A Talk with Tiger 10 Years Later

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Editors Note: The following is a Golf Channel exclusive interview from Golf Channel reporter Casey Bierer with world No. 1 Tiger Woods.
 

 

 
Casey:
Tiger, these questions are regarding your 1997 Masters win.
 
Tiger:
Gosh, ten years alreadythats hard to believeten years.
 
Casey:
You met with Lee Elder before your final round and you said it was an inspiration to do that. What was so special about that meeting?
 
Tiger:
Well I was on my way to the chipping green ' I had just warmed up hitting golf balls ' I was going to chip and then putt and then go to the first tee. Lee was therehe had basically flown out to say good luckand, he was the first one ' in 1975 the year I was born ' he knocked down barriers. I mean, Charlie (Sifford) played the TOUR but wasnt ever eligible to play; he qualified but the rules kept changing. He wasnt able to play The Masters. Lee was the first. And to have the first man of color to ever play in The Masters come and say good luck, go out there and just do your stuff, that it inspirational. I dont see how it cannot be. That whole day was one big blur but also it was one of the more enjoyable days I have ever had.
 
Casey:
Your father said to you on the eve of that victory that if you play well and be yourself it will be the most rewarding round youve ever experienced. Ten years later does that still ring true for you?
 
Tiger:
Without a doubt. He also said it was going to be one of the most difficult rounds Ive ever had to play. If you remember, the year before, Norman just lost with a six shot lead. It can happen. I had a nine shot lead going in to the last day and figured it could still happen. I just need to stick to my guns; play the par-5s well, play smart, and things should go my way. But guys, if they get hot and shoot a 65, I have to be able to counter that with an even par or under par round. So, my whole focus the last day was to shoot something in the 60s. If I shot something in the 60s I figured no one was going to shoot 59 there. So, I thought I would be OK.
 
Casey:
You were met with some mixed reaction from the veterans on the PGA TOUR early in your career a lot having to do with the enormous contracts that you had initially coming out as a professional. Was there any sort of feeling of validation for you when you won the 97 Masters in terms of how the other players treated you?
 
Tiger:
Well, I figured it was going to take time because when I first turned pro I hadnt done anything. I had won some amateur stuff but I hadnt really done anything on a professional stage. I had played in professional events but quite frankly I didnt do well at all. Then all of a sudden this little kid gets all these big contractshe hasnt earned his stripes. Yeah, there was quite a bit of resentment but understandable. I hadnt proven myself. And the whole idea is to prove your worth out here. You have to pay your dues and these guys that have been on tour for a number of years and won tournaments and been consistent money winnersand I havent done any of that. So for me, when I won Vegas and beat Davis and then I beat Payne at Disney and then got in to THE TOUR Championship in seven events I think that validated a lot; hey this kid can play a little bit. Eventually I ended up winning The Masters the following year.
 
Casey:
Are you comfortable with the fact that the 97 Masters is really your only major that is considered a socially significant major? I mean, all major victories are significant. But that major, the 97 Masters, thats the one people look at and say that major made a difference.
 
Tiger:
Well its not too often youre a first. And the first to ever win a major as a minority ' a person of color ' there can only be one and I was very lucky to have been the first. Unfortunately the first. Unfortunately I have that stigma. I just wish that guys before me would have had more opportunities I think it would have happened. But that wasnt the case. But thats no longer the case now. Golf has become more inclusive, its grown. People from all over the world are now playing from places that you never would have even dreamt of playing golf. So, the game has certainly opened up its doors and were experiencing a wonderful boom in golf. The viewership is starting to understand that because the game has become more global. Weve seen all these guys from different places come over and play on our TOUR. And its fun to see. You look at the collegiate system; there is certainly a lot more diversity there than there ever was when I played.
 
Casey:
You were given a standing ovation by the kitchen staff, the security officers at Augusta National at the Champions Dinner. You were only 21-years old at that time. Did you think of the long-term effect of what you were going to accomplish coming in to golf and becoming a champion in golf?
 
Tiger:
At that age, no. No. I didnt realize the enormity of that winwhat it had done for different people around the country and how people viewed it. For me, it was my first major. (laughs) I was just stoked on that. When people viewed it in a sociological sense, well, I hadnt really looked at it like that before. I was so engulfed in trying to win a golf tournament because you have to put everything aside and say its a golf tournament. Yes, its a major. Yeah, its at Augusta National. Is there history there? Yes. Its good and bad for minorities. So from that standpoint, I started realizing that over the years. It wasnt that year, or even just subsequent years to follow. It took a while for me to truly understand the ramifications of that one win.
 
Casey:
Thank a lot, Tiger.
 
Tiger:
You got it. Thanks, Casey.
 
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