Fri Oct 21 17:09:43 SAST 2016

Earl Woods the spark in son's great victory

By unknown | Mar 30, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

LOS ANGELES - An emotional bear hug with his father Earl is the abiding memory for Tiger Woods from his breakthrough victory at the Masters a decade ago.

The pair embraced each other next to the 18th green at Augusta National moments after the 21-year-old Woods romped home by an unprecedented 12 shots in his first major as a professional.

The young American astounded the golfing world with his spectacular march into the record books, becoming the tournament's youngest champion and the first black player to win a major title.

"Now that my father is no longer here, I realise how important that hug was to me on the last hole," Woods, now aged 31, told reporters during preparation for his 13th Masters.

Earl, a lifelong mentor and friend to his son, died last May after a long battle with cancer and next week's tournament will be Tiger's first Masters since his father's death.

The pair hugged shortly after Tiger sank his par putt at the last and celebrated victory with his trademark fist pump.

"The year before, in '96, dad had a heart attack at the Tour Championship and he ended up having heart surgery again," Woods recalled. "He had complications. I was in Florida and I flew straight back. He was actually dead for a while.

"He used to tell this story that: 'Yeah, I saw this warm light; I was kind of headed towards it. Then I said, you know what, I grew up in Kansas so let me go back the other way'.

"All of a sudden he heard the beeping and everything; he came back," Tiger said. "He always used to say: 'No, I'm not ready for that place yet'."

Earl Woods, who had heart bypass surgery six weeks before the 1997 Masters, travelled to Augusta for the tournament against his doctor's orders. His presence there proved to be a double bonus for his son after he came up with a putting tip on the eve of the opening round.

"I had been playing pretty well up until that point," Woods said. "I shot 59 at home, a 63 and I think two 65s or something. I was having a really good preparation.

"But I get to Augusta and I can't putt a lick. I had the worst speeds, the worst lines. I'm hitting it well but I just cannot shake it in from anywhere."

On the Wednesday night, Woods asked his father to assess his putting stroke.

"He tells me just a couple of things and then says: 'Just go out there and do it.' I didn't really putt particularly well on the front nine but I hit a good putt on nine for bogey.

"Then I hit a wonderful iron off the tee on 10 and I thought: let me just utilise those two markers and take them forward on the back nine, and get back to even par for the day. All of a sudden it happened. I made a bomb on 10, chipped in on 12 and it went through the back nine."

Rallying from an untidy 40 on the front nine, Woods covered the back nine in a blistering 30 before going on to win the tournament with a record 18-under-par total of 270, a breakthrough victory that changed the face of the game. His father gave him another valuable pep talk on the Saturday night, telling him again to "just go out there and do it" before his son sealed victory with a closing three-under-par 69.

"He said: 'Just get in your own little world, go out there and just thrash 'em'," Woods recalled.

"So that was the mind-set. When I hugged him on 18, looking back on it now, I could not have won that tournament without him." - Reuters


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