Woods looking forward to his year of destiny

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The Independent Online
When the golden road that is leading Eldrick "Tiger" Woods to an inevitably glorious future brings him to Britain later this year he will tread the historic fairways of Carnoustie (Scottish Open), St Andrews (The Open) and Royal Porthcawl (Walker Cup) without a trace of trepidation. You might even get the impression that he is under-awed at the experience.

This will not be through any disrespect, or the nonchalance of a know- it-all 19-year-old, but because he will see it as the latest stage in a slowly unfolding destiny for which he has been fully prepared. The young man has loped intently but calmly through the not undaunting grandeur of Augusta National over the past week as if he had been doing it all his life. The slightly chilling fact is that, in his mind, he has done.

His father has conditioned his son to be ready for every challenge there is in golf. Since before Christmas the youngster has studied videos of every Masters for the past 15 years, using slow motion to study the very bounce of the ball.

Yesterday he completed his first Masters with a round of 72, his third level-par round of a debut marred only by Saturday's 77. If he did not set the world alight, the American amateur champion made a significant impression on a gallery of followers that grew as the tournament progressed, not least because he drove the ball further than anyone else.

While discussing his impending visit to the United Kingdom with a colleague, Woods asked if Royal Porthcawl was very windy. Members of the Great Britain and Ireland team had better hope that when he plays against them there in the Walker Cup in September that there is a swift sou'westerly whipping off the sea. After the first three rounds the Tiger's average drive was 307.8 yards, putting him well ahead of Davis Love's 295.2 and Jumbo Ozaki's 292.8.

His playing partner, Mark Calcavecchia, was 100 yards behind him on the ninth yesterday and there is no doubt that if his iron had been as accurate as his driving he would have finished much higher. He continually dropped shots by hitting through the green.

"I don't know what the trouble is. I was taking a wedge or sand wedge for my second shot on all the par fours and misjudging the distance. I tried to slow my swing down and then I began to be short. If my irons had been right, I might have been in contention," he said.

Between now and his next big test, the US Open in June, Woods will catch up on his studying at Stanford University where his subject is economics and go back to join his college golf team. Professionalism is still a few years off for him but there is still a lot he can achieve even in the unpaid ranks. He does not even rule out the possibility that he could win the Masters as an amateur, "given a few years and a lot of hard work".

He gives the impression that he considers every prize in golf as part of his plan. And he will not be fazed by the pressure. He has dealt politely and disarmingly with more media harassment than Jack Nicklaus over the past week.

"It has been a memorable experience and has given me so much confidence," he told a press conference yesterday. Has it been memorable for anything else beside golf, he was asked. "Is this week about anything else but golf?" young Tiger asked back.