Sunday, April 10, 2011

Iconic Monday: Tiger's Masterpiece

What an end to the 2011 Masters! Poor Rory McIlroy, who faded under pressure. And then there was Tiger, mounting a comeback that fell short--I think I saw him yip on that four-foot put he missed.
     The Masters is, IMHO, the one PGA major that casual sports fans, like myself, will plunk themselves in front of a TV to watch. And like most casual sports fans, I pretty much watch to see how Tiger Woods is doing. 
      Which brings me to the subject of this Iconic Monday post: Fred Vuich's shot of Tiger launching a drive on the 18th hole of the final round of the Masters in 2001. Many sports photographers and editors I know consider it to be the greatest golf image ever made. It appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, with just a single, superlative coverline, “Masterpiece,” which summed up both Tiger's play that year and the image itself. (I myself have called this the greatest golf image ever.)
      Ten years ago, in April 2001, America had yet to see the terror of 9/11, or the two wars that followed, or the election of its first black president. Tiger Woods, with one Masters win under his belt when he entered the tournament, had already fulfilled his early promise of greatness and was well on his way to becoming legend. A decade after the image was made, the legend has been tarnished, and Tiger's legacy has gone to rewrite.  But the image taken of April 16, 2001 remains.
      Vuich, who shot mostly for Golf magazine and occassionall for SI (both owned by Time Inc.) had been assigned to shoot the 16th and 18th holes that day in Augusta. In addition to his 35mm SLR--the standard for sports photographers--he had a rather unorthodox piece of equipment with him: a manual-focus medium format camera with a 43mm lens. It was that camera Vuich chose to use while documenting Tiger's final drive of the tournament: ""I thought it would make a nice opener" Vuich told the Sports Shooter blog.The camera lacked a motor drive, which meant that he would have only one chance to get the perfect shot, relying on his own sense of timing to get press the shutter at the instant Woods reached the apex of his swing. 
      The result was a picture like no other taken that day. It wasn’t a closeup of Woods with arms raised in ecstasy; it wasn’t a close-up of his determined face, or a flash of action. Rather, it was painterly, even pastoral: Less a timely report on what had happened than a timeless meditation on the game itself.  

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