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Drive for Dough
Rick Lipsey
April 06, 1998
It wasn't showy putting that won Tiger Woods the Masters
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April 06, 1998

Drive For Dough

It wasn't showy putting that won Tiger Woods the Masters

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Greg Norman


Jack Nicklaus


Gary Player


Nilk Faldo


Raymond Floyd


Nick Price


Arnold Palmer


Johnny Miller


Tom Watson


Sam Snead


Ben Hogan


As everyone knows, green jackets are won with the putter. "You don't win the Masters because you hit the driver 300 yards," says 1994 Masters champion Jos� Mar�a Olaz�bal. "When Tiger won last year, everyone focused on his distance. But look at his putting average. It was great. That's where you win the tournament."

Sorry, Jos�, but no way. It only seemed that Woods was putting the lights out in Georgia last spring, perhaps because every important putt he made was replayed ad infinitum. But his putting average wasn't great. Woods's 117 putts for the week—an average of 1.63 per green—ranked only 13th among players who made the cut. In fact, as the chart below shows, no Masters champ in the past 10 years has used the putter so many times.

How could Woods shoot a record-breaking 18-under-par 270 with so many putts? For starters, he hit a lot of greens in regulation. Woods and runner-up Tom Kite both hit a tournament-leading 55 of 72 greens, and many of Woods's iron shots landed close enough to the hole that there was virtually no chance he would three-putt. But to get within range of so many greens, Woods needed his woods.

He won with muscle, not finesse. His average drive traveled 323 yards, a whopping 25 yards farther than that of the second-ranked driver, Scott McCarron. Those monster drives allowed Woods to dominate the tournament—and not only by getting him close enough to hit the greens of Augusta National's par-4 holes with ease. More important, his length turned the par-5s into par-4s. He didn't have to hole long birdie putts; he was able to hit the par-5s in two and casually two-putt for birdie.

Yes, Woods played well on Augusta National's 10 par-4 holes. He was five under. But Tiger devoured the par-5s, making two eagles, 10 birdies, three pars and a lone bogey in 16 tries to go 13 under. Only three players in Masters history have played the long holes better: Greg Norman was 15 under in '95, yet finished third, thanks to a first-round 73. Byron Nelson tied for second while going 14 under in '47, and in '76 Raymond Floyd won the tournament while going 14 under.

Can Woods win again and join Jack Nicklaus and Nick Faldo as Augusta's only back-to-back winners? Here's a number to consider: After finishing 60th on Tour in putting in 1997, Woods ranks even lower this year, 95th. He'll have to drive the ball better than ever to make up for putting like that.