There never has been, never will be, a killer like Tiger Woods.
Not then, not now, not ever. The boy is a man now, and the man is
as unstoppable as winter. He has all the empathy of a Luger. His
mind is a lockbox, his will a Russian tank. He is a finisher, in
the manner of Luca Brasi or Babyface Nelson. He is the kind of
man who buries you, then comes to your grave on your birthday and
kicks over your tombstone.
This is an article from the April 22, 2002 issue
He proved it again on Sunday in the formerly innocent little town
of Augusta. One hundred years after Bobby Jones was born, on the
occasion of Arnold Palmer's last Masters, Tiger Woods
methodically unscrewed a brilliant leader board--his final numbers
were 70-69-66-71 for a 12-under 276--to win his third green
jacket, which he takes now, proudly, and hides in the deepest
part of his closet.
"I mean, it's not like you're going to walk around with this
thing on, are you?" he said, looking at it with distaste.
That's him. He doesn't really want it for himself. He just wants
to take it from you.
After his second straight Masters win Woods now has seven majors,
and he's still only 26. Nobody's gotten to seven this fast, but
that's not the brain-bending part. The brain-bending part is that
he still doesn't have a second-place finish in a major. Jack
Nicklaus had six seconds by now. If Woods finished second in a
major, the top of his head might explode. Hit men don't do
second. He gets ahold of your neck, he doesn't let go until
you're a throw rug.
He has won dramatically. He has won artistically. But this one
should've been directed by Hitchcock. I Know What You Did Last
April. They moved nine of the 18 tee boxes back to Aiken, S.C.,
and they planted 50-year-old trees where none had been before,
and they even made the joint smell like a cross between Gary,
Ind., and a 4-H fair. It poured rain on him, and they made him
play 26 holes in one day and gave him a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call.
They even threw the very best in the world at him: Numbers 2, 3,
4, 5 and 7 on the World Ranking list--at once!--and they all went
home in boxes.
Take Phil Mickelson (No. 2 in the world). He seemed to have his
mind right. He's been reading Stephen Hawking books on quantum
physics. One night last month he sat up in bed and exclaimed to
his wife, Amy, "Do you realize how small we are?" He even had New
Age spiritualist Deepak Chopra in his camp. And when Mickelson
birdied the first two holes out of bunkers in the final round, it
looked as if enlightenment would be his. Then he bogeyed the next
two while Tiger birdied two of his first three.
As Mickelson waited to hit on the 8th tee, a thunderclap of a
roar went up for Tiger's chip-in birdie at number 6. All the love
for the universe drained out of Mickelson's face. Poor bastard.
His parents had the gall to beget him in the era of Tiger Woods.
Or take Retief Goosen (No. 4 in the world). Hottest player on the
planet coming in. Winner of six of his last 24 starts. Even had
his sports psychologist with him, Jos Vanstiphout. Came to the
course on Sunday morning tied for the lead and promptly got
stomped flatter than pita bread. If it had been match play, Tiger
would've been 4 up after four holes. Goosen wound up three back
in second place. Said the shrink, "If Retief was playing to full
capacity, he would have beaten Tiger by 50 shots." Riggggght.
Goosen didn't seem to believe it. He looked like a man who'd been
run over by a bus and was just glad to be alive. "Do I get the
green pants for finishing second?" he asked.
Or take Ernie Els (third in the world). He started four back, and
Tiger never let him get much closer than that. Tired of waiting
for Tiger to make a mistake, Els decided to make his own, playing
the famous par-5 13th with an oar and flippers to wind up with an
8. Or take Sergio Garcia (fifth in the world). He's supposed to
step up one of these days to challenge Tiger, but instead he
stepped back, with a wimpy 75. Or take Vijay Singh (seventh in
the world). Trailing by four with four to play, he rinsed two
thirds of a sleeve into the pond in front of the par-5 15th--two
out-and-out 18-handicap chunks, by the way--on his way to a 9, to
put his hopes in a slingh.
"I don't care what any of these guys say about not looking at him
or not noticing what he's doing," mused Tiger's father, Earl,
afterward outside the Butler Cabin. "Tiger intimidates through
osmosis. You feel it. It freaks people out."
The whole week kind of did that. Sam Snead hit the ceremonial
first drive of the tournament straight into the spectacles of a
spectator. And yet CBS announcer Jim Nantz didn't mention a word
about it in recapping the shot on Saturday. Then again, being a
Masters announcer on CBS is like writing for the Baghdad Bugle.
One negative word, and you're hanging upside down by your
Nor was there a single word from CBS about the week's odor, which
had the unmistakable aroma of Eau d' Oink. It smelled like Grade
C manure, though an Augusta National spokesman insisted the rain
had simply dredged up naturally decaying grass. Riiiiiight. So
why was it that Nick Faldo turned to Davis Love III as they
played on Sunday and said, "Somebody brought their pet cow"?
And the mud. There was mud everywhere. Mud on the balls and mud
on the IMG agents' $600 Italian loafers and mud on the steep
hills, which made for great fun watching proper Southern belles
in print dresses go sliding rump-down through the muck and slime
and then get up, laughing liltingly and twittering, "Well, ahh
Then there was the mudslinging from an Augusta National member
himself: Lloyd Ward, a USOC executive. Ward, who happens to be
black, told USA Today it was high time the Old Coots Club took in
some female members. The club had no official comment, but the
mind spun at what changes that might bring.
