“Fore please, Tiger Woods now driving.”
Next week will mark a 25th year Woods will walk onto the first tee of the Masters and be introduced to the patrons at Augusta National.
The first occasion Woods was similarly introduced he was relatively unknown to the wider golfing audience having qualified for his then maiden 1995 Masters in capturing the 1994 U.S. Amateur, an achievement he would repeat in both 1995 and 1996.
Woods had made his PGA Tour debut at the 1992 L.A. Open and in teeing-up at Augusta National for a first time on April 6th, 1995 he had contested six other regular PGA Tour events in the ensuing two years, three in 1993 and three also in 1994.
He’d missed the cut in all seven tournaments, so in arriving at Augusta National there was little fanfare surrounding this new golfing kid on the Masters block.
Woods kind of felt the same about taking his first drive down Magnolia Lane, at the time, saying: “When I first arrived here — Magnolia Lane, is that it? — I thought that it was a pretty short drive”.
While Woods found the drive into the ultra-exclusive club not that impressive, those on hand to see his opening practice round drive of the 59th Masters were in awe, including playing partner Nick Faldo, a then five-time major champion including green jacket wins in 1989 and 1990.
“He hits it long,” Faldo said. “His shoulders are impressively quick through the ball. That’s where he’s getting his power from. He’s just a very talented kid.”
If there was one hole that stood out that Monday morning 29-years-ago it was the par-5 15th hole with Woods hitting driver and finding the green with a 9-iron second shot.
However, there was a scenario at the fifth hole of his final practice round that week, and something that sadly would dog Woods career, it was suffeing a back spasm and after apologising to his practice round partners, he headed to the fitness trailer where he was examined by Dr. Frank Jobe, then the orthopaedic consultant on the PGA Tour.
Woods later remarked: “I’m fine, I’m OK. I’ve done this before. I have no pain now. I’m ready to go. I’ll be there tomorrow.”
Ready to go he was, playing alongside defending Masters champ Jose Maria Olazabal and impressing the Spaniard from his opening tee shot.
“I needed binoculars to see where he hit the ball,” Olazabal said smiling. “On the first hole he flew his drive over the bunker on the right side, 280 yards on the fly.”
Four days later, Woods strolled off the 18th green following a fist-pumping birdie.
Five amateurs teed-up in the 1995 Masters including Woods who posted scores of 72, 72, 77 and 72 to share 41st place, three shots behind the already five-time winning Jack Nicklaus contesting a 37thMasters, and three clear Seve Ballesteros, winner of the 1980 and ’93 Masters, who had completed in his 19th Augusta National showing.
While the likes of Nicklaus and Seve cleaned-out their lockers and probably headed for their private jets, Woods had to be back behind a desk at his beloved Stanford University in California.
“I’ve got a class at 9am tomorrow,” he said to waiting reporters. One of the media asked what class it was. “History,” said Woods.
Woods added: “It has been a very memorable week. Coming out to this tournament, I felt very confident and very positive with the way I played”.
Woods found his way to his history class, and also found time to write to the Augusta National saying:
‘Please accept my sincere thanks for providing me the opportunity to experience the most wonderful week of my life. It was Fantasyland and Disney World wrapped into one. I was treated like a gentleman throughout my stay and I trust I responded in kind. The Crow’s Nest will always remain in my heart and your magnificent golf course will provide a continuing challenge throughout my amateur and professional career.
I’ve accomplished much here and learned even more. Your tournament will always hold a special spot in my heart as the place where I made my first PGA cut and at a major yet! It is here that I left my youth behind and became a man. For that I will be eternally in your debt.’
With warmest regards and deepest appreciation.
For the then 19-year-old Woods it was an impressive first Masters.
Woods would miss his only Masters halfway cut a year later before delivering a history-making lesson of his own, contesting the 1997 Masters for a first time as a pro and winning by 12-shots, still four more in Augusta’s 86-year history than the second-highest winning margin.
TIGER WOODS – MASTERS ACHIEVEMENTS
1995 – Makes his Masters debut (T41st). Wins ‘Low Amateur’ Award t
1996 – Misses the halfway cut. (Still the only time he’s not played four rounds)
1997 – Wins a first of five Masters by a record-setting 12 shots.
2001 – Captures a second Masters (First player to earn a $1m plus Masters first prize).
2002 – Makes it back-to-back Masters triumphs
2005 – Wins a fourth Masters in a play-off over Chris DiMarco
2019 – After an absence of 14 years, wins a fifth Augusta green jacket. (First player to win over $2m plus Masters first prize)
WOODS’ FULL RESULTS AT THE MASTERS
1st – 1997, 2001, 2002, 2005 and 2019
2nd – 2007, 2008
3rd – 2006
4th– 2010, 2011, 2013
Top-10s – 5th (2000), 6th (2009), 8th (1998)
Top-20s – 15th (2003), 17th (2015), 18th (1999)
Top-30 – 22nd (2004)
Top-40 – 32nd (2018), 38th (2020), 40th (2012)
Top-50 – 41st (1995 -Amt), 42nd (2022)
Missed Cut – 1996
Did Not Play – 2014, 2016, 2017, 2021
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