Masters memory -- Furman Bisher: Tiger Woods announces his presence to the world

1996 Masters Champion Nick Faldo puts the Green Jacket on 1997 Champion Tiger Woods at the end of the 1997 Masters on Sunday, April 13, 1997. (DAVID TULIS/AJC staff)

Credit: David Tulis

Credit: David Tulis

Editor’s note: In what was to be 2020 Masters week, we are walking down Memory Magnolia Lane with a look back at some of Furman Bisher’s columns from the tournament. Bisher died in 2012 at the age of 93 having covered 62 of the 75 Masters. Selah.  Today: Tiger Woods wins his first Masters. The column appeared in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on April 14, 1997.

AUGUSTA - You might as well get used t­o it, friends. It's here to stay. Tiger Woods has exercised his option on the world. Either move over or get aboard. As Ted Turner ordered from the bridge of his empire, "Lead, follow or get out of the way." The golf order changeth. He has carried his game to another planet.

Prepare to be overwhelmed by the Woods wave. No full name needed hereafter. “Tiger” says it all, just as Arnie, Jack and The Shark once was identification enough for them, and he's only 21-years old.

Shamelessly, he is being marketed like a new detergent. Tee times were kicked back an hour by CBS Sunday to accommodate a self-indulgent “documentary” on Woods and what he brings to golf, promoted, directed and ghost writ-on-demand (by Jaime Diaz of Sports Illustrated) for IMG, the Mark McCormack stable that also promotes, directs and manages Woods. It had all the objectivity of a press release from the former Kremlin.

Meanwhile, on course at Augusta National, Woods' most recognizable pursuers were a combined age of 134 years - Tom Watson, Tom Kite and Costantino Rocca. Watson got within eight strokes, then threw three of them back on the 7th hole. Kite coasted along at even keel 10 strokes back at the turn. The Italian from the box factory at Bergamo was playing a level game, but at no time was there any kind of move that could be translated as “threatening.” Even when Woods bogeyed the 5th and 7th holes. The competition was marked by a high degree of enthusiasm, but a low degree of suspense.

Woods made the turn nine strokes up on Rocca. Surprise! It was not a record. In the 1980 Masters, Seve Ballesteros made the turn 10 strokes ahead of Gibby Gilbert, the dour Chattanoogan, and Jack Newton, the Australian. He lost six strokes coming in and won by four.

Woods came dressed in territorial taste, red and black. Red shirt, black trousers. If there was a gallery member who had any resentment of the black-Thai's course dominance, it was never reflected in spectator behavior. He drew applause even when he inhaled and exhaled. He was showing them a grade of golf this grand old course had never seen.

Colin Montgomerie put it in Scottish perspective Saturday after his round with Woods. There was just one brief comment he wanted to make, he said. “There is no chance. There is no chance humanly possible that Tiger is going to lose this tournament. No way.

“I appreciate that he hit the ball long and straight, and I appreciate his iron shots are very accurate. I did not appreciate how he putted,” in this case, “appreciate” used in the sense of understood. It was an experience that surely made a dent in the Scot's mental game. Sunday, he dropped out of sight with a 42 on the back nine and a round of 82.

Now it is done. The smile has been frozen in time, his Asian mother's smile. His name has broken out all over the Masters record book. His arms have slipped into the coveted green jacket, 42 long - “A dream of mine since I was a child"” - and in the ceremony on the hallowed lawn, where Bobby Jones once presided. Bill Clinton has made his presidential call and said nothing that will change the course of golf. There won’t be enough room on his bandwagon, but say: This old game has a new direction today.

In Other News