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Professional golf doesn't completely owe its massive growth over the last 20 years to Tiger Woods, but since the 14-time major champion won his first major at the 1997 Masters, the game and that special event have become significantly more popular around the world.
What was the world of golf like in 1994, the last time Tiger was not in the field at the Masters? Here are some of the major shifts and not so major shifts in the game that have occurred over the last 20 years.
Tiger proofing Augusta
When Jose Maria Olazabal won the 1994 Masters, the Alister MacKenzie gem was 6,925 yards, where it measured when Tiger won the first of his four green jackets with a record 18-under par total.
But beginning in 1999, the club began to lengthen the course, plant trees and add rough. Now stretching 7,435 yards, Augusta National is a much more difficult course to navigate than it was 20 years. No longer are players capable of overpowering the course the way Tiger did in '97, reducing the course to drivers and short irons on many of the holes.
Golf balls warsThe advancements in ball technology over the past two decades have perhaps exceeded any other technological advancement in the sport.
Tiger won the 1994 U.S. Amateur at TPC Sawgrass with a Titleist Tour Balata. The high spinning ball had a soft cover that easily scarred on mishits. Then he used a Titleist Professional for the 1997 Masters. The Professional was a harder ball than the Balata, but it had a similar spinning profile.
By the late 90s, most tour players began using more durable, multi-layer balls that flew longer and straighter than their predecessors.
In '94, John Daly led the tour in driving distance with a 289.1-yard average. That year the tour average was 258.8 The tour average now is 287.1, and Bubba Watson is the leading long-hitter with a 317.7 yard average.
TV and Tournament Purses
Back in 1994, Nick Price won six events and led the tour in earnings with $1.5 million. In contrast, Tiger took $1.7 million last year just for winning the Players Championship.
During Tiger's first full year on tour in 1997, total purses were about $80 million. With the wraparound schedule and the FedEx Cup money, the 2013-2014 purses are close to $340 million -- up $284.6 million from the '94 mark of $56.4 million.
TV deals have contributed greatly to this massive growth in purses. In 2011, the PGA Tour negotiated nine-year extensions with CBS, NBC and the Golf Channel worth more than $500 million a year.
According to Forbes, the regular tour had revenues of some $1.1 billion in 2012. When Tim Finchem became tour commissioner in '94, revenues were $285 million.
The Golf Channel didn't launch until January 1995. Before that there was no place on TV for exhaustive, around-the-clock coverage of tournaments, news and commentary.
So various networks shared most of the coverage of the PGA Tour, Champions Tour and LPGA Tour. In '94, TV viewers got to see a total of 9.5 hours of Masters coverage. Last year, ESPN and CBS provided a combined 18 hours of the event.
|The PGA has experienced significant changes and growth in popularity since Tiger Woods emerged victorious at the 1997 Masters.|
The Masters drew an audience of 8.7 million on the weekend that Olazabal took home the green jacket in 1994. The audience hasn't been that small since.
Viewership for the final two rounds jumped to 10.2 million for the next two years, and then to 15.8 million for Tiger's epic win three years later. In Sunday's final round, Nielsen reported that 20.26 million homes tuned in for his 12-shot win.
Gary McCord has not covered a Masters for CBS since he quipped in '94 that the fast 17th green looked "bikini-waxed," and that the mounds behind that green looked like "body bags."
The head of a King Cobra driver that Tiger used to win the '97 Masters is about half the size of the Nike VRS Covert 2.0 Tour driver that he has been using in 2014. Now most tour players use a driver at the USGA maximum head size of 460cc, providing a larger, more forgiving sweet spot.
In '94, Augusta National was only four years removed from inviting its first African-American member, Ron Townsend. And Martha Burke was several years away from making her demands on the club to accept women members. Today, the club boasts two women: Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore.