APRIL 21, 1997

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Golf-In' the Northwest: Tiger Masters the Masters

golf by Chuck Reidt
Northwest students of the game of golf can now recite several of the numerous records set by Eldridge "Tiger" Woods at the 61st Master's Golf Tournament held last week at Augusta National Golf Course in Augusta, Georgia, and are looking on how to improve their own game.
   It's my belief the record that best exemplifies the magnitude of Tiger's Ruthian accomplishments is the margin of victory over his nearest competitor, veteran Tom Kite. At eighteen under par for the tournament, Tiger was a whopping twelve strokes better than Kite, and even more strokes ahead the field of the finest golfers in the world.
   It was evident that two dynamics were at work: first, quoting Tiger, "With the exception of the front nine during the first round (a 40), I had my 'A' game for the entire tournament." Second, and less obvious, the putt that would traverse across the green, nearly stop, only to break hard down toward the cup, gaining momentum as it rolled well past the cup.
   Augusta's greens, as set up for the Master's, are borderline unfair for the pros and would be unputtable for the average golfer. These greens are often narrow with severe slope, tiers, undulation, and even an elephant-sized mound; the difficulty then amplified by a surface so hard and fast, that fifth-place finisher Paul Stankowski practiced on his concrete garage floor to prepare for the tournament.
   Zero three-putts! Seventy-two holes of golf on impossible greens, the pressure of the most prestigious of golf tournaments before a world audience, and Tiger has zero three-putts.
   Tiger's strength isn't just his long game--he has a tremendous short game with concentration, nerves, and intelligence. Clearly, Tiger's driver, nine iron to the 555-yard number two hole, is a distinct advantage, but his ability to capitalize with the putter, and particularly the short irons, is something that even Jack Nicklaus didn't possess.
   This 21-year-old showed intelligent course managment, maximized his arsenal of unbelievable length off the tee, laser-like precision on approach shots and a fearless, but soft touch on marble-like greens.
   The real excitement about Tiger Wood's victory is we've just witnessed the first major step in the career of a fine young man who could become the best to ever play the game.