Now, for the traditional winner's interview, we take you to the
Then there was the bit of untidiness caused by The Letter. Former
champs Doug Ford (1957), Gay Brewer (1967) and Billy Casper
(1970) each received a chilling missive from Augusta National
chairman Hootie Johnson, which read, "Your record is not
indicative of active participation." (Translation: Your lifetime
invitation just expired.) You think Tiger is cold? All it lacked
was, "P.S.: We've included some hemlock for your personal use."
Why they didn't simply call them or nudge them at the Tuesday
night champions dinner, nobody knows. It hurt so bad that Brewer
boycotted the dinner in protest.
So when no less than Arnold Palmer shot 89 the first day, it
became clear that his Masters moments were finished. "Tomorrow
will be my last day," he said last Thursday. "I don't want to get
Made you wonder who would get a letter next.
Dear Mr. Ballesteros...
Dear Mr. Jordan...
Dear Senator Thurmond...
At least Palmer got a send-off, instead of a shove-off, and thank
God, because the throngs roared their farewells at every hole.
Grown men wiped their eyes on their sleeves for the man who
popularized the Masters. "Seems like he's been here since there
was daylight," Woods said wistfully. And now that he's gone, it
seems just a little darker.
Will you miss this place, Arnie? a reporter asked him with
"Nah," he said.
Why not? said the surprised writer.
"I'm a member!"
What was done to toughen up the course will make it easier for
guys like Jack Nicklaus to leave too. Augusta National is now
longer than The Green Mile. Johnson increased the length of nine
holes, some, like the 18th, by 60 yards, and added trees
everywhere. "On 18 you've got to drive it up a gnat's ass," said
Greg Norman, memorably. There were more three-woods hit this week
at the Masters than at the Duluth Lions Club Invitational. Only
the constant rains kept the scores low. If there had been any
wind, over par would've won this thing. And will next year.
Charles Barkley was right. The changes were racist. Not a single
Asian player made it into the top 10. "The days of Larry Mize and
Ben Crenshaw winning this thing are over," said Jeff Sluman,
himself rather a short hitter.
Five years ago, after Woods's roundhouse win, Jesper Parnevik
said, "Unless they build Tiger tees about 50 yards back, he's
going to win the next 20 of these." Well, they just did, and he
"You want to Tigerproof a course?" Earl Woods was saying while
waiting for his son to try on another green jacket. "Move the tee
box to the ladies' tee. Eliminate the rough completely. Cut the
greens to 8 or 9 [on the stimpmeter]. And I'll guarantee you,
Tiger won't win. But this course plays right into his hands."
It was chilling how resolutely his son won last week, as if it
were just something to check off on a sheet, an item on a grocery
O.K. Let's see.... One hundred million dollar endorsement deal?
Check.... Swedish bikini-model girlfriend (former Parnevik nanny
Elin Nordegren)? Check.... Win third Masters? Check.
Really, he won it on Saturday with a boatload of hard work. He
woke at 4:30 a.m., trailing Singh by six shots, played 26
rain-delayed holes in eight under and by nightfall had tied with
Goosen for the lead at 11 under. Twenty-four times in his PGA
Tour career Woods had held or shared a lead going into the fourth
round. Twenty-two times he had closed the deal. Even Goosen's
home country of South Africa must not have liked his chances. It
didn't send a single reporter.
It was over so quickly. CBS came on an hour early to beat a
predicted storm, but if you didn't know that, you missed the
executions entirely. The leaders teed off at 2:10. By 2:21 Goosen
had three-putted number 1, and Woods had a lead between his
choppers he would never let go. By 2:36 Tiger had birdied number
2 out of a greenside bunker, Goosen missed an easy birdie and
Woods had a two-shot lead. By 3 p.m. it was a three-shot lead
after Woods hit an ungodly wedge on number 3 for a kick-in
birdie. Then came the chilling chip-in at 6, and the rest of it
was just safe sides of fairways and fats of greens. After the
requisite drive up the gnat's ass on 18, there was nothing left
to worry about but warming up the Citation 10.
It had all the suspense of a good floss. Maybe less. Whereas
Tiger's first Masters was about the emotion of becoming the first
black man to win at snow-white Augusta and the second was about
the glory of becoming the first man ever to win four majors in a
row, the third seemed just a highway stop to gas up, get
sandwiches and beat on ceaselessly toward Greatest Ever.
If Woods can win majors at this pace-- seven every six years--until
he's 40, he would have 21, beating Nicklaus by three. And
Nicklaus won three after 40. Then again, the year is young.
You think you could win all four in one year this time? somebody
asked Woods afterward.
"I've done four in a row before," he said. "It'd be great to do
it in one year, just 'cause it'd be something different."
It's like an astronaut yawning, Yeah, I'd like to walk on Mars.
Hey, it'd be different, right?
But this guy is different. This guy is like nothing golf has ever
seen. And as he grows ever more murderous on the inside, he grows
more generous on the outside. After his round, for instance,
adorned in sweaty clothes and that hideous green garment, Woods
thanked the crowd repeatedly. "I worked my butt off this week,"
he said to the fans as he stood on the practice putting green.
"And to walk up 18 and hear that applause, well, it was a nice
Two hours later he came out of a cabin on the Augusta National
grounds showered, $1,008,000 richer, escorting the drop-dead
Nordegren on his left and holding a cold Budweiser in his right.
O.K., so maybe a guy deserves more than one nice little reward,
"IT'D BE GREAT TO DO IT IN one year, 'cause it'd be different."
Earl Woods. "They feel Tiger. It freaks them out."