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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 March, 2004, 16:20 GMT 17:20 UK
Young pretender - Tiger Woods
From left to right: Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo, Tiger Woods

Who is the true master of Augusta?

MASTERS' MASTER CONTENDERS

Jack Nicklaus beat off the claims of four other great Masters champions to be crowned your king of Augusta.

To celebrate Arnold Palmer's 50th straight appearance at the Masters, an event he won four times in seven years between 1958-1964, we asked you to pick your all-time Master.

And we can reveal that Nicklaus' six Green Jackets edged him narrowly ahead of Palmer and Gary Player to make him the BBC Sport website users' greatest Master of them all.


Tiger Woods
By Matt Slater

For Tiger Woods, recognition of his status as Augusta's greatest champion is a question of when, not if.

There are many who would give the 28-year-old that commendation already.

Three times a winner in his nine Masters appearances, Woods holds a host of event records, including best 72-hole total and widest winning margin.

TIGER TALK
Born: 30/12/1975, California
Turned pro: 1996
Career wins: 53
Major titles: 8
Masters wins: 3 (1997, 2001, 2002)
Other Masters facts: Lowest 72-round total, widest margin of victory, youngest winner

But perhaps the best indication of his greatness came in 2001, when his second Masters victory left him in possession of all four major titles.

The "Tiger Slam" might not have satisfied the purists' definition of a single-season sweep, but as an indication of one player's domination it was conclusive.

Augusta, of course, witnessed its own emphatic demonstration of Woods' mastery in 1997.

Aged only 21 years three months and 14 days, Woods overpowered the course to card an 18-under-par 270.

One better than Jack Nicklaus' 1965 total, Woods also improved the Golden Bear's winning-margin record from nine strokes to 12.

The impetus for his crushing victory came with rounds of 66 and 65 on Friday and Saturday - the 13-under total being the lowest for the middle 36 holes at a Masters.

The hard-hitting American's performance was all the more stunning as it came after two, by his standards, inauspicious displays at the Georgia course.

A 19-year-old Woods played in his first Masters in 1995 as reigning US Amateur champion and finished a creditable, but unspectacular, 41st.

Tiger Woods in 1997
Woods' 1997 masterpiece set a new standard at Augusta
The following year Woods returned, again as US Amateur champion, and missed the cut, a fate he has not looked like repeating.

Having won his first Green Jacket in his third appearance at Augusta, Woods was then made to wait longer than many expected for his second.

The Californian-born Woods claimed a share of eighth when defending his title in 1998, and managed only 18th in 1999.

But if his rivals thought the Woods phenomenon was a flash in the pan, they were rudely awoken in 2000 when his fifth-place finish at Augusta was followed by victories at the US Open, Open and USPGA.

His Open triumph at St Andrews made Woods, who won 11 tournaments worldwide that year, the youngest player to complete the career grand slam.

That feat was then trumped in 2001, when Woods carded a 16-under-par 272 to earn a second Green Jacket and his unprecedented Tiger Slam.

One year later, and Woods repeated the trick - on a course 300 yards longer but clearly not "Tiger-proofed" - to claim a third Masters title and become only the third back-to-back champion at Augusta.

In 2003, Woods suffered the kind of bad year almost every other professional golfer would love.

Tiger Woods in 2002
Woods has three green blazers already, and expects more
A first-round 76 at the Masters set the tone for his year in the majors - and even that aberration was almost redeemed by a 66 on Saturday - but everywhere else Woods was close to his all-conquering best.

Five wins, the lowest scoring average, PGA Tour player of the year for the sixth time in seven years...some slump.

So it will surprise nobody if Woods doesn't end his barren run in golf's biggest events with his fourth Masters victory and ninth major title overall.

And as Augusta's youngest ever four-time winner it would take him one step closer to complete ownership of the Masters record book.





Links to more Masters 2004 stories


 

SEE ALSO
Wonder years - Arnold Palmer
31 Mar 04  |  Masters 2004
Fighting fit - Gary Player
31 Mar 04  |  Masters 2004
The Bear's lair - Jack Nicklaus
31 Mar 04  |  Masters 2004
A stiff upper lip - Nick Faldo
31 Mar 04  |  Masters 2004


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