23 things you might not remember from the final round of the 1997 Masters
This is the first installment of our Masters Rewatch series, in which we watch and recap the last 23 final rounds of the Masters while we’re working from home due to the coronavirus. What better way to get your Masters fix while in quarantine than by firing up YouTube and remembering all the stuff you might have missed from past Sundays at Augusta National?
This time last week, live tournament golf was being played at TPC Sawgrass. Little did we know it’d be the last live golf we’d watch for what could be a long time.
The hope is that when this all blows over, things (sports) will be back to normal again. But for the time being, we all need to get our fix in somehow. And so we figured what better place to start than the 1997 Masters. (Yep, that’s why we’re watching the last 23 final rounds.)
I rewatched the final round in its entirety, and while there’s a severe lack of drama, it’s still fun to see what you might not remember. Here are my notes, jotted down chronologically, from my solo viewing party.
1.) It’s almost unfathomable to think the broadcast began with Tiger Woods and Costantino Rocca in the fifth fairway. I realize that’s how coverage was back then and how it continued to be only until recently, but could you imagine if that’s how it was today? There would be riots in the Golf Twitter streets.
2.) The first shot we see from Tiger is a poor one, as he sails the green with his short approach on the fifth hole, finding the back bunker. "That’s his first bunker of the week," says Peter Kostis. Wait, what?!?!
3.) Before seeing his third shot, each CBS on-course analyst introduced themselves and the hole he was covering, and it was delightful. Peter Kostis at the 10th, Bobby Clampett at the 11th, Ken Venturi by the Hogan Bridge at the 12th, Jerry Pate at the 14th, young, facial-hair-less David Feherty at the 15th, Sean McDonough (!!) at the 16th and Peter Oosterhuis at the 17th. CBS should do this again, whenever the Masters does return. Two things stood out here: 1. Sean McDonough has had a wild career. Guy has been the voice of the Big East Tournament, the voice of Monday Night Football (for a brief period of time), called the Masters, the Open Championship, the NCAA hoops tournament, the World Series, marquee college football games, and on and on it goes. The man has seen it all. 2. Where was Verne Lundqvist? Turns out this was the only Masters he missed from 1983 up until now. Picked a bad one to miss, Uncle Verne! Don’t worry though, he made up for it in the years to come.
4.) Up until the fifth hole Tiger had gone 37 holes bogey-free, and had made only one bogey in his previous 49 holes. Naturally, once the broadcast began, he promptly bogeyed two of his first three holes. He still led Rocca by eight on the eighth tee.
5.) Always forget that Tiger used a much different-looking Scotty Cameron putter than the one he eventually made famous. This was the one he wound up winning with in 1997 (actually, it’s an exact replica that went up for auction in 2016):
6.) Kostis had said early in the broadcast that conditions were "exceedingly" difficult, thus making it impossible for anyone to shoot a low number (like 62 or 63) to put pressure on Tiger. All the proof of this could be seen as Jack Nicklaus cleaned up his putt for 78 at the 18th green, where his pants were absolutely whipping in the wind.
7.) Over at the seventh, Paul Stankowski hits perhaps the shot of the day, a low punch from the pinestraw that went under a few branches and somehow stopped on a dime on the green, setting up an easy birdie. And he looked damn good doing it. Check out this shirt:
Fire flames. Stankowski! The dude was a highlight factory the entire day. He drained a long putt for birdie at 10 and then licked his right index finger and pointed to the air in celebration. Four holes later, he rolled in an impossibly slick, downhill right-to-lefter for birdie at the 14th. There was enough material to do a "top 10 shots from Paul Stankowski" after the round. After the birdie at 14, Pate said "Lot of good golf ahead for this young man." Stankowski played in only one more Masters and only six more majors total.
8.) After Woods made bogey on seven, we didn’t see him again until his approach at the eighth. Seriously, CBS just didn’t even show his drive. They are SO lucky Twitter wasn’t around then, or else they’d have to deal with ... a bunch of mean tweets! Yeah! That’ll show ‘em.
His approach at the eighth was another pull, this time coming to rest on the edge of the rough before some pinestraw up near the green. Kostis says his rhythm was getting "too quick." Was the pressure getting to him? Was he about to open the door to the field?
9.) No! Instead, what happened next was probably the turning point on Sunday, and has probably been written about and mentioned as "the turning point" a thousand times over. Tiger bumped his ball right into one of the massive humps in front of the eighth green and his ball rolled out to about four feet. The shot was so good it caused Jim Nantz to say "he’s back!", which of course sounds so hilarious now given he was UP EIGHT SHOTS. "You could put a practice bag down there and not do that well," said Venturi. "25 or 30 of ‘em. What a shot," added Ben Crenshaw, who was in Butler Cabin alongside Jim Nantz in his green jacket, having just finished off a final round 80 that included an 11 at the 15th hole. "Brilliant shot, all feel," Crenshaw said. It was a shot worthy of every bit of praise.
10.) Up ahead at the 10th, Tom Watson holed a bomb for his second birdie in three holes to get to five under. If only he hadn’t gone bogey-triple bogey at the sixth and seventh holes. And if only he had made a birdie putt at the ninth that came up an inch short. Instead of being 10 back, he could have been five back.
11.) I forget which player prompted it (possibly Tom Lehman with his eagle at 13), but Jim Nantz mentioned the top 24 on the leader board got back into the following year’s Masters. Top 24? Now it’s only top 12. 24 is an aggressive amount, especially in ‘97, when T-24 was (checks notes) 21 shots back. Nantz also kept calling the par 5s "five pars." Really bothered me. Still love ya, Jim.
