (Unattributed lines excerpted from stories by Rick Reilly, John Garrity and Jaime Diaz.)
One week prior to the 1997 Masters
The Sports Illustrated headline:
THINK TIGERMANIA IS AT A FEVER PITCH? WAIT UNTIL HE WINS THE GREEN JACKET NEXT WEEK IN AUGUSTA
"Already, 1997 has a different feel. The low expectations and general malaise that characterized the Tour's old order have been replaced by a sense of urgency that's shared by rookies as well as longtime campaigners."
"In the seven months Woods has been a professional, the sight and sound of his shots on the practice tee and the frequency of his name on the leader board have motivated many players to flatten their bellies, tighten their swings and intensify their powers of concentration."
"His African-American heritage would make a victory in [the Masters], in which no black was invited to play until 1975 and where every caddie was black until '83, a transcendent accomplishment."
"[By winning at Augusta] Woods would graduate from being the game's most talented player to its best, until further notice. And by winning a Grand Slam event at a younger age than Jack Nicklaus, Woods would be off to a flying start in his race against the record of the golfer with whom he is unavoidably compared."
"Augusta is made for Woods. His combination of length, high, soft-landing iron shots and delicate touch around the greens are the classic building blocks for Masters victories."
"As far as talent and potential, Tiger is the best I've ever seen. But what's best about him is that when there is chaos all around him, he can concentrate and perform." - Steve Elkington
The bough breaks: The immediate reaction to Woods's victory
The Sports Illustrated headline:
OVERPOWERING A STORIED COURSE AND A STELLAR FIELD, TIGER WOODS HERALDED A NEW ERA IN GOLF WITH AN AWESOME 12-SHOT VICTORY IN THE MASTERS
"Woods will be unable to satisfy the global media outlets. He will find peace only if he retreats into a walled compound, in the manner of Greg Norman, and waits for presidents to call."
"Almost 50 years to the day after Jackie Robinson broke major league baseball's color barrier, at Augusta National, a club that no black man was allowed to join until six years ago, at the tournament whose founder, Clifford Roberts, once said, 'As long as I'm alive, golfers will be white, and caddies will be black,' a 21-year-old black man delivered the greatest performance ever seen in a golf major."
"Someday Eldrick (Tiger) Woods, a mixed-race kid with a middle-class background who grew up on a municipal course in the sprawl of Los Angeles, may be hailed as the greatest golfer who ever lived, but it is likely that his finest day will always be the overcast Sunday in Augusta when he humiliated the world's best golfers, shot 18-under-par (70-66-65-69-270, the lowest score in tournament history) and won the Masters by a preposterous 12 shots."
"So golf is trying to get used to the fact that the man who will rule the game for the next 20 years shaves twice a week and has been drinking legally for almost three months now."
"He's more dominant over the guys he's playing against than I ever was over the ones I played against." - Jack Nicklaus
"When Nicklaus said last year that Woods would win 10 green jackets, everybody figured he was way off. We just never thought his number was low."
"Unless they build Tiger tees about 50 yards back, he's going to win the next 20 of these." - Jesper Parnevik
"Never before had one player attracted such a large following. Folks might have come out with the intention of watching another golfer, but each day the course seemed to tilt toward wherever Woods was playing."
"Never before had so many people stayed at the course so long, filling the stands behind the practice range, 1,500 strong, to watch a lone player hit thrilling wedge shots under the darkening Georgia sky."
"So golf is all new now. Everything is a fight for place. Win seems to be spoken for."
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