Tiger Woods’s victory on Sunday 13th April 1997 was astonishingly emphatic. His 12-stroke margin of victory was a record; he was the youngest winner; he set new records for the second- and third-round totals and for the last three rounds and he equaled the record for 54 holes. John Hopkins took measure of the moment in his 15 April column in London’s Sunday Times.
History has often been made here in Georgia. The old city, which once housed the largest cotton exchange in the South and still publishes its oldest newspaper, is where a new era dawned. Just after 5am yesterday, fingers of light broke through to brighten the first day of the Tiger era, golf’s sixth since 1896.
It was fewer than 12 hours after Tiger Woods had slipped on his first green jacket as the 61st Masters champion and the first of African-American heritage. He had broken half as many records as he had clubs in his bag and his smile was as wide as his 12-stroke winning margin. Soon, in a television interview, he would speak like a mature man possessed of a dignity that few golfers in history of the game could rival.
There had been faint hopes that 1994 champion José María Olazábal might recover from what generally was held to be a dire form of rheumatoid arthritis but it was never more than that. But after it was discovered the problem had less to do with his feet than a series of displaced vertebrae in his back, he returned to the game in ’97 and reached its pinnacle again in ’99.
José María Olazábal, who three summers ago wondered if he would ever walk again, let alone play golf, yesterday won the US Masters for a second time. On a course where he comes to life as nowhere else in the world, the Spaniard rode the tension to win by two from Davis Love. “A very emotional day for me,” murmured the new champion as Mark O’Meara helped him into his green jacket.
Olazábal, whose last-round 71 left him at 8-under par, took an age to play to the green of the 170-yard 16th. Then he let rip, his glorious iron checking on the bank before rolling back toward the flag. It paved the way for the 2, which – more than anything else – would secure his title.
Back in the clubhouse, Sergio García, who had already bagged the amateur medal for Spain, was following his compatriot on television. He was riveted to the screen when, at the 17th, Olazábal had to approach the green via the trees. He knew “Chema,” as they call him, could do it – and he did, hitting the shot of a lifetime to the back of the green.
Adam Scott's soggy victory in 2013 – defeating 2009 champion Ángel Cabrera in encroaching darkness with a birdie on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff – delivered the Aussie, then 32, into the realm of major championship winners.
When the winning putt fell in, Scott raised his arms and screamed. So did Augusta and, if you listened closely enough, you could practically hear Australia.
Scott stood on the 10th green like Springsteen doing Born To Run, breathing in the noise and the moment, arms raised in the rain.
When Scott finally left the green, Cabrera put his arm around the man who can now share Augusta’s champions’ locker room with him.
Ron Green Jr.