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1997: Tiger Woods wins Masters at 21

The 21-year-old golfing sensation Eldrick "Tiger" Woods has become the youngest-ever player to win the US Masters Championships.

He put in a virtuoso performance that left his opponents far behind and smashed almost every record in the book.

His winning margin was 12 strokes - three more than the previous record, held by Jack Nicklaus.

His final four-round score was 270 strokes, 18 under par - the tournament record.

He is also the first black player to win a major golf championship, and has said he intends to use his success to encourage minorities to play golf.

Slow start

His challenge started slowly, but quickly gathered pace until by the end of the second day he had taken the lead.

By the end of day three, he had increased his lead to nine shots, and his nearest rival, Colin Montgomerie, was telling journalists that there was "no chance Tiger Woods is just going to lose this tournament."

The only question was by what margin this golfing phenomenon would trounce his rivals.

"I never thought I would have a lead like I did," said Woods after the tournament, dressed in the coveted green jacket awarded to winners of the Masters.

"You envision duelling it out with Nicklaus or Watson or Faldoż but never to do it in the fashion I did."

Admiration

His rivals had nothing but admiration for his decisive victory.

"This seems to be the next generation, said Tom Kite, competing in his 24th Masters. "He seems to have leapfrogged the rest of the field."

Woods, a child prodigy who won his first public competition at the age of three, had already astonished golfing fans by winning an unprecedented three consecutive US Amateur championships from 1994 to 1996.

He turned professional just eight months ago, his profile already so high that he was immediately signed up for endorsement deals worth $60 million.

There was immediate speculation over Woods's chances of winning the Grand Slam - the Masters, the US Open, and the US PGA Championship. Woods refused to rule it out.

"It's only a matter of getting hot four times and having a lot of luck at the right time," he told journalists.

In Context
By the end of the 1997 PGA season, Tiger Woods had broken the single-season record earnings with more than $2 million.

He won four tournaments, and finished in the top 10 nine times.

He continued to break records, winning four tournaments in a row in 1999, and taking the US Open in June 2000 by a 15-stroke margin - the largest in the history of major championship golf.

He completed his Grand Slam in July 2000, winning the Open Championship at St Andrews, Scotland, by eight shots at the age of 24 - two years younger than the previous record-holder, Jack Nicklaus.

The 2000 season also saw him put in the most successful performance in golf history in terms of tournament earnings, winning him nearly $10 million in prize money.

Woods lost his world number one spot in 2004 after a record 264 straight weeks, to Vijay Singh.

He regained the number one place after clinching his fourth US Masters win - his ninth major title - in April 2005.


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