Having Panned the largest amateur golf gold nuggets in his own country this year, 18-year-old U.S. Amateur champion Tiger Woods journeyed to the outskirts of Paris last week in search of treasure in the shadow of the gilded Palace of Versailles. The result: He unearthed another hefty lode of confidence and experience in helping the U.S. win its first World Amateur Team Championship in a dozen years.
The Americans' 11-stroke victory over runner-up Great Britain & Ireland was indisputably led by flinty Allen Doyle, whose 72-hole total of 277 was the low individual score in the biennial competition, which this year attracted four-man teams from 45 countries. On Sunday, the 46-year-old Doyle made up for a bogey, triple bogey start with a heroic six-under-par run over the final seven holes. "I felt awful," he said of his 40 on the front nine, "but I was damned if I wasn't going to come scratching back." And so, with the U.S. trailing by four strokes with nine holes to play, he fired a 30 on the back nine to spark the runaway victory.
But Woods also had his claws out, shooting a 72 on Sunday despite the pressure of playing in the tournament's final threesome. "I thought batting cleanup would suit Tiger to a tee," said Doyle. "He already had the crowd, and the young man is not afraid of pressure."
"I loved it," said Woods, whose rounds of 70-75-67-72 (sixth individually) all counted toward the team score in a format that tallied a team's best three rounds each day. "My only thought was to hit solid golf shots all day long. Nothing can go wrong then."
Almost nothing has gone wrong for Woods in his meteoric golf career. As a superstar amateur—he is the only player to win three straight U.S. Junior Amateur championships, the only player to win both the U.S. Junior and the Amateur and the youngest player ever to win the Amateur—he is galvanizing interest in amateur golf for the first time in decades.
In Versailles, Woods was clearly the star, drawing galleries larger than those of all the French golfers combined. The Gallic press celebrated him as much as it has any American since Jerry Lewis. The sports daily L'Equipe called him TIGER LA TERREUR, while the daily Le Figaro compared him with another prodigy—Mozart.
The World Amateur began in 1958, when 29 countries competed for the Eisenhower Trophy at the Old Course in St. Andrews and Australia upset the U.S. The Americans were out for revenge two years later at Merion, outside Philadelphia, and they won by 42 strokes.
Although the U.S. won eight of the next 11 World Amateurs, it came to Versailles riding an ignoble streak of five straight runner-up finishes. The fact that the Americans lost to a different team each time speaks well of the improvement in world golf, but this year's U.S. contingent—Doyle; Woods; Todd Demsey, the 22-year-old 1993 NCAA champion from Arizona State; and 42-year-old John Harris, the '93 U.S. Amateur champion—was the favorite to regain the Eisenhower Trophy.
Woods had been to France before, at 14, as a member of a team of Southern California junior golfers who played juniors from the French Golf Federation. So this time he skipped the U.S. team's sightseeing tour of Paris and stuck close to the course and the practice range. Indeed, for the entire nine days he was in Versailles he avoided French cuisine, dining instead at the McDonald's down the block from the team hotel. "I can't handle all these sauces," he explained.
In short, Woods was not on some exotic field trip. Although his manner at the golf course is outwardly calm, his intensity is visible in flashes of anger after bad shots and in his tight focus on the practice range. He also has a sharp eye for the techniques of others, and last week he helped Demsey with his swing and Harris with his putting stroke.