Tiger's tale takes a new twist with fifth US Masters win

Woods comes from behind to win his first major since 2008 by a one-shot margin

Tiger Woods  celebrates with his girlfriend Erica Herman  and son Charlie Axel after winning the   Masters at Augusta, Georgia. Photograph: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Tiger Woods celebrates with his girlfriend Erica Herman and son Charlie Axel after winning the Masters at Augusta, Georgia. Photograph: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

 

The six words uttered on the first tee of the final three-ball heralded history. “Quiet, please, Tiger Woods now driving,” came the request, which brought a hush to the huge gallery horseshoed around the tee complex and which lined the fairways of the first hole. And, in firing a final round 70 for a total of 13-under-par 275 to win a fifth US Masters title, the great man did something which he’d never previously accomplished: he won from behind.

Francesco Molinari, his tormentor at last year’s British Open at Carnoustie, carried the 54-hole lead into a final round which was shunted forward to avoid a dangerous weather front that carried warnings of hail, winds and even a prospect of tornadoes. Woods, two behind, was playing catch-up. Even for Woods, it was new territory. In each of his previous 14 career Major wins, all had been achieved as a front-runner; never as a pursuer.

But as grey skies hung above the Alister MacKenzie-designed masterpiece, where once upon a time Woods had created his own history, winning his first Major back in 1997 and completing what became known as the Tiger Slam in 2001 (at which point he held all four major championships at the one time), there was a sense that another deed would find a place in Woods’s chronology of achievements. Perhaps one greater than any.

Tiger Woods celebrates with caddie Joe LaCava on the 18th hole after winning the US Masters at Augusta, Georgia, on Sunday. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
Tiger Woods celebrates with caddie Joe LaCava on the 18th hole after winning the US Masters at Augusta, Georgia, on Sunday. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Over the outward nine holes, however, Italy’s own version of the Iceman stayed cool, calm and totally in control. Whenever Molinari found himself out of position, he relied on an ability to scramble that would have broken the hearts of others. And Molinari’s own quest to add a green jacket to his claret jug looked strengthened as he plotted his way around the course, forgoing length to rely on his approach play and short game.

Wizardry

After Woods suffered back-to-back bogeys on the fourth and fifth holes, Molinari’s lead had stretched out to three shots. On the Par 4 fifth, a hole which played as the toughest of the championship, Molinari had showcased his wizardry. Short of the putting surface, he opted to use a gap wedge rather than a putter to negotiate the vicious undulations, and pitched to three feet and sank the par putt.

Molinari, as he had done through much of the championship, seemed unflustered. On the Par 3 sixth, he again salvaged par when, after overshooting the green and requiring spectators to move their precious green chairs so that he could play his recovery, he again chipped and putted to save par. But the first chink appeared on the Par 4 seventh where Molinari – who had gone 49 holes without a bogey and who had a perfect 19 from 19 in scrambling – finally showed frailty, pulling his drive into trees, firing a low shot short of the greenside bunker but failing to get up and down. To compound his error, Woods hit a brilliant approach to four inches. The two-shot swing opened the door for Woods, and others chasing.

At the turn, Molinari still had held the advantage – one ahead of Woods – but, as the final three-ball entered Amen Corner, each step brought a new drama. Up ahead of them, there came charges from unlikely sources. Patrick Cantlay, for one. Xander Schauffele – exhibiting his rich promise – also stepping up to the plate.

But as Molinari stood on the 12th tee, he still controlled his own destiny. Then, in a matter of seconds, he didn’t. With the wind in this corner of golfing paradise swirling through the pine trees, the Italian’s tee shot found the pond. A double-bogey five to Woods’s par saw the two walk to the 13th tee level on 11-under.

On the ascent

The roars from ahead of them, sounds which reverberated around the course, told them that others were on the ascent. Cantlay’s eagle on the 15th jumped him into the lead, but a look at the scoreboard, and the realisation of what was within his grasp, proved too great: he bogeyed the next two holes.

The Par 5 15th would turn out to be decisive. Woods found the putting surface in two; but Molinari laboured. As stress infiltrated his body, causing muscles to tense and his mind to race, Molinari – who had laid up in two – watched in horror as his third shot clipped the branches of a pine tree and the ball plunged into the water. It resulted in a double-bogey seven, and his race, effectively, was run.

