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  Monday, 2 April, 2001, 16:29 GMT 17:29 UK
Tiger longing for Augusta green
Woods lines up a putt on one of Augusta's notoriously fast greens
Woods destroyed Augusta in '97 but has since struggled
Tiger Woods says the famous Augusta course still favours longer hitters despite attempts to make it 'Tiger-proof', reports BBC Sport Online's Claire Stocks.

Woods' record-breaking 1997 US Masters win in his first year as a pro did not just leave sports writers struggling for superlatives.

It left the Augusta organisers scratching their heads over how to make their hallowed turf 'Tiger-proof'.

The 21-year-old rookie's score of 270 shots over Augusta's 72 holes broke a 32-year-old mark, set by possibly the only golfer to still stand above him, the great Jack Nicklaus.


I wasn't happy with my swing even though I won here in '97 setting a lot of records, so I changed it - anybody can time their golf swing for a week, but can you do it for an entire career?
Tiger Woods
In doing so, Woods became the youngest ever winner - at 21 years - and registered the biggest winning-margin - 12 strokes.

What was astonishing was the ease with which Tiger tamed the par 72 course.

David Leadbetter, coach to many of the world's top players, believes of all the championship courses used to stage golf's Majors, Augusta is the most suited to Woods' game.

When firing at full capacity, Tiger can hit the ball almost 400 yards with his 125mph swing, effectively reducing many par fives to par fours.

1996 winner Nick Faldo crowns Tiger Woods the 1997 champion
Woods: Won the US Masters only nine months after turning pro
In 1997, the longest iron he played to any green before his final round was a seven.

He made mincemeat of the 500-yard par-five 15th, twice hitting second shots with his wedge.

In his final round, he breezed round the three hardest holes on the course, dubbed Amen Corner, with two birdies and a par, prompting changes to the course layout.

As it turned out, Woods' maiden win was followed by frustration at Augusta.

In 1998 he only managed 8th place, while good pal Mark O'Meara finished a stoke clear of David Duval and Fred Couples, on nine-under-par

  Tiger Woods' record at Augusta
1995: Joint 41st place,
5 over par (amateur)
1996: Missed cut (amateur)
1997: 1st, -18
1998: Joint 8th, -3
1999: Joint 18th, +1
2000: 5th, -4
Twelve months later, the Tiger traps were in place.

Long grass, never really a feature at the immaculate Georgia course, was allowed to grow up into rough to give players like Woods a little more to think about from the tee.

The pivotal 17th and the par-five 2nd were significantly lengthened, while the 15th fairway was redesigned to take distance off the long-hitters.

The other major change was to the 11th.

As the first of the triangle of holes that comprise Amen Corner, the 11th used to be the scariest hole on the course before players like Woods and Duval started carrying the ball 310 yards through the air.

Since the changes, it is fair to say Woods has struggled in Georgia, though the fact the winning scores have not fallen significantly proves the course is still there for the taking.

The world's No1 admits it is now a harder test - but says that favours the longer hitters like himself.

Jose Maria Olazabal plots his route out of the trees before the tournament organisers redesigned the course to make it harder
There is now more rough at Augusta

"I'm not saying it wasn't tough before, but it's tougher now because obviously you've got to drive the ball better and you've still got to be tough with the irons, but now you've got to play out of the rough," said Woods.

"By doing that they have kept the scores down, that's for sure, but they kept them down for everybody.

"And the harder they make it for everybody, the better it plays into the longer hitters and the more challenging it becomes for people who can't hit the ball as far."

Woods has yet to live up to his claims, at Augusta at least.

In 1999, he finished only three-under-par after losing a battle with lightning greens, though Jose Maria Olazabal cracked them to seal an eight-under-par victory.

It was a similar story last year.

Woods was favourite for the title after nine tour wins in 14 starts.

But his accuracy deserted him and he could only manage fifth place, six shots back from the hard-working Vijay Singh, who took the prize on 10-under.

Since then, Woods has gone on to defy the odds, recording emphatic victories at The Open, the US Open and the USPGA tournaments last year.

Tiger Woods
Woods: Nicklaus says he will eclipse his record of 18 major championship titles

At 24, he is the youngest player in an illustrious group of Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus to have completed the Grand Slam of all four Majors.

Victory on 8 April would make him the first golfer to hold them all at the same time.

Indeed, Nicklaus is quoted as saying he believes Woods will win more Masters titles than himself and Arnold Palmer put together.

That's 10 then.

Woods' stutter at the recent Dubai Classic, where he found the water at the last to hand victory to Denmark's Thomas Bjorn, proves he is fallible.

But few would now back against Woods, assuming the green mantle that Nicklaus wore for so long.


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02 Apr 01 | US Masters
02 Apr 01 | US Masters
02 Apr 01 | US Masters
26 Mar 01 | Golf
02 Apr 01 | US Masters
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