Tiger Woods’ irons in 1997 vs 2019 tell an interesting story about Augusta National

April 17, 2019

The last question of Tiger Woods’ 2019 Masters winning press conference was a doozy: Could he go through every approach shot he hit that day, club by club? Woods had no trouble with the recall; one thing that hasn’t changed is his sharp mind. But he answered the same question in 1997, during his first win. The differences in clubs tell us something about Tiger Woods — and Augusta National.

In 1997, Woods was using a split set of Mizuno irons at the Masters: MP-29 long irons (2-5) and MP-14 mid and short irons (5-PW). At this year’s Masters, Woods had a fresh set of TaylorMade’s P7TWs. Importantly, Woods was second in driving distance to John Daly in 1997 at 294.8 yards per pop; in 2019 he’s T51 at 299.6.

The 6,925-yard Augusta National has been traded out in favor of a 7,475 alternative. In the lead-up to this year’s event, Woods broke down the differences in the course. Let’s go through, hole-by-hole, to check out the contrasts and see what they tell us.

No. 1

1997 (400 yds): Pitching wedge

2019 (445 yds): 8-iron

The issue for Woods has been finding this fairway, no matter how long it is. No problem on Sunday; he striped it.

No. 2

1997 (555 yds): 8-iron

2019 (575 yds): 4-iron

That’s an 8-iron for Woods’ second shot in 1997. This year’s 4-iron came for his third, after a pitch-out.

Tiger Woods hit mostly wedges in 1997. Not the case in 2019.
Getty Images

No. 3

1997 (360 yds): 15-yard pitch

2019 (350 yds): Sand wedge

This year’s veteran version laid back off the tee — and made birdie. ’97 Tiger hit it up by the green but settled for par. Go figure.

No. 4

1997 (205 yds): 6-iron

2019 (240 yds): 4-iron

This hole’s gotten longer.

No. 5

1997 (435 yds): Pitching wedge

2019 (495 yds): 4-iron

This hole’s gotten much longer. That’s no Erin Hills 495; this is the real deal.

No. 6

1997 (180 yds): 9-iron

2019 (180 yds): 8-iron

Finally, a hole that hasn’t changed — but a club that has.

No. 7

1997 (360 yds): Pitching wedge

2019 (450 yds): 8-iron

Talk about a contrast. Back in the day, pros with short irons could eat up No. 7, just like the women in the ANWA did this year. Now it’s a tougher driving hole and a significantly tougher test with a mid-iron in hand.

No. 8

1997 (535 yds): 2-iron

2019 (570 yds): 5-wood

In fairness to Woods, he nearly hit iron in this year before switching to 5-wood, which he promptly pounded some 30 yards over the green. Nice up-and-down, though.

No. 9

1997 (435 yds): Pitching wedge

2019 (460 yds): 8-iron

“I remember Raymond [Floyd] telling me just on 9, just hit it as far right as you possibly can,” Woods said before the Masters this year. “Well, you can’t do that anymore, there’s a forest down the right.”

As for his approach, maybe he should have hit 9-iron on Sunday instead of tugging 8 to the back edge. Then again, that would have deprived us of the spectacular lag putt that followed.

No. 10

1997 (485 yds): 8-iron

2019 (495 yds): Punch-out

Take note of that ’97 8-iron: It was the only club longer than a pitching wedge that Woods hit into a par-4 on Sunday.

Take note of that 8-iron: It was the only non-wedge that Woods hit into a par-4.

No. 11

1997 (455 yds): Pitching wedge

2019 (505 yds): 7-iron

I defy you to stand on that new back tee at No. 11 and feel anything but fear. Woods’ take: “On 11 you used to try to hit the ball up against the gallery. Well, now there is literally a forest that is there. The fairway used to be 80 yards wide, that’s no longer the case.”

No. 12

1997 (155 yds): Pitching wedge

2019 (155 yds): 9-iron

They didn’t need to change this hole; it’s nearly perfect. Note that Francesco Molinari hit 8-iron right before Woods and splashed it in the front water; Woods hit 9 anyway.

No. 13

1997 (485 yds): 8-iron

2019 (510 yds): 8-iron

Finally, new Tiger catches up with that 8-iron! Both led to birdie, too. Only time and technology will tell what this hole becomes.

No. 14

1997 (405 yds): Pitching wedge

2019 (440 yds): 9-iron

By my count, Woods was 44th in driving distance at this year’s Masters. In 1997, he led the field by some 25 yards. This was a different brand of victory, to be sure.

No. 15

1997 (500 yds): Pitching wedge

2019 (530 yds): 5-iron

Yes, that’s pitching wedge into a par-5. That’s the sort of thing Tiger Woods used to do all the time. But this year’s 5-iron from 227 was pretty special all the same.

No. 16

1997 (170 yds): 9-iron

2019 (170 yds): 8-iron

Woods asked LaCava if he should hit a cut 7-iron at No. 16. LaCava knew he shouldn’t. Eight was the right club, he said. He was right.

No. 17

1997 (400 yds): Sand wedge

2019 (440 yds): 8-iron

Probably still the most forgotten hole at Augusta given where it sits on the back nine. Goes without saying it’d be easier to have sand wedge left in.

No. 18

1997 (405 yds): Sand wedge

2019 (465 yds): 7-iron

Sand wedge into 18. Sand wedge into 18. Sand wedge into 18. No wonder this guy lapped the field.

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