Former world No1 says in book on his extraordinary triumph at the 1997 Masters I wanted us to be colour blind. Twenty years later, that has yet to happen
It is sad a reminder of Tiger Woodss brilliance arrives at a phase when his career has never been clouded in more doubt. With little over a fortnight to go until the Masters, the 41 -year-old still cannot confirm his participation as he combats recurring back problems. Still, there was an upbeat Woods in Manhattan on Monday as he launched The 1997 Masters: My Story. Woodss decline has not lessened the level of focus on his every move as exhibited by frustration at the book store when fans were limited to one copy per person.
Twenty years ago Woods was not so much at the peak of his powers as offering a sign of things to come. He predominated at Augusta by a dozen shots to claim his first major, thereby endorsing every theory that existed since childhood that he would prove a golfing phenomenon. This book is notable for being in existence at all, Woods being so guarded in his public dealings, and therefore provides superb and so rare detailed descriptions of the thought processes of this golfing genius. When Tiger speaks people still sit up and take notice.
The mechanics of the 1997 Masters can wait. Timbers utilizes this volume to constantly reference the fight he had on the grounds of race. Golf, the industry which stimulated him a superstar, was initially an uncomfortable surrounding. When donning a first of four Green Jackets, Woods had a goal. I knew none of this mean, necessarily, things would change dramatically for minorities in golf. I hoped my win would encourage them to play, or to chase their dreams whatever they were.
But it would have been naive of me to think my win would mean the end of the looking when a person from any minority walked into some golf clubs, especially the games private clubs. I merely hoped my win, and how I won, might set a dent in the way people perceived black people.
I hoped my win would open some doors for minorities. My biggest hope, though, was we could one day find each other as people and people alone. I wanted us to be colour blind. Twenty years later, that has yet to happen.
Woods offers childhood context; the rocks hurled at their own families home in southern California, how he could not buy a drinking or altered in the same locker rooms as friends in certain golf clubs. Maybe some of his incredible inner drive derived from discrimination. Woods has always been highly guarded about matters of politics or race. It is impossible to say whether period has enhanced his feelings considering 1997; perhaps he has just waited for an opportune time to air such thoughts fully in his own words.
Augusta itself is so glaringly significant. For the club which had discriminated against black golfers to be the scene for Woodss first major win had added meaning. Timbers discloses being disappointed when he first entered Augusta National as an amateur in 1995. Perhaps I was underwhelmed because the club had excluded black golfers from playing for so long, Woods says. My dad said a couple of weeks later that Magnolia Lane didnt impress a black golfer because of this history.
That Woodss father, Earl, was such a huge influence on his career is hardly revelatory. Timbers employs this volume to disclose the tactics Earl used to build on his fortitude; again with race as the undertone. Basically his father verbally abused his son on the driving scope with Woods able to use a code term if he felt the barrage had become too much. I was a quitter if I employed the code word. I dont quit, Woods recalls. Thats how I find myself. I was starting to get a sense of where I wanted to go in golf, but I also knew that, being half-black, I had better learn not to let insults penetrate. Insults are merely words, and I couldnt control what anyone said. But I could control how I reacted to what people said. I had to figure that out on my own, with my daddies help. He helped in ways that people thought were hurtful. But I wanted to feel the hurt, so that I could overcome it with my golf. My dad taught me how to feel it but not let it affect my game.
Did they think they could get to me? They couldnt. Id been hearing things in tournaments since I was seven or eight years old. People said things to me between green and tee, when they could get close to me. I watched but didnt insure. I heard but didnt hear. Golf has no colour barrier when it comes to rating, and who wins and who loses. Theres no evaluate. Lowest score wins. I had total control over that.
Those Earl comments, though, were extreme, at his sons behest. Fuck off, Tiger, he would sometimes say. I didnt mind and even fostered his cussing, which was verse. He never repeated himself. He was very good at it and used everything he could possibly use. It was some good stuff, and eventually, I started laughing at it. It was you little piece of shit, or, how do you feel being a little nigger? things of that nature. that was OK. I was called those things growing up. I heard it at school and in tournaments, and I also knew the feeling of being excluded. My fathers approach was what I required, and it worked for me. Maybe it would be called tough love now.
Any analysis of Woods is impossible without a nod to the scandal which engulfed his private life and led to divorce. He offers his latest public apology to his former spouse, in context of regret that will last a lifetime. It was always albeit marginally in Woodss defence that he had to endure personal conflicts in view of the watching world.
He also offers an admission that will create eyebrows with golf teachers, that he could never visualise shots before reaching them. Such a tactic is coached the world over.
There is also an amusing aside regarding Augustas Wednesday par-three contest and its evolution in recent years. It was more of a gambling event when I first played it. Guys would play with their buddies, and usually for a pretty good sum. Some serious sum of money was exchanged in the locker rooms.
Woods is rueful at the alterations made to Augusta, the byproduct of how far golfers now hit the ball. After 2012 s modifications Woods claims Augusta was not as much fun. The 14 -times major champ urges the R& A and USPGA to stunt golf ball development.
More reflection comes as Woods analyses his professionally reduced status. One of the most ferociously competitive people was in his component in April 1997. Maybe I dont live as much for that now, but I still crave vying. I also realise that, physically, I cant inevitably do what I want to do and I know Ill miss it when Im done playing. Still, I love being on my own on the range, and going out in the evening to play a few pits only me, the ball, and the course. Compete, though, remains my favourite word, and likely always will. My mothers told me it was OK for me to fail, as long as I gave it everything I had. I have given it everything I have.
Cynics will point out Woodss slide renders outpourings such as this necessary. Yet everyone, including fellow golfers who could never get close to understanding the Woods psychology, will benefit from the insight.
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