PART FIVE: Tiger Woods’ impact on the Masters
What do you remember from Tiger Woods winning his first Masters in 1997, and how did the tournament change after that?Scott Michaux: I think the Masters got even more popular in terms of coverage. This is right about the time when the internet started showing up. So you got a whole lot of different outlets that started wanting to cover the Masters. It took a long time for Augusta National to really come to terms with the changing landscape and media coverage. They were so they were so bent on credentialing every newspaper and magazine and traditional print outlets for so long that it took them a while to embrace the fact that there were golf.coms and ESPN.coms and things like that for them to deal with. That’s just only ballooned the coverage of the tournament and made it a bigger deal in the eyes of the media to be a part of Masters coverage. I think just the sheer volume of coverage about golf went up and Tiger Woods became the main focus of that.Melanie Hauser: Bad start, amazing comeback, the history of it. Just knowing that it was going to happen, that he wasn’t going to blow it. That’s part of Augusta, too. It’s a historical thing. First African-American to win, it was a talented guy as well, somebody that had a lot of expectations. And for him to stand up and do that day, there was just a reverence. The people in the clubhouse, a lot of the waiters were African American waiters, and they came out and stood there and watched it. I mean, these were guys who had been there for forever, you know. The caddies were there too. For a long time, it was only African-American caddies there. This meant a lot to them. It meant a lot to the sport because Tiger was about to become Tiger.Lorne Rubenstein: What I remember so clearly about that is after he shot 40 on the first nine, I walk from the 9th green to the 10th tee, which is only 30 or 40 yards. I remember people encouraging him and he just walked with his head down. You could see the wheels spinning in his head trying to figure out what the hell just happened on the front nine. Then he turned it around on the back nine. There was something in his look and the way he was carrying himself and in the way, he had just gone so deeply into himself.Steve DiMeglio: I remember popping in the tape and seeing his opening tee shot go way left into the woods. He bogeyed it. He made the turn at 40. Just for one little glimpse, I thought maybe he isn’t as good as we’re being told he is. Playing in his first Masters as a professional, he was the betting favorite. That’s how good everybody thought he was going to be. There was all this hype going in there and he walks up at 10 and he’s four over par. But then he chipped in from the back of the green. He chips in on 12, birdies 13, birdies 15.That’s the one thing that stands out. He hit 9 iron on his second shot on 15 into the green. Nobody had ever seen that before. The next day, he hit a wedge on the Par 5 for his second shot. Nobody had ever seen that. You knew this guy is going to be special. And he basically “Tiger-proofed” the golf course. They lengthened that golf course, deepened the bunkers, they added trees. He hit sand wedge into 18 on Saturday and spun it back out of the second cut. That hadn’t really ever been seen. They had to do something.Geoff Shackelford: The dominance of his performance mostly. Obviously, the course changed a lot because of the way he played it.Doug Ferguson: That was my second Masters, so in some respects, I couldn’t tell you how it changed. What I remember most is Colin Montgomerie saying he wanted to see how Tiger handled the weekend pressure, and a day later saying it was not humanly possible for anyone else to win. But from that point forward, the Masters became Tiger and a bunch of other players.Couple years later, we were in the tower around Amen Corner when some uppity radio worker saw the press following Tiger — he wasn’t really in the hunt — and said we had no idea what we were doing, he was not the story. I told him, “If Jack Nicklaus called Augusta today, he would ask who was leading, and his next question would be what Tiger was shooting.” Oddly enough, I sat down with Jack last November and brought that up, and he said that would be exactly what he would do. Even now.Rick Henry: I remember how members of the media gathered around Tiger after his post-match interview and asked for his autograph because of the historical significance of his victory.Dave Shedloski: I don’t really think the Masters changed, I just think people had a different expectation for him personally. I was actually there covering it, but I was doing more television-style work at that time. But it was certainly an incredible moment with him being the first African American to win the Masters. It was definitely a breakthrough in that regard.How much of an impact does Tiger Woods have on the tournament and the atmosphere when he is involved?Doug Ferguson: He changes everything. A tournament that draws 5,000 fans would draw 20,000 fans. One Monday evening at Augusta, you could stand under the live oak and tell where Tiger was based on the army of fans following. The only people not watching Tiger are mothers and fathers of other players, or fans who prefer to stay in one spot.Jason Sobel: There’s just a level of electricity in the air when Tiger is playing well and contending for a title, especially at any major like the Masters you can’t replicate anywhere else. If two months from now we have a Leaderboard with Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, and it’s really, really good, but Tiger somehow misses the cut, it’s not going to have the same electricity in the air like if Tiger was in contention. My grandma is 100 years old and she’ll still watch it if Tiger’s playing golf.Shedloski: What we see when he plays, we see demand. And when he missed the Masters those years, there was certainly something missing. It was very obvious that there wasn’t as much interest in the Masters.Hauser: Nobody drives the ratings like Tiger. He doesn’t move the needle, he is the needle. He’s suddenly a favorite even though he’s not a favorite. There may be other players that are playing well coming in there, but he’s going to be one of the focuses. Tiger just adds another level because everybody wants to know: Will he do it? Can he do it? Is he going to catch Nicklaus?DiMeglio: The Masters is basically Tiger Woods. People follow Tiger Woods who would otherwise not follow anything else in golf. I’ve met hundreds of them. They will only watch to watch Tiger Woods.The interviews presented were conducted by the students of an Advanced Sports Reporting class at Auburn University, under the direction of John Carvalho. The students who interviewed the media professionals were Bryce Johnson (Scott Michaux), Sumner Martin (Geoff Shackelford), Bennett Page (Melanie Hauser), Will Schuette (Steve DiMeglio), Zach Tantillo (Doug Ferguson), Olivia Tavernier (Rick Henry), Savannah Vickery (Dave Shedloski), MacKenzie Walker (Lorne Rubenstein), and Brantley Weatherford (Jason Sobel). The opening and closing statements were written by Cat Fraser and Tyler Roush.The students and Dr. Carvalho would like to thank those media professionals who took the time out of their busy peak-of-golf-season schedules to interview. They would also like to extend their thanks to Awful Announcing for displaying their work just in time for the 2019 Masters.