The Masters Tournament which concluded a fortnight ago with victory for Sergio Garcia was a memorable one: a close-fought contest in which the Spaniard prevailed over Justin Rose after a playoff. Twenty years beforehand, the Masters was a momentous occasion, even though it was basically over after the back nine on Saturday, let alone anyone having to wait until the players got to it on Sunday.
In fact, it looked as if for Tiger Woods the Masters might be over by the back nine on Thursday. Playing with the defending champion, Nick Faldo, he took 40 shots to reach the turn. “It takes a minute or two to walk from the 9th green to the 10th tee at the Augusta National Golf Club,” writes Woods, “and I needed that time to think.” It worked. He took a 2-iron off the 10th tee. “I blistered the 2-iron down the fairway. There, right there, that was it.” He had found his swing again. He won by 12 strokes from Tom Kite – the first of the 14 majors he would win; a total of 14 that looks likely to remain the same forever.
Those words I quoted from Tiger appear in a recently published autobiography, Unprecedented, written in collaboration with the respected golf journalist, Lorne Rubenstein. It is the first book Woods has co-operated with and taking that sensational performance at Augusta as the essential theme of the book, it tells the story of one of the greatest weeks of his career without necessarily having to be encumbered with all the baggage that would come later.
But there is a bit more to it than that. For example, he recounts the casual discrimination he would encounter while growing up as a black American, even though he quite reasonably dislikes that simplistic tag because it ignores the fact that his mother is Asian. He writes of the prize-giving ceremony after his win in 1997: “Quite a few of Augusta’s staff, mostly black people, had left their posts and gathered outside on the lawn and on the verandah on the second floor. In all the years I’ve been to the Masters since, I have never seen it like that.” It mattered a lot to him and he held a pride for the fact that what he’d done mattered to them.
He makes it clear he doesn’t think the changes the club has made to the golf course, ‘Tiger-proofing’ it, have done it any favours, and he’s surely right about that. Of the stuff that occurred post him driving into the fire hydrant in November 2009, he says of his ex-wife, Elin: “I betrayed her. My dishonesty and selfishness caused her intense pain. My regret will last a lifetime.”
On a happier note, he recalls with special fondness and gratitude the impromptu short-game lessons he received at Augusta from Seve Ballesteros and José Maria Olazábal. He has never had or wanted a cordial relationship like that with Sergio Garcia, who has lately become his country’s third Master.
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