Tiger Woods completed one of the most incredible comebacks in sporting history to win an emotional 15th Major Championship by one shot at the Masters Tournament.
The American’s last Major title came at the U.S. Open 11 years ago and since then he has undergone numerous back surgeries, falling to 1,199th in the Official World Golf Ranking just 17 months ago.
A return to fitness and form in 2018 hinted at what was to come, and a closing 70 at Augusta National Golf Club secured a fifth Green Jacket at the scene where he burst onto the world stage in 1997.
Woods’ record 12-shot victory 22 years ago set in motion a remarkable run of dominance at the top of the game, and the 43-year-old will now once again have his sights set on Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 Major Championships, after following Nicklaus to become just the second player to win the Masters in three different decades, and to win Major Championships 20 or more years apart.
“It’s just unreal,” Tiger said. “The whole tournament has meant so much to me over the years. Coming here in ’95 for the first time and being able to play as an amateur, winning in ’97, and then coming full circle, 22 years later, to be able to do it again, and just the way it all transpired today.
“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.
“Just to come back here and play as well as I did. This has meant so much to me and my family, this tournament, and to have everyone here, it’s something I’ll never, ever forget.”
Woods had been two shots clear standing on the 18th tee, but despite a bogey on the last, wild celebrations followed his final putt, which took him to 13 under-par and one ahead of countrymen Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Xander Schauffele, who was making just his second appearance at The Masters.
“It was an awesome experience, first off,” Schauffele said. “What I witnessed; I know it’s what everyone is going to talk about. It’s hard to really feel bad about how I played, because I just witnessed history. It was really cool coming down the stretch, all the historic holes, Amen Corner, 15, 16, Tiger making the roars.
“I was trying to push myself, but I feel like I got a very full Masters experience here in my second year. I’m not one bit sad. I told my caddie on the last hole that we just proved to ourselves that we can win on this property”
Overnight leader Francesco Molinari had been right in the mix before finding water twice on the back nine, and the Race to Dubai Champion finished at 11 under par alongside Australian Jason Day and Americans Tony Finau and Webb Simpson.
“It was just a bad execution (going into the water on 12),” Molinari said. “We picked the right shot and just didn’t hit it hard enough, simple as that. It was tough today with the wind gusting. I managed to scramble well on the front nine. Just had a couple of mental lapses on the back nine, which were costly.
“It’s great to see Tiger doing well. The way he was playing last year, I think we all knew it was coming sooner or later. Maybe next time would have been better for me, but it was nice to be out with him, he played well, hit the right shots at the right time and he deserved to win.
“It doesn’t change what I do, I don’t change the way I prepare for Majors. I believe the way I prepare for tournaments is the best way. I’ll just keep doing the same and hopefully I get a bit more luck next time.”
Spain’s Jon Rahm was one shot further back in a tie for ninth place alongside Americans Patrick Cantlay, Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson.
Of the remaining Aussies, Adam Scott‘s final-round 1-over-par saw him finish T18 at -6, Marc Leishman‘s 3-over final round was enough for T49 at +1 and Cam Smith finished T51 at +2, following a final-round of 5-over-par.