12.) Tiger made par on nine, then found the fairway and the green at the 10th. Kostis chimed in with "The Grand Slam has to be a thought at this point. He’s like Jack Nicklaus but longer and with a better short game." At the time, a lot of eyes (Curtis Strange’s eyes) had to be rolling in the back of their heads. All the respect to Kostis for making what had to feel like an insane claim at the time, and it turned out to be basically spot on. Take that, @FreezingColdTakes.
13.) Watson threw a dart into the 12th and holed the putt to reach six under. If you remove Tiger from the equation, this would have been a ridiculous back nine at the Masters. Watson was cooking, Tom Kite was in the mix, Tommy Tolles was surging. (By the way, though he never won a PGA Tour event, Tolles had top-3s at the '96 Players and PGA Championship and followed with a top fives at the '97 Masters and U.S. Open. What a heater!) Rocca, Stankowski, etc. These guys were battling for second. Imagine the chaos had there been some serious, playing-for-a-green-jacket type pressure.
13.) Tiger applied the dagger at 11, making one of a handful of birdies there that day. It helps when you only have a 9-iron in your hand on your approach. It also helps to hit said 9-iron perfectly, causing it to spin left toward the hole after landing on the green. Ever since the chip at eight, he hadn’t missed a shot.
14.) That continued at 12, where he hit an eerily similar tee shot to his tee shot at the 12th on Sunday at the 2019 Masters. Directly over the left bunker and safely on the green, where he two-putted from long distance for par. The difference of course was that he was now up 10 strokes and not down by two.
Something I noticed: CBS basically handed the reins to each analyst every few holes and just let them handle it. Bobby Clampett was the only one who spoke for the 11th and 12th holes, and it allowed for a lot of dead silence, which the present-day broadcasts could use a lot more of.
15.) At the 13th, Watson’s run comes to an end. His drive came to rest behind a tree, so he asked the gallery down the right side of the fairway to move further right so he could play a huge hook. Right after impact, the patrons sprinted back to their spots with their chairs in hand. So much for no running at Augusta. He did get a look at birdie but lipped it out, killing all his momentum.
16.) The next notable thing that happened was after Tiger’s drive at 13. In the fairway, for the first time all day we could kind of, sort of hear a conversation between he and his then caddie Mike "Fluff" Cowan, who split with Tiger in 1999 and has been with Jim Furyk ever since. His mustache muffled much of what he said, but I wrote down what I could hear, complete with his hilarious New England accent: "Right edge of that left-hand bunkah, just play a little slidah. Gettin’ a little fancy theah. I still like that as the tahhget.”
Tiger obliged, hitting one right over the flagstick to set up a great look at eagle. Fluff jogs after his divot and hands him the putter. Tiger proceeds to swag walk it out to the green, letting out his first really big smile of the day, as if to say "yeah, this thing is actually over now." He wound up missing the eagle putt by one revolution, settling for birdie and only an 11-shot lead. Rats.
17.) A few groups ahead, Fred Couples and Davis Love III were both making a late run. I’ll say it again: if Tiger had decided to withdraw pre-round, this would have been an all-time back-nine on Sunday at Augusta.
Every single tee box welcomed Tiger like it was the 72nd green. The 14th tee was one of the best, and Tiger gave the patrons there a show, blasting a drive that left him a sand wedge in. He basically blacked out after the birdie at the eighth. Ahead in the 15th fairway, Kite hits a 3 wood on his second shot. Not something you see anymore!
At the 16th Watson found the water and made bogey, and he’d go on to make one more at the 18th. He finished up with a 72 with six birdies. Ouch.
18.) Just when it looked like he’d never hit a bad shot again, Tiger makes his worst swing of the day at the par-5 15th, pushing it miles down the right side and yelling "FORE." Pressure was getting to him, obviously.
After the gallery parted the red sea for him, Woods hits 5 iron over the back right part of the green. The camera cuts back to him and some kid got two full hands on him, and then Tiger slams his club into the turf. He was up 12 shots at this point.
19.) An awful chip and an even worse putt left Tiger with 10 feet for par. Clearly, he lost focus and was already thinking about winning before the job was done. A total choke job. This kid is going nowhere.
Aaaaaand he bangs in the par putt. This kid is going places!
20.) Another bad swing from Tiger at the 16th left him with an impossible birdie putt on the back right portion of the green. "Oh god, TY-GRRRRR" he yells. But since he’s up 12, he still received raucous applause from the crowd on the walk to the green. "Have to think the U.S. Ryder Cup team’s chances improve this year in Spain with this guy on the team," says McDonough. Yeah, about that ...
Right after that we got our first glimpse of Earl Woods, who was watching on a monitor behind the 18th green. "Really not fair," says Earl, though no one knew what he was referring to. Could it be the putt Tiger was about to face? Or had someone just asked him "is it fair how good your son is at golf?"
21.) Tiger makes the two-putt par look easy on 16, then makes another routine par on 17. At 18, he hooks a drive badly down the left side and screams "DAMMIT" while staring back at someone who the broadcasters assumed was a rogue cameraman. Tiger stared whoever it was down for a solid minute. It’s been said that the man in question has never been seen again.
22.) Moments earlier, Kite posted six under, securing the third second-place finish of his career at Augusta. Tiger just had to show up on this year, didn’t he?
23.) Tiger gets through the mass of patrons and finds his ball but loses Fluff. "Where’s Fluff?!?" he yells. Fluff emerges like a beacon in the night to a smattering of cheers.
We all know what happens next. A win for the ages, the fist pump, the hug with Earl. Despite the lack of excitement, this was a fun rewatch. Check back Friday for the rewatch of 1998, which was pretty wild from what I remember...