Eldrick “Tiger” Woods, a prodigy since the time he was a toddler, delivered on his destiny of golf greatness with a jaw-dropping 12-stroke victory in the Masters Tournament on this day in history, April 13, 1997.
“A win for the ages!” broadcaster Jim Nantz enthused, as the gallery erupted when Woods’ final putt dropped in the 18th hole.
His 12-shot victory over second-place finisher Tom Kite remains the greatest margin in the history of the storied golf tournament.
He is still the youngest winner in Masters history.
Woods shot an incredible 18-under, which stood as the lowest-ever score in the Masters until it was surpassed by Dustin Johnson in 2020 (-20).
Tiger Woods celebrates after sinking a 4-foot putt to win the U.S. Masters Golf Tournament with a record low score of 18 under par on April 13, 1997, at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. (Stephen Munday/Allsport/Getty Images)
Golf Digest called the win by the 21-year-old phenom “the dawn of dominance” and an “epic victory that shook the game.”
Woods tore up all four rounds, including a scintillating 65 (7-under) third round on Saturday that put him in a commanding position entering the final found.
“A win for the ages!” — Jim Nantz, broadcaster
“Tiger’s Grrrreat!” beamed the front-page headline of local newspaper Augusta Chronicle Sunday morning.
The final round proved a coronation, not a competition.
Sportsman of the Year winner, golfer Tiger Woods, at Sports Illustrated’s “Sportsman of the Year” award ceremony at the Beacon Theater, in New York City, Dec. 12, 2000. He had won the 1996 Sportsman of the Year Honors just months after joining the PGA Tour. (Evan Agostini/ImageDirect)
Woods, who turned pro only seven months earlier, laid waste to a field of the greatest golfers in the game.
“There’s a new era about to dawn at the most magical setting in golf,” CBS announced as it opened its final-round broadcast.
Woods, the network noted, “had power and grace like the game has never seen before.”
For nearly two decades he’d been groomed for this moment.
“The final round of the Masters had garnered its highest rating ever, and television ratings leaped whenever he played a tournament.” — Masters.com
Woods was famously given a golf club the moment he could walk by his father Earl Woods, a U.S. Army Green Beret officer who served in Vietnam.
Tiger proved a natural. He shocked a national TV audience by driving golf balls at age 2 in front of Bob Hope on “The Mike Douglas Show.”
Tiger Woods as a two-year-old golf prodigy on “The Mike Douglas Show,” on Oct. 6, 1978. (CBS via Getty Images)
He dominated amateur golf as a teenager, winning a record three consecutive U.S. Junior Championships (1991-93), then adding an NCAA golf title (1996) while playing for Stanford, among many other honors.
Woods turned pro in September 1996 and won two PGA Tour events before year-end. Sports Illustrated named him its “Sportsman of the Year” for 1996 and again in 2000.
His innate ability, coupled with the demands of a driven father and his own quest for excellence, gave Tiger’s ascendancy as a professional an air of inevitability witnessed by millions in the final round of the 1997 Masters.
Woods, with an insurmountable lead, was followed across the final several holes by an electrified gallery entranced by the greatness unfolding in front of their eyes.
Tiger Woods, 21, makes his triumphant march to the 18th green to cap his 12-stroke win at the 1997 Masters Tournament. It was Woods’ first major title and made him a global sensation. (Augusta National/Getty Images)
“A rhapsody of total appreciation and awe at a virtuoso performance like Augusta has never seen,” Nantz said as Woods stepped onto the 18th green to secure his crown.
“It is here that I left my youth behind and became a man,” Woods wrote to the host committee at Augusta National Saturday night, the words read on air as he played his final putt.
“For that, I will eternally be in your debt.”
The popularity of golf soared in the wake of Woods’ masterful Masters.
Tiger Woods of the U.S. celebrates on the 18th green after winning the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 14, 2019, in Augusta, Georgia. (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
“Woods’ dominant performance, and his mass appeal, had an immediate effect” on the sport, notes Masters.com, the website of Augusta National.
“The final round of the Masters had garnered its highest rating ever, and television ratings leaped whenever he played a tournament. His first tournament after the Masters was the GTE Byron Nelson Golf Classic outside Dallas, which he won. The tournament sold out for the first time.”
“A rhapsody of total appreciation and awe at a virtuoso performance like Augusta has never seen.” — Jim Nantz
It was the first of what would become 15 wins in major tournaments by Woods, his assault on Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 major titles thwarted by a series of personal scandals and injuries in later years.
“Woods’ win happened half his life ago, but the roars it triggered will never fade,” Masters.com wrote in 2017, in a 20th-annivesary retrospective of the landmark moment in global sports history.
“Today … most of us remember the winning moment as if it just happened. Tiger shook the golf world.”