masters rewatchMarch 24, 2020

Why mayhem, a sensational leader board and Tiger Woods’ utter dominance made the 2002 Masters a brilliant mess

Tiger Woods At The Presentation Ceremony Of The 2002 Masters Tournament
Augusta NationalTiger Woods At The Presentation Ceremony Of The 2002 Masters Tournament (Photo by Augusta National/Getty Images)

This is the sixth 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?

Now seems like the perfect moment to rewind to April 2002. Simpler times. No coronavirus pandemic. Baggy khaki pants were cool. Ken Venturi and Dick Enberg were major voices on the CBS telecast. And Tiger Woods was on the verge of punctuating his utter dominance yet again, at a time when some of our generation’s best players were at their peak.

This leader board had it all. Retief Goosen and Tiger Woods were tied at 11 under par. Vijay Singh, the 2000 champ, started the day two back. Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia were four back. That’s six of the world’s top seven players within four shots on Masters Sunday. Sit tight, put on some comfy clothes (the baggier the better, because this is 2002) and enjoy some of our takeaways from what set up to be an all-time beaut at Augusta National.

1.) We’re used to seeing Masters broadcasts, especially of this era, open up with an impressive montage of videos and images of the storied golf course or highlights. So it’s a bit odd that the first 10 seconds of this Masters is devoted to a blurry view of Tiger showing up at the grounds of Augusta. In fact, you never get to see his face. But it’s pure gold, and the only way you could open it up—with Tiger on the verge of repeating as Masters champion, attempting to duplicate the feats of only Jack Nicklaus (1965, 1966) and Nick Faldo (1989, 1990). Jim Nantz tells us that Tiger showed up at the “Gardens of Augusta” at 12:22 p.m., ahead of his 2:10 tee time. We need to bring back the Gardens of Augusta descriptor.

2.) The first shot shown on Sunday is from Padraig Harrington hitting a great approach at No. 1. He apparently had it to six under through his first 12 holes during his first round, but only shot an opening 69? This was the last you’d see from Paddy, who quietly tied his best Masters finish (fifth) this year but never was a factor.

3.) Amazingly, the first highlight package we see from Saturday is Retief Goosen’s electric third-round start—not a Tiger Woods montage. One would just assume the producers would feed the audience all Tiger, all the time. Not so much. Let’s not forget Goosen entered as the U.S. Open champion. And OK, his highlights from Saturday were pretty sick. He started birdie-birdie-birdie and one-putted his first five greens in his third round. You don’t think of Goosen as being a great putter. But on Saturday in 2002 he was.

4.) Before we see any Woods highlights from the week, we’ll see a Fred Couples highlight. Gosh, now it really feels like Groundhog’s Day. Freddie is still grabbing air time at the Masters with regularity, and on Sunday he nearly pulled a Sarazen and came just shy of holing his second shot from the 15th fairway. Of course, Freddie’s former college teammate, Nantz, is on the call and here to regale us with the fact this is 10 years since Freddie’s triumph. Some things change, some things never change.

5.) Speaking of changes, you’ll hear lots of talk on this telecast about some course adjustments prior to the 2002 Masters. You’ll also see numerous graphics illustrating such changes. Now, they look like they were done on some version of PAINT on a Windows computer. Actually, back in 2002, that could be true.

Illustrating the changes at the first tee, prior to the 2002 tournament.

More graphics gold, circa 2002.

Tom Fazio oversaw the changes on nine of Augusta's 18 holes, most of those adjustments being lengthening of tee boxes and the addition of trees (hide, Golf Twitter). Many of these were Tiger-proofing changes that perhaps just played into Tiger’s hands more than any other competitor.

CATCH UP ON OUR MASTERS REWATCHES: 1997/Tiger Woods | 1998/Mark O'Meara | 1999/Jose Maria Olazabal | 2000/Vijay Singh | 2001/Tiger Woods

6.) Now CBS is showing the ceremonial tee shot from 89-year-old Sam Snead, which would end up being his last before his death a month later. As Rick Reilly pointed out in his 2002 Masters piece, Snead might’ve hit someone in the glasses on the first tee shot on Thursday. You wouldn’t know that from the broadcast, but hey, they deservingly cut the Slammer some slack. Then-Chairman Hootie Johnson called Snead’s swing the “greatest in golf,” and it certainly was. This is a little tough to watch, as at age 89, he was struggling to tip his patented cap to the crowd.

