Everyone who was at the 1997 Masters is being asked for their take on Tiger Woods’ landmark performance 20 years later, but few had the view of Colin Montgomerie. The Scot was paired with Woods in the final group of the third round that year and shot what he thought was a respectable 74. But the rising star beat Monty by nine shots that day, and the World Golf Hall of Famer still vividly recalls the way Woods went about his business.
“It was the easiest 65 I’ve ever seen,” Montgomerie said on Tuesday in a teleconference with reporters that was set up by NBC/Golf Channel.
For Montgomerie, it didn’t take long for him to realize he was witnessing something special.
“The second hole was frightening. I hit the drive, I had the honor and I hit my drive to the brow of the hill on the second,” Montgomerie said. “Now this is the forward tees, remember. They had not moved the second tee 60 yards back by then, so I was at the brow of the hill, just about reaching with my 4-wood; that shows you how old it was. And he was down — he must have been 150 yards ahead of me and hit a 9-iron to the back.
“Now from then on, from that second hole onwards, I thought, hang on a minute. This is something extraordinary. The pin was located back left in that very narrow tongue of the green there and he flew the green with a 9-iron, and I came up my usual short right, down the bottom right there, and I was amazed at that. That was the one shot that really springs to mind.”
Montgomerie also highlighted Woods hitting pitching wedge for his second shot into the par-5 15th and his sand wedge to kick-in range on No. 18 to set up a final birdie.
“This is a game that I had not seen before and none of us had,” he stated.
In his new book, “The 1997 Masters: My Story,” Woods writes that he found motivation for that third round from Montgomerie’s Friday comments that Woods’ lack of experience could be a factor. But following Saturday’s round in which Woods had grabbed a nine-shot lead, Montgomerie no longer thought that mattered.
“There is no chance humanly possible that Tiger is just going to lose this tournament,” Montgomerie told reporters that day before being reminded Greg Norman had blown a six-shot lead the year before. “This is different. This is very different. (Nick) Faldo is not lying second for a start, and Greg Norman is not Tiger Woods.”
This time, Monty was right. Woods added a final-round 69 to shoot the lowest 72-hole score in Masters history and win by a record 12 shots. –Alex Myers