25 years later: The shot that might have launched the legend of Tiger Woods, and changed golf forever

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Tiger’s ‘win for the ages,’ but it might not have happened if not for one shot.

Tiger Woods tees off on the sixth hole during a practice round for the Masters golf tournament on Monday, April 4, 2022, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) (Matt Slocum, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

There is always a lot of anticipation for The Masters, annually the golf tournament that gets the highest ratings on TV.

Well, expect ratings to be through the roof again this weekend, because you-know-who is likely back.

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Tiger Woods has been practicing since Sunday at Augusta National — to throngs of people following his every move, by the way — and he said Tuesday that he intends to play in his first tournament since nearly losing his life in a car crash more than a year ago in California.

Barring any last-minute setbacks, he will tee off at 10:34 a.m. ET Thursday.

While Woods stated initially it was going to be a “game-time decision” whether he would play, it’s hard to imagine he would’ve come to Augusta and gone through this much trouble just to say, “Just kidding, I’m out. Best of luck to all the competitors.”

In addition to the storyline of it being his first tournament since the car wreck, this year also marks the 25th anniversary of Woods’ first Masters and major tournament win that forever changed the game of golf.

At the time, it signaled the arrival of the 21-year-old prodigy, sent a horde of kids scrambling to driving ranges and putting greens to learn the game, and millions of casual fans to TV sets to watch Woods wherever he played.

But if not for one shot, that history made at the 1997 Masters might not have happened.

In the first round, Woods arrived to the famous par-3, 12th hole at 3-over par for the tournament.

He shot a 40 on the front-nine, and despite his first birdie of the day at the 10th hole, he still looked like he might play himself out of the tournament right away.

At the 12th hole, he hit his shot well over the green, leaving him a difficult chip back to the hole.

It’s a chip shot many in the past have hit too far, and saw it roll in the creek fronting the green for a big number.

But Woods not only got his chip shot close, he holed it for his second birdie of the day.

To view the chip, check out this YouTube highlight video of the 1997 Masters, and go to the 6-minute mark.

Woods kept that momentum, going on to shoot a 6-under par total of 30 on the back-nine to finish at 2-under par after the first round, and the rest is history.

He went on to rout the field, finishing 18-under par to cap off what CBS announcer Jim Nantz appropriately called “a win for the ages” with the way it catapulted the sport.

We’ll see if Woods can add to his legend this week at Augusta, 25 years after his memorable chip shot and performance in 1997.

About the Author

Keith is a member of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which produces content for all the company's news websites.

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