The 1997 Masters: My Story by Tiger Woods with Lorne Rubenstein. Grand Central Publishing. 256 pages. 2017
On this Masters weekend, I thought it would be good to share my review of Tiger Woods new book which commemorates the 20th anniversary of his record-breaking win at the 1997 Masters. Like I have the past few years, I spent some priceless time watching a part of yesterday’s second round with my Dad. But Tiger was not among the participants in this year’s Masters; injuries have once again kept him from participating in a tournament. At only 41 years of age the injuries have taken their toll: his first knee surgery occurred back in 1994 while at Stanford. Between 1994 and 2016, he went through four knee surgeries and three back surgeries, along with other procedures. He admits that he probably came back too early from some of the surgeries, due to his desire to compete and his need for competition. Perhaps prophetically, towards the end of this book he writes “Still, I don’t know how much longer I’ll play.”
Over the years I have had three favorite golfers – Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman and Tiger. If they were playing in a tournament, that would be enough for me to tune in to the telecast. Yes, Tiger has had major moral failings – and he writes about the pain that caused his family in this reflective book – but his presence in a tournament will still cause me to take notice. Unfortunately, those instances are becoming fewer and fewer.
In this book he takes the reader through his record-breaking win at Augusta National in the 1997 Masters tournament in which he actually shot a 4 over par 40 on the front nine of his first round. At that time, Tiger’s caddy was Mike “Fluff” Cowan and his coach was Butch Harmon. But this book contains much more than a detailed look at the 1997 Masters.
He talks about his relationship with Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. Palmer died in 2016. Tiger has won the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill eight times. He writes that he will never forget their friendship and Palmer’s counsel to him over the years.
He writes of his father Earl, “Pop”, who died in 2006. Earl had a triple bypass only a month and a half before the 1997 Masters. Despite that, he flew to Augusta to stay at the same house as Tiger during Masters week. Tiger writes that he had so many good times with his father on the course, just the two of them, when he was a kid.
Tiger writes of watching Jack Nicklaus win the 1986 Masters on television. After that, he made sure he watched the tournament every year. He first played the Masters in 1995 qualifying because he’d won the U.S. Amateur the year before. He writes about his first time playing in the tournament and his feelings about the tournament’s and the club’s history with blacks.
Tiger writes about stopping at an Arby’s on the way home from the course, a ritual he and his friends would superstitiously do each day of the tournament. He writes about greeting Lee Elder after he had signed his winning scorecard. He thanked him for his sacrifices, what he meant to the game, and how hard he fought to make it to the Masters as their first black player in 1975. Tiger told him that his win was all about the black golfers who had come before him, what they had done for him, and that he wasn’t a pioneer. They were the pioneers.
He writes that he had hoped his win would open some doors for minorities. His biggest hope was that we could one day see one another as people and people alone. He wanted us to be color-blind. Twenty years later, he sadly reflects that this has yet to happen.
He briefly writes about his career after the 1997 Masters, including changing his swing. He writes about the changes that have been made to Augusta National and what he thinks about them. Tiger had averaged 323.1 yards off the tee at the 1997 Masters, an amazing twenty-five yards longer than the next guy. He states that after major changes came along for the 2002 Masters it wasn’t as much fun to play the course anymore.
He writes about today’s golf equipment and how far today’s ball flies. He writes “It probably makes me sound like an old-timer saying things were better back in the day, but I don’t see how anybody could say it’s a good thing that the ball is going so far, and that it doesn’t curve as much because it doesn’t spin.”
He writes about his children and their mother Elin, stating that he betrayed her and that his dishonesty and selfishness caused her intense pain. He states that his regret will last a lifetime. He writes that he and Elin have become best friends now as they care for their children. He writes that not a day goes by that he doesn’t think about his father, who he admits would have been disappointed in his son’s poor personal decisions.
What are Christians to think of Tiger? He’s had serious moral failings, but writes of his regrets. He has been known to use adult language on the course. He doesn’t talk much about his beliefs in this book, but does write of going to the Buddhist temple where he learned how to meditate. Woods is also one of the greatest golfers of all time. It’s this that attracts me to him, and it’s why I hope that he’s able to get healthy enough to play competitively again. He states that “compete” remains his favorite word, and probably always will.