Tiger Woods returns to the top of the world at Augusta National

43-year-old wins 15th Major as rivals fall away on final day at Augusta National

Tiger Woods celebrates after sinking his putt to win during the final round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club. Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Tiger Woods celebrates after sinking his putt to win during the final round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club. Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

 

From the get-go, Tiger Woods' fashion sense proved prophetic: the retro mock turtleneck shirt provided a throwback to past endeavours, a reminder of his greatness; but what transpired in a magical final round of this 83rd edition of the US Masters on this fabled terrain provided the greatest story of all for golf’s prodigal son.

This was vintage Tiger Woods, the return of a sporting legend.

A body which had undergone numerous surgical procedures, among them spinal fusion, and a mind that once spiraled out of control, rediscovered the art of winning golf’s biggest prize: a final round 70 for a 13-under-par total of 275 ultimately gave him a one stroke winning margin over Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele and Brooks Koepka. It was Woods’s fifth Masters, but first since 2005, and also ended an 11-year drought since his last major win, the 2008 US Open.

None of the 14 previous career majors had delivered the same emotion. At one point, Woods himself – barely able to walk at times – had wondered if he would ever play golf again, never mind be competitive, never mind win. But one agonising slow step after slow step, and with the wonders of modern medicine, Woods found a way to again compete and, now, to win.

As he left the 18th green, imploring the huge galleries gathered to join in the wild joy of his celebrations, he was greeted by one family member after another. His mother. His son. His daughter. His girlfriend. Tears. Hugs. Not even Woods himself had ever experienced such scenes, such uncontrolled exuberance. This was new territory, even for him. Joy unconfined.

A decision to bring forward the final round tee times in order to beat a forecast weather warning of hail and tornadoes necessitated a 4am alarm call for Woods; and within an hour, by 5am and the morning still cloaked in darkness, he was in the gym stretching and flexing and getting his 43-year-old bones and muscles ready for the fray.

And when the chips were down, Woods – chewing gum as a relaxant and to deter him from eating – called in his years of past experience to ensure that he would again don a green jacket, one which fit his body to perfection. And the difference between this win and all of his other major triumphs was that Woods, for the first time in his career, started the final round playing catch-up . . . . and won!

When the going got tough, some wilted. Francesco Molinari – twice – found water on the homeward run, firstly on the Par 3 12th and again on the Par 5 15th. Brooks Koepka, Tony Finau and Ian Poulter also watched tee shots on the 12th plop into the pond.

Woods had suffered back-to-back bogeys on the fourth and fifth – to fall three shots behind Molinari – but stayed patient and picked up three birdies in a four hole stretch coming in: on the 13th, 15th and, then, brilliantly on the Par 16th where his eight-iron finished three feet from the flagstick.

He later recalled an exchange he had with his caddie Joe LaCava after walking off the fifth green: “The talk that Joey and I had off of five, I just listened. He was saying some things that I can’t really repeat. Then I went into the restroom and proceeded to say the same things over and over to myself, and then came out and I felt a lot better.” The peptalk, for what it was, worked, as Woods – just like the old days – outgunned one and all.

“Unreal, to be honest with you,” was how Woods sought to sum up his emotions after a win which only became a reality when he holed a bogey putt on the 18th.

His comeback from such serious medical issues is one for the ages.

As he put it, “I had serious doubts (about ever playing again) after what transpired a couple years ago. I could barely walk. I couldn’t sit. Couldn’t lay down. I really couldn’t do much of anything. Luckily I had the procedure on my back, which gave me a chance at having a normal life. But then all of a sudden, I realised I could actually swing a golf club again. I felt if I could somehow piece this together that I still had the hands to do it.

“The body’s not the same as it was a long time ago, but I still have good hands . . . . to have the opportunity to come back like this, you know, it is probably one of the biggest wins I’ve ever had for sure because of it.”

Of the manner of the win, his fifth Masters success, Woods added: “There were so many different scenarios that could have transpired on that back nine. There were so many guys that had a chance to win. The leaderboard was absolutely packed and everyone was playing well. You couldn’t have had more drama than we all had out there, and now I know why I’m balding. This stuff is hard.”

Woods’s 15th major success moves him within three of the all-time record of 18, held by Jack Nicklaus.

But that pursuit is for another day. This day was all about Woods. A fifth Masters. Who would have thought?

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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