7.) Now CBS gives another goodbye, this one to Arnold Palmer, as it appeared Arnie would play in his final Masters in 2002. Past champions Billy Casper, Doug Ford and Gay Brewer were mailed letters from Johnson previous to the tournament, informing them that they’d no longer be invited due to their lack of performance. Arnie wanted to make sure he wouldn’t be receiving such a letter, so after a Thursday 89, he declared this would be his last Masters. Of course, Arnie and Augusta agreed that this shouldn't be it for The King (he would play in 2003 and 2004), but we had a pre-emptive send-off nonetheless.

Jim Nantz had a particularly poignant statement: “A moment everyone here came to see, but a moment we hoped would never happen. A goodbye to Arnold.” Beautiful. Though we'd have another one a few years later.

8.) Let’s also take a moment to recognize Phil Harison, the former first-tee starter at Augusta. As Nantz succinctly introduced him on the telecast, he’s been the starter “for quite some time.” In fact, since 1948! What an absolute legend. For someone like me who’s a bit younger, I hadn’t remembered the name. I thought the Open Championship's Ivor Robson was the god of all first-tee announcers. Ivor’s got company in my book.

Stan Badz/PGA TOUR Archive via Getty Images

9.) There are a couple gaping holes in the broadcast, most perhaps not a surprise. One is that there was no mention of the grounds of Augusta National smelling less than aromic that week due to the grass turning to mud from heavy rains—and a drying agent used that had a pungent scent. We're surprised nobody—David Feherty?—let it slip that they had to hold their nose between talking. But CBS knew Augusta would be none too pleased to mention that. Of course, that smell is just what it smells like when you have thousands of fans sweating and walking around in mud for an entire week.

Also, it's confusing if not misleading, as to why there was no mention of the marathon day these competitors had on Saturday leading into the final-round coverage. Tiger played 26 holes on Saturday, making up nearly half of the second round and his entire third round that day. That was an integral part of the 2002 Masters week, and yet I'm three hours in, and still no mention of the rain delays. I was 20 minutes in, thinking that was too long ... but then it became clear there wasn't going to be any mention. Bill Macatee finally referenced Tiger playing the 14th hole twice on Saturday ... but that was about three and a half hours in...

10.) OK, back to the course. Tiger Woods hadn't even teed off yet, and he was working up a sweat on the practice putting green. Moisture-wicking technology wasn't quite what it was today in 2002 … and poor Tiger in his baggy shirt could've clearly been more comfortable. But he still looked cool.

11.) The first big highlight of the day comes from Ernie Els, as he rolls in a 30-footer on the first green to get within three of the lead of Goosen and Woods. It’s a treat to see Ernie rolling the flat stick like he used to—people forget he was once one of the world’s best putters. Those with short memories remember him more for scenes like him six-putting that same first green. Not so much back then.

12.) Phil, just like Ernie, also makes some quick noise from the fairway bunker at 1, putting his approach to two feet for a quick birdie as Tiger was making his way to the opening tee. From the looks of it, we were about to be treated with an afternoon of fireworks from this electric leader board. That is, until Tiger began to take ownership of this Sunday.

13.) One of the biggest takeaways from early Sunday is how stoic Goosen looked pre-round. Shoulders up, chest high—a gaze that seemed like it would scare the Georgia pines—that all went away quickly after his first tee shot, which sailed way left.

Augusta National

14.) Goosen's en fuego putting from Saturday also was quick to go on Sunday. His long approach shot from across the green at No. 1 went 11 feet past the hole, putting him in a precarious position. And he misses the come-backer, dropping him from a share of the lead immediately. Remarkably, it was the first bogey Goosen made on par 4s all week. It wouldn't be the last.

15.) A birdie at 2 from Tiger, plus a par from Goosen, gives Tiger a two-shot lead from which he wouldn't look back. All the while, Phil makes a sloppy bogey at No. 3 after starting birdie-birdie, and Sergio chunked one from the front bunker at 4. Tiger’s contenders were already faltering, and we’re not too far. Can we chalk it up to the Tiger effect?

16.) We're introduced at the third hole to Bobby Clampett, who we can't believe had stopped playing in Masters tournaments at this point. He had a nice, soft delivery … but clearly had a couple of pre-canned comments that came across beautifully awkward. Like at the third hole, Clampett informed us that Goosen was named after Retief Waltman, a former South African Open champion. It wasn’t the information but the timing and the delivery, as Goosen faced a critical putt in danger of dropping another shot to Tiger after three holes. Of course, this Retief missed his birdie bid, and Tiger made another sporty birdie, and all of a sudden Tiger had a vice grip on Retief's throat through just three holes.

