Fallen hero, crippled star, and now a Masters champion again.
Tiger Woods rallied to win the Masters for the fifth time Sunday, a comeback that goes well beyond the two-shot deficit he erased before a delirious audience at Augusta National that watched memories turn into reality.
Woods had gone nearly 11 years since he won his last major — 2019 is 14 years since that Green Jacket was slipped over his Sunday red shirt, 13 years without a win. He made it worth the wait, closing with a 2-under 70 for a one-shot victory, and setting off a scene of raw emotion.
He scooped up 10-year-old Charlie, born a year after Woods won his 14th major at Torrey Pines in the 2008 U.S Open. He hugged his mother and then his 11-year-old daughter Sam, and everyone else in his camp that stood by him through a public divorce and an embarrassing DUI arrest from a concoction of painkillers and surgeries.
“Woooooo!!!” Woods screamed as he headed for the scoring room with chants of “Tiger! Tiger! Tiger” echoing as loud as any of the roars on the back nine at Augusta National in Georgia.
15th major victory
Woods lost his impeccable image to a sex scandal. He lost his health to four back surgeries that left him unable to get out of bed, much less swing a club, and he went two years without even playing a major. Two years ago at the Masters, Woods said he needed a nerve block just to walk to the Champions Dinner. At that time, he thought his career is over.
Now the comeback is truly complete.
Tiger Woods celebrates after sinking his putt on the 18th green to finish the first major tournament of the year at 13-under. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Woods won his 15th major, leaving three short of the standard set by Jack Nicklaus. It was his 81st victory on the PGA Tour, one title away from the career record held by Sam Snead.
“A big ‘well done’ from me to Tiger,” Nicklaus tweeted. “I am so happy for him and for the game of golf. This is just fantastic!!!”
Tiger Woods’s major titles
1999 PGA Championship
2000 British Open
2000 U.S. Open
2000 PGA Championship
2002 U.S. Open
2005 British Open
2006 British Open
2006 PGA Championship
2007 PGA Championship
2008 U.S. Open
It was the first time Woods won a major when trailing going into the final round, and he needed some help from Francesco Molinari, the 54-hole leader who still was up two shots heading into the heart of Amen Corner.
And that’s when all hell broke loose at Augusta.
Molinari’s tee shot on the par-3 12th never had a chance, hitting the bank and tumbling into Rae’s Creek for double bogey. Until then, Molinari had never trailed in a round that began early in threesomes to finish ahead of storms.
And then it seemed as though practically everyone had a chance.
Six players had a share of the lead at some point on the back. With the final group still in the 15th fairway, there was a five-way tie for the lead. And that’s when Woods seized control, again with plenty of help.
Molinari’s third shot clipped a tree and plopped straight down in the water for another double bogey. Woods hit onto the green, setting up a two-putt birdie for his first lead of the final round.
The knockout punch was a tee shot into the 16th that rode the slope just by the cup and settled two feet away for birdie and a two-shot lead with two holes to play.
I can leave saying I gave it my all. He’s just good, man.— Brooks Koepka on 2019 Masters champion Tiger Woods
Xander Schauffele failed to birdie the par-5 15th and scrambled for pars the rest of the way for a 68. Dustin Johnson made three straight birdies late in the round, but he got going too late and had to settle for a 68 and a return to No. 1 in the world.
Brooks Koepka, one of four players from the final two groups who hit into the water on No. 12, rallied with an eagle on the 13th, narrowly missed another eagle on the 15th and was the last player with a chance. His birdie putt on the 18th from just outside 10 feet never had a chance, and he had to settle for a 70.
“You want to play against the best to ever play,” Koepka said. “You want to go toe-to-toe with them. I can leave saying I gave it my all. He’s just good, man.”
Wood finished at 13-under 275 and became, at 43, the oldest Masters champion since Nicklaus won his sixth green jacket at 46 in 1986. That for years has stood as Augusta’s defining moment.
This was one is sure to at least rival it.
Nicklaus’s record ‘closer than people think’
“This is definitely, probably one of the greatest comebacks I think anybody’s ever seen,” Koepka said, before rattling off Woods’ total PGA Tour victories and 15 majors.
Is the Nicklaus record back in play?
“I think 18 is a whole lot closer than people think,” Koepka said.
Koepka and Molinari both faced Tigermania in the majors and held their own, Molinari at Carnoustie to win the British Open, Koepka last summer at Bellerive to win the PGA Championship.
Molinari went 49 straight holes without a bogey, a streak that ended on the seventh hole. It was the double bogeys that cost him, and the Italian was gracious as ever in defeat.
“I think I made a few new fans today with those double bogeys,” he said.