Tiger Talks: ’97 Masters, Friendship With Phil

Credit: Getty Images/Andrew Redington

A look at four of the most interesting questions and answers during Tiger Woods’ press conference at Augusta National Golf Club in advance of the 2018 Masters Tournament.


Credit: Getty Images/Stephen Munday

1997. 21 years ago. You’re 21 years of age, and you win by 12 strokes. Looking back now, where does that fit in the Tiger Woods’ scrapbook of life?

WOODS: Well, of all the tournaments I won, that was by far the most important tournament I’ve ever won. That was my first tournament as a ‑‑ first Major Championship as a professional.

In 1997, that was the last year they changed the rule on the PGA TOUR, in ’98 that we would be getting a 10‑year exemption on the TOUR. So I had a job for the next 10 years out here.

And so, I mean, you guys laugh at it now, but, I mean, it was the coolest thing in the world. In ’98 Mark wins twice and only gets five years. So it was a big thing for me to be able to win the Major Championship and to do it here at Augusta National, with my dad there, and it was just an incredible week and one that I certainly will never ever forget.


Credit: Getty Images/Andrew Redington

How would you describe your relationship now with Phil? We obviously are fascinated by it. Are you better friends? Do you find yourself, you personally, a little more interactive on the course with your competitors, but specifically with Phil?

WOODS: I think Phil and I have‑‑ we have been through it for so long and we have been together on these teams long enough, and then when I got hurt and I had to take a different role on the teams, being assistant captain and really trying to help out on the side, how best I possibly could, Phil was great. He was trying to help me out when I was trying to make a comeback, my body wasn’t feeling very good: How can I help?

And our friendship has gotten stronger over the years. We have competed a lot of times coming down the stretch in events. We were joking today about some of the thoughts that transpired here.

We have gone through it a long time, and the better part of 20 years our friendship has certainly gotten a lot better.

And I think it’s just age as well. We’re at the tail end of our careers, we both know that. He’s 47, I believe, and I’m 42, and we have had a great 20‑year battle, hopefully we’ll have a few more, but we understand where we are in the game now versus where we were in our early 20s, battling for who is going to be No. 1, and that was then and certainly this is now.


Credit: Getty Images/Michael Reaves

Did you always feel like part of a fraternity out here?

WOODS: Not when I first came out, no. I was the youngest one. And it wasn’t ‑‑ when I first turned pro when I was 20, no one really did that at the time.

I know that some of the European players, they didn’t attend college over here in the States, they were playing professional golf earlier, but in the States that was very uncommon.

So it was not for probably two, three years before the guys that I had grown up playing golf with came on TOUR. And then you look at‑‑ what was it, JT, Rickie, Jordan, Berger, all those guys grew up playing junior golf and college golf together.

When Jordan first came out here, it was like a year or two before some guys started filtering out here, and then that was the same for me when I first came out.


Credit: Getty Images/Andrew Redington

From a personal standpoint, how hard has it been for the last three Aprils to be on the sidelines? Did you put distance between us and yourself, or did you watch on television? Or how hard was that?

WOODS: It was very difficult. Very, very difficult. The last two champions dinners I came up for, couple of years ago, it was really difficult because it was‑‑ Arnold wasn’t doing well, and Jack and I helped him into the dinner where we were going to take our photo, and then I helped him over to his table and his seat where he was going to sit down for the dinner. And that was tough to see my friend like that.

And then last year to feel so uncomfortable just sitting, because my nerve was on fire, it was going down my leg and it was just burning. So the last couple of years have been tough.

Then I’ve watched every bit I possibly could. I love the Masters. I will always watch it.

It’s‑‑ I’ve played it, so I know where the guys are trying to hit the golf ball, and I said, whoa, that’s going to be a tough one or, man, that’s a hell of a shot, people don’t realize how good that is. Things like that. I really enjoy that.

I enjoy the ambiance, the way the Masters Tournament really sets up for a dramatic finish. They know how to do it, and they do it right, from pin locations to tee setups. I just absolutely love watching it. It’s more fun playing it, though.



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