Which Masters victory is Tiger’s best ever: 1997 or 2019? That’s Debatable

In GOLF’s all-new series That’s Debatable, sponsored by Cisco WebEx, we’re settling some of golf’s most heated disputes. Our writers and editors have been seeded 1-16, battling head-to-head to determine whose takes are most on point.

In Tiger Woods’ historic career, you’d be hard-pressed to find victories more significant than the Masters wins that have bookended it. In 1997, Woods exploded onto the scene and torched the field at Augusta, winning his first green jacket by 12 strokes. In 2019, he punctuated the greatest comeback the sport has ever seen by rallying on Sunday to win his fifth green jacket.

How could you possibly choose which one of those earth-shattering wins is better? By putting two GOLF staffers, 10-seed Andrew Tursky and 3-seed Josh Sens, to the task. You can watch their debate above or read their arguments below.

1997 Masters (Sens)

  1. It was a watershed win in every way. His first major as a pro. A record score at Augusta. The largest margin of victory at a major (12 shots) since Old Tom Morris in the 1860s.
  2. The first minority golfer to win a major, at a tournament that didn’t welcome its first black competitor until the 1970s. After going out in 40 in Thursday’s opening round, Tiger made a change on the spot, shortening his backswing on the 10th hole. A serious overhaul in an eye-blink. Who does that? Only him.
  3. Watching the bloodletting, Jack Nicklaus noted that even at his peak, he had never been as dominant as Woods.
  4. It prompted the Tiger-proofing of Augusta.
  5. 2019 has been hailed as the greatest comeback in sports history, a generational stunner. But the truth is Tiger had already made his comeback by winning the Tour Championship the previous fall. Far from a Cinderella story, he arrived at Augusta in ’19 as one of the tournament favorites.

2019 Masters (Tursky)

  1. It was the ultimate comeback: As sports fans, we live for underdog stories and there was no better underdog story than Tiger’s 2019 win.
  2. He knew what it was like to lose: In 1997, Tiger had the benefit of limitless potential. He was a world-beater. He’d never lost in anything in his life. In 2019, he’d been kicked in the teeth by the golf world, he’d learned what it was like to lose his game.
  3. He overcame a series of career-ending moments: Between scandal, injury, and a case of the yips, Tiger seemingly faced a half-dozen career-threatening moments before he captured the green jacket in ’19.
  4. He did it at 43-years-old: There’s a difference between winning a major in your early 20s and winning a major in your mid-forties.
  5. He beat a course that passed him by: In ’97, he overpowered a course with a skillset no one else could touch. In ’19, he beat opponents with better skillsets with his mind and with his resiliency.

Winner (by judge’s decision)

1997! Tiger’s dominance proves to be more unbelievable than his comeback, with our judge giving the nod to Woods’ first Masters win. Sens moves on to face Michael Bamberger in the next round, where GOLF’s top debater will be crowned. Keep it locked on GOLF.com and @GOLF_com on social media to follow along as “That’s Debatable” continues every day at noon!

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