But Kite did not leave Augusta empty-handed. As the captain of a U.S. Ryder Cup team that will try to reclaim the trophy from Europe this September in Spain, he suddenly has a one-man Ryder Wrecking Crew on his hands, for Woods wiped out his playing partners from overseas: England's Faldo by five shots on Thursday, Scotland's Montgomerie by nine on Saturday and Italy's Costantino Rocca by six on Sunday.
The last round was basically a coronation parade with occasional stops to hit a dimpled object. There seemed to be some kind of combat for mortals going on behind Woods for second place, but nothing you needed to notice. Nobody came within a light year. Rocca and Tom Watson each trimmed the lead to eight, but mentioning it at all is like pointing out that the food on the Hindenburg was pretty good. Woods went out on the front nine in even par, then birdied the 11th, the 13th and the 14th and parred the 16th with a curvaceous two-putt. "After that, I knew I could bogey in and win," he said. That's a bit of an understatement, of course. He could've quintuple-bogeyed in and won. He could've used nothing but his putter, his umbrella and a rolled-up Mad magazine and won.
He wanted the record, though, and for that there was one last challenge—the 18th. On his tee shot a photographer clicked twice on the backswing, and Woods lurched, hooking his drive way left. On this hole, though, the only trouble comes if you're short or right, and Woods has not been short since grade school. He had a wedge shot to the green—if only he could get his wedge. Fluff was lost. "Fluff!" Woods hollered, jumping as if on a pogo stick to see over the gallery. Fluff finally found him as the crowd chanted, "Fluff! Fluff!" It was not exactly tense.
Still, Woods needed a five-footer for par, and when he sank it, he threw his trademark uppercut. The tournament he had talked about winning since he was five, the tournament he had watched on tape almost every night in his little suburban bedroom all those years, the tournament he had wanted more than all the others, was his, and the dream had only just begun. He was now the youngest man by two years to win the Masters and the first black man to win any major.
He turned and hugged Fluff, and as the two men walked off the green, arms draped over each other's shoulders in joy, you couldn't help but notice that Chairman Roberts's Rule of Golf Order had been turned happily upside down—the golfer was black and the caddie was white. "I've always dreamed of coming up 18 and winning," Woods, still a little shocked, said after slipping on the green jacket. "But I never thought this far through the ceremony."
So golf is all new now. Everything is a fight for place. Win seems to be spoken for. If you are the tournament director of a PGA Tour event, you better do whatever's necessary to get Tiger Woods, because your Wendy's-Shearson Lehman Pensacola Classic is the junior varsity game without him. The Senior tour seems sort of silly next to this. A babe in swaddling pleats with a Slinky for a spine and a computer for a mind had just won a major by more shots than anybody this century. How does he top this? The Grand Slam?
"It can be done," he said, unblinking.
"The bigger the event, the higher he'll raise the bar," Azinger said. "He's Michael Jordan in long pants."
Of course, much more than golf was changed at Augusta National last week. As Woods made his way from Butler Cabin and an interview with CBS, he brought his phalanx of Pinkerton guards and other escorts to a sudden stop. Out of the corner of his eye Woods spied Lee Elder, the man who at 39 had finally won a PGA Tour event, the Monsanto Open, earning his invitation as the first black man to play the Masters, in 1975, the year Tiger was born. Woods knew Elder's story, knew about Teddy Rhodes, too, the star of the black golf circuit in the 1940s, who might've won here if he'd had the chance; and of Charlie Sifford, who outplayed Masters champions like Doug Ford and Gay Brewer regularly on the Tour but never qualified to play here; and of his own father, who was the first black man to play baseball in the Big Eight and was often forced to stay in separate hotels and eat in separate restaurants, apart from his teammates. Tiger knows all the stories he never had to live, so he stopped and put a giant bear hug on Elder. "Thanks for making this possible," Woods whispered in his ear, and then the parade swept on. Elder had tears in his eyes.
At the very end Woods made it into the elegant Augusta National clubhouse dining room for the traditional winner's dinner. As he entered, the members and their spouses stood and applauded politely, as they have for each champion, applauded as he made his way to his seat at the head table under a somber oil painting of President Eisenhower. But clear in the back, near a service entrance, the black cooks and waiters and busboys ripped off their oven mitts and plastic gloves, put their dishes and trays down for a while, hung their napkins over their arms and clapped the loudest and the hardest and the longest for the kind of winner they never dreamed would come through those doors.