Fearing record low scoring (they were not wrong), the Green Jackets who run the tournament made sure Augusta National was playing hard and fast. A strong breeze made conditions even trickier. Like the old days, said the old-time pros.
The modern-day pros did what modern-day pros do best. Most of them moaned about not being able to break 80, but a few got on with it and still managed something extraordinary. One, called John Huston, holed his second shot at the last for an eagle two and took the lead with a 67. Woods scored an innocent-looking 70, two under par, but this was the day the 21-year- old proved he was the real thing, not a marketing mirage.
The publicity surrounding Woods' first major championship as a professional was overwhelming, except for this brilliant young man. The impact he had made since turning pro six months before extended far outside the golfing world. While Jack Nicklaus was lauding the youngster as his natural successor, Time magazine had already proclaimed Woods as one of the 25 most influential people in America. After a year in the game, a report suggested he had brought $650m (pounds 410m) of "new money" into golf.
As an awed Nicklaus admitted: "Not only does he live up to his publicity, he outperforms it." But not for the first nine holes. At the turn in the first round, Woods was four over par. Going nowhere; heading for a missed cut. Just like his playing partner, none other than the defending champion, Nick Faldo, who three-putted five times in a front nine of 41.
Even in such a reflective sport as golf - perhaps more so since there is too much time for an instinctive reaction - to turn a bad situation to good in mid-round is the stuff of only the finest of champions. Faldo managed it to an extent, coming home in 34, but he must have been left with feelings of inadequacy beside Woods' inward 30.
The back-nine record at Augusta is 29 and it was one of the few records not to fall to Woods in the last 63 holes of the tournament. Aligning his power with a magical touch around the greens, Woods did exactly what people feared to a course that is vulnerable to that combination.
He immediately birdied the 10th hole by sinking a 15-foot putt. At the short 12th, he chipped in for another and merely two-putted for a birdie- four at the 13th. He reduced the par-five 15th to a drive, a wedge and a four-foot eagle putt and holed from 12 feet for a birdie at the 17th.
It was the two-iron shot off the 10th tee that changed the course of destiny. "I needed the right club to feel the correct position of my golf swing," Woods said. "I found it with that shot and tried to carry that feeling with me all week."
A 66 followed in round two as Woods took the lead and he extended it to nine strokes with a 65 on the Saturday. The Augusta gallery - been there, done that, seen them all - streamed out of the gates, stunned into silence. Colin Montgomerie, having been beaten by nine strokes by Woods that day, said simply: "There is no way humanly possible that he is going to lose this tournament."
A 69 on the final day and Woods had become the youngest winner of the Masters at 21 years, three months and 15 days, with the lowest score of 270, 18 under par, and by a record margin of 12 strokes. "I've always dreamt of winning the Masters," Woods said, "but never in the fashion I did."Reuse content