Tiger Woods’ first major
Woods was a student at Stanford University at the time of his first Masters in 1995
Tiger Woods was underwhelmed by his first glimpse of Augusta National.
The unmistakable canopy of blooming Magnolia trees that guides golf’s finest names along the 300-metre driveway to the Founders Circle and iconic clubhouse failed to capture his imagination.
“Magnolia Lane, is that it?” a 19-year-old Woods asked reporters. “It was a pretty short drive. From what everyone says, it’s majestic.”
Woods felt comfortable from the moment he arrived at his first Masters in April 1995, having qualified as the US amateur champion.
He had been building towards this since the moment his father Earl handed him a club before his first birthday, captivated by this tournament since first watching it on TV in 1980 at the age of four.
Competing at Augusta was always the dream and, despite remarking that the clubhouse was “a lot smaller than it looks on TV”, Woods would in private tell close friend Mark Soltau how he ventured out of his bedroom in the Crow’s Nest to wander around the historic building at night.
He spent the daytime practising relentlessly. With his parents staying in town, and Woods out on the course at every opportunity, Earl joked with reporters at a news conference during the build-up that it was the first opportunity he’d had to say “Hi, Tiger”.
“Hi, Pop,” his son responded, before suggesting the first major of his career was “just another tournament” and insisting the main focus was to get his game ready for Thursday’s opening round.
Woods was mixing with the stars for the first time at a major, heading out for practice rounds with Nick Faldo, Raymond Floyd, Greg Norman and Fred Couples after arriving on the Sunday.
In his round on Monday with Faldo, Woods caught the then two-time Masters champion’s eye as he reached the par-five 15th hole in two strokes.
“He hits it long,” said Faldo, explaining the teenager’s shoulders were “impressively quick through the ball – that’s where he’s getting his power from”.
That power was something Woods’ first coach Rudy Duran witnessed when he was just four years old.
Woods’ father Earl, a Vietnam veteran, would take his young son to hit balls on the military courses near their home in Orange County, south California – and by the time his mother, Kutilda, took the child prodigy to Heartwell Golf Course in Long Beach, Tiger was swinging like a natural.
On his first meeting with Woods, Duran walked him to the range and teed up four balls before stepping back and watching his new pupil unleash a kindergarten-sized club.
“Bam, bam, bam, bam… he hit four perfect drivers about 60 yards. I was like ‘Woah!'” Duran tells BBC Sport.
“Then I threw some balls down on the chipping green. He chipped them on and turned around and asked me – he had a little stutter – if I wanted him to ‘pop them up’.
“I remember hearing Tiger say he wanted to win the US Open when he was about seven. He had dreams of winning major tournaments when he was quite young, but I wasn’t grooming a pro – he could trip and fall and break his arm or crash his bike or something, it wasn’t the mission for his parents or me to make him a pro.”