On this day, April 13, 1997: Tiger Woods shatters Masters records and ushers in era of dominance

At Augusta National 23 years ago, a 21-year-old Woods produced one of the most remarkable performances in golf history

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Even now, 23 years to the day, it remains perhaps the sport’s most monumental display.

On April 13, 1997, Tiger Woods won the first of his 15 majors by 12 shots. In his inaugural Masters as a professional, the young American with the might and the marketability was so utterly dominant that a slew of records tumbled and a period of unrivalled supremacy began.

Woods triumphed by a canter, leaving everyone in his wake from three rounds in. In all, he set 20 new marks (including those for the tournament’s lowest score and its youngest winner), and tied another seven.

Most significantly, he became the first person of colour to capture the Green Jacket. Aged 21, Woods had prevailed at Augusta National Golf Club, an institute that once excluded black people from being members and from competing in the Masters.

So eight months after famously announcing “Hello World”, Woods wowed with a transcendent win. Shouldering unparalleled pressure coming into the week, he rose to the occasion emphatically, matching the bravado and the bluster with a breathtaking performance.

To think his first two appearances at Augusta, as a student at Stanford yet to graduate to the pro ranks, finished with Woods tied for 41st in 1995 and a missed cut the following year.

However, by the time Woods arrived at Augusta that week in 1997, the hype felt real. Three times the US Junior champion, three times the US Amateur champion, he had won three times already on the PGA Tour. Still, coming into the Masters, his previous performance was a modest T31 at the Players Championship.

To think, too, that after nine holes at Augusta Woods seemed in a battle to simply make the cut. He went out in 40 on Thursday, but recovered coming home to post an opening-round 70. By close on Friday, a 66 had given him a three-shot lead. Saturday concluded with a sublime 65 and Woods way out front, by nine.

So struck by Woods’ mastery, his peers conceded defeat. Constantino Rocca, way back in second place, admitted after the third round that “it’s too far”. Two shots further back, Tom Kite said he was playing only for the runner-up spot.

Colin Montgomerie, Woods’ playing partner on Friday, declared: “There is no chance. We’re all human beings here. There’s no chance humanly possible Tiger is going to lose this tournament.”

Reminded that Greg Norman had infamously surrendered a six-shot lead the previous year to Nick Faldo, Montgomerie retorted: “This is very different. Faldo’s not lying second, for a start. And Greg Norman’s not Tiger Woods.”

Prediction realised, Woods cruised to victory, his lap of honour around Augusta completed with a breezy 69. After that early Thursday blip, he had played the final 63 holes in 22 under par – the next best is 13-under – becoming the first to finish 18-under for the tournament.

Woods was 21 years and 104 days old, hoisted to the first player in history to win a major on his first appearance as a pro.

Twenty-three years on, some of the stats still astound.

- Woods’ average score for the week was 67.5; the field average was 74.3.

- In 72 holes, he carded 26 threes: 10 pars, 14 birdies and two eagles.

- He didn’t three-putt all week on Augusta’s notoriously treacherous greens.

- The 12-shot winning margin was the largest for a major. Three years later, Woods won the US Open by 15.

- He averaged a mammoth 323 yards off the tee, 25 yards more than the next longest, Scott Hoch.

- Runner-up Tom Kite finished on 6-under. It would have been good enough to win 34 of the previous 60 Masters. “I beat all the mortals,” the American shrugged.

- An estimated 44 million people in the United States watched the final round - a viewing record.

Little wonder, as Woods made his way to the 18th green on Sunday, renowned CBS commentator Jim Nantz celebrated "a virtuosos performance like Augusta has never seen". The New York Times wrote: "Woods Tears Up Augusta and Tears Down Barriers", while Sports Illustrated's next cover trumpeted "The New Master".

In the immediate aftermath, though, Woods commented on a historic victory with typical understatement.

"It means a lot, you know,” he said. “It's something I always dreamed of - something any kid has dreamed of - to win the Masters. And I did it.”

Regardless, it was a win for the ages, changing the face of the sport. A nice symmetry can be found in the fact that, now two decades and a bit later, Woods sits as the current Masters champion, taking his Green Jacket tally to five. Only Jack Nicklaus has won more.

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