Tiger Woods last won at Augusta in 2005 and has now added The 2019 Masters to his incredible haul
Tiger Woods left it to others to decide if the 83rd Masters was the greatest ever.
And we can all debate whether his 15th Major – 11 years, four back surgeries and a sex scandal after his last – is the best comeback in sporting history.
But after a ridiculous, remarkable rollercoaster of a final day, the American superstar did admit: “You couldn’t have had more drama out there. Now you know why I am balding!”
Despite the early morning start, to say there has never been a Sunday like it might not be quite true. Woods won his first Major by 12 shots here 22 years and a day ago as a fresh-faced 21-year-old. And Jack Nicklaus became the oldest Masters winners aged 46 in 1986 amid equally emotional scenes.
Woods re-launched his pursuit of the Golden Bear’s record haul of 18 Major titles yesterday but the second oldest ever winner here, at the age of 43, has already joined Nicklaus as being the sentimental favourite and winner.
“I can tell you 1986 meant a lot to me because it is the first Masters I remember,” said Woods.
“In 1986, he was 46 and I am 43. He had a spell of six years I think when he didn’t win – I had 11.I remember him celebrating at the end. That was something special. If it is the best Masters ever, I will let others decide.”
Only two years ago Woods told Nicklaus at the Champions Dinner at Augusta National: “I’m done” before he underwent career-saving spinal fusion surgery.
He competed in the last two Majors last year and won his first title for five years at the Tour Championship last September. Now the man ranked world No.1,199 in December 2017 is a Major winner again.
The records just kept stacking up. It was Woods’ first Masters win since 2005, beating the record of 13 between victories set by Gary Player in 1961 and 1974. And this time he beat a new generation of golfers as well as the weather.
Tony Finau, who was inspired to take up golf after watching the 1997 Masters, played in the final group with Woods. “It is cool to be a part of history and being there up close,” said the American. “I started to play golf because of Tiger Woods.”
Under leaden Georgian skies yesterday before the storm, the final-day story was electrifying.
Francesco Molinari had the chance to beat Woods in the final round just like at Carnoustie but his bid for a second Major drowned with horrible double bogeys on 12 and 15.
Americans Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele briefly grabbed the lead on the back nine while Dustin Johnson made a late run into second place which saw him return to world No.1.
But Woods, who used to use his power to outhit this opponents, now deployed his experience to outthink and outlast them all.
Four of the six players in the final two groups found Rae’s Creek on No.12 going for the pin. Woods, in his 86th round here, took the Nicklaus approach and aimed safely between the two bunkers and took his par.
His biggest problem this week was the re-worked No.5 which he bogeyed every day but he kept a double off his card all week.
Brooks Koepka rebounded from his double bogey on 12 to eagle 13 and birdie 15 but he missed birdie putts on 17 and 18 to close within a shot and put the pressure on Woods.
He needed only a five to win his fifth Green Jacket – and he took them. Amid the frenzy, he found the fairway but his approach sprayed 38 yards short and left. He chipped up to 14 feet and used two putts. He closed with a two-under par 70 on 13-under par for a one shot win from Johnson, Schauffele and Koepka.
It is the first time Woods has won a Major when not winning after 54 holes and comes 3,954 days after he beat Rocco Mediate in a play-off to win the 2008 US Open.
Ian Poulter, who still finished as top Brit in tied 12th after his closing 73, said: “It is remarkable. I wanted to see Tiger Woods win. I played with him yesterday. He has got all the shots. He was really in control of his golf ball. It is incredible. It is good for the game of golf. It was disappointing for me but as a fan of golf, it has been a special week.”