Augusta, Georgia – Tiger Woods sealed one of the greatest comebacks in sport with a momentous Masters victory at the Augusta National on Sunday.
At 43 and two years after spinal fusion surgery, Woods captured his fifth Masters title and his 15th major with a one-shot victory to trigger ecstatic scenes of joy around the 18th green.
Woods was helped into the green jacket by last year’s winner Patrick Reed. “Yeah buddy! It fits!” he said.
The victory comes 14 years after the last of his Masters titles and 11 years since he won his 14th major.
He is now three short of the record 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus and is the second oldest Masters winner after Nicklaus.
“It’s overwhelming, because of what has transpired,” Woods said.
“Last year I was just very lucky to be playing again. I missed a couple of years of playing this great tournament. And to now be the champion … what, is it 22 years (since his first Masters)? It’s a long time! It’s unreal.
“My mom was here, she was here in ’97 as well. I’m kind of at a loss for words. This is up there. It’s one of the hardest I’ve ever had to win. I was close last year in the majors. I learned from those, and was able to seal the deal today.”
Woods had never won a major after trailing after three rounds, but he took the Masters by the scruff of the neck in a late surge with birdies at the 13th, 15th and 16th.
He missed a putt for par on the 18th before finishing with little more than a tap-in for a round of 70, 13 under par for the tournament.
Fellow Americans Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele and Brooks Koepka tied for second place at 12 under, while four players – Jason Day, Webb Simpson, Francesco Molinari and Tony Finau – were a further shot back.
After an early start to avoid predicted afternoon storms, it had been a dogged affair for the first nine. Overnight leader Molinari had to scramble to retain his lead and Woods, who with Finau had been two shots back after Saturday, was unable to make inroads.
Woods dropped a shot after an errant drive on the 10th but everything changed with a dramatic turn of events on the three-par 12th when Molinari dropped his tee shot into Rae’s Creek and double bogeyed.
Molinari’s fading hopes were then sunk when he was in the water again on the five-par 15th for another double bogey.
The leaderboard changed hands through Amen Corner and the immediate subsequent holes, with Americans Patrick Cantlay and Schauffele joining the mix and Johnson making a late charge with straight birdies on the 15th, 16th and 17th.
Koepka remained a threat, although he and Ian Poulter had both landed in Rae’s Creek on the 12th for double bogeys. Three-time major winner Koepka immediately responded with an eagle on the 13th, birdied the 15th but missed a birdie chance on the 18th for the opportunity of a play-off.
By then it seemed nothing could stop Woods’ march towards a victory the golfing world would have ridiculed some two years back.
And when the ball rolled into the hole on the 18th, the realization also seemed to sink in for Woods that this was a win for the golf history books, and probably the most emotional of all. (dpa)