Book Review: The 1997 Masters My Story

Book Review:
The 1997 Masters: My Story
Reviewed by Jeffrey Reed, Editor,

In modern times, Tiger Woods’ 1997 Masters Tournament victory was the most defining moment in terms of how the game became cool, even in the eyes of the casual or non-golf fan. In fact, Tiger’s first major victory clearly changed the game in a myriad of ways, including boosting prize purses to enormous values.

Lorne Rubenstein

Now, the dean of Canadian golf journalists, Lorne Rubenstein, has written a book that allows us to not only go inside the ropes during that historic win at Augusta National Golf Club, but also to get inside the mind of Tiger Woods. In fact, the latter would have been a much more challenging effort even for Rubenstein, given the fact Tiger – despite the fact he may be the most recognizable person on the planet – leads a very private, guarded life.

Where were you when Tiger slipped on his first green jacket? I was glued to the television, as were tens of millions of viewers around the globe, watching history unfold. Tiger was different. His name was different. He was a man of mixed race making a game with deep white roots suddenly burst with colour. And he played the game like no one before him – powerful yet reliant on finesse. A decade later, even the game’s most decorated champion, Jack Nicklaus, would confess to Tom Watson that Tiger was, indeed, the best to ever play the game.

The 1997 Masters: My Story is the latest book from Canada’s most prolific golf author. If Canadian golf writing has a Tiger Woods, then it’s Rubenstein. In his latest effort, Rubenstein does what seemed impossible prior to this book: he allows Tiger to let his guard down when recounting the most famous four rounds of golf ever played. Sure, it’s nearly impossible to compare eras, and there have been thousands of memorable rounds of golf recorded by the game’s greats. But Tiger’s 1997 win at Augusta clearly stands alone.

In this 256-page book, Rubenstein pens Tiger’s inside look at what shaped those four historic rounds. There are 11 chapters plus a postscript, each chapter delivering for the reader an unfiltered look at a 21-year-old Tiger’s entire week at Augusta 20 years ago (was it really 20 years?).

Rubenstein, you may recall, scored an exclusive and revealing interview with Woods in late-2015 – you can read that interview here. Right off the first tee in his latest book, the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame journalist hits it off the screws as he allows Tiger to talk about his amateur days at Augusta. Woods revealed that perhaps part of the reason he was underwhelmed by his first trips down Magnolia Lane was because “the club had excluded black golfers from playing for so long.” Tiger has been criticized for not taking a stand against race issues as much as some think he should have, but he pulls no punches here.

There’s a simple yet telling portion of this book that clearly defines how much Tiger loves and respects the game of golf. In Rubenstein’s book, Woods recounts his letter written to Augusta National after his first Masters in 1995. Certainly Tiger’s father, Earl, had instilled in him the importance of etiquette on and off the golf course. But still, Tiger wrote the letter while in class at Stanford University. “Your tournament will always hold a special spot in my heart as the place where I made my first PGA cut and at a major yet! It is here that I left my youth behind and became a man,” wrote Woods.

Just prior to that 1997 Masters, Woods beat Arnold Palmer in a teeth-gritting 18-hole match, and then shot 59 the next day while playing with his good friend, Mark O’Meara. He even made a hole-in-one. But he shot a 40 during his opening nine holes at the Masters. Then, something clicked before he teed off to open his back nine: he shortened his backswing, and the rest is history. With unmatched golf skills, teachings from swing coach Butch Harmon, a calming influence on the bag in Fluff Cowan and military mental training from Earl, Tiger turned it around on a dime, with a back-nine 30 and first-round 70.

After shooting 66 on Friday, Tiger took some heat for telling the media it was, in fact, just another tournament. Rubenstein writes on behalf of Tiger, he was “playing for the joy of competition, and for the hunt. But the hunt was to bring out whatever talent I had. The hunt wasn’t for a trophy.” He was, in fact, a cold-blooded killer on the golf course.

Rubenstein captures each of Tiger’s four rounds with a mix of shot descriptions and course analyses, as told by Tiger, but he does so by capturing Tigers unique view of the game, seen through the eyes of a genius. This prose continues as Tiger talks about Augusta National’s changes since 1997 – it’s a voice we rarely hear from Tiger as he picks apart the current conditions at golf’s most revered setting.

Tiger announcing sponsorship with Bridgestone golf balls.

“I wanted to take the readers back into what I saw and what I felt from shot to shot,” said Woods, now 41. “The experiences I felt that were important, that helped me to that victory, not just throughout the week but also throughout my entire life. I was only 21 at the time, but I had been through a lot, but I also didn’t know a lot.

“In hindsight, writing it 20 years later, it was quite interesting to remember a lot for the stuff that went on that particular week, and the buildup to it. I still get giddy talking about it because it was so important to my life,” Woods said.

The 1997 Masters: My Story is a great addition to any golf library. It’s a cerebral read that takes you inside the head of golf’s greatest star, and inside the ropes of golf’s greatest tournament. Here’s betting it will stand the test of time and prove to be a great read in yet another 20 years, when the appreciation for Tiger’s prowess becomes even stronger.

We’d all prefer to see Tiger on the golf course, but Rubenstein’s book helps ease that pain, if not Tiger’s back issues. It’s a highly-recommended read.

The 1997 Masters: My Story
Tiger Woods, with Lorne Rubenstein
Grand Central Publishing
256 Pages
Paperback $39, Ebook $18.99
Audiobook Downloadable $33.98, Audiobook CD $45.50

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About jeffreyreed

A leading Canadian communications professional. Corporate office established 1989.