17.) Ken Venturi was an artist with words and delivery. His direct commentary at No. 4 on Goosen's par putt were particularly pointed: "If he misses this, we’re going to have to get him some oxygen." Goosen had an extremely difficult cross-green putt at the par-3 fourth to this front right hole location. He still had a 14-footer or so for par, and misses. "I think at this point it’s worth recounting that this is the man who missed a 15-inch putt to win the U.S. Open,” Feherty then notes. Of course, Goosen still won that U.S. Open, but a point well made anyway. Now it’s a four-shot deficit for Goosen. That happened quickly.

18.) Just as it looked like Tiger was about to cruise easily to victory, he snap-hooks one at No. 5 with driver, letting out an audible “G** d*** you!” on the broadcast. Tiger actually got a really good break to hit the trees and ricochet right—as Venturi points out “his ball could’ve ended up down near the ticket booth down there.” Remember ticket booths?

Augusta National

19.) We have a classic Verne Lundquist call at the sixth hole as Tiger chips in for birdie ("Hello! If he doesn’t get you one way, he’ll get you another!"), with a full club raise (and a Stevie Williams fist pump) as the ball finds the cup. The lead was down to two after Tiger’s three-putt bogey at 5, but this is the moment Tiger re-seized all the momentum on the grounds of Augusta and never relinquished it.

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20.) The rest of the Masters is mostly a reminder of how easy Tiger made his dominance look. All of those among the amazingly strong leader board falter at some point. Once Singh, then three back, bogeys the par-5 eighth hole after finding trouble off the tee, it feels like a Tiger coronation. Els had hit what looked for a moment like a perfect shot at the ninth hole, but the approach spun back off the green after he nearly holed out. Cruel stuff. That led to a bogey, and a four-shot lead for Tiger.

You’re seeing the Tiger Woods effect in full operation. You know he’s not going to make mistakes, and he rarely did on the weekend in 2002.

21.) Speaking of the Tiger effect, his playing partner, Goosen, really got spooked on that front nine. That demeanor continued to get worse and worse in an hour’s time. Now he’s bogeyed the par-5 eighth hole for a third time this week. This one, coming with a four-footer that didn’t hit the hole. He’s three over through 8, trailing Tiger by five. It’s an absolute clinic by Tiger.

22.) The next half hour or so is a bit benign … until we get more random comments from Clampett. For some reason, with Els walking off the 11th green, he starts going on about how "it’s been well-documented that Ernie does not work out." That's some uncalled for gym shaming by Clampett. The Big Easy hit it plenty far without hitting the gym. Clampett's comment might've been referring to Ernie getting fatigued at this point of the weekend. Regardless, funny to hear that line, as that type of comment wouldn’t fly in 2020.

Augusta National

23.) Ernie, still four back on the 13th tee with an outside chance to challenge Tiger, now makes three horrible mistakes on the par 5. First, he snap-hooked his tee shot badly left, but he could've pitched out and had a chance to make 4. Instead, he tried to thread the needle between bushes left of the dogleg, and his ball gets caught and finds the sliver of Rae's Creek on the left side. After a drop, Ernie finds the water yet again, this time in the tributary short of the 13th green. Gooooodbye, Ernie. You can't help but think of all Ernie's close calls at Augusta after watching this meltdown.

24.) Minutes later, it’s Vijay's turn to eject at 13. Venturi conjured the perfect words to sum up his second shot: "In the water, in the creek and no chance to play. What else can happen here today? This hole has given us so many stories. There goes his green jacket, on account of a little white ball going down the creek. I’ve never seen so much dejection at one hole." That is pure poetry, folks.

Augusta National

25.) Tiger just plods along like a champion would after his hot start. He didn't need to do anything more, challenged by no one. Four back with four to play, the last straw is Vijay's mess at the 15th hole … as he chunked two bad pitches into the water en route to making a costly quadruple-bogey 9.

This day was all about Tiger and the exceptional power he had over the field when he was at his peak. He forced these guys into making mistakes, because they knew Tiger wasn't about to produce a gaffe. Even when Phil Mickelson made a charge, he'd make a mistake to balance it out. It was a theme of the Tiger era—his competitors were forced to force the issue at various times and couldn't execute the hero shots to lead to victory. The result? A stress-free back nine for Tiger, and a seventh major at age 26—more than Jack Nicklaus up to this point.

The 2002 Masters was Tiger in pure Tiger form.

Augusta National

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2002 Masters—Final Round Broadcast