Tiger Woods is awarded the Green Jacket by Masters champion Patrick Reed after winning the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on Sunday. Photograph: Kevin C Cox/Getty Images
Tiger Woods is awarded the Green Jacket by Masters champion Patrick Reed after winning the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on Sunday. Photograph: Kevin C Cox/Getty Images

Woods did what he used to do in his prime. He went for the killer blow. He two-putted for birdie – and then took destiny into his own hands with a wonderfully crafted eight-iron on the Par 3 16th which used the slope of the green to finish three feet from the flag. He rolled in the birdie putt. It wasn’t as dramatic as the chip-in on the same hole en route to his win in 2005, his last Masters success, but the roars were every bit as raucous.

By the time Woods stood on the 18th tee, he knew what was needed. Schauffele, Dustin Johnson – who finished strongly with four birdies in his final six holes – and Brooks Koepka were locked together on 12-under, their work done.

Woods, with a two-shot lead, and an uphill finishing hole of 465 yards ahead of him, made it interesting in slightly pushing his tee shot and then clipping trees with his approach. His third, though, found the safety of the green. This was no time for heroics, or stupidity. He took his medicine, two-putted for a bogey . . . and a one-shot winning margin that brought him a first major win since his 2008 US Open and a first Masters since 2005 to bring his career total to 15 majors.

The quietness which had greeted the starter’s words on the first tee were replaced by wild mayhem. Woods was, again, the main character in a drama.

Collated final scores & totals in The Masters, Augusta National GC, Augusta, Georgia, United States of America (USA unless stated, par 72):

275 Tiger Woods 70 68 67 70

276 Brooks Koepka 66 71 69 70, Dustin Johnson 68 70 70 68, Xander Schauffele 73 65 70 68

277 Francesco Molinari (Ita) 70 67 66 74, Tony Finau 71 70 64 72, Jason Day (Aus) 70 67 73 67, Webb Simpson 72 71 64 70

278 Jon Rahm (Spa) 69 70 71 68, Patrick Cantlay 73 73 64 68, Rickie Fowler 70 71 68 69

280 Justin Harding (Rsa) 69 69 70 72, Justin Thomas 73 68 69 70, Ian Poulter (Eng) 68 71 68 73, Matt Kuchar 71 69 68 72, Bubba Watson 72 72 67 69

281 Aaron Wise 75 71 68 67

282 Phil Mickelson 67 73 70 72, Adam Scott (Aus) 69 68 72 73, Patton Kizzire 70 70 73 69

283 Lucas Bjerregaard (Den) 70 72 69 72, Rory McIlroy (NIrl) 73 71 71 68, Kyle Stanley 72 72 70 69, Thorbjorn Olesen (Den) 71 71 68 73, Kevin Kisner 69 73 72 69, Jordan Spieth 75 68 69 71, Matthew Fitzpatrick (Eng) 78 67 68 70, Si Woo Kim (Kor) 72 72 70 69

284 Charley Hoffman 71 71 72 70, Bryson DeChambeau 66 75 73 70, Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa) 71 66 71 76

285 Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn) 75 70 68 72, Viktor Hovland (a) (Nor) 72 71 71 71, Gary Woodland 70 71 74 70, Charles Howell III 73 67 76 69

286 (a) Alvaro Ortiz (Mex) 73 71 73 69, Tommy Fleetwood (Eng) 71 71 70 74, Jimmy Walker 72 72 72 70, Kevin Tway 72 71 70 73, Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Spa) 73 70 75 68, Patrick Reed 73 70 74 69, Henrik Stenson (Swe) 74 72 67 73

287 Haotong Li (Chn) 72 74 73 68, Keegan Bradley 76 68 71 72, Keith Mitchell 72 74 72 69

288 Kevin Na 71 73 73 71, Andrew Landry 72 73 73 70, Corey Conners (Can) 70 71 71 76

289 Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha) 69 72 75 73, Marc Leishman (Aus) 72 72 70 75

290 Cameron Smith (Aus) 70 74 69 77, Trevor Immelman (Rsa) 74 72 75 69, Martin Kaymer (Ger) 73 74 72 71, Eddie Pepperell (Eng) 74 73 72 71

291 (a) Devon Bling 74 73 71 73

292 Tyrrell Hatton (Eng) 73 73 72 74, Billy Horschel 72 75 74 71

293 Zach Johnson 74 73 73 73, Branden Grace (Rsa) 72 75 72 74, Takumi Kanaya (a) (Jpn) 73 74 68 78

294 Satoshi Kodaira (Jpn) 75 70 73 76

296 Emiliano Grillo (Arg) 72 75 73 76, Bernhard Langer (Ger) 71 72 75 78, J.B. Holmes 70 72 74 80, Alex Noren (Swe) 75 72 75 74

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