Tiger Woods says the 'coolest thing in the world' about winning his first Masters was that it guaranteed him a job for at least 10 years

Getty ImagesTiger Woods at the first Masters he won, in 1997.
  • Tiger Woods says he was thrilled with his first Masters win because it qualified him for a ten-year exemption on the PGA Tour.
  • Nowadays, Woods doesn’t have to fear losing a place on Tour, but at one point it was something he at least contemplated.
  • The ten-year exemption for winning The Masters has since been changed to a five-year exemption.

On the occasion of his celebrated return to The Masters, Tiger Woods was asked at a press conference on Tuesday to reflect on his first Masters – and major – victory back in 1997. And what he had to say was rather shocking considering what we know about Tiger’s career now.

The 1997 Masters was Tiger’s first major as a pro. He set records for the lowest total score and largest margin of victory. He won a fabled green jacket and $US486,000. But according to Tiger, the coolest thing was the win guaranteed him a job on the PGA Tour for at least ten years.

“In 1997, that was the last year . . . that we would be getting a ten-year exemption on the Tour,” Woods said. “So I had a job for the next ten years out here. You guys laugh at it now, but it was the coolest thing in the world.”

It’s crazy to think that Woods – perhaps the most dominant athlete, in any sport, of the past 20 years – would be worried about just having a job in professional golf.

The ten-year exemption rule Woods is referring to was a rule stipulating that if a golfer won The Masters, they were guaranteed a spot on the PGA Tour for the next ten years. The following year, Woods noted, the rule was changed to the current five-year exemption.

These days, Woods doesn’t have to worry too much about getting a chance to play competitive golf. Woods has lifetime exemptions to play The Masters and the PGA Championship, as a former winner of both. While his 10-year exemption for the U.S. Open is almost at an end, the USGA can grant him a special exemption just like they did for Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. He also has a lifetime member exemption on the PGA Tour.

Woods went on to say of winning that first major championship, with his dad present, was a week he’ll never forget.

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